Rejoice in the Lord

Every third Sunday of Advent, the Church rejoices. This is known as “Gaudete Sunday”, which uses the Latin word for “rejoicing”. But, we’re still in the season of Advent, a penitential season. We are still in preparation for the coming of the Lord.

In this way, the Lord is not here. Why are we rejoicing? Because “the Lord is near”.

Have you ever taken a trip and become excited as you neared your destination? Maybe it was a long car ride or flight. Or, maybe it was a drive home after sitting in traffic on 295?! Seeing a road sign that the destination was only a few miles away picked you up. Or, hearing from the flight crew that they’re starting the plane’s descent on the city to which you’re going got your heart pumping a little bit more. Reaching your home street should always be a source of excitement and comfort! In each of these situations, a sense of rejoicing that you are near carries you into the home stretch and helps you endure the remaining part of the trip.

This is what the Church is doing for us today by giving us “Rejoicing Sunday”. She reminds us the reason for the season which is the coming of the Lord. “The Lord is near!” While we will still endure the remaining days of Advent, we are uplifted by the announcement that the Lord is close. As we pass the halfway point and head for the home stretch, the Church gives us encouragement. “The Lord is near!”

For some, hearing that Advent is halfway over may be more of an alarm than a sound for rejoicing. They might be asking what the crowds asked John the Baptist, “what should we do?”

If you feel that you haven’t been tuned into Advent yet and want to finish strongly, the first thing I would say is what St. Paul wrote, “have no anxiety at all”.

This in general is easier said than done, I know. But, be at peace. The Lord has given us much practical advice through the sacred authors in today’s readings for the remaining part of our Advent journey:

1.) PRAY EVERY DAY: “make your requests known to God by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving”

2.) DONATE TO THE OUTREACH CENTER: “whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise”

3.) GO TO CONFESSION: “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.

The third suggestion is most fitting now as we are now in the Year of Mercy. I look forward to this year with you! We hope and pray that it will be a year of mercy and rejoicing in our parish during the jubilee.

This is a special Gaudete Sunday for me because I rejoice in each of you and in being your pastor. “I shall say it again: rejoice!”

–Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Greg

Advent is preparing the way

First place! It has been many years since we Redskins fans can say that our beloved team is first in our division in early December. And, we are actually surging, with some analysts saying that we are playing our best football of the season. This is exciting! Now, I know, it is possible that this can go south, especially with the Cowboys coming to town tomorrow night. We all might be calling therapists Tuesday morning…! But, things do feel differently now, and we are starting to believe that the culture on our team is changing. We have more talent now (thanks to our new General Manager), and a coaching system that utilizes the players well. No matter what happens in December, we are an improved team on the rise!

What strikes me most for the improvement is their preparation. They have said that their practices during the last few weeks have improved dramatically. Practice makes perfect, right! They have practiced harder with more intensity, and with a focus on correcting mistakes. These things should have been there all season, of course, but it takes time to kick bad habits. This has been a losing franchise for so long in part because they have had losing habits. But, that has changed now. Their preparation has been stronger which has led to significantly better performances two of the past three games. And, their victories have led to more confidence. Apparently, they had a players-only meeting the night before the Giants game in which they said that they were capable of great things, and that they can beat anybody if they played together as a team. That’s a winning attitude, and it showed in their victory last week. At least for this week, they are basking in the glory of first place and in being the talk of the town (and a little of the nation).

Now, I’m writing all of this for two reasons. The first is that I can! (It’s been like 20 years since we’ve been in this situation). The second is for the Advent parallels we can make.

Advent is a Season of preparation. We are preparing for the coming of Christ. We are preparing for glory. Baruch’s prophecy about the Messianic Age in today’s first reading uses the word “glory” six times! How do we prepare for such glory?

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain shall be made low” (Luke 3:5-6).

