MARRIAGE; "SAME-SEX MARRIAGE" & WHY IT MATTERS

Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - September 30, 2012.  The readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/093012.cfm.  Thanks as always for reading and your feedback, comments and sharing this with others.  God Bless You - Fr. Jim


HOMILY:

    It’s hard to imagine a world without text messaging, isn’t it? The jury is probably still out whether that’s a good thing or not - but the reality is that, in a short period of time, we’ve moved from just being curious about a new method of communication - getting a mini-email on your phones - to seeing it as an essential form of daily communication. With each new device, as each smart phone becomes “smarter” -  texting becomes even more a part of our routine.  So much so we need reminders, warnings, even laws about when to stop texting.   There are commercials on television warning of the dangers; as well as laws being passed banning “texting while driving.” Studies are being conducted about the effect texting has on stress levels, people's sleep habits, etc.   There even was a discussion, not too long ago, about passing a law against texting while walking in New York City.

    It seems silly that we're at this point, doesn’t it? I mean, you’d think people would recognize the danger of driving on the Garden State Parkway at 65 miles per hour and texting simultaneously. Crossing an intersection in New York City is life-threatening enough without your attention being diverted by text messaging.  Yet, a recent story in the news shows that the message still hasn’t set in.  An Alaskan woman was walking around her house, which sits on a cliff. As she finished her cigarette, and prepared to get rid of it, she was texting, so she didn’t realize how close to the edge of the cliff she really was, until she slipped, and fell 60 feet, getting stuck between rocks and boulders. Despite the risk and difficulty involved in the mission, she was eventually (thankfully) rescued.

    Obviously, logic and common sense don’t always seem to “do the job” for us. One would think we’d know how to use text messaging in the way it was intended. But it’s become more obvious -since the woman fell off the cliff - that we need voices, we need direction to point out when we’re doing something that’s not healthy, or helpful, or downright dangerous. So laws need to be passed (and enforced); advertisements need to influence people to (at least, try to) make better decisions.

    Which is one of the essential things Jesus is getting at in today’s Gospel. Of all the things that we’ve been blessed with, one of the most precious gifts given to us by God is the gift of Freedom. We have the choice, the freedom, to choose to love God - or not. To live in relationship with Him - or not. He doesn’t force us or coerce us.  He loves us, pursues us and desires us to choose to live in relationship with Him. But, ultimately, that's a decision that every individual makes - one soul at a time.   It’s hard enough for you and I to deal with our own sinfulness, our own failures on a daily basis. So what fires Jesus up in this Gospel today is the misuse of freedom, the responsibility we face when we mislead others. When we confuse them about what is true and not true.  What is and what is not a sin. When we disregard logic and common sense to advance things contrary to God’s will.  When we misuse God’s word for purposes of our own.  He uses dramatic imagery to point out that we should be extremely vigilant in not leading others astray.

    In the last few years, throughout the United States, there has been a debate going on over what has been described as “same-sex marriage,” and whether such relationships should legally be recognized as “marriage.”  Perhaps it’s too charitable to say it’s been a “debate.”  Because debate usually implies that there are two sides that present their arguments, question one another on the validity of those arguments, and help people ultimately come to an understanding or a consensus on a particular issue.  It is true that, in this case,  there have been people on both sides who have been outrageous, horrendous in their characterizations of their 'opposition.'  So much so, it’s a bit nerve-wracking even mentioning the topic – which is why I think so often we avoid talking about it.

    It is disgusting to see “hate preachers” holding signs saying “God hates” and then using an atrocious term to fill in the blank, a term that is meant to demean and degrade people with same-sex attractions. Hearing people shout at a group of their fellow citizens, telling them they are “going to hell” is equally deplorable. We don’t believe in a God who hates people... any people, of any orientation. He who knows us, who created us in His image and likeness, sees the beauty of his handiwork. He knows our potential.  He knows our weaknesses. He knows how we struggle between the two - which is why he sent Jesus Christ, in the first place, to save us from our weaknesses, save us when we fall into sin, and to offer us new life in Him - both now and in eternity.  God doesn’t hate people – gay or straight.   And He never gives up on us. He would never simply dismiss an entire demographic to “go to hell.”  Jesus died specifically to save us from that nightmare. He always holds out hope for us, for all of us. That has always been the teaching of the Church - to the point that while the Church has always said that, yes, we do believe that Hell exists – none of us can say for certain that a particular villain (even one of the most infamous, notorious of human beings ever to have lived) is there now.

