Fr. Joel’s homily for Jan 10

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ord1 – Child, I love You

Baptism of the Lord. There was once a football player who yearned for his Father’s love and approval. At his Baptism in the Jordan God the Father speaks these words to his Son. Every child needs to hear the Father say, “Child, I love you. I’m proud of you.” (10 Jan 2010)

Readings | Subscribe | iTunes

The article is: Through aches and pains, Favre still driven by dad in the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA TODAY. Note: An astute listener pointed out that Jesus hears the Father’s voice again at the Transfiguration.

Fr. Joel’s homily for Dec 27

Fr. Joel Homilies

Chr – To be a Holy Family (6:50)

Christmas, Holy Family. The recording is very poor so here is an abbreviated transcript of the homily.

A couple of weeks ago a woman in our parish brought me a box of homemade goodies: applesauce, pears, jams, salsa, even cookies. So I put the box in the sacristy. After Mass I ran into Fr. Jack and he said, "Fr. Joel, someone brought me a box of goodies. Would you please take most of the things that are in that box, because I’m going on sabbatical and I won’t be able to eat them."

I said, "Fr. Jack, I’ll take everything in that box, because it was a gift to me!"

We both had a good laugh over it later on. The confusion was simple: Whom did the gift really belong to? It belonged to me. And I wasn’t about to let it get away.

We have some very interesting readings this weekend. Our first reading tells the story of Elkanah, a man with two wives. One of his wives has children, but Hannah has none. So she prays to God and promises that if God sends her a child, she will dedicate that child to God. And so Samuel is born and when he is weaned she takes him to the temple and gives him to God. He grows up to become one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament. She goes on to have more children – 3 more sons and 2 more daughters, a reward for her generosity to God.

Children are a gift from God. But whom do they really belong to? Our first reading reveals that the truly belong to God. He has entrusted children to their parents as stewards, who must care for these infinitely precious gifts. Children don’t truly belong to their parents, they  belong to God, and we must care for them as God would want us to.

We see the same idea again in the Gospel reading. Jesus’ parents accidentally leave him in the temple. After searching for 3 days, they finally find him. Mary gives him a hard time; "Son, why did you do this to us?" Jesus responds, "Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house." He’s in the temple, he is in his father’s house; it makes perfect sense to him. Now if there is anyone who can say, "My parents don’t understand me," it’s Jesus. He is the Son of God – how could his parents possibly understand him?

And yet Jesus chooses to be obedient to them. There is another side to the coin of stewardship. Just as parents have been entrusted with their children, so children have been entrusted to their parents. God doesn’t just want Mary and Joseph to babysit his son – he trusts them with Jesus. And so Jesus is obedient to them, and because he was obedient the Bible says, "He advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man." He advances because he is obedient to them. Parents represent God the Father to their children, and the children must be obedient.

The comforting thing about this Gospel is this: even the Holy Family didn’t get it right all the time. Even the most perfect parents in the world lost their child once. Just as we find ourselves having to search for Jesus, so even Mary and Joseph had to go out and search for Jesus. So on this feast of the Holy Family we not only rejoice in the gift of families but we also pray that God would make our own families better reflections of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

(27 Dec 2009)

Readings | Subscribe | iTunes

Christmas Memories

Benjamin God & Faith

– Fr. Benjamin

Christmas has always been a time of great excitement for me. My parents made church services an important part of the Christmas season, and often my father would read the account of Christmas from the Gospel of Luke. When I was young, however, the excitement focused on the candy and cookies that we would make, and on the gifts I would receive. I looked forward with giddy anticipation of that joyful moment when we would tromp downstairs to open presents. I remember being puzzled by the ending of, “How the Ginch stole Christmas.” Christmas had come without presents?

As I grew older, the gifts lost their luster. Small things I could buy for myself, and the things I really wanted, like a new car, were too big to ask for. Slowly it began to dawn on me that the joy of Christmas was never about the gifts.

