Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gospel For Today: 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time


"It's not fair!"  I can't tell you how often as a parent of five children I've heard that phrase shouted in my house.  It seems that all children go through a phase when they seem obsessed with making sure justice is meted out in the household. But is the child's idea of "fairness" really about justice?

This is what we hope it will become.  But our child-like concept of fairness must grow and mature quite a bit to become the virtue of justice.  The Catechism defines justice as "the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor" (CCC 1807).  This giving people their due can be negative, as in a just punishment for a crime; or it can be positive, as in a just wage for a day's work.

When a child cries, "That's not fair!" however, he or she does not usually mean that someone is not receiving what is due to them.  Usually it means that the child in question is not receiving what they want -- or more often they see another child receiving something good and they don't know how to express their jealousy other than by shouting "It's not fair!"

Today's gospel reading (Mt 20:1-16) offers us an opportunity to examine our own consciences and think about whether we have developed a true sense of justice or are still stuck in the childish view of "fairness."  Today we hear the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.  Some laborers are hired at dawn to work in the master's vineyard and promised a full day's wage.  Other laborers are hired at 9:00am; still more at noon and at three, and so on.  Finally the last laborers are hired at the end of the day and work barely an hour.  When the day's wages are paid out, all receive a full day's pay.

The gospel tells us that the ones who were hired early in the day "grumbled."  That's probably an understatement!  It is not hard to imagine their childish cry upon seeing those who were hired late in the day receiving the full amount of pay -- "That's not fair!"  But the master reminds them that those who worked a full day will also receive a full day's pay, which was exactly what was promised them.  The master in the parable is not being unjust, he is being generous.  Each worker received his due; some received more than their due.  It is the fact that some received more that upsets the first workers.  Their grumbling is not about justice, but jealousy.  

Jesus, in this parable, is warning us against this jealousy.  The master in the story is like God, and we are the workers in the vineyard.  Some of us come to God early in our lives.  Others will come relatively late, after many years of sin.  God is perfectly just, and He will faithfully reward His followers who serve Him all their lives.  But God is also perfectly merciful.  Those who have waited until late in the day to follow Christ need an abundance of mercy, and that is just what God offers them.  This is not injustice.  This is generosity.  This is love.

The lesson to take from today's parable is twofold.  First, those who have served God faithfully for many years should not resent those who come more recently to the faith.  And second, it is never too late to join the workers in the vineyard and come to Christ -- that is to say, it is never too late for repentance and conversion.  Sometimes when we are deep in our sins we may begin to despair and ask, "How can God love me?  It's too late for me to be saved."  But this is the God who would pay those hired at the end of the day a full day's wage.  The hour you come to Him does not matter.  What matters is that you come to Him.

Is that fair?  Probably not according to the childish understanding of "fairness."  If that is fairness, then God is not fair.  And thank God for that!  None of us will get to heaven because it is "fair."  God is more than fair -- He is merciful.  It is only by God's mercy and generous love that we are saved.  

REMINDER!  Father Voitus is available for Confession at 3:30, half an hour before Mass.  But this is not the only time; Confession is also available by appointment, and you can request the sacrament any time you see Father on campus.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Good morning, students!  Praise to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  I hope you are all having a wonderful start to your week.  Here are this week's schedule and announcements.

Eucharistic Adoration: Noon to 12:30 in our chapel.  Just thirty minutes of quiet time in prayer before the Lord.  If you can't be there the whole time, please come for as long as you can.  There is no "service" per se so you can come and go during this half hour.

Small Group: 6:30-7:30pm in Balsam Lobby.

EMHC Meeting: 5:30pm Anyone interested in serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion for our Masses on campus please meet with me in the chapel.

Vespers: 6:00pm.  Come early for our dinner and join us in this Evening Prayer service from the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office).

Supper @ the Center 6:30-8:30pm.  This week our chef du jour is Kevin Codd.  Kevin and Pasquale have also put together our program for after dinner, which will be about engaging in "spiritual battle."  What are our spiritual weapons and armor that we need to engage in this essential combat?  Come and learn!

