Sunday, June 28, 2009

13th Sunday - homily

A couple of years ago, we had Confirmation with Bishop Holley on a Sunday night – right in the middle of a Redskins-Cowboys game! I walked into Church a little before Mass and saw a group of people who had little TVs and radios. I probably should have said, “can you please put those away? We are in church”. I didn’t. Actually, I said, “can you all give me some kind of sign when the Redskins score?”

This was one of my favorite moments during my time at St Andrew’s. Someone asked me to give a top ten list of my favorite moments, so I’ve spent the past several days thinking about all the great moments that I’ve had here, thanks be to God. It’s not a perfect list and it was tough to pick just ten, but here they are:

At a graduation party a couple years ago, there was a swimming pool. I was having fun with kids in the pool and kids around the pool…you know, pushing them in and all. One of our teens wasn’t very happy at all when I pushed her in fully clothed. She got her revenge a month later when she and her friends put a few hundred post-it notes on my car!

One of my favorite groups in the parish has been RCIA. Some of my happiest moments here have been seeing the adults who I had prepared to become Catholic get baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist for the first time. Like a proud parent, I was absolutely beaming when these great people “joined the club”.

At our Penance Service a few years ago, we had over 100 people come for confession. It was our biggest turnout in my time here. There were several of us priests hearing confessions for over an hour, and they were really good confessions – some people coming back to the sacrament after being away for many years. What an awesome moment for us priests to be a part of!

We’ve had a lot of great Masses here the past three years. One of my favorite moments at Mass happened at my first Christmas Eve Mass with the children. I had the kids come up to the sanctuary for the homily. I asked them to return to their pews at the end of the homily. One little three-year-old boy wanted to stay in the sanctuary and sit in one of the big chairs. I said ok, just not in the big chair – that’s mine. I kept the mic on and talked to him. “What’s your name?”, I said. “AJ”. “Hi, AJ”. As we talked, AJ’s mother came forward and told him to come with her. “No”, he cried. His mom grabbed him and he went back to his seat, kicking and screaming. “Bye, AJ”, I said. I commented later that he would probably be “Fr AJ” someday because he actually wanted to sit in the sanctuary!

There have been so many fun moments with our kids here, especially our school kids. My favorite moment was this year when I taught them at a Mass what to say and do whenever I said the word, Heaven: “it’s all good”! We had a lot of fun with that. I would see them in the hallways or wherever, and say something like, “what’s it like in Heaven?” “It’s all good!”

I am so grateful for the huge support that St Andrew’s has given DC ‘Hood the past three years. It really has been amazing to see you help our ministry in so many ways. My favorite DC ‘Hood moment was this past year at Verizon Center when our junior high choir sang the national anthem before the Wizards game. They did a phenomenal job! I was cheering louder for our kids than for the Wizards!

We have Eucharistic Adoration here on Friday nights for an hour. These have been some of my favorite nights – it’s an awesome hour in the presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. My favorite nights of Adoration were when our school kids came – a few classes came as a group (3rd and 5th graders, for example) and stayed almost the whole time. They took it very seriously – knelt, blessed themselves, prayed hard, etc. One of the girls said afterward, “it was inspiring”. What an awesome moment for a priest – to be a part of kids coming into the presence of Jesus.

There were so many extraordinary moments with our youth – too many to list. With our young adults, my favorite moment was last year when they initiated the largest blood drive St. Andrew’s has ever had. My favorite moment with our Youth Group was at our Lock-In a few years ago. We stayed up all night having fun and talking. Then, at 6 am, we had a few moments of Adoration and Benediction. There were about 20 of our teens on their knees at 6 in the morning worshipping God. The problem was that some of the parents were outside, trying to get in to prepare breakfast. They were locked out and it was about 20 degrees outside. I apologized to them later, but one of the parents said, “hey, if you can get our kids worshipping God at 6 in the morning, we don’t mind being locked out”. My favorite moment with our Junior Youth Group was at the end of or trivia game when we put pies in the faces of those who got wrong answers…then I got a pie in the face (more like, a pie in the ear)!

We just heard in the Gospel about Jesus’ healing of the woman with the hemorrhage. Through the gift of his ordination, every priest of Jesus Christ has his healing power. My favorite moment in healing came a couple years ago when a woman came to me who had been suffering from a tumor and intense pain for many years. I prayed over her, laid my hands upon her, and showered her with miraculous water from Lourdes, France. The following week, doctors told her that the tumor was gone. And, she was in significantly less pain. She experience not only physical healing, but also personal and spiritual healing, thanks to the power of God.

A couple of summers ago, we hosted a Catholic festival, “Fun in the Son”. It was a good day of faith and fun. The best part was the turnout of volunteers from our parish – dozens and dozens of people helping out. I was not surprised because people here are very generous. You are very generous to God and to each other.

Finally, my favorite moment of all has occurred each time we have come here for Mass: in the Eucharist. What happens at the altar when I take bread and wine and say the words of consecration is beyond words. What an incredible moment for me or any priest to make Jesus present through my hands. Then, the greatest moment in our lives – Holy Communion, where we become one with God. This moment defines who I am and what I’ve been about the past three years here: about bringing us all into union with Christ.

My hope is that you have had an experience of Jesus Christ through me – an experience of his love, his mercy, his kindness, his fun, his humor, his enthusiasm, etc. When he made this year the “year of the priest”, Pope Benedict reminded us that the priest is “alter Christus” (another Christ). If I have not been another Christ here, if all this has been just an experience with Fr Greg Shaffer, then I have failed. My hope is that you have had an experience with Jesus Christ. My hope is that you have had an experience with the Kingdom of Heaven… where it is all good!