    But it’s also true that there’s been equally unfair things said and done from those who support same-sex marriage who have bullied their opposition to the point that -sadly - the Church hasn’t explained her teaching nearly as clearly as she needs to.

    Which is why this past week, our Archbishop John J. Myers, the Archbishop of Newark issued what is called a “pastoral letter.”  (you can read his letter here: http://www.rcan.org/archbish/jjm_letters/wtbo.pdf; )  For the most part, I think, Catholics think the Bishop’s job is to confirm people or to run the diocese. And while those are important, one of the chief responsibilities entrusted to the Bishop by the Lord at His ordination is to be the shepherd of the local Church that he is sent to.  So, in this 16 page letter, entitled, “When two become one: A pastoral teaching on the definition, purpose and sanctity of marriage,” the Archbishop explains the foundations of this institution that has been understood between one man and one women from the beginnings of civilization. The origins of marriage come from the reality that when a husband and wife had a sexual relationship - often times, that resulted in a child.  Those children, it was understood, depended upon these two parents who were so essential to their creation, to continue to love, care and provide for them, after they were born.  So, this relationship which had a physical, emotional (and, later, spiritual) aspect to them which was understood to be different from any other relationship on this earth.

    Our Archbishop issued this letter because he knows we are living in difficult and, often, confusing times. The pain of divorce has touched far too many lives. The lie that “no one can make a life-long commitment” has been told and believed by too many. And the beauty, the meaning, the purpose of marriage seems to be lost to countless numbers of people.   When you have a celebrity (if you can call her that, I still don’t know what she does) like Kim Kardashian gaining the eyes and ears of the world as she was married for what, 15 minutes, to whats his name - it’s more and more obvious that many people just don’t know what they are doing within the institution of marriage.

    And now we’re living in an unprecedented time in which there’s greater demand - by a small, but vocal group of people and politicians - to pass laws that further undermine the meaning and definition of marriage.  Instead of the idea of this physical, emotional and spiritual relationship which results in new life being born into the world, instead of this being the very foundation of marriage - people are now proposing that all that matters is love– who do you choose to love. 

    So, the argument goes, it wouldn't matter if the union is between two men, two women or a man and a woman - all that would matter is their love for one another. Despite the denials of those who support this re-definition, if we accept that premise, what’s to stop three people or more from wishing to be “married?” (Or, as I wrote in a blog earlier this summer, what's to stop a single woman who wishes to marry herself from doing so? – you can read that here:  http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/can-you-marry-yourself.html ) Who’s to say that two cousins who really love each other can't get married?  If “love” is the criteria, where is the line - and who can draw it?  Thats not being said to be inflammatory - that’s using logic to ask questions regarding an important issue (Which use to be the standard way we made laws)

    It sounds extreme, I know . . . and ridiculous.  But, 10 years ago, the thought that marriage would be understood as anything other than the permanent, exclusive, life-long commitment of one man and one woman seemed extreme and ridiculous, as well.    

    So, our Archbishop Myers has issued this pastoral letter in which he asks us, the people he has been entrusted to lead, to think about these things.  To read his letter, to use our hearts and minds and engage this topic with hearts and minds open to hearing why what the Church teaches is so important.  To recognize the specialness of the institution of marriage, and the need for us to hear the voice of the Lord through the Church, instructing us on how to use it properly. Pointing out how somethings  that are being done - or proposed - are not healthy, or helpful but downright dangerous - not just to the institution of marriage, but to society as a whole.  To ask us to reflect on this, especially in an election year, so that laws will continue to be passed which will influence people to make better decisions.

