Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gospel for Today - 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)

The gospel reading today from Luke 16:19-31 tells the story of a rich man who lived in the lap of luxury while a poor man, named Lazarus, begged for scraps at his door. When the poor man died "he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham."  When the rich man died, however, he experienced great suffering and torment.  He could see Lazarus and Abraham from where he was being tortured and begged them for help.  Abraham explained that there was a great chasm between them, preventing anyone from crossing from one side to the other.  "My child," Abraham tells the rich man, "remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented."

The message of today's gospel is similar to what we have been hearing these past few weeks.  Things don't work out too well in the end for the rich men in these parables.  The poor are rewarded in the end.  What are we to make of these repeated lessons?  Is wealth bad?  Riches something to be avoided?  After all, doesn't the saying go, "Money is the root of all evil?"

Not quite. That popular saying actually comes from scripture (1 Tim 6:10) but usually people remember it incorrectly.  What St. Paul says in that verse is, "For the love of money is the root of all evil."  (Some translations say "a root of all kinds of evil.")  This is an important distinction.  Money itself is not evil.  Evil does not come from objects.  It comes from within us, in our hearts, and manifests itself in our choices and actions.

To put it simply, wealth is not evil but greed is.  Another name for greed is "avarice," and it is considered one of the seven deadly sins, along with pride, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth.  There are all manner of sins, but all sins have certain things in common.  Every sin is an offense against reason and a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by what the Catechism calls "a perverse attachment to certain goods" (CCC 1849).  In other words, sin is caused by loving something more than God; loving something created more than the Creator.

Greed is caused by the love of money, and that's why St. Paul says love of money is a root of all kinds of other evil.  Tradition identifies these particular seven sins as "deadly" because they tend to lead to other sins.  When one is guilty of the sin of greed, one loves wealth above all else.  This makes it that much easier to commit other sinful acts in order to obtain even more wealth, which one sees as the greatest good.  Injustices, like ignoring the plight of the starving Lazarus at your doorstep, become all too easy for the one guilty of avarice.

Possessing wealth in itself is not evil.  We need a certain amount of material goods merely to survive.  And most of us would prefer to do more than just survive.  We want to be able to enjoy the fruits of this created world, and this is fine as long as we enjoy them for what they are - gifts from the Creator - and do not allow them to overshadow the love of God and neighbor that ought to be first in our hearts.  Just owning wealth is not a sin.  But it can be an occasion of sin.

All of us have a capacity for greed.  It is part of our fallen nature.  We are not immune to temptation.  And, paradoxically, the more wealth one has, the stronger is the temptation to succumb to avarice.  The illusion - the lie - is that wealth can actually satisfy us in some meaningful and lasting way.  It cannot.  But the more we possess, the easier it is for us to believe that lie and the greater our desire to own even more becomes.  This is why Jesus says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven (Mt 19:24).  

Wealth can be for many of us an occasion of sin.  An "occasion of sin" is something that may not itself be sinful, but which can be a trigger for sin in our hearts.  Think of how recovering alcoholics need to be so careful to avoid even that first sip of alcohol.  For most people, having a beer, or enjoying one glass of wine, is not sinful.  But the alcoholic knows that single drink will awaken within them the desire for drunkenness, which is a sin.  Therefore even though one drink is not sinful, they prudently avoid it as if it were.

There are many other examples of occasions of sin.  Each one of us has the capacity for all seven of the deadly sins within our hearts.  As individuals we may be more tempted by one or more of them.  One person may have an especially difficult time resisting lust; another may have a tendency to be prideful, or an inclination for gluttony.  We each have our weaknesses.  The prudent thing is to identify them, and then avoid the occasions of those sins.  Don't put yourself in a situation where you know you will be tempted.

We should also be aware of others around us and their possible struggles.  For example, one person may be able to watch a movie with incidental nudity and not have any lustful thoughts.  But for another person, that same movie may be a great occasion of sin.  Therefore out of prudence and charity, we ought not watch that sort of movie in mixed company.  We don't want to be occasions of sin for others.

Unfortunately, we live in a society today where occasions of sin lie around every corner.  Just think of advertising.  Nearly every advertisement we see is designed to arouse at least one of these sins within us, be it lust or envy, gluttony or pride or sloth.  If we are not careful, merely driving down the highway, turning on the TV, or logging on to Facebook can become occasions of sin.  It's hard for us today.  We have more occasions for sin in our lives now than perhaps any generation in history has had.  And the confessionals are empty.  Occasions for sin are so pervasive, we've become blind to them.   It's the new "normal." 

What is the remedy?  We are in the midst of a spiritual battle.  You are in a competition and the prize is your own soul.  St. Paul exhorts us in today's second reading to "compete well for the faith."  In order to "lay hold of eternal life," he charges us "to keep the commandment," that commandment being love of God and neighbor.

Race horses wear blinders to keep their eyes focused on the track in front of them.  We need to put on spiritual blinders to block out those occasions of sin.  St. Paul tells us to "pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness."  These are our spiritual blinders.  Pursue these things with purpose.  Like any competition, you need to train for this.  You need to prepare yourself through daily prayer and participation in the sacraments.  If you have not been to confession in a while, return to the practice.  

You would not try to run a marathon without first training.  You would not run a marathon without stretching and warming up.  You would take care to prepare.  The competition St. Paul speaks of is far more important, with eternal consequences.  Train for it.  Identify those sins which you know you have trouble resisting.  Learn what occasions of sin you need to especially avoid.  Think of your priest confessor as your personal trainer.  Establish a spiritual regimen of prayer and fasting, just as you would an exercise regimen.  "Compete well for the faith."  Compete to win.



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

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

It's another great week in the 'Whee.  Here's what we have happening at Catholic Campus Ministry.

WEDNESDAY
Come to dinner tomorrow at 6:30!  Jessica Keene (the birthday girl!) is serving up sloppy joes for us.  After, Joseph (a non-sloppy Joe) will be leading us in a discussion about Tips for Catholic College Students - how your faith can help you navigate the stresses of college life.  Come learn something; and share some of your own tips and suggestions.

