Feast of the Holy Family
Jesus was born into a human family, with everything that entails. He learned to live with an immediate and extended family (and based on the lineage we hear in other Bible passages, his relations were far from perfect). In an imperfect world, with imperfect people and imperfect families, today's readings give us some very practical advice on how we can live more fulfilling lives: put the wants and needs of others before your own...as Christ did.
Paul gives us a very concrete example of how this looks in one of the most fundamental sets of relationships we find ourselves in: the family. Before getting up-in-arms about how Paul could write, "Wives, be subordinate to your husbands," let's look at the reading in context and see how Paul is challenging everyone to stretch their hearts and love others the way Christ loved us.
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
4th Sunday of Advent
We’ve looked at the light of Christ in our thoughts and actions. Now, in this final week of Advent, we look at the light of Christ in our words. In my experience, people WANT to talk about God and faith in their lives…they’re just afraid of what others will think and uncertain where others stand on the issue — so they don’t say anything. Our words have the power to give people that opportunity to speak about God's presence in their life. Our words have the power to invite God into a conversation. Our words have the power to crack open the door to God’s presence. Others don’t have to walk through that door; they can pass by our invitation. But for those who want to go there and just don’t know how, we can give them that opportunity. Something as simple as, “I’ll pray for you,” can be enough. This week: use your words to invite God into a conversation! (I think you'll be surprised by how positive responses can be!)
3rd Sunday of Advent
Last week it was spending time at the manger, allowing the Light of Christ to settle in our thoughts and minds. This week it's allowing the Light of Christ into our actions. Little kids are so good at giving presents: at first glance their artwork might not be a Van Gogh or Monet, but their intention in making these various works as gifts turns them into masterpieces! Intention and generosity can transform something mediocre into something truly beautiful. As we prepare for Jesus's Birthday, let's make some presents for Him this week, let's make some works of art for Him - an extra act of generosity, an extra prayer, a task of holiday preparation or an hour of ordinary work, intentionally offered up to God as a gift: these actions might not be perfect in themselves, but given as a gift to the Lord they are transformed into something that He sees as beautiful and worthy of going up on the heavenly frig. Let the Light of Christ into your actions this week: "God, I made this for You!"
2nd Sunday of Advent
Have you ever put yourself in the manger scene? Have you ever experienced the birth of Jesus or the time after His birth, with Mary and Joseph, or the shepherds, or the wise men? Lectio Divina (Latin for "Divine Reading") is a form of Christian prayer where we read a passage of Scripture and then use our imagination to place ourselves in the scene: then we see, hear, touch, taste and feel everything as if we were there! We interact with others in the story. We take on different roles. And through this form of imaginative prayer the Scriptures come alive! At Christmas we celebrate the coming of Christ into the world, the coming of clear Light into a sometimes foggy and murky world, into our sometimes foggy and murky lives. This week, find some time to let the Light of Christ enter your mind - spend some time in that manger scene. (Then next week we'll talk about the Light of Christ shining in our actions, and the final week of Advent how the Light of Christ can shine in our words.)
Feast of Christ the King
We as Americans don't always like the idea of authority, a king, a ruler. We pride ourselves on democracy, equality, independence and standing on our own two feet. But as Christians we claim that God is God and we are not, as Christians we claim to submit ourselves to Jesus Christ, as Christians we claim to bring about the reign of God's kingdom on earth - beginning with our own lives: minds, hearts, words and actions. So what am I? Am I more of a modern American with a mind of independence? Or am I more of a Christian with the mind of being entirely dependent on my God? This feast is a challenge for us as a Church and as individuals to ask ourselves, "Where in my life do I still try to be independent? What in my life have I not offered to God? Do I allow Christ to be the King of my life? Is He King of all of it, or just some of it?" We will always feel like something is missing in life, like there must be something more, like something in us is just not quite filled, until we give our God every aspect of our life, total control: until Jesus Christ is truly our King!
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
What do you see when you look in the mirror? The problem is that we can only see the external; a mirror can't show us what we look like internally: how our souls look, how our thoughts, words and actions are changing us, for better or for worse. Our first reading and Gospel are apocalyptic readings that refer, in part, to the end of time. "Apocalypse" doesn't mean "destruction," it means "pulling back the veil, uncovering." The day will come when the veil will be pulled back and we will see not just the external, but the whole truth of every person and situation: we will see everything as it truly is, and everything will see us as we truly are - all things will be unveiled. Will we be attractive? Will we be the beautiful, genuine person God created us to be? If you invite Jesus in now, He can heal those deeper, darker, blemished parts of your heart and soul...but only if you invite Him in. What do you see when you look in the mirror? Can you look deeper?
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
This weekend I joined almost 60 high schoolers from around our diocese for the winter High School Discipleship Weekend. These are young men and women serious about living out their Catholic faith: they want to continue growing in a deep and genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, they are learning to be active leaders in the faith, they are growing in intentional service to God and others, and they freely chose to give up their entire weekend in order to make these things a priority in their busy lives. Although I had basically lost my voice by Sunday morning, here is my homily from this amazing weekend!
