Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Biblically correct vs. politically correct

Serious props go out to Miss California, Carrie Prejean, who stood up for Truth at the recent Miss USA pageant. When asked her position on same-sex “marriage” by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, an open homosexual and one of the pageant’s judges, Prejean responded by saying, “…a marriage should be between a man and a woman”. Apparently, this cost her the crown, but won her the ire of Hilton who viciously attacked her on his website following the pageant. “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first” (Jn 15:18).

With the media coming down on her like vultures (“wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will be” -Mt 24:28) since the pageant, Prejean has remained true to her self and her beliefs and has had some great lines:

“…am I trying to be politically correct, or do I want to be biblically correct? And I think that I want to be biblically correct.”

"I will be praying for (Hilton)… I feel sorry for him, I really do. I think he's angry, I think he's hurt. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. He asked me specifically what my opinion was on that subject, and I gave him an honest answer."

Continuing with the theme of Jesus (and his followers) versus the world, here’s another comparison that was sent to me by a parishioner:

Cell phone vs... Bible

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat
our cell phone?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?

What if we gave it to kids as gifts?

What if we used it when we traveled?

What if we used it in case of emergency?

This is something to make you go....hmm...where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don't have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill…

Sunday, April 26, 2009

3rd Sunday of Easter - homily

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures… (where) ‘it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day’”. Where in the Old Testament does it say that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day? What Scripture passages did Jesus reference to the Apostles and disciples? It is so fascinating to study these passages in the prophets, the psalms, and the Law of Moses – Scriptures that were written hundreds of years before the death and resurrection of Christ. And, they give specific details of these events. Let’s look at a few of these passages. We do it with the understanding of the Church: the Catechism tells us that the Church reads the Old Testament “searching for what the Spirit who has ‘spoken through the prophets’ wants to tell us about Christ’” (CCC, # 702).

So, let’s see what the Spirit tells us about Christ in the Old Testament, beginning with the prophets. The prophet Zechariah in about 500 B.C.: “he will be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver” (11:12-13)…“his side will be pierced” (12:10). Of course, these things happened to Jesus in his passion. The prophet Isaiah in about 700 B.C.: “he will be spat upon” (50:6)…“he was wounded, bruised, and scourged for us” (53:5). And, then the experience of the prophet Jonah (about 800 B.C.) spending three days and three nights in the belly of a whale is a foreshadowing to Jesus spending three days in the dead.

Next, the Psalms (written around 1000 B.C.) which give such specific accounts about the suffering and death of the Messiah. Psalm 22: “they will divide his garments among them”…”they will cast lots for his garments”. Psalm 30 speaks of the resurrection of the Christ: “he will be raised to life on the third day”. Psalm 68: “he will escape the powers of death”.

Then, within the Law of Moses is a passage from Deuteronomy 18. Moses says, “a prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you”. He is talking about the Christ. The Jews acknowledge this about Jesus in John 6 after Jesus multiplies the loaves and the fish. They say, “this is truly the prophet” (of whom Moses spoke). In Peter’s speech from the first reading (a few lines after our reading), he quotes Deuteronomy 18. So, the Apostles and the Jews recognized that Jesus was the prophet- the New Moses –spoken of in the Old Testament.

It is so interesting to see how the Spirit speaks about Jesus throughout the Old Testament, especially with regards to his death and resurrection, revealing that he is the Christ.

Finally, it is also a great study to see how the sacraments are prefigured in the Old Testament, especially the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the new Passover. In fact, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper on the feast of Passover. If you know about the Passover, you know that lambs were sacrificed and the blood of lambs were used to save the Jews. Now, Jesus is the lamb -the Lamb of God - who is sacrificed. His blood saves us. Through the Eucharist and through Scripture, may we recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Hound of Heaven"

1) Youth Group Car Wash – Sat, April 25, 9 am – 12 noon. Please come support this fundraiser for our Youth Group.
2)Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm., SAA Church. Please join us.
A few bloggers recently referred to a poem, “Hound of Heaven”, written by English poet Francis Thompson. Someone may have left a link to the 182-line poem; I’ll leave a link to the full poem which bloggers can access by clicking on today’s title.

