THE SPIRIT OF THANKSGIVING

PLEASE CONSIDER HELPING OUT THE NEWMAN CATHOLIC CENTER WITH OUT CHRISTMAS APPEAL - Read More HERE


So four years ago I was writing some OP-ED pieces for Fox News' website. I had forgotten about this till someone had directed me to this after they had found it on Google.

Happy Thanksgiving!!


What makes America great?

Depending upon your perspective, your experience or your history, the answer to that question will vary. For many nations, greatness is measured by military strength. By this measure, the United States is peerless.

The bravery with which young men and women volunteer to risk their lives in service to our country is a measure of American greatness. Today, we are mindful of those serving so far from their homes and families so that we could enjoy this holiday in peace and security.

Another measure of a nations greatness is it's diversity. Whether you use the term "melting pot" or "salad bowl" to describe it, the variety of races, religions, cultures and nationalities that have made their home in the United States is a characteristic of our nation that is uniquely American. Though there have been some serious lapses throughout our nation's history, America has always strived to offer all the opportunity to live in peace. Today, we have a peaceful nation where Muslims, Christians and Jews can be on a line in a department store or in the same restaurant and not fear the other. This is something of which many people in other nations are rightfully envious.

Some would argue that a nation's greatness comes from things over which they have no control, such as the physical land that nation occupies. For some countries, problems such as poverty or hunger are caused by their location. America is also great in this sense--from rich farmland to busy sea ports, from reserves of natural resources to thriving cities, from the Rocky Mountains to California's beaches.

All of these things make America great, but these are not all that make America great. There is something more, which encompasses all of these and reveals the true greatness of this nation. What makes America great is that it is the greatest experiment of faith ever attempted. Our nation was founded by Christians who were fleeing religious persecution. Our forefathers believed that each person had a soul, and that soul was made and given as a gift by a creator. They knew that the greatest gift in the heart of a soul was the freedom to chose between what is right and wrong.

Our Founders had faith in God, and tried to create a nation where everyone could choose their own way to serve him. Our national songs do not say, "God Save the Queen or King;" we sang "God Bless America." We imprint "In God We Trust" on our institutions; We pledge to be "one nation under God."

Today, there are many who disparage religion's influence on America. They don't want to hear that our leaders believe in God and openly practice their faith. They want to remove traces of religion from public places--whether it's a plaque of the Ten Commandments in a court house, or Christmas carols being sung in a public school. Yet, Thanksgiving isn't about turkey, Pilgrims or football.

Thanksgiving was first proclaimed by President George Washington in 1789 with these words "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor...[we] recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors Almighty God."

You'd expect to hear this from a member of the clergy. Yet, our first president, in proclaiming Thanksgiving a national holiday, articulated the belief that was in the hearts of the people who had entered into this great faith experiment that is America. When the United States finally became a truly free and independent nation, it must have seemed miraculous. So our forefathers thanked God for their many blessings.

As millions gather with their families this Thanksgiving, our prayer at this meal is obviously one of thanking God, but also a prayer of petition that Americans will be able to rediscover their spiritual selves, and draw strength and comfort from their individual spiritual faiths in the same matter that our Founders did, a faith that guided them in creating this great nation, and has sustained American greatness to this very day.

IS CHRIST OUR KING?

This is my homily for the FEAST OF JESUS CHRIST THE KING - Sunday, November 22, 2009. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/112209.shtml

Thanks as always for reading and your feedback. God Bless, Father Jim

HOMILY:

Are you the King of the Jews - Pilate asks Jesus, and by all appearances, it sure doesn’t seem like it, does it? King’s aren’t usually turned in by their own people to an enemy. You have to be really hated for that to happen. And that’s what’s going on here. The Jews hated the Romans. Hated them for occupying their land. Hated them for making them live under their rule. Hated them for treating them like second class citizens. So they must really hate Jesus to be looking for the Roman authorities to take care of him. Not exactly royal. Not exactly what we imagine a King to be.

We kind of have in our minds what a King should be like. Maybe you’re like me and think of that guy from the movie 300. King Leonidas. The guy becomes king because when he was a kid, he makes a spear and kills this giant wolf. That’s cool right there, isn’t it? I mean, considering what a mess our political scene is, that seems as good a way to pick a leader as any. (Just kidding on that) Years later in the movie, these messengers come from Persia, a larger, more powerful kingdom and they demand the Spartans submit to their king peacefully or that they would be attacked, enslaved and taken over. King Leonidas doesn’t take those threats too kindly - he kicks the messengers down this massive well to their deaths. Then realizing that the Persians probably are going to be ticked off and attack them, King Leonidas leads this band of 300 men to battle against this massive army from Persia. Most (if not all) of the 300 realize that this is certain to end with their deaths - yet the King would never consider surrender. In the end, the Spartans prove to be more difficult to deal with than Persia expected. Even though the 300 would lose their lives the King and his men’s valor and sacrifice inspire the people of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy.

The scene we have of Jesus Christ our King in this Gospel is the complete opposite. There’s no one in sight coming to Jesus’ rescue. In fairness Jesus had told Peter in the Gospel just a few passages before to put away his sword. So what could be done? We’ve heard this story before, so we know what’s going to happen next. Pilate would ignore the truth of Jesus’ innocence. Instead compromising the truth so as not to hear the angry hateful voices that were shouting “CRUCIFY HIM” turn on Pilate himself. So the embodiment of truth, Jesus Christ, the Son of God ends up nailed to a tree.