Themes: trust in God, giving what little we have, God compares us to our former selves (not to other people), knowing when spiritual growth really begins to happen (which is opposite of what we usually think) - all of which, by the way, lead to a freedom in life, a freedom of heart, a deeper peace that we all want but that can only be given by God!
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our Gospel this weekend Jesus sums up the entirety of the Scriptures with the simple teaching to "love God and love neighbor." Christianity IS that simple...but it's not that easy! Growing in love of God and others is painful: like the pain and frustration you see go across a child's face when they have to learn how to share with someone else, we experience that same pain of transformation as we say goodbye to our selfish inclinations and learn to open ourselves up to love of God and others - which makes us become more of the person God created us to be! Our belief in Purgatory (which separates us as Catholics from all other Christians) is rooted in this idea of transformation from the inside out. Heaven is a place where every individual completely loves God and completely loves others...that transformation, those growing pains, have to take place at some point, whether during this life or after.
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When I was young, I didn't like doing the dishes - it was an obligation, a duty, something I HAD to do. When my parents came up to visit me the other week, I cooked them a nice meal, and then miracle of miracles...I wanted to do the dishes! Out of thankfulness for all they've done for me, I WANTED to do that service for them. In our Gospel today Jesus heals a blind man who then follows Him along the way. This once blind man is not living his faith out of a sense of duty or obligation - he's living his faith with enthusiasm because he's thankful for what Jesus has done for him. How do we live out our faith? How do we live out our relationship with God? Is it under a burdening sense of duty and obligation, or as an energizing, thankful and joyful response to what Jesus has done in our lives? What has Jesus done for you recently? Keeping that answer at the forefront of your mind will transform your faith!
Diocesan Youth Rally
When I was little I loved playing basketball. As I grew I moved from a little foam basketball to a little heavy basketball to a women's basketball to a men's basketball, from granny shots to real shots; then, one day, I finally realized what it felt like to make the perfect shot - you may as well turn around and start heading down the court because as soon as it leaves your hand you know it's going to be a swoosh! That swoosh experience, that feeling of everything working exactly how it's supposed to (no matter what the sport or activity)...you know what that feels like! "That's exactly how it's supposed to be!" we say to ourselves. Now what if you could say that about life? What if you could get to the end of a day and say, "That's exactly how life's supposed to be!" With the Lord...you can!
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It's a natural human tendency to make sense of things. We ask the question "Why?" and we come up with an answer to appease our minds. Our brains will even make up answers (even wrong ones, and totally believe them) just to satisfy this impulse to make sense of things. When it comes to suffering, pain, difficulty, and even death, however, coming up with an answer for "Why?" often makes God into some kind of monster. In the Scriptures God never gives an answer to "Why?" (I don't think there is one), but what He does do is show us "where" He is when it comes to suffering, pain, difficulty, and even death: "I'm right there with you! I walked that path already so that you would never have to walk it alone! You're never alone!"
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
An enthusiastic young man comes to Jesus in our Gospel asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Having followed all the commandments from his youth, Jesus invites the young man to take a step in faith...but this young man is very wealthy. At Jesus' challenge to sell what he owns and follow Jesus alone, this good young man walks away - he isn't willing to put something in his life down to take hold of Jesus. We only have two hands, and this weekend Jesus is stretching out his hand asking us to take hold and be raised to another level of our relationship with him. But we only have two hands, and keeping hold of Jesus often involves putting something else down in life - even good things. We've only got two hands: what are you holding onto?
I think the title speaks for itself...you'll want to listen to this!
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
How do we evaluate a day, a week, a month, a season in our life? Is it by how little we've done wrong or sinned? In the Gospel today Jesus comes down hard on sin: "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out!" While we may become complacent with our sins, Jesus never does. And yet, if our goal is never to sin, that neither makes us holy nor prepares us for heaven! The Christian life isn't about not sinning; heaven isn't about not sinning. Turning away from sin is only the first step of the Christian life. Then we walk the path of the Gospel in a real and living relationship with Jesus! So how do we evaluate a day, a week, a month, a season in our life? A Christian would evaluate it based on how generously he or she lived, how many opportunities to help others were taken advantage of, how much more a man or woman of the Gospel they became during that time.
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our Gospel today a deaf man with a speech impediment is brought to Jesus. Jesus takes him away from the crowd, touches his ears and tongue, prays, and cures both his deafness and speech impediment. In our society it seems that many of us Catholics, like the man in our Gospel, have experienced what it feels like to be tongue-tied: we don't always how to respond to people who are hostile to the Church (especially in light of the recent scandals) or how to answer difficult questions about what we believe clearly and concisely, and we're not always comfortable telling other people what Jesus Christ has done in our lives. Like He did the man in our Gospel today, Jesus wants to take us aside and cure our tongue-tied-ness...but like the man in the Gospel, the healing doesn't begin with the tongue.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Benedict Groeschel once told me, "The Church will get much smaller before it gets bigger." In our Gospel, Jesus' teaching that his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood (the Eucharist) to find eternal life turned many people away. But the Church has to get smaller, and more genuine, before it can grow through authentic and powerful witness. People get up in arms about Paul's words in our second reading, "Wives, be subordinate to your husbands." They fail, however, to read the rest of that chapter, where Paul asks all Christians to be subordinate to one another, to put the wants and needs of others before your own, because that is true love, that is what Christ did for us.