It’s a fitting poem for many of us on this site! I have heard it many times from people that my returns to the seminary and ultimately, my priesthood, are because of the Hound of Heaven. God just doesn’t stop chasing us! I, for one, am glad that He doesn’t. We have had several bloggers express this type of “Hound of Heaven” experience, either explicitly or implicitly. Here is a critique of the poem as well as excerpts from the poem:

'The name is strange. It startles one at first. It is so bold, so new, so fearless. It does not attract, rather the reverse. But when one reads the poem this strangeness disappears. The meaning is understood. As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and imperturbed pace, so does God follow the fleeing soul by His Divine grace. And though in sin or in human love, away from God it seeks to hide itself, Divine grace follows after, unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit.’
—The Neumann Press Book of Verse, 1988

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

...Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
“And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught”
(He said),“And human love needs human meriting:
How hast thou merited—Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Conspiracy against life"

Here are two questions from my post “Procreation, naturally” (3.10.09).

1) Is the use of Viagra, Cialis et al considered acceptable?

The general rule of thumb is that anything that assists marital intercourse in reaching its procreative potential is morally acceptable; anything that substitutes for intercourse (i.e.. adding a “third party” into the act of conception) is not morally acceptable. The conjugal act must be unitive and procreative.

2) Can FG please elaborate on "sterilization?" I.e., is it limited to only having tubes tied or a vasectomy? –Thanks

Rev. William Saunders has elaborated on sterilization in the following online article, mainly addressing the difference between direct sterilization (immoral) and indirect sterilization (moral). To view the full article, please click on today’s title.

Direct sterilization means that the purpose of the procedure is to destroy the normal functioning of a healthy organ so as to prevent the future conception of children. The most effective and least dangerous method of permanent sterilization is through vasectomy for a man and ligation of the fallopian tubes for a woman. Such direct sterilization is an act of mutilation and is therefore considered morally wrong. Regarding unlawful ways of regulating births, Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968) asserted, "Equally to be condemned... is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary" (#14). The Catechism also states, "Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law" (#2297).

However, indirect sterilization is morally permissible. Here surgery, or some protocol, e.g. drug or radiation therapy, is not intended to destroy the functioning of a healthy organ or to prevent the conception of children; rather, the direct intention is to remove or to combat a diseased organ. Unfortunately, such a surgery or therapy may "indirectly" result in the person being sterilized. For instance, if a woman is diagnosed with a cancerous uterus, the performance of a hysterectomy is perfectly legitimate and moral. The direct effect is to remove the diseased organ and preserve the health of the woman's body; the indirect effect is that she will be rendered sterile and never able to bear children again. The same would be true if one of a woman's ovaries or if one of a man's testes were cancerous or functioning in a way which is harmful to overall bodily well-being. Keep in mind, to be morally right, the operation or protocol must be truly therapeutic in character and arises from a real pathological need...

Pope John Paul II warned in his encyclical The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) of "scientifically and systematically programmed threats" against life. He continued, "...We are in fact faced by an objective 'conspiracy against life,' involving even international institutions, engaged in encouraging and carrying out actual campaigns to make contraception, sterilization, and abortion widely available. Nor can it be denied that the mass media are often implicated in this conspiracy, by lending credit to that culture which presents recourse to contraception, sterilization, abortion, and even euthanasia as a mark of progress and a victory of freedom, while depicting as enemies of freedom and progress those positions which are unreservedly pro-life" (#17)…

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Divine Mercy Sunday - homily

This was the homily I gave on this feast last year; still applies!
I have a great deal for you! It has to do with today’s feast. The Church has been celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday since 2000. It is also the eighth day of the Easter octave, so it’s the ‘grand finale’ of our eight day Easter celebration. In general, Divine Mercy Sunday celebrates God’s infinite and tender mercy which we experience most fully through the death and resurrection of Christ. But, the specific opportunity we have today is incredible! It is a sweet deal!

