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

shortly.

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

tomorrow.

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 focusonthefamily.com to consider.

–Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Greg

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Full link: http://jimdaly.focusonthefamily.com/three-practical-ways-the-church-can-help-inner-cities/

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:

REACH THE MEN

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.

UNLEASH THE GOSPEL

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.

HELP RESIDENTS OF THE INNER CITY FIND JOBS

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

And the Two Shall Become One Flesh

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 10:2-16) gives me a chance to make a few points about the

glorious sacrament of Holy Matrimony in my homily and this bulletin reflection:

“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother

and be joined to his wife,

and the two shall become one flesh.

So they are no longer two but one flesh.

Therefore what God has joined together,

no human being must separate.”

First, when asked about marriage, Jesus clearly refers to what Genesis says. In

Genesis, Yahweh reveals that He created male and female to be one. “And the two

shall become one flesh” represents the union that we call marriage. So, right away, in

the first book of the Bible, God defines marriage as being between a man and a

woman. Nature defines it that way, too. Jesus confirms Revelation and nature when

he says in this Gospel that marriage is between a male and a female. So, in the current

discussion on marriage, it’s important to be able to cite Mark 10.

Second, when does the man and woman become one flesh? In other words, when are

they officially married? When I ask engaged couples preparing for marriage this

question, almost all of them guess that it’s when the couple comes together in the

marital (conjugal) act. That would seem to be what the Lord is saying because it

sounds like a physical act for the two to become one flesh.

But, and this is really important to understand the difference between the Church’s

approach to marriage and sex versus the world’s, the two become one flesh when they

exchange their vows (consent) of marriage. They promise their lives to the other in

front of God and witnesses, and become one in soul, mind, and heart. It is at that

moment that “they are no longer two but one flesh”. They are no longer two ‘me’s’,

but one ‘we’. Their relationship is now sacred and holy. The physical act of sexual

union is sacred, indeed, and is reserved for the sacred relationships of matrimony. It

symbolizes the spiritual and sacred union that’s already in place, strengthens the

existing bond, and allows the couple to procreate, another huge aspect of marriage

that God reveals in Genesis (“be fruitful and multiply”).

Third, Jesus elevates matrimony to the level of a sacrament when He says, “what God

has joined together”. Like all of the sacraments, marriage is a sacred act (“an

efficacious sign of grace” – Catechism of the Catholic Church). In marriage prep, we

focus half of our energy on whether God is calling them to be married…if His plan is

to join them together. Is He really calling them to say these sacred words (or ones

similar to them) and become one flesh?

“I take you to be my (spouse). I promise to be true to you in good times and in

bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life”

–Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Greg

Pope Represents Authority of Heaven

Last Wednesday’s Gospel (Lk 9:1-6) at Mass was so fitting for the Holy Father’s full day in D.C. That is the passage where the Lord tells the Apostles to “take nothing for the journey” but the authority and power he gives them. Pope Francis’s universal popularity is based, in large part, to his simplicity and poverty, and that he takes hardly anything for the journey. The simple, little Fiat car he used was a huge hit with people everywhere in our country! He hasn’t brought much materially to the United States but has brought the power and authority of Jesus Christ.

In my opinion, the key word surrounding the excitement and power of his visit is authority. People universally and inherently acknowledge the authority of the office of the Pope. That is why it’s completely exciting when any pope visits the U.S.! The authority of the pope is, of course, the authority of Jesus Christ. It is the authority of heaven. That is the authority that people respect. And, it is the authority with which he spoke to the Congress. As important as the offices of our congressmen, congresswomen, and senators are, the office of the pope dwarfs them. His unique presence at the podium of the Congress and heavenly perspective clearly showed that. It was a sight to behold for all American Catholics!

–Sincerely in Christ, Fr Greg

Don’t Forget to Pray for Our Pope

This is a historic week in our beloved city of Washington, and particularly for the Archdiocese. If you are not able to be with Pope Francis physically on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, be with him spiritually.

