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!