Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Weekly update from CCM

Dear Students,

Catholic Campus Ministry would like to wish all of you a wonderful upcoming break, and - as it will be after Lent the next time we see many of you - a very Blessed Easter!

Because of the break, Mass will NOT be celebrated here on campus for the next two Sundays (Palm Sunday, April 1, and Easter Sunday, April 8).  For those of you staying in or around Cullowhee over the break, below is a schedule of Masses at St. Mary's in Sylva.

PALM SUNDAY: 9am & 11am
HOLY THURSDAY: 7pm
GOOD FRIDAY: 6pm
EASTER VIGIL (SATURDAY): 8pm
EASTER SUNDAY: 9am & 11am

At the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 7, two students from WCU will be among those adults receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and First Eucharist at St. Mary's.  We ask all of your prayers for Joseph Coca and Chesnee Hibbard as they complete their journey through RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) and begin a whole new journey in their lives as Catholic faithful.  

THIS WEEK
Wednesday
This Wednesday please join us for supper at 6:30pm.  Keven Toole is preparing a very simple Lenten soup meal for us, and we welcome special guest, Sr. Pat Pepitone, a Sister of Mercy residing here in our Diocese who will be speaking with us about the nitty-gritty of being a professed religious (a nun or a monk) in 21st century America.  If you've never had the chance to talk to a nun here is your opportunity to come, ask questions, and learn from her experience.  Please join us and help welcome Sister Pat!

Thursday
There is some talk of students gathering on Thursday evening at the Center to watch The Passion of the Christ.  This is a very appropriate way to prepare for Holy Week, as we celebrate our Lord's Passion in a very special way in our liturgy.  We will let you know when/if plans finalize for this viewing via our Facebook group.  So if you have not joined our Facebook group, now's a good time to do so!

Friday
No Adoration this Friday, due to the Break.

HHS MANDATE
Yes, more on this subject, because we, as Catholics, cannot be silent about this issue!  Please bring it home to your friends, fellow classmates, and anyone else you can that this is not simply a "Catholic issue."  The mandate which requires Catholic hospitals, schools, and other organizations to provide contraception and sterilization coverage in their health insurance plans (which our Church teaches us is immoral) has implications that affect the religious liberties of all religious organizations in the United States, and should be the concern of every American citizen.

In case you missed it, last Friday, people gathered at courthouses across the nation to protest this mandate and stand up in support of religious freedom and our First Amendment.  A student forwarded this link to me, which shows photos from various gatherings across the country.  I'd like to share it with you.

Scroll down the photos.  One thing I noticed is that, though the media tend to frame this debate as something being led by "old white men," what I see in these photos are lots and lots of young people, and especially young women, who are coming out and protesting in support of their Church and their religious freedom.  God bless all of them, and I pray that their voices may be heard.  Please learn all you can about this issue and be involved!

Everyone please be safe, have a wonderful break, and we'll see you back in the 'Whee after Easter!
Pax Christi,
Matt



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


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gospel For Today

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT (B)

"The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel... It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers... for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more."  

This is the message from today's first reading, from Jeremiah 31:31-34.  What an offer God is making us, to forgive our sins, and to remember them no more.  Isn't this what we all want?  The famous early 20th century English writer G. K. Chesterton was once asked why he became a Catholic.  His answer was a simple one; "To get my sins forgiven."  We all stand in need of forgiveness, for we all fall short of God's standards.  Jesus sets those standards pretty high, after all.  "Be perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48).  When is the last time you met someone you could describe as perfect? 

But that's the goal.  God wants nothing less for us than to be the perfect versions of who he made us to be.  And when we fall short of this (and we do) we need forgiveness.  

I once heard it said that God loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to let us stay that way.  I think there is a lot of truth to that.  Many Christians today have a different view.  They follow the words of Martin Luther, who once compared the Christian to a "snow covered dung hill."  Our sins and failures make us like a hill of dung, in his view, but Christ's sacrifice covers our iniquities and makes us look white and clean, like new fallen snow.  