The Redskins have recently taken their preparation seriously and intensely. Can we take Advent seriously, and do at least one thing this season that reflects a change of heart? The ‘Skins have filled their valleys of despair with confidence. Can we be filled with confidence in God? They have lowered their mountains of individual pride and become team players. Can we lower our mountains of pride by going to Confession at least once during Advent?

During Advent, God calls us to change our ways… to make straight his paths. He wants to turn our losing habits into winning ones. He wants us to win victory! He wants us to share fully in His glory! Hopefully, it will be a Season of victories for us and Grace. At the same time, a December to remember with many victories on the field would be nice, too.

–Sincerely in Christ, Fr Greg

The Origins of Advent

First Sunday of Advent

What is Advent?

Advent, which comes from the Latin word for “arrival” or “coming,” is a period of preparation for the birth of our Lord. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and is the start of the Christmas season, which lasts through the Baptism of Our Lord. The first Sunday of Advent also marks the beginning of the liturgical year, the Church’s “New Year’s Day,” at which time we change the cycle of readings we are using at Mass. Advent is a time of joyous anticipation, but also of penance and preparation for the great Christmas feast. The liturgical color of the season is purple, a sign of penance, which is also used during Lent. The Church discourages excessive ornamentation, boisterous music and even weddings during Advent, in order to foster a sense of quiet hope.

Who established Advent?

Thomas J. Talley, in The Origins of the Liturgical Year (Pueblo Publishing Company), sees the beginning of an advent season in the Fourth Canon of the Council of Saragosa in 380. In 567, the Synod of Tours established a December fast. And in 581 the Council of Macon ordered an advent fast for the laity from the Feast of St. Martin (November 11) to Christmas. This took the name of St. Martin’s Lent. In the seventh and eighth centuries, lectionaries (books containing the scriptural readings for the Liturgy of the Word) provided for six Sundays in Advent. According to the Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, edited by Richard P. McBrien, Gregory the Great, who died in 604, was the real architect of the Roman Advent. Gregory fixed the season at four weeks and composed seasonal prayers and antiphons. Gaul (France) enriched the season with eschatological elements. And the fusion of the Roman and Gallican observances returned to Rome by the 12th century.

What is the Advent wreath?

The Advent wreath is one of our most popular Advent traditions. Its origin is in preChristian Germany and Scandinavia where the people gathered to celebrate the return of the sun after the winter solstice. The circular wreath made of evergreens with four candles interspersed represented the circle of the year and the life that endures through the winter. As the days grew longer, people lit candles to offer thanks to the “sun god” for the light. For us, the lighting of the Advent candles represents the promise of the coming of Jesus, the light of the world. To make an Advent wreath, begin with a Styrofoam circle, available at craft shops, and cut four evenly spaced holes into which you will place the four candles. Traditionally there are three purple candles and one rose candle (for the third Sunday), but blue candles can also be used. Purple reminds us to turn our hearts toward God; rose is a color of joy. Place fresh evergreen branches over the Styrofoam. Replace them when they dry out in order to preserve the symbolism of the vitality of God’s love. Encourage children to participate as they are able, by gathering branches, placing the candles and so on.

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Two Judgments-One Soul

One of the new happenings at Assumption that I forgot to mention in last week’s
bulletin is the young adult group. We had our first social event a couple weeks ago,
and then our first Bible study last week. What a great group! They are good, fun, and
smart people. At Bible study, we discussed today’s readings for over an hour. They
had tremendous insights and questions about the themes of the readings: death,
judgement, and life after death. I think we’re all really excited about this group!

Every November, as we come to the end of the liturgical year, the Church gives us
readings that focus on the end of time (“eschaton”). The adult group didn’t think that
we are in the end times, but lamented that there are many who do think that. Jesus
says in today’s Gospel that He doesn’t even know when the end will be!

Regarding what we will face when we die, the Church teaches of two judgments: 1) a
particular judgment, and 2) a general judgment. The first is when we each die…when
our “time is up”. The second is the end of the world… when time itself ends.