Today, any Catholic can receive a plenary indulgence. A plenary indulgence removes all punishment due to sin. To understand this, let’s use an example of someone committing the sin of gluttony (overeating or overdrinking). The person who commits this sin needs to do two things to be right with God again: they need to be forgiven (go to Confession) and they need to make satisfaction for their sin. To make satisfaction is commonly understood as serving some type of punishment and this is usually done by time in Purgatory.

Each sin carries some type of temporal punishment. Let’s say for the sin of gluttony, the punishment is 10 days in Purgatory. Now, “days” in Purgatory may not be 24 hours, but they are some increment of time. And, let’s say that the person commits the sin of gluttony 50 times in his or her lifetime. That would be 500 days in Purgatory for that sin alone. Some of us can expect a long stay in Purgatory (which would be fine because it means we’re going to Heaven)!

A plenary indulgence removes all that punishment, all that time in Purgatory. We can apply the indulgence to ourselves or to someone who has died. If we apply it to ourselves, then all punishment is removed for sins we have committed to this point. If we apply it to someone who is in Purgatory, then it sends them straight to Heaven! In order for a Catholic to gain a plenary indulgence on a feast like today, he or she has to do three things within eight days: 1) go to Confession, 2) receive Holy Communion, and 3) say prayers for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI – commonly this is an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. In order to give you a better chance to receive the plenary indulgence, I will be hearing confessions after Mass and from 12:30 – 2:30 today. May you take advantage of this great deal!

Much of what we celebrate on Divine Mercy Sunday coincides with what Our Lord revealed to St. Faustina in the 1930s. He told her to remind people of his great mercy in specific and extraordinary ways. Of course, we already know of his incredible mercy from Scripture and Tradition. We know that his whole life is a mission of mercy. Was this mercy only offered to the people of his time, the people who lived 2000 years ago? No. We know that his mercy is offered to all people, including us.

As we just heard in the Gospel, he hands on his mission of mercy to the first priests, the Apostles, for them to continue. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”. He gives them his power to forgive sins: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained”. Was the opportunity for people to go to priests for Confession only for the people who lived 2000 years ago? No. We know that the power to forgive sins has been passed down from the first priests all the way to current priests.

As a reminder for us that it’s really Jesus in the confessional and it’s really his power of forgiveness that is given through the priest, our Lord said to St. Faustina, “When you approach the confessional, know this, that I myself am waiting there for you”.

Finally, we hear in the first reading about the life of the first Christian community who experience God’s great mercy. It was a community filled with joy, happiness, and unity. If you picked up on it (it was said twice in the reading), they were centered on the breaking of bread - the Eucharist. I see similarities between their community and our parish community. May we continue to grow as a community centered on the Eucharist. May we continue to grow in unity open to the Mercy of God as we continue to attain the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"A Disturbing New Teen Trend?"

1) Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7 pm, SAA Church. Please join us!
2) The Archdiocese of Washington has a blog site! Please check it out at http://blog.adw.org/
A priest friend sent me the following informative but troubling article:

'Sexting': A Disturbing New Teen Trend?

by Chana Joffe-Walt


One in five teens sends nude or partially nude photos to others via cell phone, according to a representative of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

All Things Considered, March 11, 2009 · On a June weekend, just after high school finals, 16-year-old Brooke Nielsen was hanging out with her best friend in suburban Seattle. There was lots of laughing and taking pictures with cell phone cameras. Then they decided just for fun to take a shower, and they put the cameras up on the mirror and took a side-profile picture of themselves naked.

As Brooke's mother, Kathy Nielsen, tells the story, her daughter deleted the picture but the friend did not. The friend denies sending the photo to anyone, but a copy soon arrived in the cell phone of another student — and then the cell phone of a football player, then the football team, then the senior class.

Finally, an anonymous envelope with Brooke's naked photo inside was left in the mailbox of Bothell High School's vice principal. That's when Kathy and Ed Nielsen got called in.