This is a rather legalistic (and not very inspiring) theology.  It is a theology that teaches us that we are sinners, and Christ's sacrifice for us merely covers our sins, so that God may overlook them.  He remembers our sins no more, as the prophet Jeremiah says.

Well, pardon me for saying this, but that's just not good enough!  Yes, we want our sins forgiven, and yes, we want God to forget our past transgressions.  We do want all those things promised by Jeremiah.  But we don't stop there.

Our psalm response today is, "Create a clean heart in me, O God" (Psalm 51).  The psalmist picks up on Jeremiah's theme, and takes it further.  Yes, Lord, forgive us.  Yes Lord, forget our sins.  But then, Lord, this is what we pray you will do for us.

...in the greatness of your compassion, wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt 
and of my sin cleanse me.
A clean heart create for me, O God...

You see, it is not enough for us to simply be "declared clean" and have our sins forgotten about. We want to really be clean.  It is only in this way that we can fulfill Jesus' command of perfection. 

In our Catholic theology this process is called sanctification.  The word means "being made holy."  This is the purpose of the Christian life, to grow in holiness, to grow ever closer to the Lord, so that when we die in his friendship, we may be truly worthy to stand before him, and look upon his face.  We will truly be the perfect creatures God intended us to be from the beginning.

The prophet Jeremiah promises a new covenant will be made between God and his people.  Today, in the Gospel, we are told that covenant is near.  "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified," says the Lord in today's reading (Jn. 12:20-33).  "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit."

Jesus is foreshadowing his own death, which we will commemorate next week during Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday).  "Whoever serves me must follow me," Jesus continues, "and where I am, there also will my servant be."  

The Christian life means to follow Jesus.  It means to die with him, so that we may rise with him.  This means dying to self, giving of ourselves fully, to our neighbors and most of all to God.  In this way we are sanctified.  In this way we are made clean.  We unite ourselves to Jesus.  It is for this purpose that he came.

We are now in the final weeks of the Lenten season.  Let us pray for one another as we approach the glorious celebration of our Lord's Easter Triumph over death and sin.  Let us prepare ourselves to die and to rise with the Lord!

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


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weekly update from CCM

Dear Students,

Please take a look at this week's schedule for some great opportunities!

WEDNESDAY
You don't want to miss supper with us at the Center tomorrow at 6:30.  Our resident dual-citizen, Sarah, will be preparing traditional British style fish n' chips for us to enjoy.  And after dinner, we will be joined by a special guest.  Dr. David Dorondo is known to many of you as a professor of history here at WCU.  What some of you may not know is that he is also a Benedictine Oblate (a lay person attached to the monastic order of St. Benedict).  He will be speaking with us about St. Benedict and the order he founded back in the early 6th century, which is still going strong today.  Come join us!

FRIDAY
Please come join us for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at our chapel from 4 to 5pm on Friday.  We can pray in solidarity with our bishop, who will be leading the annual Lenten Pilgrimage at Belmont Abbey this Friday evening.  Eucharistic Adoration is a wonderful form of prayer, especially appropriate to help prepare us for the great celebration of our Lord's Resurrection at Easter.

SUNDAY
This Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Lent, and the last Sunday we will have Mass here on campus before Spring Break and Easter.  So please don't miss it.  Mass is at 7:30pm, and you are most welcome to come early and join us in praying the Rosary together at 7:00pm.

ON TO OTHER MATTERS...
Is contraception "health care?"  No, it's not, according to Jacqueline Harvey, a bioethics and public policy scholar from Texas, who recently blogged about the subject.  Ms. Harvey suffers from endometriosis, one of the diseases that is typically "treated" by hormonal birth control pills.  Her's is an interesting story to read.  She is one of the very people that the recent HHS mandate is supposed to be helping - and her answer is a clear, "No, thank you!"  She writes, "It baffles me that it is self-proclaimed feminists who are indignant about not getting free contraception somehow fail to see that women with real health problems are being woefully neglected."  