    This can all be hard to hear, I know.  Especially as so many of us have friends and relatives we care deeply about, who identify themselves as gay or lesbian, and are, themselves, truly seeking love in their own lives - a true love, which we all hope they find.  And because of the explosive nature of this topic and the way it has been discussed by both sides, it saddens me that some feel unwelcome or loved by the Church, by Christ.   We need to do better with that - to minister and outreach to those who for whatever reason have felt disconnected to know that the Church wants to help each and every person find and experience the Love of Christ in their lives now and for eternity.    But, from the Catholic standpoint, same-sex marriage is not the answer to that search.  Marriage's purpose is new life, and its meaning is love.  Those two cannot be divorced, one from the other.  That is, and always has been our church's teaching.

    Let us, at least, be clear about that, in our own minds and hearts, and as we - calmly and civilly - speak to others about our beliefs, and - as Christ was so passionate about in today's gospel - let us guard against leading others astray, others who may, in all good faith, be looking to us for clarification about what a Catholic truly believes. Doing so with the same love of Christ who encountered difficult issues, spoke truth to them, but always did so with authentic, genuine, true love that He wants each and every one of us to know and experience in our own lives.

LIFE LESSONS FROM CHARLIE BROWN

Hi everyone, here is my homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 23, 2012.  The readings for the day can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/092312.cfm.  Thanks as always for reading, all the “shares” of this blog on Facebook and Twitter (kind of shocked each week when I see the numbers of people who visit everyweek...it’s so humbling!) and for your comments and feedback.  God Bless you!  Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

           Any visitor to my office or apartment would probably be able to get an idea of some of my interests with just a quick look around. Among obviously some religious articles and family portraits, there’s some Yankees paraphernalia, a couple bobble-heads from the TV show “The Office” (and no, I don’t care what you say, I don’t think I look like Toby) and a variety of things from the comic strip “Peanuts” (mostly of my favorite character, Snoopy). 

    Ever since I was in grammar school, I was a big fan of Peanuts... reading the comic strip daily in the paper, collecting books of old comic strips, watching every TV special of it.  I can still remember the day President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt - not because of the tragic history of the day, but because it pre-empted a Peanuts special that was going to be on that night (cut me some slack, I was only 7 years old and in second grade and this was before VCR’s). 

    When I was in fourth grade, we were allowed to write a biography on anyone we chose. That was an easy decision - I read a book on Charles Schulz the creator of “Peanuts” and wrote a biography about him.  I decided, once our teacher had graded and returned the report, to mail it to Mr. Schulz (particularly since I had drawn a picture of Charlie Brown and Snoopy on the cover that was pretty good) .  Of course, in a manner worthy of Charlie Brown, I was out sledding after school one day when his office called our house.  The secretary explained she had misplaced my address and that Charles Schulz had read my biography (and pointed out that my teacher had incorrectly “fixed” the spelling of his name - I had it right, there was no “T” in Schulz, take that Mrs. Katchen).   Anyway, he was so appreciative, he wanted to send me a personalized picture of Snoopy, which I still have framed in my bedroom.

            I’m still not quite sure what it was that made me such a fan of Peanuts growing up.   I mean compared with the comic-book characters that my friends liked - whether it was one of the super heroes, like Superman or Spiderman, or someone without super powers but 'super,' nonetheless, like GI Joe - Charlie Brown is this LOSER.  A lovable loser, but, seriously:  

    -the kid never gets to kick the football,
    -never receives a Valentine or a Christmas Card.
    -Heck for some reason on Halloween while everyone else gets candy, he is given rocks (?). 
    -Even when he flies a kite, there’s a “kite eating tree” out there to devour it.
    -Even his dog, Snoopy, “Man’s best Friend” right, the one who has to depend on Charlie Brown to feed and care for him, even Snoopy can’t remember Charlie Brown’s referring to him as that “Big round-headed kid.”

           It’s an interesting thing to try to do a psycho-analysis of a comic strip character and try to pinpoint what it is that resonates with me and millions (billions?) of fans. If I’m honest it’s because I could relate to Charlie Brown, a lot,  especially as a kid…I was not great at athletics, at all...   not popular, at all…  I was not feeling like I was “super” at anything that I could relate to GI Joe or Superman (if anything, I could’ve used their help on more than one occasion on the playground... ) - yeah, I could identify with Charlie Brown’s struggles.