At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. You weren't always perfect in being another Christ, but you tried and that is more then most people will ever do. We are all struggling in this world and even when you weren't the perfect example of Christ you were a brighter light on the horizon. Thank you for being a fallible human being trying to point us more towards Christ.

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will you keep in touch with SAA after moving to GWU???

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for keeping your eyes on Jesus and realizing the best and most loving thing you can do for anyone is to make Him present through the unique gift of your priesthood. We can get counseling, entertainment, humor, charitable acts, social activities, from many places. We can only get Jesus, unadulterated, pure, whole from the gift of priesthood. Thanks for being a priest. Thanks for not loosing sight of Jesus and most especially Jesus in the Eucharist. We are all witnesses to Jesus -- Jesus amongst us. He is most amongst us at mass. What greater witness to his presence than your own awe at his presence!

Wishing you the best: the love, joy, and peace of Jesus in all you do! And while it's sad to see you move to another ministry,we'll always be able to meet in the Eucharist

May God Bless you lots and lots!

"What an incredible moment for me or any priest to make Jesus present through my hands. Then, the greatest moment in our lives – Holy Communion, where we become one with God. This moment defines who I am and what I’ve been about the past three years here: about bringing us all into union with Christ."

At 5:52 PM, Blogger fran said...

Some memories of my own, during Fr. Greg's time at St. A's

At the beginning of his very first homily, at St. A's, Father Greg said, " I'm pumped, I'm psyched!!" My daughter, then 8 years old, turned to me and with a quizzical look on her face asked, "Mom did he just say he was punked?"

I have shared this next story with Fr. Greg and he assured me his father would laugh too.

His first Christmas, at one of the evening masses, Fr. Greg recounted the loss of his father. He spoke of how the two of them had been playing ball on the beach, and his dad was trying to teach him how to throw a curve ball. He spoke of how he finally perfected the pitch, and hit his dad in the leg with the ball. He said that there was much blood AND much laughter and celebrating as they ran around on the beach. Then he said, "One week later, he ( his dad ) was gone." Again, my daughter turned to me and said, "Did Fr. Greg kill his father?"

Finally, just last fall, on a school holiday, following report card conferences, I took an envelope with my commitment pledge to the rectory. Before I could even get to the door, or say a word, a man emerged, and asked if I would like him to give my envelope to Father Greg.

Not knowing who this guy was, and the fact that he was wearing a t-shirt which said STATE PRISON, I was a little concerned and asked if the secretary, Pat, was there. He did not seem to know who Pat was, and said that Fr. Greg was the only one inside. I reluctantly handed him the envelope and wondered if Fr. Greg was safe.

When I arrived home, I phoned my mother and asked for her advice. She said, "Why in the world would you give a blank check to a stranger!?" ( thanks mom. ) Telling her I did not care about the check, (which was not blank, btw,) we decided I should call the rectory and see if all was well.

My calls to the rectory were not answered immediately so I left a couple of messages. I learned later that the guy who answered the door ( in a STATE PRISON t-shirt! ) was not a convict, but a painter who had been hired to do some work inside the rectory.

You will be greatly missed Father Greg.

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 2:47 P.M.,
You have said it all!
My prayer life and knowledge of the real presence of Christ has flourished just watching Fr. Greg at the Consecration and at adoration. Many of FG's homilies really touched my heart. My spirtual life has greatly improved and I will always remember to only receive Our Lord when I am in a state of grace. FG's words will always ring in my ears" Will All Faithful Catholics Come receive Our Lord."
The bible study supported and started by FG has been very beneficial to me and I am looking forward to continue TGA in September. By the way I am way off the young adult list. Carol

At 12:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are going to be missed Father Greg; Christ 'is' with you! And it is evident you extend Christ through your thoughtfulness, words, and actions. I pray always that you be protected through Jesus's love as you continue your journey of devotion as you fulfill our Fathers will. have fun Good Shepherd!

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Meredith said...

You have done wonderful things at St. A's and GW is very lucky to get you. Make sure you keep us updated on DC Hood's schedule. I think our girls would love to come out and cheer for Fr. Greg!

At 11:09 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

It isn’t often that I’m at a loss for saying what I feel, but in this- it’s a bit complex. I’m happy for FG that he has been assigned to another post that it seems he’ll enjoy. I’m ecstatic for the students at GW to have such a committed and loving priest in their midst. However, I’m sad too. I can’t help but feel a personal loss at his leaving, so I’m trying to focusing on my gratefulness for all he’s helped to bring into my life and that of my family. Here’s some of my favorite memories:

My then 1st grader refusing to wear a black t-shirt b/c after FG’s homily she thought it meant her soul was dirty.

My then 4 year old refusing to come up to the altar with me when I received b/c she didn’t want to see the Body and Blood.

My then 5th grade daughter telling me she touched Jesus when she touched the veil during an Adoration procession for their class.

My then 5th grade son, after spending the game on the DC Hood bench at the Verizon Center, telling me that the priests are really cool!

My then 3 year old telling me that FG was her best friend.

While I haven’t yet brought myself to actually say good bye, FG- I wish you well. The past three years have been some trip! With all my heart, thank you (I’m still working on the actual “G-Bye” words). My life is different for having learned from you, and I've been blessed for it.


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