Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

I know this is a crazy week for many of you as you try to catch up with school work after last week's snow days before heading off for Spring Break.  I'll be praying for you this week, and remember that the chapel is always open if you need quiet prayer time.  God speaks to us in the silence of our hearts, and it can be hard to find that silence during busy times.

Most of you will be going off campus for break.  Please travel safely.  My family will have a very eventful Spring Break, as we will be welcoming our sixth child into the world on March 12.  I ask for your prayers for a safe delivery and health for mother and baby.  Our other children cannot wait to meet their new sibling!  

Rather than taking a congruous length of time off for paternity leave, I have arranged to take my leave in smaller chunks for the duration of the semester. That means after Spring Break I will be taking one or two days off per week to be home with my family.  It should not effect our campus ministry schedule much, but it does mean that you'll be less likely to find me in my office if you just pop in.  So be sure to message me if you need to set up a time to chat.  I'm only a text, email, phone call or Facebook message away. :-)

Without further adieu, here is this week's schedule...

  • TUESDAY (Today)
    • Adoration in the chapel from noon till 12:30.
    • Community Table volunteer service from 3:30-6:00.  Meet at CCM by 3:15 for a ride.
  • WEDNESDAY (Tomorrow)
    • Evening Prayer in the chapel at 6:00.
    • Supper @ the Center at 6:30.  Kristen and Katelyn are making homemade calzones for us.  I can't wait!  After dinner, our program will be about Reconciliation.  Lent is a penitential season, when the Church encourages us especially to examine our conscience, repent of our sins, and make a return to the Lord.  For some of us, maybe it has been a long time since we went to confession.  We'll discuss this sacrament and give some tips about making a good confession.  Sacramental Bonus: we will have Fr. Peter Shaw, pastor of St. Joseph's in Bryson City, joining us, and he will be available during and after the program to hear confessions for any who wish to take advantage of the opportunity.
    • Adoration in the chapel from noon till 12:30
    • Small Group scripture study/discussion from 5:30-6:30 in the UC, 2nd floor.
    • Adoration in the chapel from 3:30-4:00pm.
    • No Mass or Credo on campus this week, due to Spring Break.  Mass times at St. Mary's for Sunday morning are 9:00 and 11:00.
Our Monday night small group is changing it's normal meeting time and location.  After Spring Break, Monday's small group will meet at Starbucks at 10:30pm.  We hope this new time and place will enable more people to participate.  Please come, and bring a friend!  Thursday's small group will remain at 5:30 on the 2nd floor of the UC (though if the weather is nice, they may move outside to the balcony).

Our Spring Lake Retreat is set for March 27-29.  We will once again be staying at the Ramsay's lake house (about 15 minutes from campus) - thanks to the generosity of St. Mary's parishioners, Dr. and Mrs. Ramsay.  The theme this year will be "Reasons Why" and you will have the chance to hear some of you fellow students talk about the reasons why they have chosen to remain (or to become) Catholic in their college years.  It's going to be an amazing retreat.  Registration is $20.  Space is limited to 16 students and as of today only a few spaces are left.  Contact me ASAP to register!

Christians are joy-filled people, right?  So does that mean Christians are supposed to always be smiling and happy?  Does that mean Christians shouldn't ever be in a bad mood?  Or grieve?  Is sadness a sin?  I talked about this in a special blog post this past week.  In case you missed it, here's a link.  Check it out.  I even used an animated gif, so I am anticipating a grammy for special effects.  :-)

Have a wonderful break, and I'll see you all back in Cullowhee in a couple of weeks!

Pax Christi,

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Gospel For Today: 2nd Sunday of Lent


Today's gospel reading (Mk 9:2-10) gives us the story of Jesus' transfiguration, when Peter, James and John witness Christ shining in all His heavenly glory, standing on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah.  The transfiguration is ripe with meaning and significance.  After predicting His passion and death, Christ gives His disciples a preview of the glory of His resurrection, and indeed the glory that awaits us as His followers.  He converses not just with two random figures from the Old Testament, but with Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets.  Jesus is shown as the One whom the law and the prophets were pointing towards, their end and their fulfillment.

That Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant is why the Church also gives us today the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac.  This is one of the better known stories from Genesis, but perhaps we do not know it as well as we think we do.  For those who are not familiar, God asks Abraham to take his only son to Moriah to be offered as a sacrifice.  Abraham obeys, and takes Isaac with him to the top of the mountain, carrying the wood for the sacrificial pyre.  He binds his son and lays him on the wood, but at the last moment an angel tells him to stop.  A ram appears caught in a thicket, so Abraham sacrifices the ram instead.  God tells him that because he did not withhold even his own son from Him, Abraham and his descendants will be blessed.

On our first reading of this story, we may be shocked that God would ask one of his faithful followers to make such a harsh sacrifice.  But on second reading, we may recall that God was willing to sacrifice His Son for us.  When we read the story a third time, we may marvel at Abraham's obedience and unshakable faith.  And maybe on a fourth reading, we notice the son.  Our reading from the Lectionary today only gives us excerpts from this passage in Genesis.  I encourage you to open your Bible and read all of chapter 22.  One of the verses not found in today's reading is Gen 22:6. "Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust and laid it on his son Isaac's shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife."

Isaac carried the wood.

We tend to imagine Isaac as a child.  I did a little experiment and did a Google image search for "Abraham and Isaac."  I was not surprised to find that much of the modern artwork depicting this scene shows Isaac as a young boy.  But older artwork shows him as a young man, fully grown.  The scriptures do not tell us how old Isaac was at this time.  But we do know that Abraham was already a hundred years old when Isaac was born (Gen 21:5).  By this time, Isaac was definitely the stronger of the two, which is why he had to carry the wood.

Another verse not given us in today's reading is Gen 22:9b, "Next he tied up his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar."  When we read this, we would be wrong to imagine a strong adult man tying up a young child.  Abraham was in his advanced old age, while Isaac was large and strong enough to carry a large amount of wood to the top of a mountain.  Isaac at any point could have overpowered the feeble Abraham, yet he allowed himself to be bound, knowing full well what that meant.

Both Abraham and Isaac demonstrate great faith and obedience.  Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son.  Isaac was willing to be sacrificed.  Jesus, too, was completely obedient to the Father, and Jesus, too, was a willing sacrifice.  Like Isaac, Jesus carried the wood for His sacrifice.  Like Isaac, Jesus allowed Himself to be bound.  When Abraham told Isaac that "God Himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust," that prophecy was fulfilled not by the ram in the thicket, but by the sacrificial offering of God's own Son.

Jesus' transfiguration took place just after He began to teach about His own coming passion (Mk 8:31).  Peter objects to the idea that Jesus, whom he loves, should have to suffer and die.  Jesus rebukes him, and teaches that "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it" (Mk 8:34-35).  It is then, after this difficult saying, that Jesus takes Peter, along with James and John, to the mountain top and is transfigured before them.  Being obedient, holding nothing back from God, and being willing to deny yourself to the point of losing your very life are hard, hard things to do.  But this is the Christian life.  This is the only way to save your life.

Jesus shows us what lies down that road -- suffering, trial, persecution, even death, but also life, glory, radiance and beauty.  Jesus blazes the trail of obedience so that we may follow Him down that path.  Let us pray this Lent for the faith of Abraham and Isaac.  Let us pray for the strength to carry our cross and follow Jesus.  Let us pray for the grace of obedience to our heavenly Father.  And let us pray that we may be transfigured, formed into Christ, sharers in His divine glory.

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Friday, February 27, 2015

Are Christians Always Happy?

Today several groups I follow on Facebook posted to their newsfeed an article entitled "15 Simple Acts of Charity that we Frequently Forget."  It's a pretty good list, and a good reminder to us all that acts of charity don't always have to be grand acts of heroic virtue.  There are many little things each of us can do every day to be more charitable toward one another, including the things on this list.

I do take issue with one item; or to be more accurate, the way the item is presented.  The first item listed is "Smile! A Christian is always full of laughter and happiness!"  

I don't have a problem with smiling.  Smiling is awesome!  Smiling is one of the easiest things any of us can do to bring a little light into someone else's day (and generally make ourselves feel better at the same time).  A smile when you see someone tells them, "I am glad that you are here with me."  That's a profoundly simple, and profoundly powerful thing.  And I agree, it can be an act of charity.

My issue is the assertion that "A Christian is always full of laughter and happiness."  Put simply, that is a false statement -- and one that I think has potential to cause harm.  Christians are not always happy, and the expectation that they should be can lead many to question the veracity of their faith.  