"They sat me down at the table and they said, 'We have pictures of your daughter and another girl naked, do you want to see them?' " Ed Nielsen says. "And I said, 'No I don't want to see that!'"

There's a name for what happened. It's called "sexting," where teenagers send nude or partially nude photos to one another. And 1 in 5 teens does it, according to Bill Alpert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

"The primary reason young people give is they say this is a fun or flirtatious activity," Alpert says. "Of more concern is the second primary reason they cite — among girls — is they do this as a sexy present for their boyfriends."

'How Is She Gonna Handle This?'

Brooke's mother says that being called before the vice principal was "terrifying."

"I mean, she just turned 16 a month before that," Kathy Nielsen says. "I was just thinking, 'Oh my goodness, how is she gonna handle this? How is this gonna affect the rest of her life?'

"Things really got complicated after that. Brooke and her friend were suspended from the cheer squad. The Nielsens wanted to know, what about those who shared the photo with other people, and they reported it to the police. Then they sued the school. Brooke and her parents are scheduled to be deposed next week.

An Uncomfortable Issue

Sexting isn't exactly a comfortable issue to deal with if you're a parent or a high school football coach or a middle-aged police detective like Vern Myers.

In a separate incident, Myers got a call from Castle Rock Middle School in Colorado and thought, "OK, investigate." He interviewed dozens of white-faced 12- and 13-year-olds and pimply 14-year-olds with twitchy legs. And he tried to figure out intent: Why did you take the photo? Why did you send it? He says that in response, he heard things like "we just thought it'd be funny" or "so and so asked me to send it to him."

Myers says it was the first time he has dealt with sexting, and he didn't really know what else to do.

"On something like that it's child pornography. If you take that picture, you're manufacturing it; if you send that picture, then you're distributing it," he says.

In at least four states, sexting kids are facing charges of child pornography and sexual exploitation of a minor.

Just like parents, attorneys and police are often shocked to see nude pictures of 14-year-olds passed around. And for now, they're responding in wildly different ways, with everything from felony charges to educational assemblies on the dangers of the Internet.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"The resurrection of the body"

“Cindy” emailed me a question for our site. She wanted me to post the following exchange which dovetails the conclusion of my homily on Easter Sunday:

Hello Father Greg!

I have a question that I thought I knew the answer to growing up as a Catholic. I always believed that when a person dies, their soul immediately goes to be judged and I thought that by their judgment, they go on to heaven, purgatory or hell. But in the past few years, I have heard that we "await the resurrection of the body in death." Does this mean that when we die, our soul does not go immediately, but awaits the final day when we are all lifted up and judged?

Thank you for your time,

Hi Cindy,

Thanks for your question. The Church teaches what you have always believed: "Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven - through a purification (purgatory) or immediately - or immediate and everlasting damnation" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1022). So, each one of us will be judged immediately when we die. This is called the Particular Judgment.

But, Scripture and Tradition is also clear about a General Judgment. This will come at the end of the world when Christ comes for the second time. We say this in the Creed: "He will come to judge the living and the dead". In the General Judgment, everyone will be judged immediately and will either go to Heaven or Hell forever (see Matthew 25):

1) The living will either go to Heaven or Hell
2) Those in Purgatory will go to Heaven
3) Those already in Heaven or Hell will remain there forever (i.e., their particular judgment remains in tact forever).

We also profess belief in the resurrection of the body; this gets to the second part of your question. Just prior to the General (or Last or Final) Judgment, Christ will raise the bodies of those who have died. The Catechism explains:

"In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection (#997)."All the dead will rise, 'those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment'" (998).

As you can see, both of your points are correct! Our bodies separate from our souls at death and either go to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. Then, they are reunited with our bodies forever either in Heaven or in Hell.

Hope this helps…

In Christ,

Fr Greg

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday - homily

On behalf of Fr. Mike, our deacons, and our entire parish staff here at St. Andrew’s, I wish you all a happy Easter!