I had the misfortune of hearing some of these "self proclaimed feminists" on the radio yesterday afternoon on my drive back from Charlotte.  It was a call-in show and the topic was "women's health."  But instead of health issues, the only subjects I heard discussed were contraception and abortion.  And the women who called in were indignant.  They expressed great fear and anxiety that their "right to birth control" was being taken away.  And they spent quite some time pondering why in the world "conservatives" would choose to make birth control an issue in this election season.  

Of course, the ones making this an issue are those in the current administration who decided to require all employers who provide insurance benefits to cover contraception (including those which cause abortions) and sterilization, and make no exception for religious organizations who believe such things are immoral.  Those standing up for the rights of Catholic (and non-Catholic) employers to have the freedom not to pay for something their Church teaches is sinful are not denying anyone's "right" to anything - they are standing up for the rights of conscience and religious freedom.

But the people calling in to this show clearly felt under attack, and were rather mystified as to the reasons.  As I listened, the topic turned to abortion "rights."  One caller complained, with great anger in her voice, that her state had recently enacted a law that required women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound.  Listen to her words.  "The child... the mother, will be forced to sign a paper saying she has seen... what the ultrasound shows...  before she can have an abortion."  

The ellipses above are not where I edited any comments out.  They are there to show her pauses.  Note that she began, quite accidentally, by letting slip what this issue is really all about - "the child."  Then she stopped short and corrected herself, and instead said, "the mother," referring to the woman seeking an abortion.  But even that term speaks to the truth of the matter, for one cannot be a mother without a child.  It is implicit in the word itself.  And notice her pause before she said what, exactly, the woman is "being forced" to see.  She says only, "what the ultrasound shows."  But everyone knows exactly what that ultrasound will show.  It will show the child whose life the mother is deciding whether to terminate.  

When a mother-to-be comes home from the doctor with ultrasound pictures, no one asks her, "Do you have any pictures of what the ultrasound shows?"  No, they say, "Do you have pictures of the baby?"  The only way that supporters of abortion can make it sound at all reasonable is to remove all mention of the baby.  But people, thankfully, are seeing past this facade.  

One of the women on this radio show said she was wearing a t-shirt that said, "Feminism: the radical idea that women are people."  She expressed confusion at the number of women she meets who do not like that t-shirt.  No doubt these are women who are tired of being accused of not being in solidarity with their gender because they cannot support abortion, and think that contraception is not only sinful, but actually harmful to women.  Suggesting that these women (and the men who agree with them) somehow see women as less than people is frankly insulting.

I'm thinking of getting a t-shirt printed up that says, "Pro-Life: the radical idea that babies are people."  Half of these babies, of course, are female.  Do these women not have a voice?

If you are a young woman and don't think that pro-abortion and pro-contraception women speak for you, I encourage you to click the link below:

Read the short article, written by two women lawyers, and if you agree, add your signature to the more than 20,000 already there.  It is interesting scanning through the signatures to read how many are nurses, doctors, or other health care providers, all of whom think this HHS mandate is an affront to their moral and ethical values.  These are strong, educated, professional women who are fully capable of speaking for themselves.  God bless them!

And God bless all of you!  
Pax,
Matt

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


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gospel For Today

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT (B)

Today, the fourth Sunday of Lent, is traditionally called Laetare Sunday.  This name comes from the Introit (Entrance) antiphon for the day, which begins Laetare Jerusalem or "Rejoice, Jerusalem!"  The chant tells us to rejoice, all of us who love Jerusalem, and gather round her, for her sorrow is at an end. 

This may seem an odd way to begin the Mass, considering the content of the first reading today (from 2 Chr 36).  It tells of the people of Judah "adding infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord's temple... in Jerusalem."  

It speaks of God reaching out to them, again and again, but always meeting rejection.  "[T]hey mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets."  Eventually it got so bad that the enemies of Judah burned down the temple, toppled the walls of Jerusalem, and destroyed all their sacred objects.  The people themselves -- those who were not killed -- were exiled into Bablyon where they became slaves.  

The Psalm today (Ps 137) is a lamentation of that time in captivity.  "By the streams of Bablyon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion."  And, "How could we sing the song of the Lord in a foreign land?  If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand be forgotten."

And yet today we begin the liturgy by singing, "Rejoice, Jerusalem!"  In light of the scriptures today, what is there to rejoice over?  