There will be no Adoration offered this Thursday, as I will be away from campus conducting a workshop at Our Lady of the Mountains in Highlands.  However, our chapel will be open, as always, so please feel free to come pray!

Small Group: 5:30-6:30pm on the UC Balcony (meet inside the balcony if it is raining).

Eucharstic Congress.  At least eight students from WCU will be joining about 60 other college students from across the Diocese for the 10th annual Eucharistic Congress in Charlotte this weekend. Please pray for safe travel for all those on the road, and for a successful Congress. If you are going with our group from WCU, please check your email for carpool instructions and other information.

Confessions/Rosary. 3:30pm.  Fr. Voitus is available before Mass to hear confessions.  Please also join us in praying the rosary at this time.  It is a wonderful way to quiet yourself and prepare to participate prayerfully in the Mass.

Mass. 4:00pm.

Credo. 5:00-6:15pm.  This week our topic for discussion will be "Creation."  What do we mean when we say God created "all that is visible and invisible"?  How does this relate to what science tells us about creation?  And what is our place in creation?  Come with your questions!

Small Group: 8:00-9:00p in the Village Commons.

Simply Stitched. 8:00-9:00p at Alex Cassell's house (be at CCM at 7:45 if you need a ride).  Remember, even if you don't know how to knit or crochet, you are invited.  Members can teach you!

We as a campus ministry, would like to support Community Table, a food charity that provides restaurant-style meals to those in need in our community. The times they need help are 3:30 to 6:30 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are attempting to determine which of these days works best for those wanting to help.  If you are interested in volunteering with us, please respond to this Facebook Poll.  (If you are not on Facebook, you can email me your response).

Raise your hand if you used to be a fetus! We are trying out a new fundraiser for CCM. We are offering these cool pro-life t-shirts, inspired by an idea from a student, with all proceeds going to support Catholic Campus Ministry. There are two ways you can help.
1) Buy a t-shirt!
2) Help spread the word by posting this link on your social media. The more shirts sell, the larger the donation to CCM!

This shirt will only be available for the next 20 days, so don't delay!  WCU students can receive FREE SHIPPING by opting to pick up their shirt from CCM.

St. Mary's has daily Mass at 9:00am each morning.  We have a couple of students from WCU who drive to daily Mass each day and are willing to offer rides to any who wish to go with them.  Contact me for details.

This week has been a pretty intense, one might say "grim," one, least liturgically speaking.  e started on Sunday by celebrating the Triumph of the Cross, where we recalled Jesus' Crucifixion.  Yesterday we celebrated Our Lady of Sorrows, which recognizes that Mary, as Jesus' mother, suffered more than anyone else to see her Son die on the cross.  And today we celebrate two early martyrs, Cyprian and Cornelius, who were only two of many in the early Church who gave their life for Christ.  What does all this tell us about the place that suffering has in our lives and what our Christian response to suffering should be?  Deacon Mike Bickerstaff has an article about sacrifice and suffering which I recommend to you, especially those currently undergoing hardships of any kind.

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Gospel For Today: Triumph of the Cross


While on the highway this past week I saw a bumper sticker that read, "Harm none, and do as you will."  This is a common moral axiom among Wiccans and other neo-pagans.  It struck me as I drove past the vehicle how similar this was in phrasing to St. Augustine's summation of the Christian moral life: "Love God, and do as you will."  The phrasing may be similar, but the meaning is entirely different.  I noted the contrast between these two on Facebook and was taken to task for picking on Wiccans.  In truth, I was not thinking of Wiccans when I posted because I believe "Harm none, and do as you will" has become the de facto moral code of most people in our society today.  I have heard it espoused by agnostics and atheists, and even some Christians as the only truly universal moral code.

What is wrong with that? you may ask.  Isn't doing no harm a good thing?  With all the violence in the world today, what's wrong with reminding people that harming others is bad?  Nothing is wrong with that.  In fact, it is good.  But it is not good enough.