PRAY that God will protect him and keep everyone safe during the events. PRAY that God will inspire his words, and that he will speak the truth in love.

PRAY that all Americans will be open to the Holy Spirit through his words and actions of Pope Francis.

PRAY that our city and country will receive many graces this week!

Below are some excerpts from Cardinal Wuerl’s interview with the Catholic Standard which prepare us well for the Holy Father’s visit.

–Sincerely in Christ, Fr Greg

“While I do not know what Pope Francis will say when he speaks to the President or addresses Congress and the United Nations, I suspect that whatever it is, it will be pastoral in tone, challenging in content and engaging in its delivery. Pope Francis will have an opportunity to speak to the political leaders of our nation and representatives of political leaders around the world. Already this pontificate is marked with the pope’s call for respect for human dignity, our need to care for one another as members of the human family and at the same time our obligations towards the environment, the care of our common home. I would not be surprised to find any or all of these as part of his messages. Just as important as what the Holy Father says – or perhaps even more important – is what we do in response.

“There are many ways to prepare for the visit of Pope Francis, the Successor of Peter who, above all else, brings to us Jesus Christ. Spiritually, I hope we will all take advantage of this moment to renew our own faith conviction, frequent the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and at the same time share our own enthusiasm for our Holy Father and our faith in the Church he represents with our neighbors. The Walk with Francis Pledge is also a way of saying to the pope that we recognize his message, embrace it and try to live it. The best way we can prepare is by that interior, spiritual conversion to which we are called every day as Christians…

“(After) the Holy Father leaves the Archdiocese of Washington, I hope part of his legacy will be that afterglow that continues to warm our hearts, challenge our consciences and deepen our faith. Not only will this be a time of grace in which we ourselves are renewed, but this visit van be a leaven in the whole of society. It is an important opportunity to evangelize those who perhaps do not really know what Christ and his Church are all about. Touched by the Gospel love and truth in this way, through Pope Francis and us in communion with him, our city and nation can grow and take just a few steps toward God’s kingdom.”–Cardinal Wuerl

We Are Called to Serve the Poor

From today’s second reading: “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?” – Jas 2:5

How blessed are we as a parish to serve those who are heirs of the kingdom? How blessed are we to serve the poor in the world through the Pope Francis Outreach Center? The Catholic Standard has documented the work that the Lord does through our helping hands and hearts in a way that will please you immensely. It has published an excellent online article that will be in the main print edition soon of Pope Francis’s visit to Washington. Below are some excerpts from the online article. Praise God for the Center and for the beautiful depiction of it through the Catholic Standard!

Volunteers and staff of the Pope Francis Outreach Center in Southeast Washington say they hope the upcoming visit to Washington of its namesake will help the faithful better know and love the poor.

“Pope Francis said that the poor are not to be pitied because Jesus is present among them. In their suffering, they know Christ in a special way,” said Ryan Hehman, director of Assumption Parish’s Pope Francis Outreach Center. “We hope our efforts reach out to those who hurt the most and are in need the most, especially those in need not just of material help, but of love and friendship.”

“Pope Francis lives as poor a life as he can to be like Christ who was poor, and to be in solidarity with the poor… “We want to represent the generosity of God. In the Gospels we learn ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first,’” (Fr. Shaffer) said. “In this world, the people we serve are last, but in the Kingdom of God they are first. That is an anomaly that God taps into that the people can identify with.”

Volunteer Richard Miller said he has served at the center “for 20-some years now, and as long as God gives me the strength, I’ll keep on doing it.” “My work here has taught me what it means to give to others,” the 74-year-old member of Assumption Parish said. “The most important thing is to care about those we serve. If you don’t care, then you can’t be a volunteer.”

Jeannette Thomas, a 40-year member of the parish, volunteers with the outreach center’s clothing distribution. “We give people the best. Everything we give is clean and sorted and ready to wear,” she said. “That is because we are working for the Father in His house, and these are His clothes we give.”

–Sincerely in Christ, Fr Greg