As it turns out, plenty.  You see, the story does not end there.  The first reading tells of a God who "had compassion on his people," calling out to them again and again.  God did not forget or forsake Jerusalem, despite its infidelities.  This is an important lesson, for God never ceases to have mercy and compassion on his people.  His mercy did not cease when his people were enslaved by the Chaldeans.  His mercy did not cease when the Persians came to power, under king Cyrus.  His mercy never ceases, despite his people's rejection. 

His love and his mercy continued until it reached the level of perfection spoken of in today's Gospel (Jn 3:14-21).  This includes the verse that is seen along highways and at football games all across the nation.  "For 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."  This is the gospel in a nutshell.  This is the good news.

We see "John 3:16" plastered in so many places that we tend to not see it any more, and not hear the content of its message.  But today, we have St. Paul explaining to us just how much of a mercy this is.  "God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ" (from the second reading today, Eph 2:4-10).  

And so we rejoice today.  Because, like the ancient people of Judah, we have rejected God.  We have rejected his prophets, his messengers, his pleas for repentance.  We have rejected his love and mercy.  But he has not ceased to pour it out upon us.  Despite our sins, our transgressions and our failings, God's mercy is constant.  In fact, the depths of our failings makes his mercy shine all the brighter.  He has given us his Son, not to condemn us, but to save us.

And so, rejoice, Jerusalem!  Your sorrow is at an end.  Let those of us who love her, who love the ways of the Lord, who have chosen light over darkness, let all of us gather around her.  Let us rejoice!

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


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Weekly update from CCM

Dear Students,

I hope you are all doing well this week.  A special thank you to all of you who went with our group to help Habitat For Humanity this past Saturday.  Fifteen students attended and did some wonderful work cleaning and preparing a house donated to Habitat, which will benefit a family in need.  This is the kind of Christian witness that the world needs to see.  So again, thank you, and we hope to be able to offer these kinds of opportunities more often.

SHE'S BACK!
Jumping right into our schedule for this week, we have a very special guest joining us for our Wednesday supper.  Please come and welcome back a familiar face -- Jessica Grazen!  Jessy was a regular feature in campus ministry for the past three semesters, singing in the choir and serving on the Peer Ministry Council.  She left us this semester to attend Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH.  (I think she liked campus ministry so much, she wanted it 24/7).  She's on break this week, and is coming to join us for supper.  Come hear all about the wonderful things that go on at a Catholic university, and reconnect with an old friend.  That's this Wednesday at 6:30pm.

OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
Who wouldn't enjoy hearing their campus minister read Dr. Seuss stories out loud?  If you have not signed up already to join us on our "Seuss is Loose!" retreat at the end of this month, please consider it.  We have a couple of open spaces left.  The retreat will be a lock-in from March 23-24, at the Youth Center at St. John the Evangelist parish in Waynesville.  Cost is $20, and you get an awesome t-shirt.  Your Peer Ministry Council is planning a wonderful and light-hearted look at our faith through the eyes of the beloved children's author.  We'll also have an opportunity to go to Confession and attend Mass.  Sign up sheet is here at the Catholic Center (on the fridge), or just let me know and I'll put your name down.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN METROPOLIS...
For those of you not planning on attending our retreat, there is another great opportunity to connect with fellow Catholic university students.  Bishop Peter Jugis is inviting all college students in the diocese to join him at Belmont Abbey on March 23 for his annual Lenten Pilgrimage.  The events run from 5:00 till 9:30 in the evening and include a Mass, a Fish Fry Supper, Praise & Worship, and Eucharistic Adoration.  Cost is only $10 and includes a t-shirt and dinner.  To learn more, or to register, please visit:

WHY IS THE PRIEST WEARING PINK?
Technically it's "rose" but that's another matter.  This Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, is called Laetare Sunday, which is Latin for "rejoice."  It comes from the opening phrase of the Entrance chant for the Mass, which is Laetare Jerusalem, or "Rejoice, Jerusalem!"  Like Gaudete Sunday in Advent, the priest typically wears rose colored vestments this day.  It's a Sunday in this penitential season when one "sees the light at the end of the tunnel," so to speak.  We look forward to the joy of the Resurrection at Easter.  And so the deep violet color of the vestments is lightened to rose.

