How do we eagerly await God’s salvation?

As with all my homilies, this is a representative text of the homily I gave this weekend. Unlike a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t as happy with this one at first, so there was some more “tweaking” from Mass to Mass. Thankfully, as a priest, I get to deliver the same homily a few times every weekend, so there’s an opportunity to improve as the weekend goes along.

When my sister and I were growing up we would always call to find out when Dad was coming home from work. Then when we heard the garage door open, we knew he was home and would go running to greet him. We were eagerly awaiting his return. I hope that’s the case for many of you here as well. That you children here greet your parents when they come home and show they you love them.

What’s funny or ironic is that it’s not that long before the tables are turned and the roles are reversed. At some point it’s not the children waiting for mom or dad to come home, but rather mom or dad staying up late at night for their child to come, eagerly awaiting their return.

There’s lots of things we wait for all the time. This past week many of you demonstrated with all the celebrations that you’d been eagerly waiting another Royals championship for 30 years…imagine being a Cubs fan!

See there’s lots of things, maybe some of you are eagerly awaiting the new Star Wars movie next month.

Then of course, there’s Advent, which starts in a few weeks, a whole season in which we will be eagerly awaiting the Birth of Jesus.

Today’s second reading also reminds us there is something else we should be eager for…our salvation.

Hmm. We should be eager for our salvation. Unlike everything else I’ve mentioned, it seems a little harder to be eager for our salvation. We know how to be eager for all of those other things I mentioned, but how can we possible express our eagerness for our salvation? What does that look like? How do we express that eagerness?

Let me start by clearing up two extremes it is not.

First of all it is not taking a sort of doomsday approach where we are so preoccupied, think we must spend 24/7 looked in a cell praying, afraid of the world to the point we become paralyzed. Nor is it the opposite end where we say, well, the life’s short, so I might as well live it up, do what I want, with whom I want, when I want and where I want. Just do whatever, live without any consequences, because, “it doesn’t really matter.”

No, our eager awaiting of God’s salvation is somewhere in the middle. What’s missing from both extremes is an understanding of responsibility.

If we leave everything behind to go hide in awaiting God’s second coming, we leave behind our responsibilities. That’s because if you want to eagerly await God’s salvation, we do so by attending to our responsibilities. If you take the other approach it’s a life where there are no worries and no responsibilities are met either.

See if we ask ourselves the question, “How am I eagerly awaiting God’s salvation?” We start to overthink it too much, come up with all sorts of different ideas. But the path is right in front of us.

So to the children here, do we help out in the house? Do we do our chores? What about our homework? How do we treat our classmates in school?

Parents – Do we help our children when they need help? Or would we rather attend to our own needs? Do we bother to pass on our faith to our children? Make sure they are taught values and responsibilities? Or would we rather just forget about it all, do something else fun.

And fulfilling our duties and obligations when it’s easy or convenient isn’t enough. We also have to do it when it’s difficult. Listen to today’s gospel, the rich men give from their surplus, when it’s easy. But the poor widow gives from her livelihood, when it’s tough. So we too must fulfill our responsibilities not only when it’s easy, but also when it’s tough.

So doing the chores when they are easy, or because there is some obvious reward, that’s not eagerly anticipating one’s salvation. Maybe after mom or dad asks you do to something, before going back to playing your video games, you can ask, “Is there anything else I can do to help?” So if you’ve taken the trash out, you ask, “Is there anything else I can do to help?” Maybe you have to set the table, it takes two minutes, maybe she lets you go have fun. Just ask.

Parents, do we click over to the next episode on Netflix, or do you go spend time with your child? Ask them how their day went? Help them with homework or whatever else it is they need help with, even when we’re tired and would rather have some “me time.”

Another example we have here with us today is our soccer team. After Friday’s loss, and everything that happened, you didn’t give in and quit. It was difficult yes, painful, yes. But you all rebounded and gave it your all to claim 3rd place.

Why does this all matter? How does fulfilling our responsibilities help us eagerly anticipate our salvation? Because it helps us keep a proper perspective.