When it comes to morality today most people assume we should be free to do anything we want as long as it does not negatively impact other people.  That is basically what this axiom tells us.  This seems at first to be very liberating.  I can do whatever I want!  But as a guiding moral principle, it is rather small and limited.  It makes the basis for moral decisions what you shouldn't do but doesn't tell you anything about what you should do.  It is a passive morality, not an active one. Ultimately, that is rather uninspiring.  

Let's contrast this to St. Augustine's, "Love God, and do what you will."  St. Augustine begins with the call to love God.  The heart that loves God perfectly will only desire what is pleasing to God.  Therefore if you truly love God, you can safely do as you will because you will only desire what God wills.  The trick to achieving this is to love God above all things, including yourself.  That's a tall order.

Jesus tells us to "love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind," and "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt 22:37-39).  These are the two great commandments in which Christ says are contained all the law and the prophets.  The world today tells us we can do whatever we want as long as it doesn't harm our neighbors.  Christ tell us that's not enough; we must actively love our neighbors.  Of these two, the Christian calling is much more inspiring; it also requires more hard work.  

One moral code is negative: don't do harm.  The other is positive: do love.  One is passive.  The other is active.  One is self-centered.  The other is self-giving.  How is "do no harm" self-centered?  Because it only tells us what we shouldn't do to our neighbors, not what we should do for them, it ultimately becomes all about us and fulfilling our own desires (as long as no one gets hurt in the process).  "Love your neighbor," by contrast, commands us to look beyond ourselves to the needs of those around us.  It calls us to sacrifice our own desires and comfort in order to help others.  And of course if we love our neighbors we will not wish to harm them. The command to love your neighbor actually contains within it the principle of "do no harm," and much more.  This is why I say that "do no harm" is good, but not good enough.  We are called to something greater.

In a different gospel passage (Mk 10:17-22) a man asks Jesus what must he do to gain eternal life.  Jesus reminds him of the Ten Commandments; specifically, "Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud."  The man replies that he has observed all of these.  But is it enough?  Is not being a murderer enough?  Is not being an adulterer enough?  Is not being a liar enough? Is not harming others enough?

So you have avoided killing and lying and cheating.  Good for you.  Jesus tells the man, "You lack one thing: go, sell what you have, and give to the poor... and come, follow me."  The gospel reports that the man went away sorrowful.  Why?  The man was fine with not harming his neighbors.  But his love was imperfect.  His love was centered on himself.  He did not love his neighbors enough to sacrifice his own wealth for them.  And he did not love Christ enough to turn away from his old life and follow Him.  

Following Christ means loving like Christ.  Love, by its nature, is self-giving.  God is love, which means God is self-giving.  We see this in the Incarnation, in which "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).  And we see this most perfectly in the Cross, the ultimate and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, made in love for the very people who nailed Him to the tree.  By His passion and death, Christ "emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave... He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.  Because of this, God greatly exalted Him" (Phil 2:6-11).  

Christ did not come into the world so that He could merely do no harm.  He had a higher calling and so do we who are made in His image.  This is the Triumph of the Cross.  It is a triumph of self-giving.  It is a triumph of sacrifice.  It is a triumph of love.  

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

Praise to our Lord Jesus Christ!  I hope you are all having a wonderful week.  I look forward to seeing you at some of our CCM activities.  Here is this week's schedule.

Adoration 12:00-12:30.  Come spend 30 minutes of quiet prayer and adoration before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  It's a great way to hit the pause button on your day and remind yourself that God loves you.

Small Group scripture study 6:30pm in Balsam Lobby.

Special note - I will be away from campus Wednesday and Thursday of this week to attend an overnight meeting of diocesan campus ministers.

Vespers 6:00pm.  Traditional Evening Prayer service from the Liturgy of the Hours.

Supper @ the Center 6:30-8:30pm.  This week it is "Taco Tuesday" even though it's Wednesday!  Come and enjoy the good food and fellowship.  After dinner, we'll relax with one of our favorite games -- Pictionary, Catholic style!  

