Jesus’ marching orders in our lifelong battle against sin

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: Sept. 27, 2009
Num 11:25-29; Ps 19:8, 10, 12-14; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-48

Back when I was in 7th grade, I was a strange 7th-grader. That fall, it was a presidential election year—1984. And I was very, very interested in the presidential campaign. I talked and read about it all the time, and I made signs and flyers; and I even cut out photos and cartoons from the newspaper and my dad’s Time magazine and taped them all over the inside of my locker door at school. My classmates, of course, had no interest in politics, and they thought I was pretty weird. Some even took to calling me “Reagan-Bush” as a nickname.

So my parents took notice and told me that, the day after the election, I had to take all the Reagan-Bush pictures out of my locker. They were so mean! That was so unfair! I liked the pictures; they were cool! (more…)

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Published in: on September 27, 2009 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Article: If it causes you to sin, cut it off!

My article appears in the Sept 24, 2009, print edition of the Catholic Standard, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington– though not on its web site. It is one of a series in which different priests reflect on the Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. (link to readings) In this version, I use my original headline and text, without the edits found in the printed version.

Do you find yourself confessing the same sins again and again?

If you have been baptized into Christ, then you have undertaken serious combat against sin in your own life. And it doesn’t take long to discover that it will be a protracted struggle against a strong, entrenched enemy.

For two millennia, Christian spiritual writers have mapped out our lifelong journey of spiritual growth in three broad stages. (more…)

Published in: on September 24, 2009 at 7:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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How can we give and serve like Christ?

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: Sept. 19-20, 2009
Wis 2:12, 17-20; Ps 54:3-6, 8; James 3:16–4:3; Mark 9:30-37

One day this week I was talking to the 7th and 8th grades here in our school, as I covered a couple of their religion classes. I was telling them some of my own story—about where I started as a child, and how I got from there to becoming a Catholic priest, here at St. Mary’s. I told them how, when I was about 8, a missionary to Africa came to speak at my family’s church; and how I was inspired by her, and wanted to do something like what she did. Moving on, I then said: “Now, when I was 11, do you think I wanted to be a missionary?” One of the 8th-graders spontaneously responded, “Why would anyone want to be a missionary?” So I turned that question back to the class: “Why would anyone want to be a missionary?” They didn’t have very good answers; it just didn’t make any sense to them that someone, especially someone young, would aspire to this. I thought, aha, we’re going to talk about this again as the year progresses.

Oh, and the answer to my question was No: (more…)

Published in: on September 20, 2009 at 7:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Mass and Taking Up Our Cross

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: Sept. 12, 2009
Isa 50:5-9; Ps 116:1-6, 8-9; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35

What was it that brought you here today? Why did you come to Mass? If we listed off all our reasons, do you think I would be surprised?

One summer when I was in college, I was staying in the same town, with some roommates in an apartment. I had decided that I wanted to change what church I attended. And one day I was telling my roommates about the one I had visited that morning and why I was thinking of going there. And the girlfriend of one of the guys was there at the time, and she said, “Who is she?” And I said, “What?” She said, “Whenever a guy chooses a church, it is always because there is some good-looking girl there in the congregation. So, who is she?” Well, I didn’t admit it to her, but actually she was right! (more…)

Published in: on September 13, 2009 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A homily on September 11

I don’t write out my weekday homilies beforehand; but every so often I will type them up here afterward, if they seem worth sharing more widely. I used the Mass “in Time of War or Civil Disturbance.”

Today we have the 7th- and 8th-graders with us for Mass. Now most of you are 12 or 13– which means that 8 years ago, on September 11, 2001, you were 4 or 5. The front page of the Washington Post today talks about those who are young enough that you don’t remember the terrorist attacks of that day as your own memory or experience, but now learn about it as a subject in school (article). And so let me say a few words about what made this day so important for Americans.

There had been terrorist attacks in places in the past. But the U.S. had put up safeguards against these, security checks to keep them from happening here. That day, those terrorists pierced through that security. (more…)

Published in: on September 11, 2009 at 7:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Overcoming what divides us

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: Sept. 5-6, 2009
Isa 35:4-7; Ps 146:7-10; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37

Last year, while I was a transitional deacon, my assignment was at the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland. While I was at a student retreat with them in the fall, I learned that a couple movies were pretty important to several of the students: namely, “High School Musical” and “Mean Girls.” I hadn’t seen either one of those movies, so I took that as homework over my Thanksgiving Break.

And I found there was something very similar between the two movies. One of the enemies that characters struggled against was simply the social structure in the American high school: a world of cliques, in which the students divided up into small groups of similar people. (more…)

Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 7:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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