FRIDAY
Take a Hike!  Fr. John Eckert, pastor of Sacred Heart in Tryon, will be visiting his good friend Fr. Voitus this Friday.  We want to show them the beauty of our mountains, so we are organizing a hike to Cullowhee Falls.  We'd love for you to come join us.  Gather at the Catholic Student Center at 3:30pm.  We'll drive down to the trail head from here.  The hike itself is just under 2 miles and is a moderate hike, so wear good footwear.  And bring a camera!

SUNDAY
Mass at 7:30pm in our chapel.  Rosary 30 minutes before Mass.  Confession available 30 minutes before Mass.  Our Credo session after Mass this week will be on the subject of Creation.  What does the Catholic Church teach about creation, evolution, the origin of the universe, man and all that?  Come with your questions!

SMALL GROUPS
Have you joined up with one of our small groups yet?  They are a fantastic way to delve deeper into scripture and build your relationship with God and with your fellow Catholics here at WCU.  Here is our regular meeting schedule - note the Thursday night group has changed location.  All groups meet at 6:30pm.
MONDAY - Central Common Room
TUESDAY - Balsam Lobby
THURSDAY - UC Balcony <-new location!
THURSDAY (Grad Students) - Catholic Student Center
The graduate student group is also open to older undergrads and young adult faculty.

RETREAT OPPORTUNITIES
Our Fall Beach Retreat is filling up fast!  Only four available spots are left.  If you'd like to join us on our trip to Folly Beach, SC, Oct. 25-27, please register soon.  The cost is $50 and covers all your meals on-site.  The theme this year is Saints and Sinners.  If you have already registered, please be sure to pay your fee to Matt.  Register online here.

Our College Discipleship Retreat is scheduled for Nov. 8-10 in Black Mountain, NC.  This is a Diocesan-wide event, with college students from several different campuses participating.  Registration for this retreat is also $50.  Register now online, and get more information at:

ADORATION
We continue to offer 30 minutes of Adoration time, usually around lunch, several days during the week.  Please continue to check our Facebook Group each day for Adoration opportunities.

Have a blessed week!
~Matt
--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gospel For Today - 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)

"...that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.  This is good and pleasing to God our savior..."  -1 Tm 2:2-3

This Sunday no doubt many pastors will preach about how we cannot serve both God and mammon (mammon being the personification of wealth and greed).  This is, after all, Jesus' message at the end of our gospel reading today.  Today's gospel from Luke chapter 16 tells the story of the dishonest and unfaithful steward who squanders away his master's property.  When he is called out by his master and is afraid he might lose his position, he looks after his own neck by falsely reducing the amount owed by his master's debtors in an attempt to buy their friendship.

Our first reading from Amos speaks of those who "trample the needy" and "destroy the poor."  They rig their scales to help them cheat. They sell the refuse of the wheat.  They devalue currency.  They desire to do commerce on the Sabbath.  Amos tells us the Lord will never forget a thing these disciples of mammon have done.

And in the middle of these two rather harsh readings, we have this prayer of St. Paul. He prays "that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity."  He says such a life is pleasing to God. And he prays for this life not just for the meek and poor of the realm.  He also prays "for everyone," even (and especially) "for kings and for all in authority."  Are not those with worldly authority the very ones most tempted to serve mammon?

Our first and third readings this Sunday warn us of a sickness.  Our second reading offers the inoculation.

We should strive to lead a quiet and tranquil life, in all devotion and dignity.  This does not mean we should not have any ambition.  This does not mean we should not strive for greatness.  Indeed, Christ sets the bar even higher.  He does not tell us to be great, he tells us to "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48).  So we should strive for perfection.  What St. Paul reminds us of today is that there are measures of greatness other than material wealth.

Sometimes our hard work and achievements are rewarded in this life with material wealth.  While this is not necessarily a bad thing, excessive wealth does come with dangers.  The rich man is tempted to make wealth his god (to serve mammon) in ways that the man of more modest means is not.  This is why Jesus warns that "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven" (Mt 19:24, Mk 10:25).

The peace and joy to be found by living a holy life are not dependent upon income level.  The tranquility and dignity St. Paul speaks of are available to prince and pauper alike (or we might say the wealthy CEO or the starving college student).  The trick to leading this sort of life is to realize that while material goods my be nice (we do call them "goods," after all) they are not the ultimate good: that there is a yet higher good, which is God, the source of all that is good.

When we realize this, then we can enjoy the material goods we are blessed with on this earth as they were meant to be enjoyed.  We enjoy them as blessings from the Ultimate Good, and appreciate them in a way that draws us closer to the Ultimate Good.  We realize that these lesser goods may bring us temporary joy, but never lasting joy.  They always leave us wanting something else, something more, something better.  This is why serving mammon is so destructive.   Greed is a bottomless pit.  We can throw all of ourselves into it, and it will never be filled.  

St. Augustine prayed, "Our hearts are restless, O God, until they rest in Thee."  He recognized, with St. Paul, that only God can completely satisfy us.  Living a life of devotion to God is the only way for us to achieve the "quiet and tranquil life" that St. Paul speaks of.  For only in devotion to God will our hearts be truly at rest.

This tranquil life is open to all, regardless of the size of your paycheck or your chosen profession.  The fathers of the Second Vatican Council said in their Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, "Let Christians follow the example of Christ who worked as a craftsman; let them be proud of the opportunity to carry out their earthly activity in such a way as to integrate human, domestic, professional, scientific and technical enterprises with religious values, under whose supreme direction all things are ordered to the glory of God" (GS 43).

The Council Fathers speak of the Church casting "the reflected light of divine life over all the earth... [which] elevates the dignity of the human person, in the way it... endows people's daily activity with a deeper sense and meaning" (GS 40).  Such a life of devotion and dignity can "make the human family and its history still more human," for, "to follow Christ the perfect human is to become more human oneself" (GS 41).

Let us all pray today with St. Paul, that we may lead quiet lives of peace and tranquility, full of devotion to God and the dignity that is only fully realized in Jesus Christ, His only Son.

