“…and a cloud took Him from their sight.”

By Fr. Anthony Odiong

˜ Feast of the Ascension of the Lord ˜

Goodbyes are very difficult to get used to, even when they are a part of your routine schedule at work. We almost always want to cling to what is good, or to those people or places that have brought out the best in us. For the past five years as director of Campus Ministry at St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center at Baylor University, with several Baccalaureate Masses yearly, I have never been able to get used to saying goodbye to our students as they graduate college or step up to other things in life. We know they have to go, but we miss their individual and unique contributions to the community.

A few of the faces moving on from St. Peter’s campus ministry as recent college graduates, Class of 2012.

Goodbyes are difficult because they imply change. When life is good we prefer the comfort of permanence rather than the uncertainty of change. The Ascension experience must have been a mixture of joy and sorrow for Jesus’ friends; joy at His glorification and return to the Father’s right hand, and sorrow at not having Him physically and visibly with them. They had to get used to a new way of experiencing Him sacramentally. Aware of their ambivalence, the Lord Jesus made this timeless promise: “I am with you always, until the end of the ages.” (Matthew 28:20)

Goodbyes can be very positive experiences, the occasion for growth and improvement. If Jesus did not return to the Father, His friends would not have been challenged to step out into the world and witness to His love. If we don’t have the courage to say goodbye to our parents, friends, and home, we will never get the blessing of a college education. If we never graduate, enjoying the comfort and security of college eternally, we never get to grow.

Leaving the love and comfort of St. Peter’s and saying goodbye to my friends and home of five years is much more difficult than I ever imagined. However, when I think of the good of studying for a Doctorate degree in Theology and the blessings that will come from it, I am consoled. Together, we have seen St. Peter’s become more and more a home to our students and permanent community members. The tendency is to want to hold on to that. However, we must always remain open to God’s will – which is always the best for all of us. What you and I must ensure, as our students graduate, and directors and other members of the community sometimes have to move on, is that the unique spirit of St. Peter’s remain and thrive.

It’s this spirit that binds us all together whether we are far or near; students or alums, permanent community members, staff or friends. It is in this spirit that the promise of Christ is realized: “I am with you always to the end of the ages.”

Blog Note: July 1, 2012, Fr. Anthony Odiong will step down as director of St. Peter’s to pursue a doctoral degree in Theology.


We Could Never Do Enough for God ~ A Holy Week Meditation

By Father Anthony Odiong, Director

Suppose you were in love with the dogs of Waco, and you desired to teach them how to behave properly – not to snap at mailmen and children! So, you decided to become a dog! All went well except you could only bark and not speak, though you could think. To your surprise, the other dogs did not pay much attention to you. One day, they got mad at you, and tore you to pieces. There was nothing you could do. You had taken the risk to love them anyway.

The life of the God/Man Jesus Christ was something like this. During Holy Week we penetrate deeply the mystery of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. Which do you think was the greatest gift: that Jesus became one of us, or that he suffered and died for us? The God/Man Jesus Christ is God’s Word to us – one eternal word – Love.

Holy Week is the heart of the liturgical year. It celebrates the culmination of the ministry and life of Jesus Christ on earth. The last week of Jesus’ life is perhaps a summary of all of human existence. Jesus was loved by many. This is symbolized by the several anointings that He received from Mary Magdalene. Once in honor of Lazarus, and again in the house of Simon the leper.  In this time the Lord experienced also the betrayal of Judas, one of His disciples. He was rejected by His own people, tried by three Judges, crucified, died and rose from the dead.

The story of Jesus is your story and mine. If you look at that mangled body hanging on the cross, you will find yourself, or your story, written all over Him.  Holy Week and Easter reminds us that in the end, it is Love that will triumph. Only Love is credible.

The Easter Triduum is one celebration in three moments.  Holy Thursday reenacts Jesus’ three fold gift to the world: The Eucharist, the priesthood and the shining example of service in the washing of His disciples’ feet.  Good Friday celebrates the death of God. In the words of the philosopher Nietzsche, “God is dead and we have killed Him.” However, the death of God on Good Friday reaps the salvation of the world. Good Friday is really good. Holy Saturday celebrates the absence of God in the world, when His presence is reduced to a whisper or a ‘rumor of angels’. Sometimes, life feels like Holy Saturday.  In the Easter Vigil, we wait in patient expectation for Christ our Light to triumph over the hell of the human condition with a life that cannot be destroyed forever.

God’s love for us in Christ is in excess of anything we could ever ask for or imagine.  As we enter into this solemn hour, let us become aware that there is nothing we could ever do for God to compare with what He has done for us in Christ.  We could never do enough for God or for one another.

A happy Holy Week and Easter to you all!