These two judgments are summed up pretty well by

Particular: “As Catholics, we believe that when a person dies, the soul separates from
the body. He then stands before God in judgment. Remember that the soul is really
‘who’ we are: while the body lies in death, our soul– who we are– lives on and returns
to the Lord for judgment. The Catechism clearly teaches, ‘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 purification or immediately, – or immediate and everlasting damnation’

Let’s dissect this teaching: When we die, our soul stands in judgment immediately.
We will have to account for our lives, for the good that we have done and for the sins
we have committed. We call this the particular judgment because it is particular to
each person…

General: At the end of time, our Lord will come again to judge the living and the
dead… Here again the Catechism teaches, ‘In the presence of Christ, who is Truth
itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last
Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done
or failed to do during his earthly life’ (#1039). Here is a judgment not only of the
individual standing alone, but also as a member of society and before the whole
community of mankind. Those who have already died and have been judged will
remain in Heaven or Hell; those who have not died will now be judged and enter
Heaven or Hell.

…Whether we consider the particular judgment or the final judgment, we must be
ready to face judgment. Archbishop Fulton Sheen stated, ‘For when the curtain
goes down on the last day, and we respond to the curtain call of judgment, we will not
be asked what part we played, but how well we played the part that was assigned to
us’ (Moods and Truths, 75).

Finally, a solid answer to the question that some have as to why there can be a general
judgment and a particular judgment, is given at

“The purpose of the general judgment is not to re-determine one’s standing with God
but to reveal the full ramifications of all our good and bad deeds in relation to other
people. Although we will know instantly all the good and the bad we have done at our
particular judgment, only at the general judgment will we see what effect the way we
lived had on others and thus truly understand the ultimate significance of our moral
–Sincerely in Christ,
Fr Greg

Big Weekend for Assumption

Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This is a big weekend in our parish. First, we distributed over 200 Thanksgiving baskets with turkeys to families in our neighborhood yesterday through the generosity of St. Pius and Our Lady of Mercy parishes. Second, today is the awesome feast of Christ the King! Third, Cardinal Wuerl installs me today as your pastor. Last but certainly not least, my Mom is here this weekend! (I think parishioners are most exciting about that).

I’ve written before that it’s an incredible honor to be stationed at Assumption as your pastor. Today, it becomes official as the Church presents me as pastor through the Archbishop. One of the things I will do is renew the promises I made at my ordination to the priesthood. These words were significant then but are even more so now because they are specifically related to you.

Here is one of the questions the Cardinal asks me to which I answer, “I do”:

Are you resolved that you will bind yourself ever more closely to Christ the high priest who for us offered himself to the Father as a spotless victim, and that with Christ you will consecrate yourself to God for the salvation of your brothers and sisters?

Like vows in Holy Matrimony, these promises are intimidating. With the help of God, I am to be so bound to Christ the High Priest that I am consecrated (“set apart”) for the salvation of your souls! His mission is now my mission here. We hear in today’s Gospel for the feast of Christ the King that Christ’s mission on earth was to “testify to the truth”. That‘s what his mission was. That’s what his kingdom on earth looks like. May his mission be fulfilled here, and may He make our parish into a kingdom (Rev 1). Specifically, may He help me to testify to the truth, and may you belong to the truth and hear my voice.

None of us priests are worthy or capable of this, and those of you who have gotten to know me know that it is most true in my case! But, God is good, and He knows who He has called. Someone said the other day that God has blessed us with many graces even before I was installed as pastor. These were left over from Fr. Ivany! Seriously, though, in these first few months here especially, I have tried to continue his great work of the past three years…the work that God did through him. God has blessed us indeed throughout our Jubilee Year, and the graces will hopefully continue. On top of all of this, Thursday is Thanksgiving Day! But, really, as disciples of Jesus Christ, every day should be thanksgiving (especially if we are daily Massgoers). I give thanks to Almighty God every day for my life, faith, family, vocation, and now being pastor at Assumption. I give thanks to God for each one of you, and for being not only part of this extraordinary parish family, but its father.

–Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Greg

Important Parish Announcements


A parishioner recently told me, “after your installed (as pastor), I hope you get your act

together” when it comes to notifying the parish of important, new matters and events.

This was half-joking, half-serious. We both laughed, but I will take this opportunity

to heed that great advice.

We have a new and improved parish website! Please go to to

see the clean, fresh look of our parish online. The site contains a current parish

history, bulletins, homilies, and other cool info about the parish and outreach center.

Ryan Hehman’s last day as Director of the Outreach Center was October 30. We are

so grateful for his generous and dedicated service to our guests, staff, and volunteers

the past year and a half. Pray that God sends us a new Director who will continue the

amazing parish tradition of outreach.

Parishioners are happy to hear that healing Masses will be celebrated each month, but

then immediately ask for the schedule of dates. Here they are:

December 12, 2015/ January 9, 2016 / February 6, 2016/ March 5, 2016/

April 2, 2016 May 7, 2016/ June 4, 2016/ July 9, 2016 / August 6, 2016/

September 10, 2016 October 1, 2016/ November 5, 2016 / December 3, 2016

We are also happy to announce that we will offer “Revival Nights” in our parish

monthly (except July and August) in 2016: Here is that schedule:

Jan TBD/ February 15, 2016/ March 3, 2016/ April 18, 2016/ May 23, 2016

June 20, 2016/ September 19, 2016/ October 17, 2016/ November 14, 2016

December 12, 2016

Starting in Advent 2015, we will offer daily Mass (Mon-Fri, Sat) in the church at

12:10 pm. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will begin at 11 am with Benediction

at 12 noon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Our year-long 100th anniversary celebration is kicking into a higher gear.

Community Sundays have been well attended. The pictorial directory will be

available soon. Planning for the celebration on August 14, 2016 with Cardinal Wuerl

is well under way. After that special Mass in the church, we will have a formal,

elegant reception under a tent (with air conditioning!) on the parish grounds.

Many of you have received a card from me which indicates that I offered a Holy Hour

for you (and your family) and your intentions. Since I arrived here in August, I have

been going through the 2011 parish directory and offering my daily Holy Hour for

Assumption parishioners. People have been grateful. But, they have also been

confused about the dates. It just takes me a little while to mail out the cards! I am

happy and honored to pray for you! Please pray for me.

This is nothing new, but I have been visiting the sick and homebound of our parish

every month. What a joy and a privilege to spend time with such holy and faithful

people! Please contact me if you know someone I can visit.

Finally, I have been doing “street evangelization” in the neighborhood the past few

months. I have met many good and friendly people, and invited them to our beautiful

church. My latest gig has been playing basketball with the youngsters on the courts

next to Malcom X School. They have been quite surprised to see that this pastor can

ball! Hopefully, it will help to spread the word about our unique and lively parish.

I rejoice in the goodness of God for each one of you, and for all the good He is

providing us.

–Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Greg

Solemnity of All Saints

On All Saints Day, we celebrate all the men and women (canonized and uncanonized
saints) who reside in heaven. I’d like to draw special attention to one of the saints on
the rear wall of our church: St. Martin de Porres. Please read below about his life and
his healing ministry. We should make this patron saint of African Americans the
patron saint of our healing Masses (next one is Nov. 7), too!
From Lima, Peru he was often called Saint Martin of Charity; and the Saint of the
Broom (for his devotion to his work, no matter how menial). De Porres was the
(illegitimate) son of a Spanish nobleman and a young freed Black slave, he grew up in
poverty. De Porres spent part of his youth with a surgeon-barber where he learned
some medicine and how to care for the sick. At age 11 he became a servant in the
Dominican priory.
Promoted to almoner, he solicited (begged) more than $2,000 a week from the rich to
support the poor and sick of Lima. He was put in charge of the Dominican’s infirmary;
and was known for his care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. His superiors
dropped the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or
profession of our order.” De Porres also took vows as a Dominican brother;
established an orphanage and children’s hospital for the poor children of the areas
slums. He even set up a shelter for the stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to
health. Martin de Porres lived in self-imposed austerity, never ate meat, fasted
continuously, and spent much time in prayer and meditation.