           But what makes Charlie Brown so endearing, is that you never really hear a jealous word out of his mouth.   The most frustration he utters is an AAUGH or Good Grief (see, he even is able to see something good in grief!).   One of his often quoted sayings is “Happiness is...” as he lists all the small things like “finding a pencil” or a “warm puppy” that brings joy into his life. 

    Charlie Brown  is a hope-filled character, who even though 10,000 times Lucy will pull the football away from him, that 10,001st time he still wants to believe it will be different -   or maybe, just maybe one day the Little Red Haired Girl might notice him... He embodies faith, hope and love in the midst of a sometimes mean world when so many others would give into despair or depression.

           What is so distressing to the Jesus in this Gospel today is that these, his closest followers, his apostles have forgotten what “lovable losers” they really are – lovable in God’s eyes, but nonetheless losers in the eyes of the world - and instead of remembering that fact, have started to believe more in themselves than in Jesus, who was doing all those wondrous things in the first place.
           They’ve seen his miracles.
    They’ve witnessed massive transformations in human beings.
    They’ve even participated in that mission – being sent to heal people in Jesus name.
    They’ve just witnessed the transfiguration, (that’s where they were journeying from at the beginning of this gospel passage) that amazing day when  Jesus is transformed right in front of them, and converses with Moses and Elijah and they hear the voice of God revealing “This is my Beloved Son.”  
    They see how people are coming to Jesus in multitudes and have felt the excitement of being on a winning team, and all that has gone to their heads. So much so that they forget their lowliness, their weaknesses.  That’s what is going on as Jesus, explains how he is going to allow himself to enter into the Passion, the Crucifixion… listen to that again - Jesus is going to chose to allow himself to enter into that - He could have prevented it if he really wanted to...but He choses to still do that because he understands that the most common thing everyone of us goes through is that we all will have our Charlie Brown moments (if not worse) - everyone of us experiences suffering, experiences pain, experiences loneliness.. No human being is immune to these things happening at some point.

           So Jesus shares with these men, who’ve experienced all of those things themselves, His revolutionary, new plan.  He’s saying:   Yes, I can work miracles... I can bring people back from the dead... but I’m going to enter into this experience to give people a reason to have Hope in the midst of all those experiences  – if they chose to have Faith in me and live in that love they will find me there…  And what do the disciples do? They forget all their lowliness, their own weakness– the exact places where Jesus first met them, in their ‘loser’ moments  and instead start arguing about which of them is the greatest!
            Good grief.

            Honestly, though, I don’t think Jesus minds the fact that the disciples want to be great disciples anymore than we would 'mind' that Charlie Brown wants to kick that football. But in that desire, they’ve allowed their human ambition to blind them from God’s direction, God’s will, God’s plan. Jesus’ reign, His kingdom will be established, one heart at a time.  
    As one person lays down his life for another.

    As one person lets go of their ego, is no longer threatened by others, but is happy, just that the other is there. 

    As one person realizes that my lifting up of someone else, my helping someone else find their gifts and their greatness to offer back to God and the world doesn’t diminish me but helps me to achieve a deeper level of greatness that is tied into eternity…

           Jesus turns it all around on them:  “You love me?” he asks. “You want to be great? “ he challenges.  Then be great by following my example.  Serve.  Take care of each other. Help those who are weak and in need, like little children.   Because that’s what greatness in Jesus’ world is all about.   When we are able to put our own desires aside, for His sake, as we help others.

           Difficult to imagine?  Not really.  Difficult to accomplish.  Definitely. It involves a lot of hard work, namely, giving of ourselves.   But Jesus imagines and believes in you and me enough to know that it is possible  We can, despite how we look to the world, be 'winners' in the sense that when we serve each other, everyone wins.  When we do that in His name, it transforms us into something else, something more; it makes us into the men and women of God that He always intended us to be, people who find our greatness in service, our bigness in how we treat even the littlest of this world, and a never-ending Love hidden under the unlikely guise of sacrifice.  When we do that, we begin to experience, to know, the truth is – to paraphrase good ol’ Charlie Brown, that true, authentic, eternal “Happiness is” when we are Jesus’ faithful disciple. 