There will be no Adoration this Thursday, as I will be out of town.

Small Group scripture study 5:30pm on the UC Balcony (meet inside the 2nd floor if raining).

Hike to Cullowhee Falls (High Falls).  6:00pm.  Cullowhee Falls is one of our regional treasures.  It's a fairly flat hike, almost 2 miles out, to one of the more spectacular waterfalls in our area.  The trail can get muddy, and the last little bit involves scrambling over some rocks, so please wear appropriate footwear.  We will be leaving from CCM at 6:00, and returning to campus between 8:30 and 9:00, so you will need to bring a flashlight.

Football Parking Fundraiser.  12:00 - 3:00pm.  We have another home game this Saturday, which means another fundraising opportunity for CCM. If you'd like to help staff our event parking fundraiser, please meet in our parking lot at noon.  We'll be finished before kickoff, so you can still catch the game!

Rosary & Confession 3:30pm.

Mass 4:00pm.

Credo 5:00 - 6:15pm.  This week's discussion topic continues our journey through the creed with "God the Father."  What does God's revelation of Himself as a Father to us mean for our faith?  What does Fatherhood entail?  Come with your questions!

Small Group scripture study 6:30pm in the Village Commons.

Simply Stitched 8:00pm.  Knitting and crochet group, meet at Alex Cassell's house or meet at CCM at 7:45 if you need a ride.

The 10th annual Eucharistic Congress of the Diocese of Charlotte is Sept. 19-20.  One of our students described this event as a "Catholic family reunion for the Diocese."  We'll be taking a group from WCU to participate in an all-night lock-in at St. Peter's in downtown Charlotte, with overnight Adoration, participate in the Eucharistic Procession on Saturday morning, and enjoy all the guest speakers, music, vendors and more.  It's $15, and that gets you a t-shirt and lunch on Saturday.  If you have not signed up yet, please do so TODAY at:

Flip this Prison.  Haywood Pathways Center in Waynesville is the winner of the Guaranteed Rate Giveback Challenge, which means that Ty Pennington and his crew are coming to help them tear down and rebuild the old Department of Corrections building in Waynesville on Sept. 25.  Our campus' Center for Service Learning will be running shuttles from WCU to the work site for any who want to help.  To sign up as a volunteer, go to the Haywood Pathways web site:

You can learn more about the project by watching this short video:

Community Table. Catholic Campus Ministry is working with Community Table, our local food charity, to establish a regular volunteer work day on which we would provide 6 to 8 students to help serve meals and staff the kitchen.  The time would be from 3:30 to 6:30 on either Mondays, Tuesdays or Thursdays.  If this is a project you are interested in being involved with, please let us know which day would work best for you.  We will be setting up a poll on our Facebook Group.  If you are not on Facebook, please email me your preference.  We hope this will be a regular, ongoing service we can provide to our community. To learn more about Community Table please visit their web site:

When you hear the word "chastity," is your initial reaction positive or negative?  Do you view it as a virtue to pursue or does the word to you suggest repression and resentment?  Many in our culture today actually resent the idea of chastity because of the negative way it is presented in our society, including in the media as well as in many college classrooms.  Dr. Edward Sri talks about the resentment of chastity and explains the Church's very positive message about chastity in this article:
"Resenting Chastity" by Dr. Edward Sri

Until next week!
God Bless,

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

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gospel For Today: 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reminder for any who wish to be on the altar server roster this semester, please meet with Father at 3:00pm today in the chapel (an hour before Mass).  If you are unable to make this meeting, please get with me about scheduling a make-up time.


What do you do when you see a friend heading down the wrong path?  In college, this can be an all-too-common occurrence.  Especially with Christian friends who begin to do things we know are displeasing to God, it can be heart wrenching.  What are we as caring friends and fellow members of the Body of Christ supposed to do?  Should we say something and risk losing our friendship?  Should we hold our tongue and watch our friend descend into darkness?