He had great devotion to the Eucharist and was venerated from the day of his death.
The first Black saint in the Americas, Martin de Porres died of fever in 1639.

Many other stories of Martín’s goodness pertained to his unwavering efforts to help
Lima’s poor and ill, often against the wishes of his superiors at the monastery. A sick,
aged street person, almost naked and covered with open sores, was taken by Martín to
his own bed at the monastery. A fellow monk was horrified, but Martín responded
(according to the Lives of the Saints reported on the website of Canada’s Monastery of
the Magnificat), “Compassion, my dear Brother, is preferable to cleanliness. Reflect
that with a little soap I can easily clean my bed covers, but even with a torrent of tears
I would never wash from my soul the stain that my harshness toward the unfortunate
would create.”
He treated victims of bubonic plague without regard to whether they were white,
black, or Native American. During one plague outbreak, he brought a wounded Native
American man into the monastery for treatment even though the Superior
administrator of the province had forbidden the admission of the sick owing to fears
of contagion. Given a reprimand for disobedience, Martín replied (according to the
Monastery of the Magnificat site), “Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did
not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.
–Sincerely in Christ,
Fr Greg

Hearing and Answering the Call

Today’s second reading is about the awesome call to the priesthood of Jesus Christ:

“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”. In my meditation

on the letter to the Hebrews (5:1-6) this week, the Lord took me back to my own

experience of hearing and answering the call. In particular, “No one takes this honor

upon himself but only when called by God”. This hits hard every time because it

confirms what is on my heart every day as a priest and especially as your pastor: I am

not worthy! Nevertheless, Jesus has called me, and there’s no greater life. There’s

nowhere else I’d rather be!

Here is what I wrote the night before I was ordained in May, 2006:

What does a man do the night before he becomes alter Christus (another Christ) in the

world? The phone which has been off the hook since yesterday is silent (phew!). My

family has gone back to their homes after we got together for Adoration, discussion

about what tomorrow will be all about (“it’s all about Jesus” my little nieces and

nephews shouted out!), and dinner. One conversation awaits. I need to go see Him


I will spend at least an hour with Christ tonight in the chapel. Might be more because

I probably won’t be able to sleep (last night, it didn’t happen…too excited). I will be

with Him to whom I will give my life fully tomorrow. Kind of makes me think about

the night before He handed over his life to the Father and all of us. Tonight might be a

sort of Gethsemane.

But, I will try to rest in his peace. He has drawn me to his heart, his Sacred Heart,

through the Immaculate Heart of his mother. It’s hard to put in words what my own

heart is experiencing now, this closely united to Christ. I will be changed

sacramentally and ontologically tomorrow, but he has been changing me so much

over the past several years. I am not worthy to be a priest of Jesus Christ; it’s only

because he has formed me and shaped me to be like Him that I can go forward


Now, with all of the hoopla and details, I have caught myself forgetting one of the

biggest moments of all after the laying on of hands (that’s the point at the Ordination

when I become a priest): the Consecration of the bread and wine at my first Mass. For

14 years, it’s been a dream. The Dream. To make Christ present on Earth. Truly

present. Through my hands. Through my words. But, they will be His hands… His

words. His body…His blood. Tomorrow, the Incredible happens. All because of Him

who is Incredible. Awesome. Amazing. It’s all about Him. “It’s all about Jesus”.

–Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Greg

The Church is Called to Help

I have attended two meetings with Christian churches of Ward 8 that have discussed initiatives to help our community, especially in relation to stemming the violence. I would like us as a parish to think and pray about what we are called to do now and in the future to help our neighborhood.

Here are some ideas from to consider.

–Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Greg


Full link:

Growing up in (Compton, California) is anything but easy. Drive-by shootings, crime, poverty, and vice were a way of life. Little boys grow up without male role models and girls are vulnerable to all sorts of dangers. My heart is tender to their plight because… that was me. And while many families in Compton are working toward a better city – and I applaud their efforts – trouble remains. I believe we’re called to do what we can to help…

Today we are…focusing on what the church can do to help. The six men I talk to – Bob Woodson, Pastor Darryl Webster, Kurt Moore, James Miller, Tyrone Miller and Robert Bigsbee – can all attest to the life-changing power of a personal encounter with Christ. Their faith compelled them to go deeper into the inner city to bring hope and model the faith. In today’s broadcast (“Changing Lives in the Inner City”) we share practical ways churches can help bring life and truth to the inner city.  I’ll briefly share three of the points we discussed:


Fatherlessness is a root cause of many of the ills plaguing the inner city, so we have to reach the men. The Church needs to teach them biblical principles. Help them be accountable. Programs like Pastor Darryl’s “Boot Camp” helps get men off the streets through a combination of spiritual instruction and practical help, like teaching job skills.


Jesus didn’t send His followers out to create “self-help” groups. “Education is not the salvation of man,” says Darryl. “Education informs us. Prison reforms. But the Gospel transforms.” The Church needs to recognize the power of the Gospel and the blood of Jesus Christ to reach into the darkest pit and save the lost.


Heart-change alone won’t help pay the bills. That’s why supporting groups like Bob Woodson’s “Center for Neighborhood Enterprise” is so important. The CNE helps community and faith-based organizations with training and technical assistance. It links them with sources of support. Churches would be wise to support groups like Bob’s and provide the practical help families need to overcome the daily obstacles that threaten their success.

Hearts built by God to be attached only to Him

The East of the River Revival was awesome! Indeed, it was powerful, electric

stuff with the Holy Spirit. I was there on Monday night when the revivalist, Deacon

Harold, gave a rousing, inspiring, and insightful talk. The Lord moved some hearts

through him! There were some entertaining moments as well. When the deacon

spoke about the rosary as a weapon and his consists of bullets, he joked that “every

time you pray the rosary, you pop a cap in the devil’s ass!”

The theme of his message was taken from Pope Francis’s, “The Joy of the

Gospel”. He focused on living happiness with joy. With a strong showing of

Assumption parishioners in the congregation, he was preaching to the choir! But, he

gave several examples from today’s world of people who live happiness without joy.

He even used the story of this Sunday’s Gospel as an example: the young man in

Mark 10 who was happy living the commandments, but then felt “sad” when he

couldn’t answer Jesus’s call to give up everything he had to follow Him.

It’s a story to which we can all relate in one way or another. It’s a story about

detaching from the things of the world. The man had many attachments in his life

which we presume are material possessions. In Matthew’s Gospel, he is described as

a “rich young man”. In both Gospel accounts (Mark and Matthew), he couldn’t give

up everything because “he had many possessions”. He was attached to his

possessions and to his wealth which is the danger of both.

People can become attached to them and the power, status, prestige, and

control that they appear to give. But, these attachments don’t bring happiness. In

fact, they can lead to sadness. This is what the young man in the Gospel experienced.

Our hearts are built by God to be attached to Him alone. ONLY when we are free to

attach ourselves to Christ and to follow Him do we find happiness with joy.

In a spiritual way, the story of the young man is the story of your pastor’s

vocation. I heard Jesus’s call to be a priest when I first entered the seminary. Like

the young man, I walked away from the call two years later. I was too attached to my

own dreams, goals, and desires. But, this Gospel story kept coming up in my

prayer…particularly, the word “sad”. When I realized that sadness is the result of not

answering the Lord’s call, I came back to the vocation and have experienced true

happiness, joy, and peace ever since. These are some of the “hundred times more”

fruits Jesus promises in Mark 10:30 for those who follow Him:

“Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up (attachments)… for my

sake and for the sake of gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now…and

eternal life in the age to come”.

–Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Greg