It's also a day called "Mothering Sunday" in some places in Europe.  This tradition comes from the old liturgical calendar (according to the Extraordinary Form today) when the second reading had St. Paul referring to "that Jerusalem which is above... which is our mother."  People would often try to attend Mass at the closest cathedral (their mother church) and leave a special gift at the altar.  It was also a day when people honored their own mothers (much like our Mother's Day), as well as Mary, the Mother of God, and the Church, as our mother in the faith.  Why not remember that old tradition, and remember your mother especially in your prayers this Sunday.

To read more about Laetare Sunday check out this article from Catholic Culture online:

And, by the way, Fr. Alex will likely be wearing violet this Sunday at our campus Mass, as we don't have rose colored vestments here -- if you want to see Father in pink, you'll have to get up early and go to St. Mary's.  :-)

Everyone have a great week, and keep campus ministry in your prayers!
Pax Christi,
Matt

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


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gospel For Today

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (B)


I saw a cartoon this week that featured two people.  On the left was a very angry looking man.  He was fuming, fists clenched, as he railed against the HHS mandate which would require Catholic employers (including hospitals, universities, etc.) to provide contraception and sterilization services to their employees, even though it violates the Church's teaching.  The man is saying that he will not stand for this assault on religious freedom.  He says, "What does our government expect Christians to do?  Turn the other cheek?  Beat our swords into plow shares?  Love our enemies?"

The man on the right is a familiar face.  It's Jesus, and he's looking at the angry man, saying, "Well, actually..."

The satirist is trying to be ironic, because everyone knows Jesus did command us to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, and all of that.  But Jesus was no push over.  All too often, I am afraid, people's images of Jesus today are of a Biblical Peacenic.  But our Lord's teachings about peace and love are not meant to turn Christians into wimps and door mats.  Jesus certainly was not.

Look at today's Gospel reading from John 2:13-25.  Many of you will be familiar with the Cleansing of the Temple.  (Remember that those who came to the Temple in Jerusalem needed an animal to sacrific and many would purchase an animal for the purpose there; as they were coming from many different regions, using different currencies, money changers were needed to facilitate commerce.  By Jesus' time, the trade of selling sacrificial animals, and exchanging currency, had encroached right into the temple area.)

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there.  He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."

I want you to imagine this scene in your head.  Jesus overturning tables.  Jesus making a whip and actually using it to drive these men and animals away.  (As I told a student earlier this week, you haven't been whipped, till you've been whipped by the Lord!)  Is this the behavior of the sheepish Jesus from the political cartoon I described?  No.  But it is the Jesus of the Gospels.  It's the real Jesus.  And he was angry.  Why?  Because they were making his Father's house a marketplace.

Note, they were not vandalizing it.  They were not tearing it down.  They were not destroying its walls.  They were simply misusing it.  

Jesus tells us something else of importance in this Gospel passage.  He tells the Jewish people that they can destroy "this Temple" and in three days he will raise it up.  They misunderstand him, for they do not realize "he was speaking about the temple of his body."  

Think on this.  Our own bodies are temples as well.  The Temple, in the Jewish religion, was where the presence of God dwelt.  If you are a baptized Christian, you have received his grace, which is the very life of God.  So long as you remain in his grace, you have the life of God dwelling in you.  You are a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Are you guilty of misusing or abusing this temple?

The first reading today is from Exodus 20:1-17.  In this passage, the Ten Commandments are related to us.  Have no other Gods before me.  Do not take the Lord's name in vain.  Honor the Sabbath.  Honor your father and mother.  Do not kill.  Do not commit adultery.  Do not steal.  Do not lie.  Do not covet your neighbor's possessions.  Do not cover your neighbor's wife.  When we do any of these things, we abuse our temple.  