In today's first reading (Ez 33:7-9) we read of Ezekiel being appointed as watchman over the house of Israel.  One of the tasks he was entrusted with was rebuking those who sinned against God.  God even tells Ezekiel that if he sees someone going astray and doesn't attempt to correct him, God will hold Ezekiel himself accountable for that person's sin!  On the other hand, if Ezekiel warns the person, but that person doesn't heed the warning, Ezekiel will at least save himself.

Jesus, in today's gospel (Mt 18:15-20), lays out similar instructions for us in the Church, the new house of Israel.  He entrusts the Apostles (and through them, their successors) with the power to bind and loose, as we saw two weeks ago when Christ spoke similar words to Peter.  This power to bind and loose involves not only the authority to loose us from our sins by conveying God's forgiveness, but also the power to govern those in the Church community.  The Church's authority to govern has the same source and the same end as her authority to forgive: that authority comes from God; its purpose is to reconcile us with God.

Like Ezekiel, Christians today have a duty to rebuke our neighbors when we see them doing something displeasing to God.  Does this mean we have to point out all of our neighbor's faults?  Of course not.  (If we did that, our neighbor may start pointing out some faults of our own, such as being overly critical and tactless!)  But it does mean attempting to correct our neighbor when we see him or her heading down a path that is leading them away from God -- which is to say, toward their own destruction.

This is because the call to rebuke does not come from an imperative to put down others or to make ourselves look "holier than thou."  No, the call to rebuke comes from the command to love our neighbors (Mk 12:31).  Indeed, we are to love our neighbors as we do ourselves.  Because we love ourselves, we want to be in right relationship with God.  God is love, God is truth, God is goodness, and we want all of these things in our lives.  If we truly love our neighbor, then we want the same for them, too.  Therefore if we see them doing anything that endangers their soul, out of love we need to correct them.

But how should we do it?  Jesus spells it out.  First, don't scandalize your neighbor.  Let their private sin remain private (not that any sin is truly private; all sin wounds the entire Body of Christ).  But we each have a right to our good reputation, and you don't want one person's sin to become a scandal for others.  So speak to them first about it in private, as a brother or sister.  As Christ says, "If he listens to you, you have won over your brother."

And if he or she does not listen?  Then you are to "take one or two others along with you."  Sometimes people who won't respond to individual correction will take it more seriously if a number of people (who care about them) express their concern.  The key either way is to do it from a place of genuine love.  As St. Paul says in today's second reading (Rom 13:8-10), we owe our neighbors a debt of love -- even (and especially) when they seem to reject that love.

Finally, if they refuse to listen to a group of friends, then Jesus says, tell it to the Church.  This is one of only two times that Jesus uses the word "Church" in the gospels (the first was when He established the Church on the rock of Peter).  Both times, Christ speaks of the Church's authority to bind and loose.  If the wayward person refuses to listen even to the Church, then and only then are you to "treat him as you would a Gentile or tax collector."  These were people that first century Jews generally wanted nothing to do with.  They were outside of the community.  Jesus is telling us that unrepentant public sinners should be excommunicated from the community of believers.

Why?  Is it because they don't want to play by the Church's rules so they can't come into the clubhouse?  No.  Just as with Ezekiel, the point of the Church's final rebuke is to try to bring the sinner back to God.  By persisting in sin, the sinner distances himself from the life of God.  They distance themselves from Love itself.  If he or she continues in that direction without turning back, that path ultimately leads to damnation.  When the Church excommunicates someone, that eviction from the life of the Church brings into focus the fact that the person has evicted themselves from the life of God.  It is meant to be a wake-up call, like an intervention with an alcoholic or drug addict.  The point of it is to heal, even if the method seems harsh.

The mission of the Church is to reconcile sinners to God.  In order to be reconciled, we must first recognize that we are sinners. Sometimes being brought to the realization of our sins hurts.  But like a mother who causes her child pain by dabbing alcohol on a skinned knee, the pain is therapeutic.  The Church does not intend the pain, only the healing that is to follow.