There is a bumper sticker that’s been around for a while that reads, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” It’s a good question for all of us to consider. For our purposes here, I will pose the question, “If you were on trial for being a Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” And, I will ask each of you to imagine that you are on trial here for being a Catholic. You are on the stand. Everyone else here is the jury; it’s a large jury! I will play the lawyer because, well, I’m already up here, so I might as well.

If I’m a good lawyer, the first question I will ask you is, “do you believe in the Resurrection? You say you are a Catholic; the most fundamental and basic question for any Catholic is, ‘do you believe in the Resurrection?”

I ask people that question when they come to me and say, “Father, I think I’m losing my Catholic faith. I don’t know if I believe anymore”. I ask them, do you believe in God? “Yes”. Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? “Yes”. Do you believe in the Resurrection? “Um… yeah”. Not as strong as the first two answers! I ask them why they believe in the Resurrection. They might say, “um, I don’t know. I guess because…well, my parents taught me…priests…I just always have…I never really questioned it before”.

So, let’s say that you say this to the lawyer. He grills you – “you are on trial for being a Catholic. You need to give us better reasons than that”. Now, your answer was on the right track – we believe in the Resurrection because others have believed it. Here’s a fuller answer. You can say, “I believe in the Resurrection because of those who were there. I take their word for it. They saw the risen Christ! They saw him walking the Earth for forty days in his risen body. I wasn’t there, but I trust the testimony of those who were there.

Also, the Resurrection changed them. This event transformed their lives! Look at the Apostles – they were afraid to even tell people that they knew Jesus before the Resurrection. Then, they went out and told everyone about Him. They were so unafraid that all of them – except John – were martyred because of their faith in Christ. The Resurrection has to be real because so many people who were there were transformed”.

Now, the lawyer proceeds with another question. “Ok, you say that you believe in the Resurrection. But, how does your life show that you believe?” You could say, “I have hope. I live hope. The Resurrection gives me hope. Again, think about the Apostles and disciples. For three days, they had lost their hope. Jesus was their hope. They had hoped that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. But, then He died like any other man. For three days, their hope was crushed because they thought that Jesus wasn’t who they thought He was.

But, then, on the third day, He rose from the dead. He is risen! Imagine the hope this gave them! He is the Messiah. He is the Son of God. He brings life after death. He brings eternal life. He conquered death, He can conquer anything. He can conquer anything in my life. As Mother Teresa said, ‘don’t ever become so sad that you lose sight of the Resurrection’. The Resurrection is my source of hope”.

The lawyer asks a final question that will hopefully be an easy answer: “Do you practice your Catholic faith regularly?” He is prepared for an answer of ‘no’ or ‘I only go to Mass a couple of times a year’. So, he is ready with some comparisons such as, ‘if someone says they are athlete but only plays sports a couple of times a year, are they really an athlete? Or, if someone says that they are in a serious relationship with someone, but only sees that person a couple of times a year, is it really a serious relationship?’

Before he can make those points, you say, “Yes, I go to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day. I need to be here. I need the Eucharist. First, because Jesus tells me that I need to receive the Eucharist if I want to get to Heaven. There is nothing more important in my life than getting to Heaven, so I need to be at Mass every Sunday to get there. But, I also want to be here. I want to be with Jesus and with others. This is about a relationship with a Person; it’s not about a religion. I want to receive Christ so that I receive His life and bring it to others. The Eucharist is the biggest thing that convicts me of being a Catholic.

My brothers and sisters, this will happen for each of us some day. We will all go before the judgement seat of God. Christ the Judge will ask us very similar questions. Hopefully, our answers will please Him! Hopefully, our answer will prompt Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come, share in your master’s joy!”

Friday, April 10, 2009

"God...dies for man"

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Rev. William Finch, the pastor of St. Raphael's parish in Rockville, for his family and for his parishioners. Fr. Finch died suddenly last night at the end of the Mass of the Lord's Supper at the age of 55.

Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
Pope: Easter Triduum "Fulcrum" of Liturgical Year

Offers Reflection at General Audience

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI reflected on the Easter triduum at the general audience today, which he called the "fulcrum of the entire liturgical year.