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

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Catholicism 101

This is the text of a talk I was scheduled to give as part of an Interfaith Conference on the WCU campus, Sept. 21, 2013.  Unfortunately the conference was cancelled at the last minute.  The anticipated audience for this talk was non-Catholic and/or non-Christian.  I was allotted 45 minutes to speak about any aspect of the Catholic faith I desired.  After considering many possibilities (the Church on human sexuality, the relationship between faith and reason, religion and science, etc.) I decided to use my time to show people what the Catholic Church understands herself to be in her own eyes.  I also wanted to address specific issues that may be of importance to the listening audience.  I therefore prepared approximately 20 to 25 minutes of lecture, to allow ample time for questions and discussion.  Following is the text of that presentation.
------------

Catholicism presents us with an amazingly large landscape.  The word “catholic” means universal and the Catholic faith is truly all-encompassing in its scope.  Therefore it would be impossible to give a complete treatise on Catholic faith and practices in the time allotted and I am not even going to try. What I do want to do is to give just a brief overview by way of introduction as to what the Catholic Church believes about herself and her role in the world, and what makes Catholicism different from other forms of Christianity.

INCARNATION

There are two doctrines which make the Christian faith unique among all other religions.  Those are the Incarnation and the Trinity.  The Incarnation is the belief that God entered into His creation and became Man.  The Trinity is the belief that God exists as three distinct Persons sharing the same Divine Being.  One God, Three Persons.  The Trinity is perhaps the most mysterious of all Christian teachings.  That's not the topic of today's talk.  But what we know about the Trinity we only know because it was revealed to us through Christ, the Incarnate God.  So I want to spend more time talking about this distinctive teaching, the Incarnation.

But let’s back up a bit first.

To put the Incarnation in context, we need to go back to the beginning.  According to Genesis in the beginning there was darkness and chaos, and then God said, “let there be light.”  And there was light.

This illustration is an artist’s concept of what the Big Bang might have looked like.  The Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, by the way, was first proposed by a Catholic priest, Fr. Georges LeMaitre, in 1927.  He didn’t coin the term “Big Bang” himself.  That was actually used as a derogatory term by people who thought his theory was ridiculous and too influenced by his Catholic faith.

In any case, nothing revealed by modern science is incompatible with the Catholic view of creation, and that is that God created the universe ex nihilo, which means out of nothing.  I want you to appreciate how radical a concept this is.  You see when we human beings create, we can only create metaphorically.  We don’t really create so much as manipulate.  We can take something or several somethings and turn them into something else.  But we can never make something out of nothing.  We always have to start with something preexisting.

When we teach that God created the universe out of nothing, we don’t mean empty space, because even space is a thing with existence.  Time is a thing with existence.  We mean before that act of creation there was nothing at all, not even space or time.  Steven Hawking has declared that we don't need God to explain the creation of the universe because gravity can explain how the Big Bang occurred.  I heard a seven-year old respond to that statement by asking, "Who made gravity?"

That's a wise question.  Even gravity is a thing with existence.  Where did it come from?  Everything that has existence was brought into being through God’s will.  That's what we mean by Creation.  In fact, one of the things we believe about the nature of God is that he is Being itself.  The Divine nature is existence.  When God revealed his name to Moses he called himself “I AM.”  When any of us use that phrase we need to finish it somehow.  "I am a human being."  Which is to say, "I exist as a human being."

But with God that "I AM" is a complete statement.  “I exist – period.”  “I am existence.”  Everything else that has existence, therefore, borrows that existence from God, whose nature it is to exist.  It is possible for me not to exist.  I could very easily never have been created.  You could not exist.  None of us has to have existence, and that is true of everything in the universe.  There is nothing inherent in our natures that says we have to exist.  But God cannot not exist.  His nature is existence.

So this God, who is being itself, and through whose will everything else was called into being and is sustained in its existence – we believe this God, at a certain specific moment in history, chose to enter into his own creation as one of his creatures – as a man.

We do not believe that he appeared out of nowhere in a flash.  We do not believe that he appeared as a pure spirit or an apparition.  We believe that he was born into this world in the same way you and I were. That he was conceived in his mother’s womb.  His body was nourished and sheltered within her body for nine months.  He was born wet and sticky just like any of us.  He was fed milk from his mother’s breasts. He had all the same human experiences that we do, learning to walk, no doubt skinning his knee, eating food, taking baths and all the rest.  It's pretty mundane when you stop to think about it.


We believe that when he was grown he learned the carpenter’s trade.  He made things with his hands.  And when he began his public ministry around the age of 30 he continued to do things with his hands.  His first public miracle was turning water into wine.  He healed a blind man by taking dirt from the ground, spitting in it to make mud, which he then smeared on the man's eyes.  A hemorrhaging woman was healed by touching his cloak.  These are all very earthy, very physical actions.

He gathered around him disciples, twelve of whom especially he imparted certain responsibilities.  He spoke of building a church that would endure for all time, and told Simon Peter that he would be the rock upon which the church was built. He told the apostles that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever they loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven.

He taught them to baptize people with water.  He breathed on them, exhaled air from his lungs, and said “whose sins you forgive are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained.”  He told them that to gain eternal life they must eat his flesh and drink his blood.  People didn't understand him because he was being so insistent and so literal.  Most of his followers left him then, except for the twelve.  Later on he sat down to his last supper with those twelve.  He took bread and wine, blessed it, said this is my body and this is my blood and commanded them to do this in his memory.

The next day he was tortured.  His body was beaten and abused.  He suffered a very painful death by crucifixion; but he rose bodily from death; and he Ascended bodily into Heaven.  None of this is ethereal. None of this is metaphor.  This is as real as it gets.

In short, Jesus is the physical manifestation of God and he practiced a very physical ministry, and established a physical church which he empowered to continue that ministry – continue the incarnation – until the end of the world.


SACRAMENT

One of the key elements of a Catholic world view – if not the key element – is this notion of sacramentality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a sacrament as, “an efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit.”  Another simpler definition of sacrament is “a visible sign of an invisible grace.” Yet another is “a sign which effects what it signifies.”

To give an example, we can use the American flag.  We all know this as a sign that represents our country. But it is not itself our country.  It is merely a symbol.  If I am standing in Moscow and I see the American flag it might call to mind our country but it does not actually make America present there.  I am still in Russia.

