17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
We as Catholics have a set of beliefs that stem from a particular, fundamental platform out of which all of our beliefs make sense. Other Christian denominations and their beliefs stem from a particular, fundamental platform out of which their beliefs make sense. The problem is, we often use the same words or do the same actions and rituals, but we actually understand them quite differently...which leads to confusion because it looks and sounds like we're talking about the same things, but we're actually understanding them quite differently (examples being Communion, confession, and the intercession of the saints just to name a few).
In this homily I lay out the fundamental Catholic platform as well as a best attempt at a fundamental non-Catholic Christian platform (I say "best attempt" because there are so many denominations with various platforms that no one platform unites them all...otherwise it would be one denomination...but I believe the distinctions I make are a fair representative of the whole). These distinctions help explain a number of differences between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians, with a very important one being a much more complete understanding of the Sacrament of Reconciliation! Enjoy!
(If you would like to read the text of Deacon Brian's excellent and challenging homily from last week, it will be available shortly on this page of our website: https://stjoseph-hayward.org/recent-homilies)
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Part 1: The current practice of the Anointing of the Sick.
Part 2: In today's Gospel Jesus sends out his Apostles two by two to preach repentance and drive out demons. He doesn't send them out alone, not one by one, but two by two...together...because we're always stronger together, and we're made to walk this path of faith together with other believers, especially Catholic believers. Being an individual believer...alone...the demons love that! They have a heyday with our minds and fill us with every seemingly reasonable excuse to NOT take that next step in faith that we know God is calling us to. But together, we as fellow Catholics call out each other's mediocrity, we encourage each other in the faith, we support someone when they're falling and we are supported when our faith seems to fail, we rejoice with each other in spiritual growth and victories. Two by two is always better than one by one!
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The parting words of Jesus to his followers before He ascended into heaven (His 'final words', if you will) were: "Go and make disciples of all nations." Jesus called all of his followers to go on mission and bring others back to the Father. Too often, however, we have forgotten that mission, as a Church and as individuals, and we find ourselves simply going through the motions, stuck in a maintenance mode that is not the energetic, grace-filled, difficult yet joyous life that Jesus lived and called His followers to. We at St. Joseph and St. Ann will be embarking on a journey over the next number of years to reclaim the vibrant life that Jesus calls us to live in our parishes. Step #1: Christ-Centered Relationships. The first followers of Jesus lived in close relationship with each other centered on Christ; there was a true community grounded in deep faith and they encouraged and challenged each other on. If we want our parishes to have a vibrant life and faith, we need to reclaim first the importance of Christ-Centered relationships! Because if we can't confidently talk about and learn about our faith with each other, how on earth are we ever going to share it with someone who doesn't yet believe?!
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When we look at everything around us, we see that God has a way of taking something small and making it BIG! Whether the shoot from the tree in our first reading, or the mustard seed in our Gospel, God often takes small things and slowly grows them until they are BIG! He does that in our lives in so many ways, but I believe that the Lord is calling our parishes of St. Ann and St. Joseph here and now to start small in developing relationships with others who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, especially other Catholics, and especially our fellow parishioners. So the challenge for this summer - get to know 6 more people from Church by the end of summer! Invite them out for breakfast, lunch, dinner after Mass; invite them over for a beer on the deck or a pontoon ride; get to know them personally. And when we start with these small but powerful and meaningful efforts, God will grow us over time here at St. Ann and St. Joseph into something BIG!
Unlike so many other religions, Christianity makes the incredibly bold claim that the God who created all things desires a personal relationship with each one of us. Our God is anything but impersonal; our God, as revealed through Scripture and especially in the Person of Jesus Christ, is incredibly personal! But it's easier for us as humans to be impersonal in all kinds of different matters, and that tendency to lean toward the easy and impersonal can sneak its way into our faith as well. But God desires a close, deep, rich, personal relationship with each or us. So this week are you willing to let your relationship with God get personal?!
5th Sunday of Easter
Jesus says in our Gospel today, "Remain in me, as I remain in you." Jesus, am I remaining with You throughout my day? Jesus, am I remaining with You throughout Mass?
4th Sunday of Easter
After healing a crippled man in the name of Jesus Christ, Peter says to the leaders and the people in our 1st reading, speaking of Jesus Christ, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” That's a bold statement! Could it possibly be true?! Because if it is, then it also has some very large repercussions that modern society will not want to hear...
Our faith is not primarily a set of rules and obligations, nor is it a moral code. Our faith is not a collection of beliefs for a good life or that help us merit heaven. Our faith is in a person - Jesus Christ! - and the relationship He offers to us! Without that relationship, all we're left with is a bunch of rules and obligations that don't seem to connect or make sense. In light of that relationship, everything begins to fall into place and make perfect sense because it's all in light of growing in a relationship with Him! God is relationship (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and God in Jesus Christ invites us into this relationship. So how do you see our faith? How do you experience the expectations of our faith? Do you see it as about something or some things...or do you see it as about SomeONE?!