While the faithful Christians in my life are generally some of the happiest people I know (largely because they strive to avoid behavior that is self-destructive), no one is happy all the time.  Not even Jesus was happy all the time.  Think about when Jesus was turning over the money changers' tables in the Temple.  Think about when Jesus was betrayed by Judas.  Think about when Jesus was being nailed to the cross to die for our sins.  Was He happy at any of those times?  Or was he feeling righteous anger, sadness, or pain?

Jesus Christ is fully divine and fully human and that means He experiences the whole range of human emotions -- among them happiness, yes, but also sorrow.  The shortest verse in the Bible is also one of the most profound.  John 11:35 simply reads, "Jesus wept."  The occasion for our Lord's tears was the death of His friend Lazarus, famous for being raised from the dead by Jesus just a few short verses later.
When we consider that Jesus wept, let us appreciate what a profound thing this is.  Jesus, Who is the Son of God; Jesus Who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity; Jesus Who is all holy and all good; Jesus Who knew at the time of His weeping that He would raise Lazarus from the dead; this Jesus wept.  He did not merely cry, but He wept tears of true sorrow.  Jesus grieved. Why?  Because His friend had died and that is an appropriate occasion for sadness.

So Christians should not equate happiness with holiness, and we should not be afraid to be sad.  The Bible tells us many times not to be afraid.  We are even told to not be anxious (Phil 4:6).  But nowhere are we told not to be sad.  Nowhere are we promised that we will not experience suffering.  In fact, we are pretty much guaranteed it.  Jesus did not say, "Hop on your rainbow pony and follow me."  He said, "Take up your cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24).  Being a Christian involves suffering.  In fact, being human involves suffering.  You don't stop being human when you come to believe in Christ -- you start being a better human.  So perhaps we can say that Christians learn to suffer better, which in a way make sense.

Jesus Christ is the perfect human being, like us in all ways but in sin.  And He suffered more profoundly than any human ever has.  He is our model, then, in suffering.  He did not come to take away all suffering in this world.  Rather, He comes down to our level and suffers with us.  He redeems us by His suffering and by joining our suffering with His, we can participate in that redemption, and so gain a sure hope of eternal beatitude in the world to come.

This idea that Christians should always be happy seems to be repeated more and more often these days.  Perhaps it is because we have a Holy Father who likes to speak a lot about joy.  But joy and happiness are two different things.  Happiness is something that you feel while joy is something you possess.  

We cannot always control our feelings.  Feelings often just happen to us, sometimes with good reason and other times not.  Good, faithful Christians may feel sadness for any number of reasons.  Perhaps, like when Jesus wept, you have lost a loved one.   Perhaps someone you love is suffering.  Maybe you have been through a break-up, lost a job, or failed a class.  These are all legitimate reasons to be sad.  Sadness is an appropriate response to a sad occurrence. Feeling sad does not make you a bad Christian.

Perhaps you suffer from clinical depression and often feel sad for no reason.  That does not make you a bad Christian!

Perhaps you just don't have a cheery, bubbly, happy-go-lucky personality.  Maybe you are more on the dour side.  That does not make you a bad Christian!

But when we are constantly told that Christians should be happy because of our faith in Christ, we may start to doubt our faith when we find ourselves not feeling happy.  This is a shame.  No one need feel that way.  (I want to punch people who tell grieving family members at funerals that they should "be happy" because their loved one is in heaven).  

Everyone prefers being happy to being sad.  And being a Christian has certainly brought me a lot of happiness.  But I have also suffered loss and gone through hard times, and during those times I experienced profound sadness.  Rather than make me a bad Christian, I believe those feelings of sorrow and pain have made me a more compassionate Christian.  Rather than being signs that my faith was weak, those times of sorrow only strengthened my faith because even when I was not happy, I was still able to find comfort in the peace and joy -- yes, joy -- of Christ.

St. Paul tells us that the Kingdom of God is a matter of "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rm 14:17), and James says we should consider even our trials "pure joy" because testing our faith leads to perseverance (Jas 1:2-3).

That joy comes not from knowing that we will always be happy, but from knowing that even when we are not, we are still with God.  Even when we are overwhelmed by sadness, we can still love and be loved by God.  Like holy Job, we can still offer God thanks and praise in our sorrow and so the sorrow does not overwhelm us.