A sacrament, by contrast, is a sign that actually makes present the thing that is signifies.  So in Catholic theology, the Eucharist, our principle sacrament, does not merely signify Jesus’ body, but it actually makes present the reality of Jesus’ body.  The water used at baptism does not just metaphorically wash our sins away, but it actually cleanses us of those sins.

All of the sacraments of the Catholic Church work in this way, and there are seven of them.  Do we believe that God has to work in this manner, through physical acts and physical objects?  No, not at all.  We do not believe God is bound by his sacraments and put no limits on his grace.  But we do believe that he established these sacraments as the ordinary means by which he chooses to impart his grace to us.  And it makes sense.

God is the author of all that is, both visible and invisible, physical and spiritual.  He made us as both physical and spiritual beings.  We have bodies and souls.  It is only proper that God should minister to us both in body and spirit.  He is the creator of the material universe, so why shouldn't he use material elements to communicate himself to us?

The sacraments are moments when heaven and earth meet; when time touches eternity.  They are occasions where God uses elements of the physical world he has created to fill our lives with his grace.  They are the means by which he heals us, forgives us, feeds us, and sanctifies us.  Jesus did not have to use mud to heal the eyes of the blind man.  He chose to.  God did not have to enter into his creation to be with us.  He chose to.

Jesus Himself is the ultimate Sacrament.  He is the physical sign of God’s presence among us, what Blessed John Henry Newman called the "icon of God."  The Church he established is the continuation in time of the Incarnation.  Her role is to preserve the teachings of Christ and make the love and mercy of God known to all generations.  The Church is also, therefore, a Sacrament.

I want to read to you a quote from Fr. Robert Barron, a priest in the archdiocese of Chicago.  He writes:
I realize that an objection might be forming in your mind.  Certainly the doctrine of the Incarnation separates Christianity from the other great world religions, but how does it distinguish Catholicism from other Christian churches?  Don't Protestants and the Orthodox hold just as firmly to the conviction that the Word became flesh?  They do indeed, but they don't, I would argue, embrace the doctrine in its fullness.  They don't see all the way to the bottom of it or draw out all of its implications.  Essential to the Catholic mind is what I would characterize as a keen sense of the prolongation of the Incarnation throughout space and time, an extension that is made possible through the mystery of the church.  Catholics see God's continued enfleshment in the oil, water, bread, imposed hands, wine and salt of the sacraments; they appreciate it in the gestures, movements, incesnations, and songs of the Liturgy; they savor it in the texts, arguments, and debates of the theologians; they sense it in the graced governance of popes and bishops; they love it in the struggles and missions of the saints; they know it in the writings of Catholic poets and in the cathedrals crafted by Catholic architects, artists, and workers.  In short, all of this discloses to the Catholic eye and mind the ongoing presence of the Word made flesh, namely Christ (Catholicism pg. 3).
The Church is many things.  She is a mother.  She is a teacher.  She is a missionary.  She has been described as a field hospital for sinners.  But above all, she is a visible sign of an invisible grace.  The Church is a sacrament; she is the Incarnation of God made present to us today.

And what is the purpose of this continuation of the Incarnation?  The Church today has the same mission as her founder - to reconcile man to God.  And as God is the author of man, that reconciliation means, in essence, helping man to become who he was meant to be.

Conclave of the Second Vatican Council
Fifty years ago the Church sat down at the Second Vatican Council and thought about what her role in the modern world should be.  One of the documents issued by that council is entitled in Latin Gaudium et Spes, and in English, The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.  I want to end my remarks by allowing the Church to speak for herself.

In that document, the Church says:
...not only does the church communicate divine life to humanity but in a certain sense it casts the reflected light of that divine life all over the earth, notably in the way it heals and elevates the dignity of the human person, in the way it consolidates society, and endows people's daily activity with a deeper sense and meaning.  The church, then, believes that through each of its members and its community as a whole it can help to make the human family and its history still more human (40).
...To follow Christ the perfect human is to become more human oneself.  By this faith the church can keep the dignity of human nature out of reach of changing opinions which, for example, either devalue the human body or glorify it.  There is no human law so well fitted to safeguard the personal dignity and human freedom as is the Gospel which Christ entrusted to the church... (41).  
In a nutshell, the whole life, purpose, and reason for being of the Church is to present Christ to the world, which is to say to make Christ present in every place and time.  The Church does this not for her benefit, but for ours, just as her Lord came not to be served, but to serve.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

Thanks to those of you who made the drive down to Charlotte this weekend to participate in the 9th annual Eucharistic Congress with us.  It was a huge success, a very powerful experience, and one that I hope more of you can join with us in next year.

The Holy Spirit continues to be active in our campus ministry here at WCU. Lots of things for you to participate in, so let's get right to it.

WEDNESDAY
This week's fellowship meal at 6:30pm will be prepared by Nick.  He's serving up nachos - every college student's favorite!  So come join us!  After we eat, Rebecca will lead our program for the evening.

SATURDAY
This Saturday the university is holding an Interfaith Conference at the UC from 8am till noon.  I will be speaking at 11:00am on "Catholicism 101."  I'll be attempting to paint a picture of the Catholic Church and how she views herself and her place in the world to non-Catholics.  It should be fun!  Please come and support me, or check out some of the other speakers.  

SUNDAY
Sunday Mass at 7:30pm as usual, with Rosary 30 minutes before Mass.  A reminder that Fr. Voitus is available for Confessions during Rosary time.  Also, if you want to schedule a Mass intention for any of our campus Masses, please just let me know.  Our Credo session after Mass this week will be on God - His nature, His attributes, and how it is we can know anything about God.  We'll tackle the mystery of the Trinity, as well.  Please come with your questions!

SMALL GROUPS
We encourage you to participate in one of our small group sessions!  Each week a different passage of scripture is used as the focus of prayer and discussion.  Our small groups generally consist of 4 to 6 people, so it's a great way to talk about your faith in a relaxed, intimate setting.  Our small groups meet from 6:30 to 7:30pm at the following locations:
MONDAY - Central Common Room
TUESDAY - Balsam Lobby
THURSDAY - Lobby between Benton & Albright
THURSDAY (Grad Students) - Catholic Student Center

TAKE A HIKE! - A walk with the Fathers
We will be visited on Friday, Sept 27, by Fr. John Eckert, pastor of St. John the Baptist in Tryon, NC.  He's coming up to visit his good friend Fr. Voitus and he wants to stretch his legs in our beautiful mountains.  Our hiking location is to be determined, but it will be a short hike not too far from campus.  Meet at the Catholic Student Center at 3:30pm to join Fr. Eckert, Fr. Voitus and myself for our wee adventure.