If that were the end of the story, it would be ridiculous to look to Jesus as a King. We know that Jesus is King because we know that Jesus’ story didn’t end on the cross or in the grave. We know that Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to God’s right hand in the heavenly kingdom and that He remains with us in this His Word and in His Body and Blood which he gives us to eat in the Eucharistic Bread and wine

On the Feast of Christ the King, you would think we’d read something from the Gospels about those realities of our faith rather than this scene that we just heard focusing on Jesus’ trial. I doubt the directors of 300 would pick this scene to celebrate Christ the King.

So what’s the Church thinking? I think it’s meant to remind us that this feast isn’t just about that fact that Christ is our King because he has destroyed Sin and Death in his crucifixion and resurrection. It is meant to point out that this world still seems to want to fight our king. This world continues to question his authority. This world continues to put Jesus on trial. This world has always and will always reject Jesus Christ as it’s King.

Jesus’ radical call of selfless, sacrificial love isn’t popular in this world of ours. To follow this King means being obedient rather than seek power. It means putting others first rather than trying to be first. It means trying to live our lives with that same radical, selfless and sacrificial love that He had.

It sounds good, so why does it still elude us? Because people of this world still feel the effects of original sin – We go right back to the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The sin of Adam and Eve wasn’t simply about eating a piece of fruit as much as it was self-centeredness. By doing the complete opposite of what God asked them to do, by buying into the lie of the serpent, they basically asked - Who need God when we can be god’s ourselves?

So the trial of Jesus, the interrogation by Pilate resonates thousands of years later. We are asked point blank, is Jesus our King? Or are we stuck with Adam, Eve and many of those who live focused on this world who still try to be gods themselves, living by their own rules, making their own definitions of things, rejecting Jesus and His Gospel.

To be a follower might not seem as dramatic as following King Leonidas to the battlefields against the mighty Persians, but make no mistake, our King is calling us to battle each and every day in small but meaningful and eternally important ways -

Do we cheat in that class?
Do we sleep with that girl or that guy?
Do we take that drug?
Do we make fun of that classmate, roommate or colleague?
Do we forget about that relative who’s suffering because we have stuff to do too?
Do we refrain from telling someone that something’s wrong because we don’t want to deal with the hassle of testifying to the truth?

“Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus has already answered that in his death and resurrection. Is Jesus really our King? The choices we make, the lives we live gives testimony to where our allegiance ultimately lies.

HELP ! CHRISTMAS APPEAL!!!!


-- Homily for this past Sunday November 15 follows this note...

Dear Friends of Newman:

Have you ever felt like you’re living in an alternate universe? Spending some time with us here at the Newman Center you might begin to wonder. In an expanding secular world that seems to question the validity of religion’s place... In a culture that seems to be encouraging everyone, especially young people to “Eat, Drink and be Merry for tomorrow we die,” you would be encouraged and inspired to witness what is happening here at the Newman Catholic Center here at Montclair State University.

Our Sunday Night Mass continues to be the most important thing we do as the Catholic Campus Ministry here at MSU and is becoming a fixture on the campus as the number of students continues to increase. Visitors joining us often comment how beautiful and uplifting our liturgies are - and especially how the “students are filled with Joy.” But our activity doesn’t end there. The number of students coming to daily Mass has tripled since last year. Eucharistic Adoration is offered weekly as more and more students want to spend time with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, between all the spiritual activities, community service opportunities offered on a weekly basis, and the usual number of social events - there’s usually several things going on every day of the semester.

In addition, this semester we have been blessed with 5 missionaries from FOCUS - the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. These selfless young men and women are recent college graduates, who sacrifice two to three years of their lives to Jesus and His Church by ministering to their peers. The missionaries have added so much in such a short period of time. They presently conduct ten bible studies per week; hold monthly Men’s and Women’s Evenings focusing on living chaste, soberly and pursuing excellence in academics and life (as Jesus came that we might “have life and have it more abundantly” - John 10:10) They are challenging their brothers and sisters to realize how they are “Made for More” than what the world shortchanges them as.

There’s so many wonderful things happening here, that it might feel like an alternate universe, but we are very much apart of this world. So I know that this is a difficult economy for many people, but I am confident that I can turn to you - our parents, friends and supporters - will help us continue to do the good work God is directing us to do here for His children. With the increase of students, and programming, our needs continue to increase for supplies and financial resources. Whether it’s something as trivial (but important!) as food for an event or paying a registration fee for a student unable to afford attending FOCUS national conference this December in Florida, we have had to dip into our savings to meet these challenges. I am hoping that this Christmas Season we will be able to raise $10,000 so that we can continue to build on all the good we have started as well as purchase much needed furniture for our new community room (our basement – which was renovated through your generosity this past summer).

Thank you for all of your support and your prayers for us. We remember you often in our prayers, especially when we look around the house and see what has been accomplished through your generosity. May God’s saving Love which we celebrate with the Birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas, shine brightly upon you and your loved ones at this special season of faith.
In Christ’s Peace and Love -



Father Jim Chern,
Chaplain & Director

Please send all donations to: NEWMAN CATHOLIC CENTER; 894 Valley Road; Upper Montclair, NJ 07043