 Sharing a smile is a wonderful thing, and yes, even an act of charity.  But acknowledging someone's sorrow and sharing in it -- this is also an act of great charity.  Let us never shy away from an opportunity to show our love through compassion.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Weekly Update from CCM: Snow edition!

Dear Students,

We woke up to a winter wonderland in Cullowhee today!  Enjoy the snow, stay safe, and be warm.  Because of the weather, I will not be able to drive in to campus today, so our usual Tuesday noon Adoration time is cancelled.  Also, Community Table is closed today, so there will be no volunteer service there this afternoon.  

There is snow in the forecast again Wednesday night.  So all of our events this week are "weather permitting."  Please keep an eye on our Facebook Group or Facebook Page for updates as to whether a particular event is happening or not.  If you are not already aware, the best weather service local to the Cullowhee area is Local Yokel Weather, so I recommend that resource to you for regional specific weather news.

  • TUESDAY (Today)
    • As mentioned above, Adoration and Community Table service have both been cancelled due to weather.  
  • WEDNESDAY (Tomorrow)
    • Evening Prayer in the chapel at 6:00pm
    • Supper @ the Center at 6:30pm.  Jessica Keene is cooking this week.  Our after dinner program will be led by Katelyn and Shawn and will be all about the saints!  
    • Adoration from noon to 12:30 in the chapel.
    • Small Group scripture study from 5:30-6:30 on the 2nd floor of the UC.
    • Simply Stitched meets at CCM from 8:00 till 9:30 or so.
    • Adoration in the chapel from 3:30-4:00.
    • Confession/Rosary at 3:30
    • Mass at 4:00
    • Credo from 5:15-6:30.  Our discussion topic this week will be on the Sacraments.  What is sacramental theology?  What does it mean to have a sacramental world view?  What role do the sacraments have in our faith?  Come with your questions!
    • Small Group scripture study from 6:00-7:00 in the Balsam Lobby.
The dates for our spring retreat at the Lake House will be March 27-28.  The cost to register is $20 and space is limited to 16 students.  There will be a sign up sheet at CCM this Wednesday night, when we will begin taking registrations.  The theme this year is "Reasons Why" and we will be looking at some of the many reasons why it's great to be a Catholic.  We hope you can join us!

Speaking of "reasons why," many questions Catholics get asked have to do with our prayer tradition.  Why do we pray to saints?  Why pray the rosary?  Why do we pray formulaic prayers at all?  Most of the Catholics I know with solid prayer lives pray both using their own words and formulaic prayers.  Why pray using someone else's words?  Because often those prayers come to us from the saints, from scripture, or even from the Lord Himself (the "Our Father") and can express the thoughts we wish to express in words much clearer and more beautiful than we can manage ourselves.  Also, it is nice to have certain prayers memorized as an aid to us to be able to pull them out at a moment's notice and go to in a time of need.  

Today's gospel reading is from Mt 6:7-15, and is where Jesus gives us the Lord's Prayer.  It's also the passage in which Jesus warns us not to "babble" in our prayers "like the pagans."  Some translations use the phrase "vain repetition," which often gets brought up against Catholics, as many of our prayer practices involve repeating the same prayer multiple times.  Does this Bible verse mean we are wrong in praying the rosary, the divine mercy chaplet, or other forms of repeated prayer?

The answer is no, of course.  Praying the rosary or other forms of repeated prayer does not violate scripture.  For an in-depth look as to why, here is an article by Tim Staples, "Do Catholics Pray Vain Repetitions?" that goes into more detail about this question.

If you are unfamiliar with the rosary, we invite you to join us any time.  We pray the rosary half an hour before Mass each Sunday (3:30pm in the chapel).  There is also a group of students who have been meeting to pray the rosary Tuesday afternoons at 3:30 by the Catafount in the center of campus (though I don't know is that will happen today in the snow).  Come by, introduce yourself, and ask someone to show you how to pray the rosary.  It's a simple prayer that can draw you closer to our Lord through His Blessed Mother, and be a great comfort in times of need.

A young priest once saw John Paul II praying the rosary so devoutly that it really impressed upon him the importance of this devotion.  He began praying the full rosary every day, all four mysteries.  He still finds the time to do so today, even though that priest is now Pope Francis!

