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!
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?
3rd Sunday of Advent
The story of Advent is that the Eternal Son of the Father, God Himself, became human to save us from our sin and show that He IS with us. God is always with me - every moment of the day. I’ll be honest, though: that’s really hard to see sometimes. But it’s the reality! When I go through my day not consciously experiencing the presence of God with me, that’s living in a fantasy, it’s living in a lie, it’s living with my eyes closed to reality. God is with me! The challenge this week: I dare you to try to live one hour of your normal, daily life conscious that Jesus IS with you!
1st Sunday of Advent
As we begin this new Church Year we are reminded by Paul “to be blameless in holiness”. What does holiness really mean? What does holiness really look like? Holiness is not something far out there or high up beyond our reach; I would argue that holiness is something close to us…too close…uncomfortably close. Holiness is doing all of the normal things we do with and for the Lord, living in God’s kingdom and spreading God’s kingdom in and through the daily situations and interactions of our lives. That’s our mission, that’s real holiness, and that can be attained by anyone — which is why it’s scary: because it means I no longer have an excuse!
“God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission.” ~ St. John Henry Newman
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Rules are for children who don't yet fully understand; as we mature we begin to grasp the deeper reasons behind the rules, along with their nuances and qualifications. In the Gospel today Jesus heals Bartimaeus the blind man, who then follows Jesus on 'the way'; Bartimaeus isn't leaving to follow a set of rules and regulations, He's leaving to follow a person - Jesus Christ. An immature understanding of our faith sees Catholicism as a bunch of rules, while an adult understanding acknowledges that all of these rules are for the sake of living out a healthy, strong, mature relationship with a person - Jesus Christ!
Like Bartimaeus, God has done great things for each of us as well! Can we respond maturely and set out on 'the way' with Jesus, next to Bartimaeus, not simply following rules but actually growing in a relationship with a person - Jesus Christ?
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Freedom is a word very often used in society today...but what does it actually mean? Are there different kinds of freedom? What kind of freedom leads to happiness and fulfillment? What kind of freedom does Jesus offer to us if we follow Him?
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First, I will share a story with you of an inheritance. Then, moving to our Gospel, Jesus speaks very forthrightly about a place of unquenchable fire called Gehenna and that sin is what leads us there. Do we believe Jesus' words? Do we believe in hell and that sin leads people to it? Or have we learned now, as opposed to that antiquated time that the Son of God walked this earth, that God loves everyone so much that nobody would ever go to hell? Have we learned that Jesus was wrong? And what does that have to do with an inheritance?
24th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Peter is often the first of the Apostles to step up and, while he is also very quick to fall, in today’s Gospel he confidently proclaims that Jesus is the Christ. I have been proud in these past months when, after a homily, you have responded by acting and living out the challenges — going out of your comfort zone to come to confession, meet new people at Church, or thank others for coming to Church (especially those that might be near the age of your own kids and grandkids that you wish would come back to Church). I want that to be a common experience: that you’re regularly talking about and celebrating how you’ve gone out of your comfort zone, stepped up by putting into practice what’s been said here, and what happened when you did! Then step up again...and repeat!
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
This week we celebrated the Feast of St. Monica, patron of praying wives and mothers desiring the conversion of their husbands and children. The day after we celebrated the Feast of St. Augustine, Patron Saint of our Diocese of Superior...Monica's once wayward son become an incredibly influential figure in the history of the Church. So many Catholics these days have kids, grandkids, siblings that we wish would come to Church...but sadly they don't; and often it seems like they never will. So what do we do with that? What do we do with our deep desire to see them encounter God and experience true conversion, along with the heaviness and discouragement of seeing so many of our words and invites fall on deaf ears, closed minds and hard hearts? Well I have an answer, I have a dream - simple, practical, powerful and real - that would change hearts and lives...and it involves YOU!
Solemnity of the Assumption
In heaven, Scripture says, we shall be like God, for we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2). Today we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, that she was assumed/taken up soul and body into heaven by a singular grace of God. Mary, by God's grace and her free will, radically followed and trusted God - she already looked like God in this life! Our call as "Christians" is to be "followers of Christ", "other Christs" - to look like Christ; we start looking more like Christ when we start acting more like Christ.
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. Jesus Christ practiced prayer and generosity to the point of death; let's act more like Christ in this life, so as to become more of who we are called to be in the next!
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!