We have to keep the big picture in mind as we fulfill these responsibilities. That is to say we don’t freak out when we fail, and give up. No we keep trying. Nor do we seek to fulfill the responsibilities just for themselves. So we don’t just do our homework because it will get us a good grade and into a better college. No, we do it because it makes us a better person. We don’t just play sports to win championships but because they teach values, teamwork and responsibility, they make us better people. We help our children because we love them and want what’s best for them.

Perspective reminds us that at the end of the day what matters most is not what grades we get, how many goals we score, how many games we’ve won, how much money we make or whether we got the promotion or not. We will be judged on our ability to receive God’s love and our love to share it with others.

Just as we eagerly await so many good things in our life, we too must strive to keep perspective by fulfilling our responsibilities, not only when it’s easy, but also when it’s tough. In that way we will truly, eagerly, await God’s salvation.

Pastor’s Pen – From Rome

After spending 6+ weeks in Sedalia, I finally returned to Rome to pack up my belongings. I had a wonderful two week visit, yes, I had to pack up my stuff, but I also got to say goodbye to so many great friends.

Here’s the pastor’s pen I submitted from afar…

 

Greetings from Rome! I am so sorry to be away from the parish for two weeks, especially at a time so full of important activities such as the Bazaar and homecoming. However, it was necessary that I come back, pack up  and ship all of my belongings back to Sedalia.

When I first began my assignment in Sedalia, Fr. Mark and I agreed it was best for me come to the parish first, get to know all of you, and then later go back and get my stuff. I am so grateful for the warm and gracious welcome I have received from all of you during my first six weeks in Pettis county. Your overwhelming support has made my transition back to America much easier. My heart is filled with gratutidue for such a supportive welcome and with hope for our future together as we continue to journey to Christ as we make the kingdom of God present in our precious part of the world. I look forward to my return to Sedalia with great anticipation. While I’ve been here I’ve been offering all of my daily Masses for all of you.

In addition to packing up my things, the other big “task” I have here is saying goodbye to many great friends. When many of you have asked me, “What did I like about studying in Rome?” My answer has never been, “the pasta,” but rather, “all of my friends from all over the world.” I was privileged to share a classroom with men and women, lay and religious, from over 43 countries during my time here. Many of whom I may never see again, or at least not, for many years as we all return to our home countries to witness to the Gospel in service of the Church, each in our own unique way.

One of the many lessons I learned from my friends is just how far and universal our Catholic faith is spread throughout the world. This Sunday, the Church renews her commitment to the spread of the faith, the missions, through this World Mission Sunday. It is a chance for us to give thanks and celebrate the hard work work of our brothers and sisters in Christ who work so tirelessly on missions throughout the world. Furthermore it is a chance for us to support them as they continue mission of witnessing to Christ’s love for humanity.

See you soon!

Fr. Geoff

A Mizzou Homecoming in August

On August 30th I returned to Mizzou to celebrate the student Mass at the Newman Center. Here’s the homily I prepared for that special occasion.

Sr. Sarah Graves

Mark Mackey

(Br.) Benjamin Keller

JP Regan

Dan Everson

(Br. ) Joseph Albin

(Sr.) Elizabeth Doyle

(Deacon) Josh Duncan

Ashley Viola – Sr. Caterina

Fr. Geoffrey Brooke

For those of you who, like me, aren’t math majors, that was 10. 10 names I read. 10 young men and women who have entered religious life or the seminary in the last 6 years. Which one of you is next? I know most of you are saying, it can’t be me, I’m nothing like those people. You know what all of those people have in common, we all went to Mizzou. Oh yeah, but father, Mizzou is really big, there’s lots of students and those students were never in my situation. Oh yeah. Here’s something else you have in common with those 10 people, you’re sitting in their same seats. I sat over there, Sr. Elizabeth over there, JP over there, Sarah over there, Br. Joseph over here, Deacon Josh, where did you sit?

Not only did we sit in the same physical seats as you all, we too went through the same experiences that have had and will have during your time at Mizzou. From the joys of living on campus with a stranger you’ve never met, er, I mean, roommate. the difficulty of making new friendships and finding your way in a seeming sea of students with so many activities and things to choose from, for me, outside of the Newman Center, I was on the Mizzou BBQ team, I bet you a bunch of you didn’t even know we have a BBQ team. The difficulty and frustrations with school work. Tailgating and going to sporting events, homecoming, the list goes on and on. College is a busy and exciting time when you’re being pulled in many directions, that was true for all of us 10 as well.