You may be reading this now and thinking to yourself, "Ok, I can do that.  Don't kill people.  Check.  Don't commit adultery.  Check.  This is pretty easy."  But remember, those who were selling and money changing in the temple thought they were doing just fine, as well.  They were providing a needed service, after all.  They had lost sight of the true purpose of the temple and were concerned with commerce and personal profit instead.

Jesus tells us that if we have hatred in our hearts for our neighbor, then we have already killed him.  If we look on our neighbor's wife with lust, we have already committed adultery.  Jesus is full of zeal for his Father's house, as today's Gospel tells us.  That means he has a zeal for us, as well.  He wants us to be pure and perfect temples.  We should guard ourselves with equal zeal against anything that might defile our temple.

Defend your faith.  Stand up for it.  Love your enemy, as Jesus taught.  Be peaceful.  But be strong.  Be pure.  But be powerful.  And start by being pure and holy yourself.  Remember that Jesus, your Lord, was no wimp.  He defended his Father's house.  Don't be afraid to do the same.

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


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Reminder: Spring Retreat

A last minute reminder about our Spring lock-in retreat at St. John's in Waynesville, March 23-24.  If you are thinking about signing up and have not yet, please let me know ASAP, so we can get a count.  We need to put our retreat tshirt order in tomorrow, so if you'd like to go, and want an awesome retreat shirt, speak now or forever hold your piece!

Pax,
Matt

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


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Weekly update from CCM

Dear Students,

I hope all of you had a refreshing mid-term break and have made your way back to the 'Whee safe and sound.  

Trivia for the day - why were some students shouting "Viva la popa!" at the basketball game with Davidson this week?  One of Davidson's players is named John Paul (JP), after our late Holy Father, John Paul II.  One of the things that Catholic students at Davidson college do is to support one another in whatever their interests and pursuits might be.  One of their student ministry members has a choral concert?  Everyone goes to hear her sing.  One of their students is on the basketball team?  Everyone goes to the games to cheer him on.  And that's who you heard at the WCU v. Davidson game this week -- Catholic students from Davidson cheering on one of their own.  I hope we find inspiration in their example, and always remember to support each other in all our endeavors.

THIS WEEK
Tonight:
St. Mary's is hosting a Lenten Penance Service at 6:00pm.  Come hear God's love and forgiveness preached, and experience it first hand in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Three different priests will be on hand to hear Confessions.

Tomorrow:
You don't want to miss Supper @ the Center this Wednesday at 6:30pm.  And not just because Kaitlyn is cooking for us!  We will be joined by a special guest for dinner.  Allison Lattie is the director of Crossroads.  No, not the show on CMT!  Crossroads is an organization founded in 1995 by a college student at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, who decided to take literally the words of John Paul II to take the message of Life "to the streets."  That summer he and a group of other students walked the highways of America, coast to coast, wearing Pro-Life t-shirts and standing up for the dignity of all human life.  Students from across our nation have been doing it every summer since.  Our own Sarah Taylor has participated in the walk herself, and has invited Allison up to speak with us about the organization.  Please come join us, and show you support for this wonderful movement and the students who walk every summer.  Learn more at:

Friday:
Our Adoration hour resumes this Friday from 4-5pm in our chapel here at the student center.  Also this Friday, at 6:00pm, Kevin Toole will lead anyone who would like to join him in praying Compline.  That will be here at the chapel, as well.

Saturday:
This Saturday is the Habitat for Humanity build!  Those who are participating please be here at the Center ready to carpool to the work site by 8:30am.  Dress warmly, and make sure you wear work clothes and close-toed shoes.  If you have not already signed your waiver and given it to myself or Kaitlyn, please come by the Center this week to do so.  We will provide you with a bagged lunch and bottled water.  (If anyone would like to volunteer to help put the lunches together, please come by Friday around noon.)

Sunday:
As always, Mass at 7:30pm.  Come early to pray the Rosary with us at 7:00!

Everyone please have a great week, and please say an extra prayer for students in our diocese who are currently traveling on an Alternate Spring Break trip to NY.

