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!
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Authority is a theme in our readings today - in both our first reading and Gospel "keys" are spoken of, symbolic of a position of authority. This time of Coronavirus has led to a lot of discussion about who has authority: who's in charge of what, to what extent can a governor proclaim a state of emergency, what rulings and content are under the authority of state Supreme Courts , what authority does the CDC have, how much authority does a governor have to mandate action, who has the authority to enforce those mandates? For as much as we like to talk about all these things and weigh in with our opinion, the truth is that we individually have almost no authority in changing overall societal response to Covid. I think that we as humans (me included) really enjoy talking about how others should use their authority and what decisions they should be making, but we really don't enjoy confronting how we are neglecting to use OUR God-given authority! So what exactly is the authority that God has given to each of us? Listen to find out!
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It's proven that certain practices make for a happier and healthier person - prayer and generosity being two of those practices. Why is that? God made us to live in relationship with Him, Jesus lived a life of intense moments of prayer and generosity, and the more we live that prayer and generosity the more we become like Jesus Christ and enter into the only relationship that can truly make us happier and healthier in all senses of those words!
This weekend is the kickoff for our annual diocesan Catholic Services Appeal (CSA). The CSA provides incredible opportunities to spread the faith of Jesus Christ in northwestern Wisconsin - for our seminarians, for our youth, for our schools, for our parishes - opportunities that I witness and see the fruits of firsthand! I'm challenging you this year to stretch yourself in prayerful generosity to all of your favorite organizations and non-profits. I challenge you particularly this week to think what you might be able to sacrifice monetarily to support the CSA for your parish this coming year.
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus comes to the disciples today walking on the water - that's a Big Moment, a miraculous moment, one that's hard to miss, and it strengthens their faith. Elijah is told in our 1st reading that the Lord will be passing by: there is a great wind, a tremendous earthquake, a blazing fire, and yet, Scripture says, God was in none of those seemingly big moments. Rather, God was in a tiny, whispering voice - a Small Moment, so small it could be easily missed, but just as real as a Big Moment...and I would say even more important! God's ordinary language is in Small Moments, countless little whispers to us throughout the day. He gives us a few privileged Big Moments precisely so that we will continue looking and listening for Him in the hundreds of Small Moments every day.
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There are two movements in the Christian life - one is a turning away from sin, the other is a stepping towards God. The readings this weekend are more focused on the latter - stepping towards God. The individuals in our parables find something of great value to them! To get it, however, they have to sell everything else. It's a question of priorities and re-prioritizing things in their lives. There are so many good things we can focus on in life, so many good actions and decisions we can pursue...but only one can be our top priority, and only one our second priority, and only one our third. All of these good things can't be our top priority, which means that much of the Christian life is deciding which priorities God is calling us to put first, and which ones (however good they may be) the Lord is asking us to put further down the list. Following God isn't just doing good things; following God is doing the good things God has planned for us to do!
As a second installment I invited Dan Tracy, a seminarian for our Diocese, to say a few words at the end of Mass. He spent part of the summer here with us at St. Joseph and St. Ann parishes and will be heading back to seminary in the weeks ahead - he is a good man and will be greatly missed!
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
With all of the polarization in the media and the emotionally driven statements part of me wonders what happened to true, honest, good ol' arguments. In this sermon, building off of my last sermon on judgment, I explore why I think our country has lost the art of argument (which we used to possess) and what steps we as individuals can take to bring that art back. It won't be easy, but bringing God back into the public sphere (which then brings respect for every life back into the public sphere) is part of the answer!