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Freedom from Fear

“He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified” – Mk 9:2-10

Have you ever had an experience with the Lord that terrified you? We normally don’t use the word “terrified” in our faith because it implies fear (the opposite of faith). Other Catholic translations of today’s Gospel referring to Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration use the words “frightened” and “exceedingly afraid”. We might use words like “in awe” or “overwhelmed”. I like the translation of “terrified” because it connotes both faith and fear on the part of the Apostles. It was unlike anything they had ever seen or experienced, so they didn’t know what to think initially. They were probably in shock! They were being introduced to a whole new supernatural realm. It took some getting used, I’m sure. Rest assured, it was all good, just new.

I will use the word “terrified” to describe some experiences friends have had with the Lord. One lady was terrified with a vision recently on a retreat. It occurred during Eucharistic Adoration and healing prayers. As the priest prayed over her, she had a vision of the Blessed Mother. And, she saw her mother and grandmother on either side of Mary! She began to cry uncontrollably. It was all good, but overwhelming. The vision brought her much peace, and likewise her family when she told them about it.

Last year, a buddy of mine visited our rectory. He had a lot of stress in his life, and it was really getting to him. After hanging out some, we went into the rectory chapel and I exposed the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance on the altar. I left him alone with the Lord for a while. He told me later the Lord spoke to him very clearly (and he’s not mentally ill, Ms. Joy Behar): “can you let me take over for a while?” The Lord’s voice asking to take control of his life was clear as day, and he began to sob. The experience was terrifying in its power, but also ultimately brought him great healing.

Three years ago, a married couple began taking the miraculous powder of Our Lady of Milk in hopes of conceiving a child for the first time (after trying for four years). They also had Rosa Mystica (a statue of our Lady with its own powerful history) in their home at the time. During this grace-filled time, they had a terrifying vision one night. A single handprint appeared on their dining room window above Rosa Mystica just after they finished praying one night. It was not a handprint they ever saw before then, and they saw it only once afterward. It certainly seemed to them that it was the hand of God. It was terrifying but comforting. Within a few weeks, they conceived their first child.

The second time that I heard the Lord’s call to the priesthood was terrifying. It was on a retreat and during Adoration. It was my second year of seminary when I was 50/50 on whether I was called or not. I was begging the Lord to give me an answer about my vocation, and I resoundingly heard, “I am calling you to be a priest”. As with my friend, it was clearly the voice of the Lord. My heart skipped a few beats, and then it started racing. “Be careful what you wish for!” Tears began to roll down my face. This was it. The answer. Then, over the next 30 minutes or so, He gave me a clear vision of what my priesthood would look like. I was terrified but excited.

Many of us have the experience of being terrified at some point in our faith. It’s bound to happen because we are dealing with the supernatural realm which is unfamiliar to us. More than that, though, God can surprise, overwhelm, and even terrify us with how awesome He is and how intimately He loves us.

May you know the freedom of Christ this Lent,

Fr Greg

Tempted from the Start

1st Sunday of Lent
“Freedom is never given. It is won”.
Always a battle for freedom in Christian life
    Christ in battle “at once”
    First voice in morning – “five more minutes”
    Temptation right away for first man
Repent
    Fight always
    Confidence in God
    Life in Christ far better than what Satan offers

Freedom to Pursue God’s Plan

As we commemorate our nation’s independence this Tuesday, two thoughts come to my mind. The first is a reminder of my recent trip to Ghana which is celebrating their 60th year of independence from Great Britain in 1957. They have done so much to be a developed and stable country in such a short amount of time! The second thought is about the spiritual and moral state of the USA. I was going to lay out some of my own reflections, but found similar (and much more profound) thoughts from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. The following are excerpts from an interview he did in March 2017 with cruxnow.com.

We know that our country is not perfect, but the main thing that we honor and celebrate on July 4th is the freedom as individuals and as a nation to pursue perfection, to be who we really want to be, and who God wants us to be. On Tuesday, thank God for our freedom, and pray for all Americans!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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Lots of bishops publish books, but often they’re pretty churchy. (Your new) book is really an exercise in cultural criticism.

“I’m very pleased, of course, by other things and cultural developments…we certainly live in a world where people can be healthier and happier than in the past. One thing in my mind is that I have many friends who have children with disabilities, and it’s obvious over the course of these last many decades that our country, our society’s care for people with disabilities has gotten much better. People are much more included in the life of our communities.

But at the same time, it’s a culture that kills people with disabilities in the womb in ways that never happened before. Very few children today who were born with Down Syndrome because people can detect that early on and children are aborted.