I Love You – I Affirm that You are Good

By Fr. Anthony Odiong

The closest the Christian Scriptures come to defining God is in the first Letter of St. John, (1 John 4:8) when it states that “God is love.”  This same passage recommends that we “… love one another, since love is from God.” (1 John 4:7)

We love to love and to be loved.  We were created to love, and out of love.  It is the ability to love that perhaps best expresses the ‘imago dei’ in us.  Our ability to go out of ourselves to delight in a thing or a person for their own sake brings us very close to God.

Ask a child what love is and that child will blow you a kiss – an innocent, sacramental definition of love – way different from the confusion between love and sex in our erotic and ‘feel good’ age today.

According to Josef Pieper, love is the affirmation of the goodness in being.  It is a way of turning to a person or thing and saying, “It is good that you exist; it is good that you are in this world.” It is in this sense that Caritas (Agape) has called many saints to devote themselves to working for the wretched of the earth because they are also good.  Did Love itself not come down to earth in Christ to affirm that we were so good and worth dying for?

It is always a surprise when someone responds to you in a profound way, or when you find yourself drawn to a thing.  However, the love of a person and a thing are quite different.  The abuse of love is when we do not distinguish between the love one has for a glass of sweet tea, for instance, and the love one has for a person.

When we love anything, we want to unite with it, to appropriate the good in the other.  If it is a thing, an object I delight in, there will not be much of an issue.  When it is a person, a thinking subject, it introduces a whole new set of questions.

When a person is good for me, it suggests that I have a superabundant response to that person – a response in mind and heart that will ultimately lead to or imply a union of bodies.  This is what a Christian marriage is all about. Only in this context is the superabundant response of a man to a woman consecrated.

Love, properly so called in the Christian sense, is selflessly seeking after the well-being of another.  True love has to be essentially selfless.  It is this selfless seeking after the other’s well-being that results in happiness.  Much of the unhappiness today is as a result of wanting always for me.

As Christians we are called in Christ to love all persons because we hope to share a common bliss.  The call to love is mandatory because in the evening of our lives “we will be judged on the law of love.”

The Old and the New

Written by Fr. Anthony Odiong

I visit with young people on a day to day basis.  Many of them struggle with questions about faith.  They wonder why they must believe in anything, let alone a God.  Faith in God, for them, is that which belongs in antiquity and is no longer necessary.  My take on this is that they desire that which is truly true, if I may put it that way.  That which is novel appeals to them, much more than that which seems to be antiquated.

To one young man recently, I responded in the following fashion:

There is an old truth, or let’s call it, the “Old Myth” in the words of Thomas Howard.  The myth states that men, women, the stars, acorns and angels were all operating in their different modes under the sovereignty of the whole pattern, called The Dance; as though we were all moving solemnly and joyously in a measure, finding our true freedom in the steps appointed to us. The Old Myth defined everything as belonging together and giving meaning to each other.

However, the “New Myth” is the root of a lot of discontent today, resulting in a cosmic disharmony, a disruption of the Dance – the symphony of existence. The New Myth reduces justice, truth and transcendence to common idea, and common place invention, and religion to a fancy club.  In this new dispensation, there is no sense of sacramentality; man is alienated from reality, he is alone and very unhappy.  There is no totally other – no concept of a loving God.  The New Myth has resulted in a hermeneutic of suspicion.  Everything is questioned and human life is at the level of base matter.

To all my young friends, the issue here is not the Old or the New, the issue here in contention is truth – the kind that brings peace and a feeling of home. The Old Myth is what St. Augustine once called “Beauty ever ancient and ever new.”  What you desire is the beauty that saves.  We find it in the eyes of love, sometimes in the elegance of poetry, but always in the transcendent faith that tells us that we were meant to be here.

I encourage you to pay attention to the Old Myth, to listen to the symphony that plays eternally.  Find your steps in the dance.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in the God who lovingly willed you into existence.  Make sense of everything.

Rejoice in the Lord, Again I Say Rejoice – Philippians 4:4

By Fr.  Anthony Odiong.  Fr. Anthony serves as Director of St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

The chief advantage of being Roman Catholic is that it habituates one to think and feel all things sacramentally.

The Catholic faith is based on an intuition that everything means something; that life is a dance and not chance. Everything is indeed a sign of something else; a sign of grace that the created world is a setting for the communication of grace, that being is good and everything is a sacrament.

To be a sacrament a thing must be palpable and a means for God to communicate life to humanity. Any created thing can therefore be used by God to convey his life. Grace moves through the sensible material world of touch and taste to arrive at the still point. Over and above this, the greatest ‘Sacrament’ is the God-man Jesus Christ who brings God to us, who makes the invisible visible. All of nature is pregnant with meaning and signification. From the above, you will agree that the Catholic Church holds the key to decoding the meaning of nature and the vocation of man.

It is such a substantial advantage for us to be human because God is not just one with us, he’s also one of us. We are all implicated in the mystery of the Incarnation. We all possess in a sense, or at least relate in some way, to the One who loves us.

The only adequate response to this truth is Joy. Let us rejoice!