4th Sunday of Lent
The words 'Passover' and 'Paschal' are often heard in the prayers of Mass...but what on earth do they mean? As we approach Holy Week, and Holy Thursday - when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, which was His celebration of the Jewish Passover meal with his Jewish disciples and became the outline for the Eucharist that we celebrate each weekend as Catholics - I think it very appropriate to revisit the meaning of those words 'Passover' and 'Paschal' and the rich tradition that they draw us into, even unknowingly, at every single Mass!
2nd Sunday of Lent
Jesus reveals himself in our Gospel as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, signified by his speaking with Moses and Elijah who represent the Scriptural writings of the Law and the Prophets. Jesus also fulfills what was begun in our first reading with the story of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his only son, Isaac. Jesus is the long awaited Lamb of God, who is sacrificed on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins when we had broken our covenant with God, Jesus who cuts a New and Eternal Covenant in his own Body and Blood to open up for us eternal life!
What is Lent about? Is it about giving something up? Well...not exactly. Is it about sacrifice? Well...not exactly. Lent is about Jesus Christ. Lent is about us intentionally following Jesus and growing closer to Jesus. If we forget that, then anything and everything we do during Lent - all the practices, all the sacrifices, all the resolutions - in the end, mean nothing. The deeper presence of Jesus Christ in our lives is the meaning of Lent. In our Gospel Jesus gives us three rich Biblical practices for that presence to become a reality in our lives: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Done with Jesus and for Jesus, these have incredible power. Done purely by our own strength of will or just because "that's the rule"...then we're just spinning our wheels.
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When we think of Lent we often think of some sort of sacrifice that we make, something that we "give up" for Lent. But a great question to ask the Lord as you consider your Lenten resolution(s) is, "How will this help me grow closer to You, Jesus?" The whole point of a sacrifice in Lent is to be a sacrifice of love to the Lord, an intentional turning to God. When our Lenten resolutions simply become a test of our own will power, however, then we've missed the whole point. The whole point of this Lenten season is to draw closer to Jesus Christ. If we are not intentionally growing closer to the Lord, then our Lent will be in vain. So as you consider your resolution(s) for this Lent, I want you to ask the Lord, "How will this help me grow closer to You, Jesus?"
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our readings today give us an outline of the Christian life, the three necessary steps of what it means to live as a Christian. Our destiny is to be in a total, life-giving, rich relationship with Jesus Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit for all eternity...and to begin living in that reality now through these three steps. Christianity is quite simple...it's not easy, but it's quite simple. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” So this week, will you give it a try? Today, which step is God calling you to focus on?
The Baptism of the Lord
Today Jesus is baptized, not to be washed by the water but to wash the water; not to be cleansed by the waters but to cleanse the waters. Today Jesus isn't baptized by water - water is baptized by Jesus. So when we go down into the water in baptism, we no longer just get wet, we get Jesus Christ! At our baptism we were set free from the hold of sin, worry and anxiety in our life, brought into God's family, and given the power of the Holy Spirit to live this new life in God. The challenge this week: how are we doing? How are we living out the graces of our baptism? Have we in some ways forgotten the power and strength God gave us on our baptism day and settled for a less than full and vibrant life of faith? This week, let's ask for a renewal of that strength of our baptism!
Feast of the Holy Family
Jesus not only came as a baby at Christmas, He also entered into a human family - with all the joys and frustrations that go with it. We are challenged in all relationships, but especially in the family, to put the wants and needs of others before our own, to stretch our hearts, to learn how to love more, to sacrifice for each other. Our readings today all challenge us to put others first, "Children, obey your parents in everything...Wives, be subordinate to your husbands...Husbands, love your wives." Jesus loved us, and so He subordinated Himself to our needs, even to the point of death. We can practice this kind of love every day, especially in the family!
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night, Oh night divine
4th Sunday of Advent
On this 4th Sunday of Advent, Deacon Brian gives an incredible homily on Mary's fiat to God ("may it be done to me according to your word") which lays the groundwork of the vision for our parishes in the coming year. In it he uses the analogy of a NASCAR race to portray God's first call and primary challenge for all the lay faithful to be drivers for Christ in the great Christian race of missionary discipleship, with the clergy being your pit crew and the fans being the whole world!
As we, lay parishioners and ministers alike, discern in this coming year how to transform our parishes of St. Joseph and St. Ann into communities that welcome the Lord's call to "go and make disciples of all nations", we ask for your prayers and support, that together we all might echo back to God Mary's fiat: "may it be done to me according to your word," and that we might draw many more to echo those word along with us!
3rd Sunday of Advent
People started following and listening to Jesus in large part because of the signs that accompanied his message - the miracles he was performing. December 12th was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531 Mary appeared to an Aztec peasant named Juan Diego asking that a Church be built on the spot. Accompanying these apparitions were three miracles - the miracle of the roses, the miracle of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appearing on Juan Diego's cloak/tilma (which can still be seen today in Mexico and which defies all modern explanation), and the miracle of over 9 million people converting to Christianity in a matter of years and following Christ because of this apparition and image. In our Gospel today John the Baptist is preparing the way for our Lord; Mary has prepared the way for our Lord Jesus in so many ways, both through her life on this earth and her continued apparitions to God's children. Inspired by the miracles that God has done, let's ask God to continue to work miracles in our lives and in this world, that we may follow Him with more conviction and that others may be opened to hearing the message of Jesus Christ!