"Holy Week, the Pope said, "offers us the opportunity to be immersed in the central events of Redemption, to relive the Paschal Mystery, the great mystery of the faith."

"How marvelous, and at the same time amazing, is this mystery," the Pontiff said. "We can never meditate this reality sufficiently. Jesus, though being God, did not want to make of his divine prerogatives an exclusive possession; he did not want to use his being God, his glorious dignity and power, as an instrument of triumph and sign of distance from us.

"On the contrary, 'he emptied himself' assuming our miserable and weak human condition."

Benedict XVI noted that the Easter triduum begins Thursday afternoon with the Mass of the Lord's Supper: "The Church commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, the ministerial priesthood and the new commandment of charity, left by Jesus to his disciples."

Holy Thursday, he said, is "a renewed invitation to render thanks to God for the supreme gift of the Eucharist, to be received with devotion and to be adored with lively faith.

"Good Friday, the Pontiff continued, is the "day of the Passion and crucifixion of the Lord. Every year, placing ourselves in silence before Jesus nailed to the wood of the cross, we realize how full of love were the words he pronounced on the eve, in the course of the Last Supper."

"Jesus willed to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity's sins," the Holy Father reflected. "Just as before the Eucharist, so before the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross the mystery is unfathomable to reason. We are placed before something that humanly might seem absurd: a God who not only is made man, with all man's needs, not only suffers to save man, burdening himself with all the tragedy of humanity, but dies for man.

"Christ's death recalls the accumulation of sorrows and evils that beset humanity of all times: the crushing weight of our dying, the hatred and violence that again today bloody the earth. The Lord's Passion continues in the suffering of men."

He added, "If Good Friday is a day full of sadness, then it is at the same time all the more propitious a day to reawaken our faith, to strengthen our hope and courage so that each one of us will carry his cross with humility, trust and abandonment in God, certain of his support and victory."

"Hope," said Benedict XVI, "is nourished in the great silence of Holy Saturday, awaiting the resurrection of Jesus. On this day the Churches are stripped and no particular liturgical rites are provided. The Church watches in prayer like Mary, and together with Mary, sharing the same feelings of sorrow and trust in God.

"Justly recommended is to preserve throughout the day a prayerful climate, favorable to meditation and reconciliation; the faithful are encouraged to approach the sacrament of penance, to be able to participate truly renewed in the Easter celebrations."

Following the "recollection and silence of Holy Saturday" is the solemn Easter Vigil, which the Pope called the "mother of all vigils."

"Proclaimed once again will be the victory of light over darkness, of life over death, and the Church will rejoice in the encounter with her Lord," he added. "We will thus enter into the climate of the Easter of Resurrection."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

"The vast tunnels of a gold mine"

As we prepare to enter into the Easter Triduum, the following is a deep and rich meditation for Holy Thursday (cf. Lk 22:14-20) from “The King, Crucified and Risen” by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.:

“The Sacred Triduum – the three holy days (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) – opens with joy and sorrow, love and betrayal, life and death, the promise of eternity and a feeling of impending death at the Last Supper. This is the great day of paradox – that is, apparent contradictions mysteriously containing truth. For example, we call this Passover meal the Last Supper. But these simple events are the beginning of billions of commemorations in Eucharistic liturgies. Could anyone there have imagined Bach’s Mass in B minor, or a Mass performed by native Africans singing an accompaniment to the renewal of the Last Supper?

It’s a very sorrowful meal. Christ promises the Eucharist, which has been the greatest single source of spiritual joy and consolation that the Christian world has ever known. Christ leaves the supper to be arrested; within eighteen terrible hours He will be tortured to death, and yet He tells us that He will be with us till the end of the world. The most significant sign of His presence is the bread and wine consecrated and transformed at the re-presentation of this holy meal.

During the past several days we have been meditating on some of His discourse to the apostles in John’s Gospel. If you have been reading along, you realize that these pages, including John chapters 5 and 6 and chapters 13-17 (called the Book of Glory), contain the most profound revelation of who Jesus Christ is and what He can be to those who seek to love Him.