I'M GETTING A DOG

Hi everyone!  This is my homily for the 24th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - September 16, 2012 - the readings can be found here: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/091612.cfm.   Thanks as always for reading, and your comments (even the lady who last week said “you’re a jerk” on my facebook page regarding my homily... would’ve liked that she expanded on why I was a jerk, but alas, I appreciated that she took the time to react - haha)    God Bless- Fr. Jim

HOMILY
    “I’m getting a dog.

    You know how many times those 4 words have been in my head getting serious consideration? How often people have encouraged me to just do it? I’ve tossed the idea around somewhat seriously for the last 6 years since theoretically I could have a dog since I’m not living in a rectory where I’d have to worry about him bothering the other priests or parish staff - but in an apartment at the Newman Center - with college students constantly encouraging me to do it... promising me they’ll help take care of him... highlighting all the positive qualities a dog would bring to the Newman Center.

     I’ve even gone so far as to look at the pet-adoption website pet-finders - just to look... and find myself weakening each time I do it. Last week I went through this quarterly self-torture process and found one- “Petey” a boxer/hound mix who’s description went:  Petey is the sweetest boy in the world; he is a total love bug who gets along with everyone he meets.  This gorgeous angel is truly a rare find and will be an awesome addition to any family lucky enough to adopt him. Petey is four months old and currently weighs 29 lbs. We estimate him to weigh about 70 lbs when fully grown.  Petey was rescued literally hours before he was slatted to be killed in an animal control facility in Ga. I'm so glad that one of our one volunteers was there to save him because he truly is one of those rare finds.                    

    Not only was he incredibly cute - but he was almost killed! How could I not get Petey! I’m getting that dog.

    As much as there’s a part of me that really wants to do it - to meet and adopt Petey, something stops me from really saying “I’m getting a dog.”  The idea sounds great.  But if I say I’m getting a dog (and do so) I know that it will dramatically change my life. I learned that just from dog-sitting my furry nephew named “Buff” for probably close to 6 months over the last ten years.   I know that dogs require a great deal of love and attention; there’s a lot of responsibilities attached to ownership. Petey is going to need me to take him out several times a day (possibly early in the morning) and want to go for walks. He’s going to rely on me to feed him. If I’m out late with students at an event or a program, will there come a time where I’d say “I gotta go, it’s been a few hours and Petey needs to go out.”  Getting a dog is a BIG deal - so If I say those 4 words, that “I’m getting a dog,” then I have to realize that I’m going to be making a serious commitment that will change my life dramatically.

    Some have said to me I’m “overthinking this” but honestly I don’t think so - I think too many of us “underthink” when we say some things - or do some things.    Because as much as this idea of getting a dog is a fun one, and I’ve been encouraged by a lot of people to do it, there’s a part of me that’s not ready to say those 4 words because I don’t know if I am prepared to have my life changed - to making that commitment.

     I wonder if St Peter realized how big a deal his four words were going to be. How prepared was he to say what he said. Think about it, he had spent years with Jesus... and over that time, something clicked.  There was a recognition deep within as he moved from meeting Jesus, to hearing Jesus preach, to witnessing Jesus’ miraculous activity and then to ultimately knowing who Jesus was. This one day wasn’t the first time Peter - or the other disciples for that matter - had thought about who Jesus was.  That had to have been a question that was front and center the first time they met him up until this very day, this very encounter. So when Jesus changes the question from, “Who do people say that I am?” to “Who do you say that I am,” he is moving beyond some theoretical, philosophical discussion.  He is acknowledging that there are a variety of perceptions people had (perceptions people still have, today), all of which associated him with some of the greatest men of Jewish history – John the Baptist, Elijah, a great teacher, a good prophet – but now he turns though to these, his closest friends, his loyalest followers, his disciples and says – you’ve left everything behind, you’ve left your lives, your livelihoods, after all this time, after all you’ve seen and heard - who do you say that I am?