FIRST FRIDAYS
Starting on Friday, Oct. 4, Fr. Voitus will be offering Mass in our chapel at 3:30pm followed by Adoration and Benediction.  All who are interested are invited to come!  We are hoping to make this a regular event each month.  

ADORATION
In addition to the First Friday Adoration, we are trying to make Adoration as available as possible during the week.  Our goal is to have 30 minutes of silent Adoration time available in our chapel around lunch each day (generally noon to 12:30).  Until we get a regular schedule, please continue to check our Facebook group each morning - we will announce it there if Adoration will be available that afternoon.

BEACH RETREAT
Our annual Fall Beach Retreat will be Oct. 25-27 this year.  Mark your calendars now!  We will be returning once again to Folly Beach.  The registration fee is $50 and I should have the registration form online sometime this week - check Facebook to be notified when that becomes live.  Space is limited on this to the first 16 students who sign up, so don't delay!

COLLEGE DISCIPLE RETREAT
Our final retreat opportunity this semester is the Diocesan College Disciple Retreat Nov. 8-10 in Black Mountain, NC.  Registration for this event is also $50 and is online now.  For more information about the retreat and to register, please go to:
http://www.catholiconcampus.com/retreat

My prayers for all of you this week!  I hope God continues to bless each one of you!
Matt

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

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gospel For Today - 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)

What a treasure trove this Sunday's readings are!  Today not only do we have  Moses invoking God's mercy and faithfulness; not only do we have the example of St. Paul, once a zealous persecutor of the Church, now turned Apostle of Christ; but in the gospel reading from Luke we have the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the woman looking for her lost coin, and the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Where does one begin?

There is obviously a common thread running through these readings.  One may at first be tempted to say it is repentance.  St. Paul repented of his anti-Christian ways and became a great evangelist and author of most of the New Testament.  The prodigal son repented and was welcomed back into the family by his father.  Surely repentance is key. If there is anything we are doing, any aspect of our lives, that is keeping us separated from Christ, we need to repent of that thing and be reconciled to God.  

But repentance is only half of the story.  I believe there is a deeper thread to be found here.  When a relationship is wounded or broken, true reconciliation requires two things.  The offending party needs to repent and seek forgiveness.  And the one offended needs to forgive.  Only then is reconciliation possible.

What God is telling us through each one of the stories presented today is clear and simple: He forgives.  He forgives readily and willingly.  In fact, He is eager to forgive.  He is like the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to run off into the wilderness looking for that one who has gotten lost.  He is like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, scanning the horizon, looking for his lost child from a distance, ready to run and embrace him, clothe him with the finest robe, place a ring on his finger and prepare a feast to welcome him home.  This is our Father in heaven.

It is the deepest desire of our Father to reconcile us to Himself.  He sent His Son to us, to inaugurate this ministry of reconciliation.  His Son established for us a Church that would endure for all time to continue this ministry of reconciliation.  St. Paul says, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.  We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:18-20).

St. John speaks of this ministry of reconciliation being given directly to the Apostles by Christ.  "Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:21-23).

This is the purpose of the Incarnation.  This is the purpose of the Church and the underlying reason for all she does - to reconcile us to God.  Everything the Church does, every aspect of her ministry, ultimately is in support of this one goal.  The most direct and visible manifestation of this is the sacrament of Reconciliation.  This sacrament goes by three different names: Confession, Penance, and Reconciliation.  Each refers to a different aspect of this sacrament.  "Confession" refers to our act of verbally confessing our sins.  "Penance" refers to the penitential act the priest prescribes for us as reparation for our sins.  But "Reconciliation" refers to the end of the sacrament, the purpose of its existence and its ultimate effect.

As Catholics, we are often asked by Protestants, "Why can't God forgive you directly without going through a priest?"  The Catholic answer to that is, "Certainly He can!"  We don't put limits on God's mercy!  In fact, the Church teaches that if one is perfectly contrite for one's sins, God's forgiveness is made manifest (CCC 1452).  But here's the thing - how do you know you are "perfectly" contrite?  That means that you are as sorry for your sin as sorry can be and firmly resolve to never sin again.  If that is indeed true, then you have God's forgiveness.  But wouldn't you always have in the back of your mind that nagging doubt that perhaps your contrition was not perfect?  How would you know for certain?  (The Church also teaches that perfect contrition ought to motivate you to seek sacramental confession as soon as possible - perfect contrition does not look for a loop hole).

We have a saying: "God made the sacraments for man, but God Himself is not bound by His sacraments."  This means that we put no limits on God's grace and recognize the many and varied ways God acts outside of the sacraments.  But we also recognize that He established them in the first place (and established a Church to administer them) for our benefit.  The sacrament of Reconciliation is the ordinary means established by God to communicate His forgiveness and mercy to us.  Even if we are only imperfectly contrite, when we bring our sins to the Church in confession, we know with the assurance of faith that our sins are forgiven.  We hear the words spoken by the ordained minister of God, acting in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), say to us, "through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

What blessed assurance those words bring to the penitent!  What a gift offered to us by God!  And yet we avoid this sacrament as something unpleasant.  It has been compared to going to the doctor, or the dentist.  It is a task that no one relishes.  We are afraid of going to the doctor because we like to think of ourselves as healthy and we are nervous that the doctor may find something wrong with us.  But unlike the doctor's visit, in confession we know going in that we are sick and we have divine assurance that we are going to come out 100% healed.

As I said, reconciliation requires two things: repentance on the part of the offender and forgiveness on the part of the offended.  You can be assured beyond doubt that God forgives.  The second part of that equation is guaranteed.  That's the good news!  All that remains is for you to do your part.  To put it plainly, get up off your butt and get down on your knees!