Finally, the absolute best thing you can do when someone you care about is veering away from God, is to pray. Pray daily and pray sincerely.  We can correct and we can rebuke; indeed our faith commands us to do so.  But we cannot change anyone's minds for them.  Only they can respond to the call of the Spirit. Only they can soften their hearts to accept God's forgiveness.  Remember that God loves that person even more than you do.  In your prayers for them, let our psalm response today be a plea for your wayward brother or sister.  "If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts."

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!  I hope you all had a wonderful three-day weekend and you are all back in Cullowhee now, well rested and ready for your classes.  To help you to stay rooted in your faith and to find rest in God during the week, we have several opportunities for you to participate in CCM activities.  

I want to begin by encouraging everyone to participate in one of our small groups.  As I said on Sunday, small groups are very good, low-key ways to engage the Scriptures, student-to-student, and to foster not only your relationship with God, but your relationships with fellow students.  It can be hard to get to know everyone at our larger gatherings.  Small groups generally have anywhere from 3 to 12 students participating, so it is much easier to build relationships; and solid relationships with fellow Christians are going to be a real help in sustaining your faith through college.  We have three small groups that meet currently each week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Please give one a try - there is no commitment to come each week.  And feel free to bring a friend you think might benefit.

Here is this week's schedule:

Adoration: 12:00 noon.  Come spend 30 minutes of quiet, quality time before the Blessed Sacrament.  If you can't make it for all 30 minutes, even a few minutes is worthwhile!

Small Group: 6:30-7:30pm.  Our Tuesday small group meets in the Lobby area of Balsam.  

Lector Meeting: 5:30pm.  Anyone who plans to be on our lector schedule for Mass this semester (or who would like to be), please meet in the chapel at 5:30.  If you can't make it, please email me to schedule another time.

Vespers; 6:00pm.  We will be offering Vesper (Evening Prayer) service in the chapel each Wednesday.  If you have never prayed Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours before, don't worry.  We'll walk you through it.  

Supper @ the Center: 6:30-8:30pm.  This week, Bekka and Mairenn are cooking for us (thanks!), and Alex Bogart is leading up our program, which will be on "Faithful Citizenship."  There are a series of political debates scheduled on campus during September and October.  What role should our faith have in shaping our approach to politics?  

Adoration: Noon - 12:30.  Thirty minutes of quiet prayer with Jesus!

Small Group: 5:30-6:30pm.  Our Thursday small group meets on the UC Balcony.  If it is raining, please gather in the sitting area inside the balcony doors on the second floor.  

Choir Practice:  6:30-7:30pm, in the chapel.  If you are interested in singing in our student choir, please contact Joseph Coca at  

Parking Fundraiser: Noon-3:00pm.  This Saturday is our first home football game of the semester.  One of the important ways we raise money to fund our CCM activities is by event parking for home games.  We need at least two students signed up to work two to three hours before each home game (once the game has started, or the lot is full, you are free to go).  To sign up, please email me, or put your name on the sign up sheet on our fridge (like any family, we keep our important papers on the fridge in the kitchen).  

Altar Server Training: 3:00pm.  Anyone wishing to be on our server schedule for this semester please meet with Father Voitus in our chapel for instruction.  If you've never been an altar server before, our small chapel is a great place to learn!

Rosary/Confession: 3:30pm.  Please gather early before Mass to pray the Rosary with us.  Father is also available to hear Confessions at this time.

Mass: 4:00pm.  Until the schedules for altar servers, lectors, and EMHCs are published, I still need volunteers for these duties.  Please email me if you can volunteer for this Sunday.

Credo: 5:15 - 6:30pm.  As so many of our regulars were out of town this past Sunday we did not have a formal Credo session last week.  So this week we will pick up where we left off, at the beginning of our exploration of the Creed, with "I believe."  What is faith?  Is it a noun?  A verb?  Both?  And why is it important?  Come with your questions!

