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!
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!
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?
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.
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!
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Life requires decisions, decisions require judgments. Tt follows, then, that we make judgments all day long. Every decision we make involves judging and judgment of various factors (even indecision is making the choice not to decide, which is guided by our judgments). So why does "judging" get such a bad wrap? Why does God speak so directly against judging others in Scripture? Can we judge or can't we? The answer is, "Yes, we can and should judge"...but there is a distinction to be made between two very different kinds of judgment - one that we must make, and one that we ought never to make. The problem is, we often jump right from the first into the second!
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
God our Father is the Divine Physician, the greatest doctor of both body and spirit in this entire universe. In Jesus Christ the Divine Surgeon has expertly removed the cancer of our sin, through the Scriptures the Divine Physical Therapist gives us our necessary exercises, and in the Holy Spirit, prayer and the Eucharist the Divine Nutritionist gives us the sustenance necessary to be strengthened for the task. God's love and mercy is that He provides all of this to us for free (who by no means deserve it and have no means of paying Him back). But God's love and mercy can't do it for us - we have to work with these gifts to reap the healing benefits that are freely offered. And in this treatment plan, we all, when we're totally honest with ourselves, know what our next step is. This week, let' start with our own personal next step of that treatment plan.
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Do you remember as a kid walking around outside in the dark, seeing something move in the shadows and then freezing in horror - you tried hard to focus on it, sometimes you were convinced it was moving, sometimes you were convinced it couldn't be - your imagination running wild...then other shadows and objects seem to start moving...only to come back the next morning, in the full light of day, to find that it was something as harmless as a pine tree or as simple as a fencepost?
In the darkness many things become confusing and uncertain - we think we see or understand something, we draw conclusions that seem to make sense in the darkness, only to realize in the light of day that the truth is quite different. In the readings today Jesus fulfills an age-old prophecy from Isaiah and enters the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali, historically dark and gloomy (from the perspective of faith in God), in order to bring the light. As Christians, we are called to follow Christ and bring the light to places of darkness and confusion in our culture. Those in the darkness become pretty convinced that they are correct in their deductions, but it is our call as Christians to bring the bright the light of day, the truth, to seemingly difficult and controversial contemporary issues. Christ came to bring the light, and we are Christ-ians - let's live up to our name at least one more time than usual this week!
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Hellfire, brimstone, damnation - words we don't hear very often anymore, but words that our first reading calls to mind (and themes that arise out of our Scriptures). And lest we think that Jesus ushered in an age full of only mercy, pardon and mushy-gushy "love", Jesus Himself, multiple times in the Gospels, speaks strongly about judgment, hellfire, the separation of the righteous and the wicked, warning us of the wide and easy road that leads to destruction and encouraging us to follow the narrow and difficult road that leads to life. This week I challenge you: have conversations about some of these difficult topics with friends and other believers, Catholic or otherwise. These ideas aren't culturally acceptable, many discount them these days, but if we call ourselves Christian, if we believe what Jesus (the Son of God, the Author of all truth) says, then we have to start taking these ideas seriously!
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Why is it that we as Catholics are the only Christians that pray for our beloved dead? Why is it that we are the only Christians who believe in Purgatory? In this homily I will explore how other Christians believe Jesus saves us versus how we as Catholics believe Jesus saves us, and what that difference means in praying for the dead, purgatory, and how we live our lives here and now!
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sometimes God works incredible miracles that are visually and experientially miraculous. In our first reading and Gospel today we have 11 lepers who are all miraculously cured by God...but they're healed in very non-incredible ways: taking a bath and out for a walk. More often than not, God's ways are subtle, quiet and seemingly indirect. God's hand is moving and blessing and answering prayers, but often in unexpected ways, which means that it's easy to miss God's blessings in our lives and the lives of others. Of the 11 lepers cleansed, only 2 come back to thank God for answered prayers. As we approach God in prayer, as we attend Mass, let's join with the 2 lepers who came back, and let's give thanks to God for His many blessings and answered prayers in our lives!