Have a blessed, snowy day!
Pax Christi,

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Gospel For Today: 1st Sunday of Lent


Today's gospel reading from Mark 1:12-15 tells of the forty days Jesus spends in the desert being tempted by Satan.  Our own approximately 40 day journey through the season of Lent is meant to be evocative of Jesus's time in the desert so it is fitting that the Church gives us this reading today, on the first Sunday of Lent.  We are reminded as we fast and pray that Jesus also fasted and prayed for us.  But there is another aspect of Jesus' time in the desert that we often fail to give proper consideration, and that is our Lord's temptation.  We tend to skip past this aspect of Jesus' time in the desert as somehow not as relevant to us.  After all, Jesus is God, and can God truly be tempted as we are?  

We tend to equate temptation with sin itself.  We are tempted to do what we know is not right, and feel that this temptation is due to our sinful nature.  If we were not inclined to sin, we tell ourselves, we would not be tempted by these things.  Therefore it is hard for us to think of Jesus truly being tempted in the same way that we are.  We are tempted (no pun intended) to brush off Jesus' temptation in the desert as being a formality.  We think that because Jesus is without sin, He could not be truly tempted, and so see the story as an illustration of how foolish Satan is, thinking that he can do the impossible and tempt the Son of God.

But the gospels tell us otherwise.  Not only Mark's gospel, but also Matthew's and Luke's tell us of Jesus' temptation in the desert.  Obviously the gospel writers considered this an important episode in the life of Christ, and of great value to our lives as Christians.  They understood Jesus' temptation to be quite real, even though Christ was not fallen like the rest of humanity.  We must consider that Adam and Eve, both created without original sin, living in a state of grace and friendship with God in paradise, yielded to temptation the first time it reared its ugly head.  Being sinless does not mean never being tempted.  

I am a convert to the Catholic Church, baptized when I was 23 years old.  So unlike most cradle Catholics, I can remember my baptism.  Sometime after my baptism, I remarked  to my pastor about a strange effect it seemed to have on me.  I was anticipating experiencing a lessening of temptation once I was baptized.  I figured I had the life of God within me, helping me to resist sin, so I ought to be tempted less.  What I found was actually the opposite.  I seemed to be tempted more in my post-baptismal life and it was quite unsettling.  My pastor told me that this was common (and indeed I have since spoken with many others who have been baptized as adults and shared similar experiences).  With the grace of God dwelling within us, cleansed of original and actual sin by the waters of baptism, the negativity of sin stood out all the more in sharp relief.  Moreover, now a child of God, I made a loftier prize for the devil who was now working harder to lay claim to my soul.  Living a holy life in friendship with God certainly does not mean you will never be tempted.  Far from it.

This is why Christ Himself chose to undergo temptation.  By submitting to temptation, Jesus wants to show us that we need not be afraid of temptations.  In fact, suffering resolutely through our temptation can be an occasion of spiritual growth.  St. Alphonsus de Ligouri is an 18th century bishop and doctor of the Church, and founder of the Redemptorist order.  He taught that "the Lord sometimes permits that souls, which are dear to Him, should be tempted with some violence, in order that they may better understand their own weakness, and the necessity of grace to prevent them from falling. . . God permits us to be tempted, that we may be more detached from the things of earth, and conceive a more ardent desire to behold Him in heaven."

Isn't this what Lent is all about?  Better understanding our own weakness, and acknowledging our reliance on God's grace?  Becoming detached from things of this world and increasing our desire to be close to God?  You could say that temptation and Lent go hand in hand.  This is one reason why Catholics traditionally "give up something" for Lent.  We voluntarily choose to give up things that we are attached to -- be it dessert, caffeine, alcohol, or Netflix -- knowing that we will be tempted to enjoy these goods.  It does us no good to give up something we have little attraction to in the first place.  If you don't like coffee, giving it up for Lent is meaningless.  On the other hand, if you develop cravings for a mocha latte every time you see a Starbucks sign, then giving it up is spiritually beneficial because it trains you to resist temptation.  By disciplining ourselves to resist temptation in small matters, we become better able to resist temptation in larger matters.