Maybe you’re still thinking, ok father, so maybe you’re right, you all did go through the same stuff as us, but, I’m not worthy, I’m not good enough, I’ve got too many problems, to many faults. There’s no way God could be calling me. Guess what? You’re right! None of the 10 of us were or are or ever will be “worthy.” It’s God who makes us worthy. He gives us the strength and grace to be able to respond and do whatever we have to do as priests and nuns. So get over yourself and your weaknesses. Let God take control.

So ok fine, you’ll accept that God can make you worthy, but how do you know? The only way for you to know is if you are willing to cultivate a relationship with Christ. That’s where you are very lucky here at Mizzou, because you already have a whole host of people here at the Newman center who want to help you grow in your relationship with Christ. Meet Angelle and JoAnn, as well as the interns focus missionaries and the Dominican Priests. They work tirelessly to organize many events and programs throughout the year all to help you grow in that relationship with Christ, which will help you to learn if you are called to the priesthood or religious life.

Let me tell you about one of those activities that had a major impact on my vocation. Raise your hands if you’ve heard about the small group bible studies? Ok great. Now I want you all to raise your hands because you’ve all heard about them now.

Well you see when I was here as a student, and I’m not that old, remember it was just 6 years ago that I was in those seats. There weren’t small group bible studies, there was just small group bible study. My first year I was the pretty much the lone freshman along with a bunch of upperclassmen. A group by the way which included Sarah Graves, who just entered the Religious Sisters of Alma Michigan last month, and Br. Joseph Albin a member of the Dominicans. So my second year, Angelle asked me to take on leadership of the group. The first month or so we had a small group, but for whatever reason, scheduling etc., that group suddenly dwindled down to two, myself, a sophomore and a freshman girl.

Then one day she walked in and said, “Geoff, Geoff, I’ve got something to tell you, last night I had this experience during Mass, and I think I might be called to be a nun!” I was in shock, because two weeks prior, I had my own experience in prayer which led me to think about the priesthood, and so I replied to her, “well to be honest this morning I just asked for the seminary application.” So then, while the bible study continued the rest of the year, few people ever came, but the two of us would get together and support each other in our process of discernment. Fast forward to this summer, on June 27th I was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and just 5 weeks later on August 1st, Sr. Elizabeth professed her first vows with the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Ok yeah, get the awws out, because as awesome as that story is, it’s not why I share it with you tonight. You see, think about it, Angelle and JoAnn, they could have seen that bible study as a flop, only 2 of us going, one sophomore, one freshman. They could have easily decided to cancel that bible study, decide to come up with something different. Instead they saw the bigger picture, and let the bible study continue that year and beyond, the bigger picture is 200 students participating in small group bible studies last year! Think about that, from 2 to 200.So when I said that Angelle, JoAnn, and the whole staff here will support you in getting to grow in a relationship with Christ, I mean it! How many will sign up this year? 250? 300? These small groups will help you to grow in your relationship with Christ and to discern your vocation. No, I’m not saying that if you sign up for bible study you will become a priest or a nun, although 2 for 2 was pretty good that year. What I am saying is that the small groups will help you grow in your relationship with Christ.

There’s another reason I tell you about my small group bible study. Remember when I said how blessed you were to be at Mizzou because you have this great staff that’s so willing to help you grow in a relationship with Christ. Now I want you to look at the person next to you, in front of you and behind you. You all have your fellow students to help you grow in your relationship with Christ. In the small groups you will be able to help support each other and build a strong sense of community.

What is Fundamental Theology?

After finishing first cycle, and more importantly, getting ordained a deacon, the next step for me in the past few weeks has been beginning my new degree program, an S.T.L. in Fundamental Theology. One of the many questions I’ve been asked lately has been, “What is Fundamental Theology?” Well, a part of the reason for that question is that you don’t see it appear as a discipline in the United States very often, usually, it is an introductory systematic course. However, at a few universities in Europe it is considered an entire discipline within theology.