Here's how to do it:
1. Make a good examination of conscience.  Examine your actions and the way you've been living and see what is incompatible with God's law.  If you need help with this, there are pamphlets available at the Catholic Student Center; many Catholic prayer books include guides.  You can also google "examination of conscience."  
2. Repent of anything that is keeping you from Christ.
3. Come to Mass half an hour early on Sunday evening - you'll find Father in the Confessional.  Or ask Father when you see him before or after Mass and he'll make time for you.  You are not bothering him, I promise.  It's his job - more than that, it's his vocation!  Like your Father in heaven, he is anxious to see you reconciled to God.  It is an occasion of great joy for a priest to be asked to hear your confession.
4. Be forgiven! 

This last part is the easiest because God has already decided to forgive you.  The scriptures today tell us He is desperate to forgive you!  He's scanning the horizon, waiting for your return.  He's got the fattened calf on stand-by.  He's warming up the barbecue.  He's just waiting for you to do your part.  He needs you to do your part.  Because the only sin God cannot forgive is the sin of unrepentance.  It is the sin of refusing God's mercy.  

Our psalm response this Sunday is "I will rise and go to my father."  Rise today, go to your father, and know His mercy and love.

Read more about the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1440-1484.  If you don't have your own copy you can read it online.


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

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

It's another great week in the 'Whee!  As always, there are great things happening with Catholic Campus Ministry and you are invited to be a part of it all.

WEDNESDAY
Tomorrow' fellowship dinner will be prepared by Jessica and Kat, who are serving up... breakfast!    Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner?  This week is just about hanging out and having fun.  We know the semester is really starting to get into full swing and the realities of assignments and exams are starting to pile up.  So we invite you to spend some time just relaxing at the CCM.  Jess and Kat have decided on a "sleep over" theme, so after dinner we'll break out the board games and share some laughs.  You are welcome to even come in your (modest) pajamas!  

SMALL GROUPS
Our small groups are going very well - if you haven't found one yet to join we encourage you to do so.  What goes on in a small group?  Prayer, scripture reading, honest talk about God and faith, and whatever might be on your mind.  It's an amazing way to bond with fellow Catholic students in a relaxed and intimate setting.  Why not check one out?  Our small groups meet at 6:30pm at the following locations.
MONDAY - Central common room
TUESDAY - Balsam lounge
THURSDAY - Benton/Albright lounge

Starting this Thursday we will have a new small group meeting for graduate students and young adult faculty meeting at the Catholic Student Center, also at 6:30pm.

EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS
It's this weekend!  Those of you signed up to attend need to meet at the Catholic Student Center at 3:30 on Friday to car pool.  If you have not yet paid Matt your $15, please bring to dinner on Wednesday.

CREDO
We began our catechetical series after Mass this past Sunday and were overjoyed to see so many of you there, eager to learn more about the faith.  This coming Sunday we will continue.  Our topic this week will be the word credo itself, which means "I believe."  What is does it mean to believe?  Does it matter what we believe in?  What is "faith" anyway?  Credo will start approximately 15 minutes after Mass and end no later than 10pm.

SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!
Speaking of Mass, it's always Sunday at 7:30pm.  Lately the pews have been filling up, so we encourage you to come early.  Join us in the Rosary at 7:00 - and a reminder that from 7:00 until about 7:25 or so, Father Voitus is in the Confessional, available for anyone who wants to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  

ADORATION
We'd like to offer opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration as often as we are able.  We are going to attempt to have Adoration in our chapel for 30 minutes each day during the week from 12:00 to 12:30.  We are still working out the schedule, though, so for the time being it will be determined on a day-by-day basis.  Keep an eye on our Facebook group and we'll post each morning whether there will be Adoration that day.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Lastly, CCM needs to ask for your help.  We are very much a student led and student oriented ministry.  We couldn't do half of what we do without student participation.  There are two immediate needs we have right now that you can help us with.  
1. We need cooks!  We have a sign up sheet in the kitchen for volunteer cooks for Wednesday nights.  We have a lot of empty weeks left.  We need cooks for Oct 2, Oct 16, Oct 23, Nov 6, Nov 13, and Nov 20.  If you have never cooked for us before, don't let that stop you.  Just come talk to me and I can give you the run down.  It's not hard, is usually a lot of fun, and we can find another student to help you if needed.
2. We need volunteers to help with football parking.  One of the ways we raise funding for our ministry is to sell parking for home football games.  This is a super-easy fundraiser that only requires two people to be successful - and you will be finished in time to see the game.  We have a sign up sheet on the fridge and to date most home games only have one person signed up.  Our first home game is this Saturday and we still need a second person.  You could be that person!  Please contact me for more information on how to help.

Thanks and God Bless!
Matt


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

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gospel For Today: 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

REMINDER:  Meeting for EMHCs tonight at 6:45.
REMINDER:  Our first Credo session will be after Mass tonight.

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)

Have you ever had someone tell you that the Bible condones slavery?  I have.  Usually it is in the context of a conversation about abortion or homosexuality.  The argument they make generally runs along these lines: Christians have no business condemning abortion or homosexual acts as sins when the Bible they claim to believe in says slavery is permissible.  We all agree today that slavery is a horrible injustice; if the Bible can be wrong about that, it can be wrong about other things.

Well, there are a lot of problems with that line of thinking; not the least of which is that the Bible does not actually condone slavery.  People who try to tell you that it does generally misunderstand the Bible itself.  There are two key points about the Bible which are important to keep in mind.

The Bible is a collection of books.  We think of the Bible as a single volume because that's generally how it's published and sold to us today.  But that single bound volume is really an anthology of multiple books, written sometimes thousands of years apart by different human authors, to different audiences, for different purposes.  There are 46 books that make up what we call the Old Testament, and another 27 books in the New Testament.  Some of these books are histories, some are poetry, some are letters, some are books of law, some are allegory, etc.  

During the time when all of these different books were written, slavery was commonly practiced by many civilizations.  Some would make the argument that the slavery practiced in the ancient world was much more benign than the slavery practiced in the American south, but that's really beside the point.  It's wrong for one human being to own another, regardless of how benign you are.  The fact that the Bible truthfully relates the fact that many historical societies included some form of slavery does not mean God thinks this is a good practice.