Sadly, we see in the recent news from Pennsylvania and the numerous scandals in the Church that some, even the Church's own ministers and leaders, have NOT chosen to follow this path that Paul (in following Jesus) laid out. Rather, they have chosen their wants and needs at the expense of and to the harm of others. Because of that bad example, many will leave the Church and even lose faith in God. And for those who remain, there is now more ammunition to be hurled at us. The Church will get smaller because of this, but it's a time of purification. "The Church will get much smaller before it gets bigger." But it will get bigger...through GENUINE witness to Jesus Christ!
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our Gospel this weekend, Jesus says that one must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. The people of his day and age are scandalized by that - "How can we possibly eat his flesh and drink his blood! That's preposterous!" Does Jesus apologize? Or soften his words? Or say that he's just speaking figuratively? No. In fact, he ups the ante. We miss it in the English translation, but in the Greek, in response to their pushback, Jesus uses a different word for "eat", a more vivid, primitive, and animalistic word, to make sure he clearly gets his point across. Our belief in the Eucharist as the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is at the same time our belief that God wants to be intimately close to us: that He literally wants to just eat us up!
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the spiritual life, it's often the case that when you want to go up, you'll first "feel" like you're going down (emphasis on "feel"). God grows us through struggle and perseverance, and it's in those times when we "feel" like we're going down that God is giving us the opportunity to grow in exactly that place where we feel weak. So the next time you are struggling, don't blame the situation, don't blame yourself or think you're doing something wrong. Perhaps everything is at it's supposed to be. Perhaps you're doing nothing wrong. Perhaps God is giving you the opportunity to grow in this place where you "feel" weak and "feel" like a failure. Maybe what feels like going down is actually going up!
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It seems to be a natural human tendency to begin something new with energy and enthusiasm...then the path begins to get long and difficult...our energy and excitement seem to dry up...we begin to doubt our initial commitment and wonder whether or not the change is really worth it...then we slowly fall back into the way things used to be - not because the old way was better, but simply because we were familiar with it, which makes it easier. That's the experience of the Israelites in the first reading, and in response God gives them manna, bread from heaven, food for the journey, so that they have the strength to continue down this new and better (but not easier) path. Jesus is the new Bread from heaven, the Food for our journey toward heaven here on earth. Every Mass, if we have eyes to see, we receive this Food and are given just enough strength to walk another week on our journey: away from our old (but easy and familiar) bad habits, and toward our God and our better selves.
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the Gospel today Jesus goes up a mountain to preach. This sixth chapter of John's Gospel, surprisingly enough, is all about the Mass and the Eucharist. People come and gather around Jesus, sitting at His feet and listening to His words - exactly what we do as we gather at Mass. Jesus then miraculously feeds thousands - at Mass we are fed with bread and wine miraculously become the Body and Blood of Christ. The more of ourselves we can put into the Mass, the more we will get out of it. So this week I leave you with three practical tips of how to enter more deeply into every Mass and carry that experience with you throughout the rest of the week.
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our first reading from Jeremiah, in the midst of very challenging times - the nation's leaders were not following the Lord and Jerusalem was on the path to destruction - God promises that one day He will come and shepherd His people rightly. That promise is fulfilled 500 years later in Jesus, Who comes to us, His people, as the true Shepherd in the line of King David, to lead us to our true home. That sounds very nice and poetic...but if we actually believe it, then it means that certain demands have been placed upon us: to submit to and follow our true Shepherd and King. How am I doing this week?
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the Gospel today, Jesus' apostles "anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them." This is one of the roots of our practice of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. When should someone get anointed? When do you call in the priest? Is it supposed to be during one's final hours on this earth? Or could it be sooner? Listen to find out more.
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This week I moved from Medford to Superior, Wisconsin to begin my new assignment at the 5 parish cluster in and around Superior. This homily is "some" of my story of re-conversion to our amazing Catholic faith and how I began hearing God's call to the priesthood (I say "some" because there is so much more to the story, just not enough time in one homily to cover it all!).
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our God is a God of life: He creates life and He upholds life. "God did not make death," our first reading says...and yet death is all around us. The reading continues, "but by the envy of the devil, death entered the world." We believe in the supernatural - we believe in angels. Angels are amazing immaterial creations of God! They are smarter, stronger and more powerful than humans, and they aren't limited by bodies like we are. Yet, God chose to make us in His image and likeness, not them. Out of pride and jealousy, some angels chose to turn away from God, becoming envious of the destiny that God has laid out for humanity. Through their envy and temptation of our first parents, death entered the world. Yet, God still calls us to an amazing destiny: made in His image and likeness, becoming a member of His family in baptism, God's plan is to raise humanity above all the choirs of angels and all other creation, to be seated at the right hand of the Father! We have an amazing destiny, and not even death can stop God from fulfilling it!