Try to take some time during the Holy Triduum to read and meditate on these events. Although they happened so long ago, they are repeated over and over till the end of the world.

Any thinking Christian knows that Christ is betrayed, abandoned, humiliated, and suffers hunger and thirst constantly in his members. ‘I was hungry and you gave me no food’ (Mt 25:42). He is constantly on trial somewhere in the world, and He is left alone in our own neighborhoods in the sick and the dying.

The events of Holy Thursday are almost all incomplete realities. They look forward to what is to come for their completion. The very next day the Blood of the Eucharist must be shed and the Body must be broken. But even then, what do we see but the corpse of an atrociously abused man, like the image seen on the Shroud of Turin? We must keep going so that the Eucharist is not a funeral procession and the life of Christ is not just another noble failure. He lives! On the third day He comes back to life, never to die again. ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20).

There is so much in the Last Supper, and then there is the agony in the garden and the arrest of Jesus. Start anywhere prayerfully and thoughtfully, and you will walk into the vast tunnels of a gold mine. The events of these days can teach us every year and, in fact, every day of every year, because they come back to us not only in our memories but also in the sacramental reality of the daily Eucharist.

Is there one word that can sum up Christ’s deeds and our response as disciples? Obviously the word is love. It begins the account of the Last Supper in John 13:1: ‘Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.’

The Gospel is above all a story of love, and love should be our response. St. Paul, who was called after all these things came to pass, summed it up so well in words that should guide our minds and hearts: ‘The charity of Christ urges us on’ (2 Cor 5:14).”

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm Sunday - homily

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

A friend of mine named Shannon was one of the teenagers at the first youth group at which I helped in the early nineties. She and I hit it off right away and have stayed in touch over the years. She married Craig, the only man she ever dated. Three years into their beautiful marriage, they were in a tragic car accident. Craig died and Shannon miraculously survived. She has made an amazing physical and personal recovery.

About a year after the accident, Shannon said to me that the hardest thing about her situation was that there was no one she could talk to. There were no 27-year-old widows with whom she could relate. No one knew what she was going through. I said (more or less), “Shannon, Jesus knows what you’re going through. He experienced every human pain there is. He was not abandoned by the Father, but he united himself with all those who feel abandoned… lonely…isolated…or rejected. He knows what you are going through. You know what he went through. You are there with him on the cross. He is there with you.”

Shannon would say later that that conversation was one of the two most powerful conversations she’s ever had. Back in the youth group, she probably thought that none of this applied to her because she hadn’t really suffered. Just a few years later, it would completely apply to her. I got together with her not too long ago and she is doing well. Please pray for her.

To all of our young people here today and to all of our adults, please remember this. If you aren’t suffering now, tuck this away for when you are. When you feel abandoned… lonely…isolated…or rejected, please know that Jesus has experienced it. Mother Teresa said that this was his greatest pain. He is with you in your suffering. You are there with him on the Cross.

He was with us on the Cross. He is with us in the Eucharist. He tells us to come to him in the Eucharist. “Come to me all who labor and are burdened”. Come to me all who are abandoned…lonely…isolated…depressed…angry…discouraged…grieving…stressed. “Come to me… and I will give you rest”.

Friday, April 03, 2009

True reconciliation is powerful stuff

Tonight at SAA Church: Stations of the Cross, 7 pm, with Eucharistic Adoration to follow. Please join us!!
A blogger posted a question earlier this week that I would also like to present to SAA bloggers: why do you think that the Penance Service this past Monday night was attended by so few people? I didn’t count how many people, but my guess is there were less than twenty. We’ve had much larger turnouts at other Penance Services the past three years (we had over 100 people a couple of years ago). Now, there were other things going on Monday night (e.g., Bible Study, Maryland women’s basketball game), but I don’t think that would have affected the vast majority of our parishioners.