    For Peter, this is a moment of decision. Does he dare utter something that has been unsaid, unspoken, that would be considered heretical to many?  Does he give voice to the hopes and dreams of humanity that there is a God who loves us so intimately, so definitively, that he has becomes one of us?  Does he realize the commitment, the dramatic change of life he would experience in uttering those four words – YOU ARE THE CHRIST?

    Almost immediately, the weight of saying that and meaning that are clearly seen. Peter is forever changed in that utterance. He has stood out from all other disciples, all other apostles.  This declaration, this realization brings greater responsibility, which becomes clear almost instantly. His declarative words recognizing Jesus as not just a great man, but as the Christ - carry an enormity with them.  Jesus is the son of God.  And when you recognize that, and say that, it changes everything.

    Because just saying that is more than just a factual utterance, a declarative sentence. It’s not like someone looking at me and saying, “You’re a white man.”  This is saying something with the eyes of faith. This realization means that Peter has to live differently now. Which is why the “smack down” he experiences just a few moments later is so swift and necessary.  On the surface we look at it and see Peter pleading as a good friend, hearing about an awful thing about to occur ;“No, it’s going to be alright, I’ll be there....we’ll be there... we won’t let something like that happen to you.” But Jesus, being the Christ, means He is God. And if Jesus is the Christ, then he doesn’t need someone - well intentioned or otherwise - distracting him from his true purpose. To save Humanity from sin and death. To take on the suffering of the entire world in order to redeem the whole world. He doesn't need a friend reiterating the devil's own temptation.

    Peter has seen that Jesus isn’t just a a great man saying and doing some really great things. He’s not just some lowly prophet. Rather, He is to the only man who ultimately matters in the history of all humanity. And so Peter’s recognition of who Jesus is, his declaration of Jesus being the Christ, demands that he (and we) follow Jesus even more whole-heartedly, recognizing there is no one else worthy of his attention, his dedication . . . so that, ultimately, Peter will be able to lead others to the Christ as well.
   
    Jesus poses to you and I the same question and the same challenge. Who do we say that He is? Are we ready, willing, able to make the commitment that is tied to declaring those four life-changing, life-giving words?  Not just by our words, here at Mass, but by our everyday lives, by lives filled with so much love, so much grace, so much kindness and empathy and forgiveness for others (and for our own weaknesses) that everything about us proclaims our faith, everything about us proclaims the kingdom, everything about us proclaims those four words about Jesus that matter the most: You are the Christ.

BEHOLD THE MONKEY?

Hi everyone, here’s my homily for SEPTEMBER 9, 2012 - 23rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - Which is also the opening of the Academic Year at Montclair State University, the campus I serve at.  The readings for today’s Mass can be found at:  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/090912.cfm
Fr. Jim Chern

HOMILY:

           One of the amazing things about visiting Rome this past March was how many bonafide masterpieces of art there were; not confined to some museum, behind velvet ropes and armed guards, but just where the artist had intended – as devotional, religious articles, located in Churches.  So, you could see something that Raphael had created in a little shrine. There was an original carved marble statue of Jesus Christ made by Michaelangelo that you could literally go up and touch (as I found out, they don’t want you to do that). And in another Church, there was some beautiful paintings by Carravaggio, again, so close you could have literally touched them.

           After what happened in Spain a few weeks ago, though, I wonder if all that will change. Maybe you heard about this? There was a one-of-a-kind fresco from the19th Century by the Spanish artist Elias Garcia Martinez titled “Ecce Homo” (which is Latin for “Behold the Man” - the words of Pontius Pilate after Jesus was scourged and had the crown of thorns placed on his head). The dramatic painting, after years of moisture on the walls of the Church, had flaked pretty badly and it was in desperate need of renovation. Here’s where different versions of the story come in.  Cecilia Gimenez, a parishioner of Santurario de Misericordia where the famous fresco was located says she had asked the priest if she could restore the painting and that he had given her permission to do so (other reports state she acted on her own).  Either way, the reality is Cecilia’s job was pretty bad. So much so that people have renamed the painting from Ecce Homo to Ecce Monkey.