The Bible is one book.  Without contradicting anything I just said, we have to also realize that the collected books in Sacred Scripture make up one complete work written by a single Divine Author.  Even though Genesis and Revelation were written thousands of years apart by different human authors, they are the beginning and the ending of a single story written by one mind.  This means that anything in Sacred Scripture needs to be read and understood in the context of the whole.  Taking one verse or passage out of context as a proof text that "the Bible says this or that" is a foolish practice.  

The Catholic Church knows the Bible.  It's our book, after all!  Catholic theologians have had 2000 years to study every word and verse and to contemplate how everything works together to tell the story God wants told. For example, Moses allowed divorce in the Old Testament, so one could say, "the Bible says divorce is okay."  But we also know that Jesus in Matthew says this was allowed because of the hardness of their hears, but it was not what God really had in mind with marriage.  So saying "the Bible condones divorce" would be wrong.

Likewise with slavery.  In today's second reading, we hear one of the "proof texts" that people sometimes use to say the Bible supports slavery.  Paul, who is in prison, is writing to Philemon, and is sending the letter back via Onesimus, who is Philemon's slave.  Paul says he would have liked to have kept Onesimus for himself, but he didn't want to do that without Philemon's consent, so he is sending his slave back to him.  Paul seems to say that it would not be right to take someone's slave without their permission.  Is St. Paul saying slavery is a legitimate institution?

It is only possible to make that claim if one ignores the larger theme of this passage.  The most important thing to realize is that all three men involved - Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus - are new creations in Christ.  The old rules no longer apply.  This is what Paul is trying to get across.

Look at what he tells Philemon.  He describes himself as Onesimus' father, and Onesimus as his child.  (Paul regards himself as Onesimus' spiritual father in the faith, much like we call our priests "father" today).  Even more, Paul calls Onesimus, "my own heart."  

He tells Philemon that he should no longer consider Onesimus as a slave, but as a beloved brother, "as a man and in the Lord."  In other words Onesimus is his brother in humanity as well as his brother in Christ, and should be regarded as such.  

This passage ends with St. Paul telling Philemon to welcome Onesimus as if he were St. Paul himself.  Clearly he regards Onesimus as his equal and expects Philemon to regard him in the same way.

So why send him back to Philemon at all?  Remember that like Paul and Onesimus, Philemon is a Christian.  Paul has faith that he is not sending Onesimus back into the hands of a pagan master who would abuse and mistreat him, but back to someone who is now his brother in Christ and who would now treat him with affection and love.  St. Paul says this is "so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary."  He's giving Philemon the opportunity to do the right thing.

Jesus tells us in today's gospel reading that unless we renounce all our possessions we cannot be His disciples (Lk 14:53).  How can anyone believe that the Bible says it is okay  for people to possess other people when Jesus Himself says we should not possess anything? 

The Christian must always have a healthy detachment from anything of this world.  Even though we may "own" goods in the eyes of the world, we know in our hearts that we never truly own anything.  We take nothing with us into eternity and therefore we should let nothing in this world anchor us here and keep us from Christ.  The Christian realizes that God owns everything; the best we can do is to be good stewards of what God entrusts to us.

If this is true of things such as land, wealth and other material goods, how much more true is it of people?  It is a grave sin for one person to treat another as a possession.  This is why slavery is wrong.  But the principle goes well beyond slavery.  Whether you leave WCU to become CEO of a fortune 500 company, or assistant manager of a local Burger King, you should treat the people working under your care with the same love St. Paul expects Philemon to have for Onesimus.  

This is even more true for closer relationships you may have - friends and family, and most especially spouses.  If husband and wife treat each other as master and servant, that is an unholy attitude.  The solution St. Paul offers in Ephesians is not for husband and wife to both be exalted as masters, but for them both to be humbled as servants.  "Be subject to one another," he instructs them (Eph 5:21).  

Lastly, we must realize that not only should we never regard another human being as a thing to be owned, we also cannot regard ourselves in this manner.  We do not own our own bodies.  They, too, are a gift from God.  We must therefore treat ourselves as what we are - a valued possession of God's, purchased by Christ's blood.  

So much of today's sin is rooted in this false idea that we are our own masters.  Abortion, for example, is built on the double lie that a mother not only "owns" the child in her womb, and therefore can dispose of it at will, but also that she "owns" her own body and can do with that what she will, as well.  We do not own ourselves.  God allows us to be stewards of this earth, but first and foremost we are stewards of our selves.  Sins of the flesh are so grave for the simple reason that we are mistreating something that God cares very deeply about.  

I encourage each and every one of you to treat your self as a precious treasure that belongs to Christ, for that is exactly what you are.  Be respectful of your self.  Be respectful of those in your care.  Know that you are not an owner, but a steward.  And love nothing of this world more than you love Jesus Christ.

From your brother in Christ, 
Matt

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Weekly Update from CCM

Happy Tuesday!

A reminder first of all that I will be pretty scarce around campus this week.  I will be out of town on Wednesday and Thursday to attend an overnight meeting of campus ministers in Hickory.  On Friday I will be at St. Mary's all day manning our Rummage Sale (anyone who wants to come help out is welcome, by the way).  However, the Catholic Student Center remains open all week with our regular activities, and if anyone needs me I am just a phone call, text, or email away.

Before we get into this week's schedule update, I want to mention something new we are starting this Sunday called Credo.  Credo is Latin for "I believe," and is where we get our English word "creed."  For example, we say the Nicene Creed each Sunday at Mass, and many of you also know the Apostles Creed, which we use when we pray the rosary (among other things).  A creed is a concise summation of the core elements of our faith.

In our Sunday Credo sessions we will be looking at various different aspects of our Catholic faith and unpacking them a bit.  Each Sunday after our 7:30pm Mass we will have 15 minutes or so of fellowship time, as usual.  But then those who are interested are invited to stick around for our Credo session.  Each Sunday will focus on a different topic.  I (or sometimes Fr. Voitus) will speak for a short while, and we will follow that with an open discussion.  The evening will end by 10pm.  If you are interested in learning more about the Catholic faith, have questions you'd like to investigate, or simply want to deepen your knowledge of what the Church teaches, we would love for you to join us.  Grab a cup of coffee, find a comfy spot on the couch and settle in Sunday night for good theology and good conversation.