Small Group: 6:30-7:30pm.  Our Monday small group meets in the Village Commons building.  If you are involved in Greek sorority or fraternity life, this small group would be a great Bible study for you; please feel free to invite fellow Greeks, Catholic or not.  

Simply Stitched: 8:00pm.  Our student knitting/crocheting group meets Monday nights at Alex Cassell's house.  If you need a ride, please meet at CCM at 7:45 (and let Alex know on Facebook).  All knit items are donated to charity.  If you don't know how to knit or crochet, they will teach you.  And it's not limited to the ladies, so guys please feel free to come!

Sept. 19-20, Charlotte, NC.  The 10th annual Eucharistic Congress of the Diocese of Charlotte is in just a few weeks!  We will have a group from WCU attending, and we'd love for you to join us.  If you have never been before, the Congress is a large gathering of Catholics, centered around the Eucharist (what Vatican II calls "the source and summit of our faith"), featuring music, guest speakers, a great Eucharistic procession, Catholic vendors and organizations, and wonderful fellowship.  You can see more information on the official web site:

For college students, there is a special Friday night gathering culminating in a procession to St. Peter's in downtown Charlotte where there will be all-night Adoration.  Students will sign up for one-hour shifts, sleeping in a "lock-in" in the basement of the church, and participate in the Eucharistic Procession on Saturday morning.  $15 gets you space at the lock-in, a t-shirt, and lunch on Saturday.  To register, please go to:

Many "polite" people today think religion and politics should be taboo subjects, especially when the two are discussed together.  This is nothing new.  Back in 1906 G. K. Chesterton wrote in his newspaper column, "I am not allowed in these columns to discuss politics or religion, which is inconvenient; as they are the only two subjects which seem to me to have the slightest element of interest for a sane man."  

Religion deals chiefly with our relationship with God, while politics deals with our relationships with our fellow man.  These two spheres are, of course, related.  Thus Jesus sums up the entire law by saying, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind," and "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt 22:37-39).  So it is natural and good for us to talk about how our duties to God and duties to our fellow man inform one another.

We will be discussing this at our Wednesday dinner this week.  In preparation for that, here is a short article I wrote last year for our parish about Religion and Politics:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also has many resources available on its web site,, including this hand out.

We hope to see you at our events this week.  And remember, the Catholic Student Center is open each day for your use.  Please feel free to come by if you need some prayer time, a quiet place to do homework, need a chat with your campus minister, or just want to hang out.

Pax Christi,

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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Gospel for Today: 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time


Last week we read  the iconic scene in Matthew's gospel where Peter confessed his faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, after which Christ told Peter, "You are Peter (rock), and upon this rock I will build my Church."  The Catholic Church still today stands firm upon the rock of Peter, living on through his successors, the Popes.  But today, just a few verses later in the same chapter of that gospel, we find Jesus telling Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle to me."  What gives?  Did Jesus have a change of heart?  No.  Jesus is the same in both instances.  It is Peter who has changed.  

Peter could not accept what Jesus was telling the disciples; namely that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die, and then rise from the dead.  Peter could neither stomach nor understand this teaching.  "God forbid, Lord!" he told Jesus.  "No such thing shall even happen to you."

Last week, after Peter made his confession of faith, Christ said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon-bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but your Father in heaven."  In other words, Peter was not listening to other people, or even his own thinking, when he said that Jesus was the Son of God.  He was allowing himself to listen to God, and to trust what God was telling him.  By contrast, in today's reading Christ tells Peter, "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."  Peter was relying on his own inclinations and his own way of thinking.  He was trusting himself more than he was trusting in Christ, and that reliance on self is what led him astray.

