20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It's proven that generosity makes for a happier person; generosity springs from gratitude - to the degree that we're thankful for the gifts we've been given in life, we have a desire to share these gifts with others. Thankfulness and generosity, though, are two virtues that you will not be challenged to grow in by popular culture, but they are two virtues at the heart of what it means to be Christian - the more thankful and generous we are, the more we become like our Maker!
This weekend is the kickoff for our annual diocesan Catholic Services Appeal (CSA). The CSA provides so many 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 thankfulness and generosity (in all senses of those words) and 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
In order to live in this world, we have to trust all kinds of things we see, hear and experience. On a daily basis we extend trust thousands of times - to people, situations, information...everything. A generic definition of "faith" is: "confidence or trust in a person, thing or concept." By this definition, every single person lives their lives by faith each and every day. Faith in God, then, means having confidence and trust in God - that He will do what He says, that what He promises to us humans He will do. In our readings today we see how God comes through on His promises, that God IS trustworthy, that we CAN trust God! The faith held up for us today is that whatever life may bring, no matter how bumpy the road, we know that God has us in the palm of His hand!
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our Gospel this weekend the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. After giving a short version of the Our Father, Jesus tells a semi-humorous story (in my opinion) highlighting the importance of persistence - in the context of this passage of persistent prayer. In our first reading we see a model of this kind of persistence in the conversation Abraham has with God (also a rather humorous exchange, in my opinion). But both readings make the point that God seriously encourages persistent prayer. The question remains, though, "What or who does prayer actually change? Does it change me or God?" Listen to find out!
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
After Moses gave the 10 Commandments to God's chosen people, he said something very interesting: that these commands were already written in their hearts. If, as Paul says in our second reading, all things are created in Christ, then it makes sense that the Maker would leave His mark deep within each of us, guiding us to what is best. God has given each of us a conscience, His voice deep within our gut, leading us on the right way. But then why do we need commandments or rules at all? Why can't we just each follow our own conscience?
Our conscience can sometimes be a burden and we don't always want to listen to that voice. So as we grow "smarter" and "wiser" we learn to rationalize away that voice of God deep within, until we hear only what we want to hear. This week we're challenged by Jesus to go back to the basics, to be reminded of what we already know deep within our hearts, and to listen for that simple and clear (but often difficult and inconvenient) voice of God which speaks to us from deep within - and to follow it!
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our readings today, we hear a number of call stories: God calling others to follow Him in a particular way. Whenever one of these calls happens in Scripture...that person is almost always busy! They have other plans; something else is on the agenda for the day; other big things are already going on in life. Sound familiar?! When God calls it's never convenient - it wasn't before and it isn't now. But as disciples of Jesus Christ we are meant to listen for and answer God's calls to us, no matter how big or small...or inconvenient. The challenge this week: grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ by listening for and answering a few more of those calls!
8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our Gospel today Jesus challenges us, before pointing the finger at someone else, to point it first right into the mirror. "How do I look (spiritually)? How could I look better (spiritually)?" This week, this Lent, take a long, hard look in the mirror...give some serious thought to what you'd like to do to make this your best Lent ever!
Once again I encourage everyone (all listeners, wherever you're from - if you're listening consider yourself part of our parish community) to register for FORMED by going to superiorcatholic.formed.org. Should it ask you for an Access Code ours is: 6RC4CN. This week's homily was 3 minutes short so that you would use those 3 minutes to register for FORMED, login, and see the resources they have to offer. Take advantage of this great opportunity for your own study and spiritual growth, available at your fingertips wherever wi-fi or data is present ; )
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This weekend Jesus tells us, "Stop judging and you will not be judged." Seems straightforward...but it also seems to put us as followers of Jesus in a crossfire. On the one hand, God shows us the path to a fulfilled life in this world and the next, asks us to follow it, and invites us to challenge others to do the same. On the other hand, when we challenge others to follow this path, when we stand up and say that certain actions are right and wrong, that certain decisions are good and bad, we're told, "Stop judging!" So can I judge, or can't I? (Hint: the answer to that questions is, "Correct!"). Listen to find out why!
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lent is just around the corner (2 1/2 weeks away) and I am excited to announce an incredible opportunity for all of my parishioners, as well as anyone from afar who stays connected with us through my website, podcast or recorded homilies. FORMED is a top-quality online resource that gives you access to all the best Catholic content, all in one place, and it has been provided FREE for our parishes (and listeners) thanks to a generous donation this year! As you look forward to Lent, as you consider the ways you want to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ this year, I would encourage you to see what FORMED has to offer - for you, for your family, for your friends - and work some of it's many possibilities into your Lenten resolutions. Register through us online, for free, at superiorcatholic.formed.org
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
God's calls to us often come as thoughts, just simple thoughts. It's easy to miss them if we're not paying attention, or (if you're like me) you reason yourself out of them. But God calls us every day, in little moments, to reach out to others, to pray for others, to share our experiences of the Lord. Like Isaiah and Peter in our readings today, we might not feel like we're the best fit for the job, we won't know what following a call will actually entail. But like Isaiah and Peter, when we hear these calls of God during our day, these simple thoughts and tugs of the heart, let's go for it and unleash more of God's life into this world bit by bit!
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Walls are necessary for security, to protect the life that is fostered within those walls. Just before our first reading begins, the Jewish people have finally been allowed to go home to Jerusalem after being conquered and sent away years ago. The first thing they do is rebuild the walls to ensure their security. Then our reading picks up with the great stories of their history being retold to this people who had in many ways forgotten their heritage and identity as God's Chosen People - they are being formed again so that they can become the light to the world that God intended. It is much the same in our Catholic Church today. To be strong and secure in our Catholic faith we do need to be set apart, we do need to build walls to protect our life inside from the attacks of the outer world. But we are also invited – like the Israelites – to reclaim our identity and then throw open the windows to let this life transform those around us: it’s both/and. Where do you need to strengthen a wall this week? And where are you being asked to open a window?
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In this week's Gospel Jesus performs his first known miracle: turning water into wine at a wedding reception. Jewish wedding receptions lasted 5-7 days; it was the third day of this wedding reception and they're already running out of wine - it would have been a complete humiliation for the newlyweds. For this miracle, however, Jesus didn't magically become aware of the wine shortage, snap his fingers and fix it all in an instant. Rather, this miracle involved a number of people: noticing a problem, bringing it to Jesus, persevering through seeming rejection, carrying out laborious and seemingly useless orders, all backed by a trust that it would turn out OK in the end. What would have happened if one link in that chain had been broken by someone stopping from discouragement or doing something other than what Jesus asked because it would have been the more logical or sensible thing to do? The miracle probably wouldn't have happened. This week: how will you fit into that chain of events as God tries to use you to work a blessing, even a miracle, in the life of someone else?
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?
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!
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?