THIS WEEK
Wednesday.  This Wednesday our dinner will be prepared by Sarah Taylor, who will be whipping up some food from her ancestral homeland (no, I don't mean Greensboro).  She'll be preparing some different curries for us (mild and spicy, for your taste), so some prepared for something different.  Our after dinner program will be about vocations.  Fr. Voitus will be our special guest this week, to speak with us about how he discerned the call to the priesthood.  You don't want to miss it!  (We need people to sign up to cook on Wednesdays - please consider putting your name on the cook list in the kitchen.)  

Thursday.  Our Rummage Sale fundraiser kicks off at St. Mary's with "Parish Preview Night" from 6-8pm.  I could use some help manning the sale table if anyone is available. Also, come and shop!

Friday.  Rummage Sale at St. Mary's from 8am until roughly 2pm.  Help needed manning the sales table.

Saturday.  Rummage Sale at St. Mary's, 8am until roughly 2pm.  Help needed not only with sales, but also with clean up afterwards.  Dr. Steve Miller will be our on-site person in charge on Saturday and he'd appreciate any help he can get.  Thanks in advance!

Sunday.  Mass at 7:30pm.  Rosary and Confessions 30 min before Mass.  Our first Credo session will be after Mass upstairs.  Plan on joining us!  
Also, we had to reschedule our EMHC meeting from last week.  Anyone wishing to serve as an EMHC please be here at 6:45 this Sunday.

SMALL GROUPS
Our small group scripture studies are ongoing.  We have groups meeting on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30pm, for about an hour.  Mondays are in the Central common room, Tuesdays in Blue Ridge, and Thursdays in the lobby between Benton and Albright.  All are welcome.

EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS
There are still a handful of spaces available for registration for our College Night lock-in and Adoration at the Eucharistic Congress.  $15 gets you overnight stay at the lock in, breakfast and lunch on Saturday, and a tshirt.  Sign up online:

I hope everyone has a great week - do something special for Christ today!
Pax,
Matt

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

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gospel For Today - 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)

Today's lesson from Scripture is about one of those virtues that at first seems easy but can in fact be quite difficult to achieve -- humility.  It's difficult to work on improving our humility without falling into the trap of being so proud of how humble we are.  When we take pride in our supposed humility, that's a sure sign we are doing it wrong.  If you are ever tempted to describe yourself as a humble person, chances are you are not.  Humility never calls attention to itself, and it can take many forms.

We have two very good examples of humility manifesting itself in different ways in the Church today.  Shortly after Pope Francis was elected, the media made much of his humility in eschewing many of the traditional trappings of the papal office.  He is a simple man who prefers simple styles of clothing and a simple life style.  What you may not know is that his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, also preferred things simple.  From reports I have read (and I suppose them to be true) Benedict did not personally favor the more elaborate trappings of the papal office.  But he accepted them nevertheless because it was what was expected of him.  He suppressed his own personal preferences and adopted the regalia of the office.  That is also a humble act.

Two holy men, both great examples of humility manifesting itself in different ways.

So just what is humility and how can we live more humbly in our own lives?  Humility does not mean being a wimp, having low self-esteem, having no back-bone or no sense of worth.  Humility is essentially recognizing one's place in the cosmos and coming to terms with a simple statement I read on a bumper sticker once: "There is one God, and you are not Him."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines humility as, "The virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the author of all good.  Humility avoids inordinate ambition of pride, and provides the foundation for turning to God in prayer."

1. God is the author of all good.  That means, firstly, that you are not.  It also means that He is your author, the One who made you.  When you realize that you are a created being, that your existence is dependent upon God and that everything good in your life was made and given to you by God, you have taken the first step toward true humility.  A humble person does not look out at the world and see realms to conquer and wealth to possess.  A humble person comprehends that God owns it all, and finds contentment in being able to enjoy God's creation for a time as a steward.

2. Humility avoids pride.  Pride is one of the seven capital sins, often called the root of all sins.  The Catechism defines pride as "undue self esteem or self love, which seeks attention and honor and sets oneself in competition with God."  In Jesus' parable today, it is the prideful man who presumes to take the place of honor at the table.  The humble man waits to be invited.  The sin of pride is doubly dangerous because the false sense of self worth it gives can actually prevent us from recognizing and repenting of our other sins.  Pride stands in the way of asking forgiveness.

3. Humility provides the foundation for turning to God in prayer.  When we acknowledge God as the creator of all things (including and most especially ourselves), and when we avoid the pitfalls of pride, then we are able to look honestly at ourselves and admit our own weaknesses and failings.  We are thus able to both offer God thanksgiving for our life and the blessings we enjoy, and come to God in supplication and ask Him to forgive us our trespasses and help us to grow in holiness.  

So what are some practical things we can do to grow in humility?

Pray daily.  Begin each day by saying "thank you" to God.  End each day with an examination of conscience and be ready to ask God's forgiveness for your sins.  If we make a practice of saying "thank you" and "I'm sorry," to God, that should rightly overflow to our neighbors.  Practice saying these things to them, as well.

Listen more than you speak.  And listen to yourself when you do speak.  How often is "I" the first word out of your mouth?  Are you the star of all your own stories?  Do you find reasons to be personally offended during the day?  Turn them into opportunities to be humble.  Let presumed affronts and insults go.  

Look for opportunities to help others.  And don't expect thanks or recognition.  Do things because it is good to do them, even if no one sees or ever knows.  Never expect praise or reward for your deeds.  And when you do receive them, accept them with a smile and with thanks, and then move on.  

Put others first.  This runs so counter to our modern society, but is essential to Christianity.  Christianity is the religion of the cross, of self-sacrifice for others.  A Christian is willing to nail his own ambitions and desires to the cross and be subject to the good of the other.  

Understand that you are not perfect.  It will make it easier for you to forgive others.  But know that God desires you to become perfect.  Ask for His help.  Humility is part of perfection.  The first step in being humble is realizing that you cannot get there on your own.  Ask for help from God, who is so humble that He emptied Himself of His divinity and became man so that He might die on our behalf.  Keep the cross before you always.  It will show you what humility looks like.

God bless,
Matt

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