St. Alphonsus also says, "When it is disturbed by temptation, and sees itself in danger of committing sin, the soul has recourse to the Lord and to His divine Mother... it humbles itself and takes refuge in the arms of divine mercy.  By this means, as is proved by experience, it acquires more strength and is united more closely to God."  Jesus truly was subject to temptation, and He resisted with God's help.  We are also subject to temptation time and again in our lives, but we can resist -- like Jesus -- with the help of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Weekly Update from CCM

Good morning, students!  This week marks the beginning of Lent.  Did you know that the word Lent was originally a Teutonic word meaning springtime?  Looking at the weather this week certainly doesn't fill one with springtime feelings.  But by the time the 40 days of Lent are over, the rebirth of spring will be upon us, bringing with it warm weather, spring flowers, and the great celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.

To help us prepare for the joy of Easter, the penitential season of Lent officially begins tomorrow.  Ash Wednesday is so-named from the practice of imposing blessed ashes on the foreheads of penitents.  The ashes themselves are traditionally made from burning the palms used in the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration, and invoke scriptural imagery, including, "All are from the dust, and to dust all will return" (Ecclesiastes 3:20), and, "I repent in dust and ashes," (Job 42:6).  

Ashes are meant to remind us that we are mortal; just as God made us from the dust we will again return to the dust.  Being reminded of our mortality, we should ponder our own death and whether we are prepared today for that eventuality.  Are we in a right relationship with God?  If the answer to that question is no, then Lent should lead us to repentance from our sins and a return to God.  If we are in a right relationship with God, Lent can still lead us into a deepening conversion and draw us closer to Him.

Our Ash Wednesday service on campus will be at 12:30 in the chapel.  It will consist of a Liturgy of the Word with distribution of ashes, and so will be somewhat shorter than an average Mass.  Remember that non-Catholics can receive ashes, too (it's not like Holy Communion) and so this is a good opportunity to invite a friend to come with you and experience this rich tradition of the Church.  Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, but for those who wish to go to a Mass, there are Masses offered at St. Mary's at 9:00am and 6:00pm in English, and 8:00pm in Spanish.

Now for our schedule this week...
  • TUESDAY (Today)
    • Adoration in the chapel from noon to 12:30.
    • Community Table volunteer service from 3:30-6:00pm.  Meet at CCM by 3:15 for a ride over.
  • WEDNESDAY (Tomorrow)
    • Ash Wednesday Liturgy of the Word with distribution of ashes at 12:30 in the chapel.
    • Evening Prayer at 6:00pm in the chapel.
    • Supper @ the Center at 6:30pm.  Brian and Danny are making homemade pizza for us!  Our program after dinner will be led by Pasquale and Mairenn.  The topic is "Sacrifice."  Why do we make sacrifices during Lent?  How does this relate to Jesus' sacrifice for us? If you are still wondering what to sacrifice this Lent, be sure to come for some help and ideas.
    • Remember that Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence, meaning no meat, and only one full meal (up to two smaller snacks may be had, as long as they don't add up to a full meal).  Liquids don't break the fast, so they are OK.
    • Adoration in the chapel from noon til 12:30.
    • Small Group scripture discussion from 5:30-6:30 on the 2nd floor of the UC.
    • Simply Stitched meets at CCM from 8:00 to 9:30ish.
    • Adoration in the chapel from 3:30-4:00pm.  (We are trying out a new time this week in hopes that more will be able to participate).
    • Remember every Friday during Lent is a day of abstinence, so no meat!
    • Confessions/Rosary at 3:30.
    • Mass at 4:00.
    • Credo from 5:15-6:30.  Our discussion this week will wrap up our tour of Catholic moral theology with an overview of "Sin & Grace."  Come with your questions!
    • Cat Fair in the UC Grand Room from 5:00-7:30pm.  CCM will have a table set up, so come by and say hi!
    • Small Group scripture discussion in Balsam Lobby from 6:00-7:00pm.  

What are you doing this Lent to make it a more prayerful time?  How do you plan on getting to know Christ better, and love Him more intensely?  The spiritual benefits of Lent don't just happen magically.  You have to participate.  If you are still unsure of how to do that, coming to our discussion Wednesday evening may help give you some ideas.  Here are some other suggestions.
  • You can sign up to get a Lenten reflection in your email each day.  There are many services available to do that.  Here is one.
  • You can read a little bit of scripture each day and prayerfully reflect on it.  The USCCB web site gives the readings from each day's Mass.  It's a great way to get to know scripture better and to pray with the Church.
  • If reflecting on scripture with others is more your thing, you can start attending one of our small groups either Monday or Thursday evenings.
  • Try to come to Adoration at least once a week; if the Adoration times don't work for your schedule, come spend some quiet prayer time in the chapel on your own.
  • Pray like a monk!  You can start praying one of the offices of the Liturgy of the Hours, just like monks, nuns, priests, and countless lay people do each day.  You can find these prayers online at DivineOffice.org or download the app to your phone or tablet.
  • You can spend Lent in a tent!
  • You can give up, or lessen, something you are attached to - like coffee, Facebook, or sweets.  But remember to accompany your sacrifice with prayer to reap the spiritual benefits.  
These are just a few ideas to help you get the most out of Lent.  We pray that this will be a season of renewal and spiritual growth for all of you.