           Despite how right she was that the fresco needed attention...
           As well intentioned as she might have been in her attempts to fix it...
           It’s pretty obvious that, perhaps, Cecilia’s not cut out for art-restorations. Or to be more direct and honest - she didn’t know what she was doing.  Sadly, in that fresco, the face of Christ may be irreversibly damaged.
          
           That story from this summer came to mind in reading and praying with this Gospel. We hear of one of Jesus’ miracles - this deaf man with the speech impediment is brought to Jesus by a bunch of his friends. Jesus takes the man aside, puts his fingers in the man’s ears - touches his tongue and says EPHPHATHA!  BE OPEN! and immediately he can hear, he can speak clearly.

           I kept thinking about that phrase – EPHAPHATHA - “BE OPENED” - those words seem tailored perfectly for the start of a new Academic Year. Whether you’re a new student, away from home, away from the familiar places and faces of high school for the first time ... Or you’re a returning student - who’s had some experience of campus life - who knows how each year presents you with countless opportunities, countless people who will be inviting you to “Be Open”

           Be Open to new subjects
           Be Open to new people
           Be Open to new things

           Which makes sense. As hard as it may be for you to truly believe this - its one of those things that you only learn is true later in life – this is one of the most free times in your life.  In coming to college, being at a great University like Montclair State - you have an opportunity to try things you might never have the opportunity to do again. Take a class in something you’ve only remotely heard of and always been curious about. Try a sport at the Rec Center you’ve never played before. Meet people very different from the community you were raised in.  That's the great thing about University life - that it brings together so many very different people, with very different gifts and talents and abilities and philosophies, brings them together in the hope that we can learn from each other.

           But - at the same time there’s a danger to all of this as well. In all this “open-ness” sometimes you will find there are people who really don’t know what they’re doing.  There are some who will invite you to be “open” to trying new things, to experiment with new things - drugs, alcohol, sex - people who, if you look closely enough, aren’t really happy, aren’t really doing well at all, and, in fact, get so caught up not doing well that they repeat their bad choices to deaden the pain of those first bad choices - and invite you to 'be open,' thinking, somehow, that Misery loves company.

    There are also some “adults” here who you might think, because they are older, that they automatically are more mature, or wiser; adults who tell you to be “open” to other philosophies or beliefs (but when you profess your Catholic-Christian faith, see how “open” they are to you).  There are some who will mock you because you come to Mass. There will be others who will sound intellectual or clever in their arguments as they belittle not just your Catholic faith but anyone who believes in God.    Yes, there are some people who don’t know what they’re doing, and, like Cecilia, don’t deserve to be trusted with a proverbial brush that could diminish the image of Christ, implanted in each one of us at our Baptisms... instead making you look like Ecce Monkey (and sometimes the rear of the Monkey if you get my drift)

           It can be hard to navigate all this, which is why we’re here... Which is why we gather together as the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry - not just every Sunday night here for Mass... But every day to grow closer to Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church through prayer, through service, through just being together... Which is why we're so happy you’re all here, and we want to invite you to be open to positive, new opportunities.  To take advantage of the freedom you have right in front of you - to check out a bible study, to help out when we work with the homeless and the poor, to just spend some time with the people who you’re sitting with at Mass but don’t really know yet...

            We come together as an organization that has been on this campus for over 60 years, united to a Church that has been united for over 2,000 years, because of this one man who we continue to come to know and love, named Jesus Christ, who desires us to experience this Gospel, opening our ears to hear his voice, and our tongues to profess how Jesus truly “has done all things well.”  

    May we continue to be open to Him, to trust in Him, to recognize the good He has already done in our lives; to realize that just by our Baptisms, we already are beautiful.  We already are blessed.  We already are capable to be what He intended us to be, a people radiating the image of Christ to our world.  May none of the new experiences we open ourselves up to distort that image of Christ that masterpiece that we already are.