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The Covenant, Part 2: One Holy Tribe

Fr. Joel God & Faith Leave a Comment

Slowly through history God reveals himself to human beings. God made a covenant with Noah when he and his family came out of the ark. God waits for ten generations until a man named Abram is born. God calls Abram to leave his land and journey to the promised land. In Genesis 15 God makes his promises into a covenant. A covenant is a kind of solemn promise, like the promises a bride and groom make to each other on their wedding day. This covenant means that God and Abram are one people, one family together.

God tells Abram that he will have so many descendants they will be like the sands on the seashore or the stars in the sky. He even changes his name to Abraham which means “the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:5). Yet Abraham has no children. He has to trust God, and as a sign of his trust, he and all the males in his household must be circumcised. The Bible says that Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was finally born. The Bible is making two important points. The first is that God will keep his promises no matter what, even when it looks impossible to us. The second point is that God guides human fertility. He has given to men and women to ability to work together to create human life. This ability is so awesome, it’s a little scary. But God is the true author of every human life. This is why we call the generation of human beings, “procreation”. God invites us to use this power in accord with His will, in a way that glorifies God. Abraham struggled to see fertility as a gift from God that still belongs to God. When he trusts God with his sexuality, God uses it to bless him and to bless the world.

Isaac has Jacob (God changes his name to Israel). Jacob has 12 sons who become the 12 tribes of Israel. Just as God had foretold in Genesis 15, this growing tribe goes down to Egypt and becomes enslaved by the Egyptians. And that sets us up for the next covenant story in the Bible.

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What Do Rainbows and Wedding Rings Have In Common? (#814, Lent 1)

Fr. Joel Homilies

First Sunday of Lent • God said to Noah and to the whole earth: I take you to be my people, I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health… At Baptism God says these same words to us. Will you be faithful to God, as He has been faithful to you?Read More

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God Is Worth More Than Time, Food, and Money (#813, Ash Wednesday)

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ash Wednesday • Valentine’s Day is about all kinds of love: be my friend, give me candy, and I LUV U. Lent is about one kind of love: God’s love. God’s love makes a covenant with us: “I will be your God, and you will be my people. Forever.”

The Israelite people slowly learned that God was worth more. Do we realize that God’s love for us is worth more than being rich, powerful, popular, or successful? Lent is about trading a few nice things for something so much better: a deeper relationship with God. This Lent put God first and learn for yourself that God is worth more.Read More

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The Covenant, Part 1: One Holy Family

Fr. Joel God & Faith

Our Catholic faith includes plenty of philosophical and theological reflection, cultural traditions and strange legends. But fundamentally our Catholic faith is founded on history. The history of the world is a history of God’s relationship with the creatures He created. Our faith is founded on the encounters human beings have had with God. These encounters have been carefully recorded by eyewitnesses. It’s a romance, but the best kind, because it’s a true story. And it’s the greatest story ever told.

We need to remember and understand that when we read the Bible, fundamentally we are reading a book of history. It is a story of things that really happened. And what happened was that God gradually revealed himself. He spoke to one particular couple, then a family, and then eventually the whole world. God wanted a permanent and enduring relationship. In the Bible, this is called a covenant. A covenant is created by an oath in which two parties agree to be faithful to each other. Marriage is a covenant.

God wants this kind of relationship with his people. His first covenant is with the first couple, Adam and Eve. Then in Genesis 9, God makes a covenant with Noah, which includes his wife and three sons and their three wives. God blesses them and says, “be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.” Read Genesis Chapter 9 and you can hear echoes of the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2. After the 40 days of the flood when the sins of the world were washed away, God wants a new creation and a new people that will once again be His people and be holy, like their God. The call to be a holy family is a call the reflect God’s love to others — to be not only made in God’s image, but also to reflect His likeness. Your encounters with God are also part of this great history. May Lent be an opportunity for a new encounter with the God who loves you.

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Lent is all about Love

Fr. Joel Being Catholic

This year Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th, commonly commemorated as Valentine’s Day. It’s going to be quite the cultural conundrum for Catholics. Most of America will be thinking romantic thoughts, taking a honey out on a dinner date or surprising her with a box of chocolates. For Catholics, it will be Ash Wednesday as usual: fasting, abstaining from meat, and for many, giving up chocolate!