This semester I am taking six courses plus a seminar, the seminar is titled, “The Specificity of Fundamental Theology,” in short it is a survey of the major themes found within the discipline. For the first weekly paper we were asked to answer among a few questions, “How do you define Fundamental Theology?” It was meant to be a personal response as we begin this two-year long journey of study. I thought I would share that part of my paper here too, since so many have been asking. Though a warning, given the scope of the paper (there was another question and it was max. 1 page), in my mind this is an understandably limited definition, but hopefully it’s a start for the person asking the initial question:

What is Fundamental Theology?

In one sentence I would define fundamental theology in the following manner. Fundamental theology is the study of the credible presentation of revelation and faith in the modern world. Such a definition can be unpacked in order to expose the principal elements of fundamental theology. One arm of fundamental theology is the apologetic arm which seeks to develop a “credible presentation” to the “modern world.” However, the other arm of fundamental theology, the dogmatic arm, serves as its core and is found at the center of this definition, the theology of revelation and faith. By the study of revelation, fundamental theology seeks to understand the means by which God, “chose to show forth and communicate himself,” (DV, 6). Therefore, fundamental theology does not seek to understand all the contents of revelation but rather the whole of revelation including the relationship between Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, which, “flowing form the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end.” (DV, 9). By the study of faith fundamental theology seeks to study man’s response to God’s revelation. It is a response in which, “man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of the intellect and will.” (DV, 5). Therefore it is the responsibility of fundamental theology to analyze the relationship between faith and reason. This brings fundamental theology from its dogmatic aspect to apologetic aspect. This latter aspect of fundamental theology seeks to bring its dogmatic aspect into dialogue with the modern world. It seeks to analyze the signs of the times and then develop a credible presentation of revelation and faith, not necessarily to explain particular dogmatic truths of the faith, but why it even matters to believe in anything in today’s world, and more specifically to believe in Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.

DV = VATICAN II, Dei Verbum.

Let me know if you have any follow up questions or if something is still not very clear in this brief description.

It is finished!

Today I finished my last final exam of the year, and with it, the entire S.T.B. It feels good to finally be done with this degree. I’ve learned and grown a lot, but now I’m looking forward to the S.T.L. Today I’m off to Boston to attend the Lonergan Workshop for the rest of the week. Next week I head to New Jersey and then Missouri to begin my summer assignment. Now that I’m done with exams and more importantly, studying for exams, I might be able to share a few more posts. The last two weeks there wasn’t too much to share as my time was spent studying and taking exams.

Last day of first cycle classes

Today was a big day for many of my classmates and I, we finished our classes for the so-called “first cycle” of theology which grants one a pontifical degree known as the S.T.B. Next year I will begin another degree for “second cycle,” which leads to an S.T.L.

Many of my classmates who came here from over 40 countries will not be returning. Many of them will be returning to their home countries or sent out on mission to begin new apostolates and ministries, sharing what they’ve learned here in Rome. Today was the day to say our goodbyes. We might run into each other during exams, but today was our last day all together after three years.

Of course, I have a theory, that for those who give their lives in service to the Church, there is no such thing as “goodbye,” only “see you later.” I don’t know when I’ll see some of my classmates again, but with all of the events that take place in the Church, you never know when you might just run into someone again. Even if it’s 30 years from now, it’s still, “later.”

That still didn’t make certain parts of today somewhat sad and difficult in saying “see you later,” to so many good friends whom I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know these past few years. When people ask me what I like most about studying in Rome, my first response is always my classmates at the university and the seminary.

Here’s a photo of the group of us after one of our classes this morning.

Many of my classmates gathered together for a photo on our last day of classes.
Many of my classmates gathered together for a photo on our last day of classes.

Field trip and refugee presentation

On Wednesday we took another field trip for my class on Catholic social doctrine. The last time, we visited the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice. This time we visited a center for helping refugees, known as, “Centro Astalli.” We received a tour of their facility and learned about their programs. They serve meals, teach Italian, and provide medical and legal assistance to refugees who find themselves in Rome. After visiting the facility that seeks to respond to the crisis of refugees on a local, pastoral level, we made our way to a classroom for a presentation. The presentation was on the work of the international organization, Jesuit Refugee Services. The organization seeks to respond to the crisis on an international level. They have facilities like the one we visited in Rome all over the world. They also help to get people out of dangerous situations and provide legal assistance. Lastly, they also seek to work against some of the root causes that have created the crisis. Given that the Jesuits were already over the world when Jesuit Refugee Services was founded, they were able to establish an international network. Different countries, including the USA, have other organizations associated with the nation’s episcopal conference. When I worked at CNS, in the USCCB building, I had the opportunity to meet many people who worked with Migration and Refugee Services at the USCCB.