God bless!
Matt

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


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gospel for Today

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT (B)
click for readings

Lent is a season of sacrifice.  We hear this so many times throughout the season, it is easy for the word to roll over us, without thought.  My wife likes to tell the story from when our oldest was still small enough to sit in the child seat on the grocery cart.  She was doing some grocery shopping, our daughter along for the ride in the buggy.  As they passed the bakery, our daughter asked if we were buying doughnuts.  My wife said, "No, dear, it's Lent, remember?  We are making a sacrifice by not eating sweets."  To which my small daughter replied, "But I can't wanna make a sacrifice!"

That's a perfectly natural reaction for a small child.  We are all born so selfish, unable to deny ourselves anything, not understanding the concepts of self-denial or generosity.  We have to be taught these things.  (I was once told by someone that if you don't believe in Original Sin, all you need to do is put one cookie on the floor between two babies and watch the selfishness on display).  

As we mature, it is hoped that we grow in this regard, and learn to deny our self for the good of others.  Still, it is difficult.  How many of us still feel like my daughter did back then, whining, "I can't wanna make a sacrifice," when Lent rolls around.  And we deny ourselves such petty things; doughnuts or chocolate, coffee or sodas.  I will occasionally meet someone who has given up something for Lent like cursing.  I tell them it's wonderful that they aren't cursing, but that's not really a sacrifice.  In order to be a true and worthy sacrifice, the thing sacrificed needs to be good (a foul mouth is not good!).  

The things we typically give up during Lent are small goods -- treats and sweets, and little pleasures we enjoy.  But what if God were to require us to give up a much, much greater good than these?  Today's first reading, from Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18, tells the story of Abraham and his son Isaac.  As a father myself, this story is always hard to read.  God tells Abraham, "Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and... offer him up as a holocaust."  Abraham did as God commanded.  It must have broken his heart, but he took Isaac to the place God instructed, built an altar there, gathered the wood, and had knife in hand, ready to make the killing blow, when an angel stopped him.

"Do not lay your hand on the boy," the angel said.  "I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son."  God was testing Abraham.  God did not actually require the sacrifice of Isaac, but He wanted to know whether Abraham was willing to make that ultimate sacrifice.  Abraham was, and so God promised him, "I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore... in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing."  (Extending the covenant we saw made with Noah and his family last week to an entire nation now).  

This reading always humbles me. How many of us would be willing to sacrifice one of our own children -- even our only child -- if God were to ask that of us?  Why would God ever demand such a thing, we are forced to wonder?  How horrible that is, how cruel...  

Yet, that is precisely what God did out of love for us.  Today's second reading from Romans 8:31b-34 tells us, "He did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all."  We sacrifice our small goods during Lent for the same reason that Abraham was called on to sacrifice his only son - to remind us of the ultimate good God Himself sacrificed on our behalf, his only Son, Jesus Christ.  For if a thing must be good in order to be a worthy sacrifice, what greater sacrifice could there be than the ultimate good, God Himself?

Any sacrifice we could make as human beings, even one as great as a father offering up his son, in the end is imperfect.  It could not make up for the countless sins committed by all mankind.  God is the ultimate and perfect good, therefore only God could serve as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice.  But God is immortal.  Only man can die.  And this is the great mystery of Christianity, the great gift of our faith, that God should choose to become man so that He might suffer death as the perfect and eternal sacrifice offered for our salvation.

In this sacrifice God the Son, Jesus Christ, conquers death once and for all, opening for us the way to eternal life.  Good Friday (the day of Christ's crucifixion) is called "good" because it is followed by Easter (the day of the Resurrection).    This is foreshadowed in the Gospel reading today, from Mark 9:2-10, when the disciples saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain, with Moses and Elijah.  Christ told them not to tell anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man "had risen from the dead."  Mark tells us that they kept the secret, as asked, though "questioning what rising from the dead meant."  They did not know the end of the story at that time.  We do now.  We know the sacrifice that God made on our behalf, and we know what it gained for us.

It is good to remind ourselves of this each time we are tempted to whine or complain about the little sacrifices we are called to make.  Do we have the faith of Abraham?  Do we have the love of Christ?  Let's allow ourselves this Lent to grow closer to these holy examples, and in so doing grow closer to God.

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