Ash Wednesday takes precedence, though we might be tempted to just ignore it this year. Let me encourage you to embrace it. The smart thing to do, gentlemen, is to make your Valentine’s Day plans for Tuesday instead. Surprise your honey with dinner out on a not-so-busy night, or an extra fat Tuesday of chocolate and romance. Then you can feel smug while getting smudged, knowing you’ve got in both your loving and your Lenting.

There is a still deeper meaning here. We often think of Lent in terms of giving something up: we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we don’t eat meat on the Fridays of Lent, we say extra prayer or do works of service. Fundamentally, Lent is about love. Lent begins with God’s immense, intense love for us. God loved us enough to create us and surround us with a beautiful world. But He gives even more. Through Baptism and Confirmation God has entered into a Covenant of Love with His people. He promises to be totally faithful to us forever.

And we, on the other hand, cannot claim to have been totally faithful to God. Instead of receiving gratefully, we take more than our share of God’s gifts and tell others, “It’s mine!” We too often prefer things to people. Above all, like the prodigal son, we reject our Father himself because we want “our share of the inheritance.” We have not held up our end of the covenant. And should be ashamed. We show our shame by smearing ourselves with ashes, letting go of some nice things, and turning our hearts back to God. In spite of our infidelity, God remains faithful. His love waits patiently for us to leave the pigsty and start for home. What a celebration he throws for us; our small penance leads to a big party! God’s love is worth far more than meat and chocolates. However much you give up for Lent will be tiny in compared to your sins. But it really is the thought that counts.

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Let Jesus Bring You Back to Life (#812, 6th Sunday)

Fr. Joel Homilies

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) • The leper was like a walking corpse. Jesus touched him and brought him back to life. What good is life if you have no purpose for living? The more we do, the busier we are, the less fulfilled we feel. God made you for a purpose: To know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

A Catholic funeral Mass reminds our loved ones that we are meant for Eternity. St. Damian and our parish Care Ministers remind the sick of their purpose and value. We need to be reminded regularly of our purpose. What do you focus on that interferes with knowing, loving, and serving God? This Lent, let Jesus bring you back to life.

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A Heart Like Mary’s (Book Review)

Fr. Joel Being Catholic

This book arrived in a stroke of perfect Divine timing. At our priest retreat this past year, a retreat master had described Mary as having an “uncluttered heart.” I have been desiring less clutter in my life. I had come to realize that the clutter in my home and the clutter in my heart were related. This led me to pray for the gift of an uncluttered heart. I had also intended to renew a consecration to Mary on December 8. Initially I had planned to use Fr. Michael Gaitley’s excellent resource 33 Days to Morning Glory.

But then this book came into my hands. Fr. Looney reflects on the heart of Mary as seen through scripture, tradition, and apparition stories. He sprinkles in a generous dose of his own experiences as a young priest. The style in simple, personal, and very accessible. I would even say it’s “uncluttered.” And it fit perfectly for what I was looking for. I used this book to renew my consecration.

Interestingly, Fr. Looney had a similar experience. He writes that he did not intend to write a book of Marian consecration but that is what ended up happening. And I ended up giving the book as a Christmas gift to all our parish staff and volunteers. I’ve gotten much positive feedback from grateful recipients. The book is small and humble, but full of little treasures. Perhaps in that way it reflects the heart of Mary.

A Heart Like Mary’s by Fr. Edward Looney

Full disclosure: I was provided a promotional copy by the author. I was under no obligation to provide a review and received no compensation other than the free book. The thoughts in this article are my own.

Do You Know Your Purpose? (#811, 5th Sunday)

Fr. Joel Homilies

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) • Jesus knows his purpose. St. Paul knows his purpose. Job eventually comes to appreciate that he has a purpose even if he doesn’t know what it is. Prayer can help us learn our purpose. Do you know your purpose?

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Standing Confident in Christ (#810, 4th Sunday)

Fr. Joel Homilies

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) • Moses was the greatest prophet in the Old Testament because he went up the mountain to speak to God face to face. But Jesus is greater because he is God come down the mountain. We can have confidence in Jesus: God really loves me, God knows better than I do, and God can bring good out of evil. Have confidence in Jesus and he will teach you how to teach your children.

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