So the same society, with the same kind of technology, can use it in ways that serve us more radically generously or ways that are more radically selfish and sad. So that’s the kind of confusion that I write about in the book…

In terms of Church practice the numbers of people attending Christian services on Sunday whether they’re Protestants or Catholics is much less than it was in the past. The Gospel principles in terms of family life are not as embraced as they were in the past. I think that we live in a much more diverse society in the United States than before in terms of people accessing other forms of religious faith. It used to be that we defined our country as a Judeo-Christian country in terms of our heritage, but there’s a resistance to even talk that way among some of the elites of today…”

You write that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 was a watershed moment for America, the advent of a new way of conceiving American society no longer based on a shared set of values rooted in Biblical faith.

“… (Leading our country to a different direction vis-a-vis legalized gay marriage, imposing contraceptive practice on insurance programs, and the focus on transgenderism) demonstrate a watershed that is going in the direction that is contrary to traditional Christian moral principles…”

You’ve been sharply critical of some early moves by the Trump administration, for example on refugees and immigrants.

“I certainly will continue to do that…”

If we live in a culture that’s in some ways post-Christian, what’s the Church supposed to do?

“Well, first of all we need to be aware of what’s going on in the world around us. Many people of my generation are somewhat anxious about what’s going on, but they haven’t really analyzed in a serious way how we got from where we were to where we are today, and in the book I try to point out some of the factors that were active in our culture that led to where we are today. We have to be aware of it, but then we also have to have hope that we can live in this culture in a way that we can be full-throated, committed Christians and pass that on to our children…”

How?

“The answer is, you have to be personally converted into the faith. You can’t pass it on if you don’t have it. Parents are going to be more important in the life, the faith life of their children than they have been in the past, because in the past the culture supported that faith life. The schools basically supported that faith life. The Christian communities were strong. People would go to church and that would support that faith life.

It’s really going to be the family that’s going to be the primary tool that God will use to evangelize, beginning with their children of course. But then families associating

together in smaller groups, support groups of one another will be very important in the future as well. As parishes are supposed to be, but they’re institutions now rather than support groups.”

Triumph Over Temptation

1st Sunday of Lent
Family story
“Filled with the Holy Spirit”
Fasting of Christ
    Spiritual strength
5 Ways to triumph over temptation
Fasting
Scripture
Prayer
Reason
Sacraments
Eucharist —> Freedom

The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Last week at Community Sunday, Father Gary gave a profound talk on “God and Country” in which he focused on religious freedom in our nation. He used much evidence to show that our Founding Fathers were men of deep faith in God. The introductory words of our Declaration of Independence, which he called a “creed”, establish our rights as given by God: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by God, Creator, with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words have immeasurable value for us as Americans every day, but they carry special weight for us on two days this week.

On Monday, January 18, the United States celebrates the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors the immense impact he has had in making the words of the Declaration of Independence apply to all Americans. Father Gary highlighted Dr. King in his talk, and said that he had many “scars” to show for his defense of civil rights. In the first part of his famous speech on the March on Washington in 1963, Dr. King said “when the architects of our Great Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…It is obvious that America has defaulted on this promissory note.” His heroic words for and witness to the God-given rights of all people woke up a nation. He preached love, justice, peace, and non-violence in soaring rhetoric. But, as is the case with those who speak the truth in love, he endured many scars from the enemies of love and justice, including the ultimate scar of death.

On Monday, we are given two local opportunities to honor Dr. King. At our 12:10 Mass here on Monday, we will thank God in special ways for him. Also, the 10th annual MLK Peace Walk and Parade will occur on our street between 11 am – 2 pm on Monday. This Friday, January 22, is the annual March for Life in downtown Washington. This, too, is based on the words of our Founding Fathers that all Americans have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. This applies to all persons, including the unborn. The most fundamental human right is the right to life! We march every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade to peacefully and prayerfully protest the legalization of abortion which resulted from the Supreme Court’s decision on January 22, 1973. Included in the massive (predominantly Catholic) crowd will be thousands of young people, women who regret their abortions, and African-American pastors who condemn the racist foundations of abortion-provider Planned Parenthood. Dr. King would probably support this March on Washington, too (his niece is a leader in the pro-life movement). “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stridently denounced abortion as a form of genocide in many speeches.” (Lifelines, Winter 1997, p.14 online). Please make every effort to attend an event on Monday and the March on Friday. Father Gary encouraged us to defend our God-given rights, and, like MLK, to have the scars to prove it.

–Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Greg