Pax Christi,

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Gospel For Today: 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

SPECIAL NOTE:  This week begins Lent on Feb 18, Ash Wednesday.  We will have a Liturgy of the Word with distribution of ashes at the Catholic Student Center chapel at 12:30pm on Wednesday.  There will also be Masses offered at St. Mary's at 9:00am and 6:00pm in English, and 8:00pm in Spanish.

Click here for readings

In today's gospel from Mark 1:40-45, we find a leper kneeling before Jesus pleading, "If you wish, you can make me clean."  Jesus stretches out His hand to touch the man and says to him, "I do will it.  Be made clean."  The gospel tells us that "the leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean."

Why all this talk of cleanliness? After all, if you or I were suffering from a horrible disease we would say, "please heal me," or "make me well."  We would not ask to be cleaned.  If we want to be clean, we take a shower, we don't call a doctor.  

It is telling that the Church pairs this gospel with a reading from Leviticus.  In this reading the Lord tells Moses and Aaron (head of the priestly caste) that if someone has leprosy he should be brought to a priest and "the priest shall declare him unclean" (Lv 13:2).  And, "As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean.  He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp" (Lv 13:46).

We may read this and think this was simply a way of preventing the spread of contagious disease by removing an infected person from the community.  And it partly was that.  But more importantly, an unclean person was cut off from the Temple, and thus from the ability to give worship to God in the way that the Mosaic law mandated.  This is why it was the purview of the priest to declare a person unclean, as it had to do more with ritual purification than with health or hygiene.  

The leper was cut off from his people, but even more importantly, he was cut off from his God.  This is why the leper in today's gospel is on his knees before Christ saying, "If you wish, you can make me clean."  His desire is for more than healing; it is for the reconciliation that his healing will bring about.  And so, after Jesus makes the man clean, He tells him, "Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed."  Now cleansed, the man could again offer ritual worship.  Jesus was reconciling the man to the religious community, and through the community to God.

Those of you at Mass last Sunday heard Father say in his homily that all of Jesus' healing miracles come with "an expiration date."  This is true.  Everyone whom Jesus healed eventually died.  The eyes of the blind man cured by Christ years later ceased to see.  Lazarus, raised by Christ from the dead, died a second time.  The healing miracles of Christ are but signs of the greater miracle Christ performs, which is the forgiveness of our sins, the cleansing of our hearts, and our reconciliation to the Father.  This miraculous healing has no expiration date.  To borrow another phrase from the marketplace, "the offer is still valid."  Christ has left with the Church this "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:18).  

We suffer from spiritual leprosy.  Sin is a disease of the heart, a malady of love.  Like the leper, we long to be made clean.  We today can still kneel before the Lord and say, "If you wish, you can make me clean."  We can hear Christ's voice spoken to us, "I do will it.  Be made clean."  We can go to the priest, just as Christ commanded the leper to do, and offer the cleansing prescribed.  That is, we can make a good confession and receive the absolution of Christ through the sacrament.  By the grace God offers through this sacrament, we will be reconciled to the religious community, the Church.  And more importantly, through the Church, by the cleansing power of Christ, we will be reconciled to the Father.  We will be made clean.

Fr. Voitus is available to hear confessions every Sunday at the Catholic Student Center at 3:30pm.  He's also available by appointment.  If you have been away from the sacrament for some time, it can be a daunting thing to go back.  It helps to remember, though, that the focus of the sacrament is not really on your sin -- it's on God's forgiveness.  And that's a very positive thing -- a cause to rejoice!  If it has been a while since you have received the sacraments, we encourage you to come back.  To help you out, click here to download a brief guide on "How to Go to Confession" offered by the US Catholic Bishops.

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723