1st Sunday of Advent
We humans change one step at a time - it's just the way we're wired. And once we've made a change that tends to become the new normal and we stick to it, for better or for worse. This Advent season God wants to work in your life in new and powerful ways! But for that change to occur, there is a requirement: DAILY prayer and reflection. To give Jesus the space He needs in our lives and minds and hearts to work out His grace within us requires the daily practice of openness to God in prayer and reflection. One day a week is okay, 2 days is all right, 3 is getting better...but if we're wondering why we've plateaued and not much seems to be changing or growing in our spiritual life, it's because God needs our daily permission to work His good grace in us, one step at a time!
Feast of Christ the King
We've been so concerned recently with who's going to be our president, have we stopped to ask ourselves how concerned we've been with Who's going to be our King? This weekend, as we near the end of our liturgical year, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King as we we look ahead to the end of time - when Jesus Christ will come in glory to rule all of creation forever. If politics can get us passionate and worked up about a man who will run our country for a handful of years and then go into the history books, then our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ should inspire us to incredible passion for sharing Who is going to be our King for all eternity! As citizens of God's kingdom, we're not called only to live personally as disciples of Jesus Christ, but we're also expected to reach out call others to join this incredible kingdom. How do we do that? Start listening to find out!
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
This last week we celebrated both All Saints Day and All Souls Day. On All Saints we rejoice and thank God for those whose souls are fully united to God in heaven; on All Souls day we pray for those people who have died and whose bodies are decomposing yet whose souls live on into eternity. Why do we pray for them? What need would they have that we can help with? Why not just celebrate All Saints Day and forget about All Souls Day? When the word "purgatory" gets brought up in conversation I'm usually met with incredulity, people thinking of it as an outdated or unnecessary idea - if God is love why would there be a purgatory? But maybe the way we're thinking about it is all wrong; maybe there's something incredibly relevant and timely about purgatory, both for us and for all souls, whether living in the body or out of it.
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Michelangelo, one of the greatest artists of all time, loved sculpting most of all. He could look at a block of marble, see the potential, a vision for what that block of marble was hiding, and then carve away everything that was not that potential. When we stand in front of the mirror, each one of us is looking at a block of marble called, "The rest of your life." Do we have a vision for what we want that block of marble to look like at the end of our life? Can we see and appreciate its full potential? Because God has a vision for each one of us, He sees so much potential, He tells us in the Gospel today that within each of us is a heart that can love God with everything we've got and love our neighbor as ourself. What do you want to look like at the end of your life: a roughly carved block of untapped potential tromping around heaven, or a true masterpiece of God's creation? It's already inside of you! How will you let God keep carving you this week?
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The parable which Jesus gives about a king inviting guests to the wedding reception of his son is ultimately a parable about eternal life and heaven (which our 1st reading from Isaiah speaks of as "God's holy mountain"). The king in the parable is God, his son is Jesus, and the wedding banquet is eternal salvation. Some have ignored the invitation (God's original Chosen People, the Israelites), so the king has sent out his servants (the Apostles) to invite anyone and everyone, the bad and the good alike (the Church), to this wedding reception. One man, however, is thrown out for not wearing his wedding garment. While it may seem harsh, the wedding garment symbolizes the garment we were given at baptism when we were asked to put on Christ. We may say "yes" to God's original invitation, but Jesus makes it clear that one "yes" is not enough. After that, we also have to say "yes" to putting on Christ each and every day, to wearing the wedding garment we've been given. And as we learn at the end of the parable, busy-ness, laziness, forgetfulness, whatever made that man not wear his garment, is not a good enough excuse when the final day comes. What are you wearing today?
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In this Sunday's Gospel we have a story of change: one son says "no" to his dad's request but then changes his mind and does it; the other says "yes" to his dad's request but then changes his mind and doesn't do it. We all have the possibility to change, for better or for worse, every single day. Every day is an opportunity to follow God's voice again...or to choose to let that voice fade into the background. A disciple is one who follows the voice of God each and every day; one who has an obedient and faithful heart - not just in word, but especially in action; not just on Sunday, but on Monday through Friday as well. Which son are you now? Which son will you decide to be tomorrow? Change is always possible!
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This weekend our readings center on forgiveness, especially on how we will NOT be forgiven unless we first forgive others. While Jesus in the Gospel responds to a question by Peter saying he must forgive seventy-seven times (which seems very magnanimous), Jesus also goes on to give a parable in which a man is punished and condemned because that man does not forgive others and treat them with mercy (which seems quite harsh to our ears). Jesus ends the parable by saying our Heavenly Father will do the same to us if we don't forgive others. The Scriptures make it clear that in order for us to be forgiven, we must forgive others...ALL others. So what does that have to do with politics?! Listen to find out, and no matter where you stand on whatever issue, be prepared to feel the Lord challenging you to more!