A couple of people have suggested that it’s because St. Andrew’s offers so many other times for Confession on a regular basis. That might enter into it, but I don’t think it played a big role in the small turnout Monday night. And, my take on all of this is the more that Confession is preached and offered in a parish, the more people will come to the sacrament. In other words, it’s a cultural thing. I’ve seen the culture change with regard to this sacrament here, thanks be to God. Many people have returned to the sacrament after being away for many years and others who had been going infrequently have been going more often. And, I would imagine that people in both groups have been leading others to come to the sacrament. This is how it works (i.e., how the kingdom spreads) and it’s an awesome thing to witness!

Some people who came Monday night were themselves surprised at the low turnout; one person deliberately came late, trying to avoid the “big crowd” he (or she) said that he expected. Now, I am grateful for those who came and for the opportunities that arose with them. And, this is not about “numbers”; it is about people responding to God’s call to reconcile with Him and the Church through Confession. The most important thing is that people go, and hopefully before Easter. Confession helps us to give our whole heart to Christ (our goal for Lent) and to enter more fully into the Paschal Mystery (the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ).

So, SAA bloggers, was it just that Monday was a tough night for most people? Or, was it that they didn’t know about the Service? Or, was it something else? I appreciate your input.

Speaking of Reconciliation, here is a recent question (series of questions):

“If a person close to you…won't go to Confession, how is it that Jesus forgives them, or does He? …how do we forgive them? What does one do when the closest admission to the sin consists of, "C'mon, cut me a break, I'm human and I'm doing the best I can."? Do we forgive with the hope that they'll change? Or, do we sin through forgiveness which allows or enables the behavior to continue?

Anon, you can check out my post, “Why Forgive?”, on 8/22/08 which is related to your questions. A person has to ask God for forgiveness in order to reconcile with and be forgiven by Him. He is Mercy, so He is always offering mercy. God cannot not forgive. He cannot not offer forgiveness. He always offers forgiveness, but it’s up to us to receive His forgiveness. It’s like that way with the Eucharist (or any gift): God is constantly offering the gift of the Eucharist, but it’s up to us to receive it. The person who doesn’t come to Mass doesn’t receive the Eucharist. So, too, the person who doesn’t come to Confession doesn’t receive God’s forgiveness (for mortal sins; he/she can receive God’s forgiveness for venial sins outside of Confession, but they still need to ask for it…through Act of Contrition, receiving the Eucharist, etc.).

We are called to be Christ-like in this way – to always offer mercy (e.g., forgive “seventy-times seven times) to others. We are called to always offer forgiveness. If someone sins against us and won’t apologize, then forgiveness remains in our hearts only. If they ask us for mercy in any way (no matter how small), then we should forgive them. However, if their apology remains in the “half-hearted” category, then we might want to gently challenge them to say, “I’m sorry” or “please forgive me”. These are very important words for true reconciliation. This is not to humble them as much as it is to make clear that they are asking for forgiveness. If they can’t explicitly ask for forgiveness, then we can’t explicitly forgive them (only implicitly...in our hearts).

Finally, we forgive others who have implicitly or explicitly expressed an intention of changing their sinful behavior. If someone asks for forgiveness but has no intention of changing, then we need to make clear to them that they we can’t forgive them (it is also true in Confession that we need to make a “firm purpose of amendment” in order to receive absolution). It’s not true reconciliation without an intention of amendment (it’s like a house built on sand…no real foundation there).

If they do intend to change, then we forgive them. Will they change? We can’t know at the time of reconciliation. But, we give it a chance because we know that true reconciliation is powerful stuff, indeed. There is grace at work there that can help a person, in time, move away from their sin (“where sin abounds, grace abounds the more”).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April Fool's Day

Someone (I know who) has already played an April Fool's joke on me - they moved my "Redskins fans only" parking sign to another spot in the rectory lot. Unfortunately, it is the spot that our housekeeper has been parking in every day for years and years. Today, with the sign there, she parked in the spot next to hers...!


In Florida , an atheist created a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews and observances of their holy days. The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days.

The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, "Case dismissed!"

The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, "Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays."

The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, "But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant."

The lawyer said, "Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists."

The judge said, "The calendar says April 1st is April Fools Day. Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.