This was not the first time I have attended a workshop/conference/presentation on refugees. However, this time there was a different feel to the experience. That difference was created by the crowd, my classmates. In the past when I attended presentations of this nature, in the USA, all or at least, the overwhelming majority, of those present came from America. This time it was very different, as I’ve mentioned before there are approximately 140 students in my class who come from around 40 different countries. The woman leading the presentation spoke of various situations in different countries around the world, whether they be countries dealing with conflict, or countries where refugees were arriving. All of these situations and conflicts touched all of us in very different ways. That is to say as she rattled off countries, there was often someone from those very places. It made conflicts and difficult situations that often seem so far away, much closer. Instead of several thousand miles away, they were just two rows in front or behind me. What a blessed learning experience indeed.

Audience with Pope Francis

This morning classes were cancelled at the Pontifical Gregorian University. However, the cause was most certainly just. Pope Francis had invited all of the faculty, students and staff of the university to an audience at the Vatican. I guess you could consider this another field trip.

So instead of heading across the city to the university, those of us from the NAC only had to go down the hill to the Vatican. We met up with our classmates, other students and professors. For the first hour or so there were a series of songs sung by representatives of the various countries and cultures represented at our university. The mixture was quite eclectic. As the time for the audience with the Holy Father approached, the event took a more prayerful disposition, as the rector led us all in prayer. Then Holy Father arrived and addressed all present. His address can be found here. After the address he greeted many of the professors present. Then, to our surprise he started to make his way up the aisle where all the students were present. We all lined up against the barriers and stuck our hands out shake hands with the Pope.

A blessed morning indeed. I took my simple point-and-shoot camera and didn’t get too many good shots. Here are three I can share.

Pope Francis addresses the university community.
Pope Francis addresses the university community.
Pope Francis approaches as he greets the students along the aisle.
Pope Francis approaches as he greets the students along the aisle.
After he passed by me, I had to put the camera down to shake his hand.
After he passed by me. There is no photo of him right in front of me as I had to put the camera down to shake his hand.

Thank you BBQ

This spring I will be finishing my three year course of study known as ‘First Cycle” which results in the ecclesiastical degree, S.T.B. I have been working towards this degree at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Seeing that we are at the end of the three years, my classmates and I decided to invite all of the professors from the core classes throughout the course of the three years to come for a dinner at the North American College.

Naturally, we decided to go for a somewhat American theme. Therefore, I was asked to take over the BBQ duties. I cooked pork shoulder for 11 hours and pork ribs for 6 hours. I also grilled some vegetable skewers. Other classmates provided great help in preparing potato salad and cheesecake for desert.

What made this evening so entertaining and memorable was the opportunity to interact with so many of our professors in a new context. Our professors come from so many different countries, cultures and backgrounds. They are both men and women, consecrated religious, diocesan priests, and laity. Normally we only get to see one professor at a time, and normally, they are lecturing while we sit, listen and take notes. In this context, there was more than one professor present, and it was a more social setting. Everyone seemed to have a very good time while enjoying both the food and the company.

One of the plates served for our dinner with the professors.
One of the plates served for our dinner with the professors.

Field Trips are still fun

Even at 25 years old, in my 19th year of formal education, I must admit, field trips are still fun. Today for my class on the Church’s social doctrine, we got to do just that, take a field trip. We visited the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. We were treated to a lecture by the secretary-archbishop of said council. He talked about important global economic themes in the recent documents, Caritas in Veritate and Evangelii Gaudium. A layman who works for the council also presented to us the council’s most recent text on the relationship between energy sources and justice. No it wasn’t the zoo, a museum or the science center, but it was still a fun morning. It provided a nice change of pace and a way to see how it is that the principles learned in the classroom are being applied in the life of the Church.