Satan means "adversary," and it can be used as a name for Lucifer, the fallen angel; but it can also be applied to us when we allow ourselves to become adversaries of God.  We do this when we  rely on our own will above the will of God.  This is easy to do.  And it does not necessarily require a full and total rejection of God.   Peter was certainly not rejecting Jesus outright  when he told him He was not to die in Jerusalem.  Rather, what he was hearing from Jesus was hard for him to accept.  According to his human mind, what Jesus was saying did not make sense.  Why should the Messiah suffer?  Peter could not understand it, and so he denied it.  It was not a total rejection of God, but a lack of faith on the part of Peter that caused Christ to say, "Get behind me, Satan!"

It is easy for us to also lack faith, especially when confronted with a difficult teaching of the Church.  And let's face it, there are plenty of them.  Many of the Church's teachings can be hard for us to wrap our minds around intellectually.  How can God be both one and three?  How can a virgin give birth to a Son?  How can Christ be fully human and also fully God?  How can bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ?  

But for us today, more than the theological teachings of the Church, it is the moral teachings that confound us -- not necessarily because we do not understand them, but we find them hard to practice in our lives.  The "seven deadly sins" are called deadly because they have a way of anchoring themselves into our hearts and turning us away from the love of God.  We all have sins that we find especially hard to resist.  Take your pick -- pride, lust, envy, green, sloth, gluttony, wrath -- any can easily ensnare you.  We know these things to be bad for us.  Yet we allow ourselves to fall into bad habits and then we cannot see a way out.

The Church tells us we are to be holy.  But when we think about our own lives and how attached we are to sin, we can easily start to think that what the Church demands is unreasonable.  We can never live up to God's standards.  And so we don't even try.  We give up.  We become adversaries both to Christ and to our own good, and so Jesus rightly rebukes us. "Get behind me, Satan!"  

But Jesus rebukes us in order to correct us, and ultimately heal us.  He does not want us to give up.  Rather, He wants us to keep up the struggle, no matter how hard.  The fact that we struggle with sin is not a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of strength.  The struggle means we have not given up.  Ultimately, though, we must recognize that we cannot win the battle against sin by relying on ourselves.   We need His help.  Christ tells us, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."  We must deny ourselves because we are totally unable of saving ourselves.  We take up the cross of Christ because only there we find our salvation.

G. K. Chesterton once said that Christianity has not been tried and found lacking; rather it has been found difficult and not tried.  That is true in our day even more than in his.  We are afraid to even try, because the goal seems unreachable.  Yet, it is that goal -- the goal of being authentic, holy, people living in the love of God -- that calls to us in the deepest part of our beings, even as we try our best to deny that we need Him.  Our first reading today from Jeremiah beautifully describes the feeling that many who have distanced themselves from the Church experience, but dare not admit to.  "I say to myself, I will not mention Him, I will speak in His name no more.  But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it" (Jer 20:9).

Our souls hunger for God because we were made for Him; ultimately only God can satisfy our longings.  St. Augustine, whose feast day we celebrated last week, famously wrote in his Confessions, "Our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in Thee."  Our psalm today speaks of our souls thirsting for God in these terms: "O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water" (Ps 63:2).

Yet even the soul that recognizes its deep hunger for God may still say, "How can I make a return to God, when I have strayed so far from Him?"  I am reminded of the advice of a sixteenth century Carmelite monk named Brother Lawrence, who when he failed in his duties to God simply confessed to God, "I shall never do otherwise if You leave me to myself; it is You who must hinder my failing and mend what is amiss."  And then he turned back to God and troubled himself no more about it.  

Ultimately it is this trust in God, this faith in His help and in His mercy, that will allow us to rise above our failings and become the holy -- and happy -- men and women God created us to be. Yes, we will fail.  Even Peter, the leader of the Apostles, the one upon whom Christ built the Church, failed in his faith on more than one occasion.  Yet he became a great saint, and now enjoys the Beatific Vision of God for all eternity.  You will fail in your faith, because you will continue to trust in yourself more than in God.  When you do, do not despair.  Do not give up.  Confess your sins, acknowledge your hunger for God, ask Him to help you grow in holiness.  Above all, keep trying.  Keep up the fight.  God knows it is hard, and He honors the struggle.  After all, one definition of a saint is a sinner who never gave up.

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