The seminary gave me the opportunity to study in Rome, which had a lot of beautiful moments but also some great challenges. I was fortunate that my twin brother, Fr. Joel, was studying with me. In December, facing our first Christmas away from home, we decided to go to Slovakia to visit the land of our great grandfather and hopefully see some snow. We had connections with a family in Slovakia who opened their home to us. Their celebration of Christmas was very subdued compared to what we were used to in the United States. They had a family dinner on Christmas Eve and then exchanged a few small gifts. They included a small gift for each of us, since we didn’t have anything from our family to open. The midnight Mass was celebrated completely in Slovak. I understood very few words but I knew exactly what was happening.

I realized later that the “impossible” had happened. Christmas had come without the candy, the cookies, or the large gifts. Without my mother’s home cooking, without our family home, without our family traditions or any of my family except my brother, outside of my own country, Christmas had still come.

Many people long for the wonder of their childhood Christmas when Santa Claus brought presents and the world seemed wrapped in joy. If the gifts, the feasting, and the family celebration have lost some of their magic, it is only because they never had any magic of their own. They only participated in the magic of Christmas that pours out of the stable of Bethlehem. At Bethlehem the impossible happened: the king became a slave; God became a human baby in Jesus Christ. The wonder of that Holy Night shines in the darkness of innumerable winters and fills countless souls with peace and joy. God is among us! God is poor and helpless! Suddenly the weight of the world is lighter on our shoulders, because the Almighty carries that burden with us.

Christmas was always a time of excitement for me, but I can say with all my heart that Christmas is more exciting and more magical than it was when I was a child. As I have grown, the wonder of what Christmas means has grown with me.

Wishing each of you a Christmas full of wonder.

Fr. Joel’s homily for Dec 20

Fr. Joel Homilies

Adv4 – Pregnant with Hope (6:30)

Advent, 4th Sunday. The world has been growing darker, but meanwhile our Advent wreath is growing brighter. Hope is already in the world though we have not yet seen its effects. In the same way Mary is pregnant with hope, carrying Baby Jesus. Even though John and Elizabeth cannot see or hear Christ, they believe, and they wait for the fulfillment. So must we. (20 Dec 2009)

Readings | Subscribe | iTunes

H1N1 and the Priest

Fr. Joel Priesthood

Even priestly ministry has been touched by swine flu. Our local Catholic hospital has put special requirements in place for anyone who is dealing with H1N1 patients. Specifically, you must wear an N95 “particulate mask” when dealing with such patients. This mask is designed to fit tightly around the face and filter any airborne viruses. As a priest on call with the hospital, I was asked to get fit-tested.

Fit-Testing

Fit testing is a procedure where they verify that you can correctly put the mask on. First they put a giant clear-plastic hood over your head (it looks like something from a 1960’s sci-fi movie). They spray a bitter mist into the hood to verify that you can taste the bitter material. Then you remove the hood and put the mask on your face and seal it carefully. Then you don the giant plastic hood again and they mist in more bitter solution. “Do you taste anything?” No. Good.
Try turning your head from side to side and breathing. No?
Please talk normally. How about now?
Here is a short passage, please read it.
They spray in more of the solution.
Please stand. Tip your head up and down. Still nothing? Good.
I can now successfully wear the “normal” size N95 mask. It looks like a giant duck-bill. But it could save my life.

The Mask in Action

Two days later I stop by the hospital to visit parishioners. They were just about to call me — we have an H1N1 patient who needs anointing. Please go as soon as possible. A feeling of low-grade panic spreads through my body. I nod with a show of bravery and stride over to the elevator. The bravery stays on the first floor as I slowly ascend. I walk slowly through the hall examining every door. There it is – Room 415. I walk by the door once, then twice, then three times. Yes, that’s the correct door. And yes, it has the precautionary sheet.

Slowly I pull on my mask. It just so happens that there is a shortage of N95 masks. They have also asked me not to dispose of my mask after each use. So I brought my fit-testing mask home in a little bag and kept it with me. They also want to to wear a generic surgical mask on top of the N95. Fully attired in disposable armor, I admire my work in the mirror. I look ridiculous.

I take a deep breath and step into the room. The patient is coughing and clearly sick. Her daughter is on the phone with the parish cancelling the family portrait for the parish directory. We talk for a few minutes and then I do the anointing. Unconsciously I have been speaking loudly, hoping my voice will carry through on the masks. I back out of the room slowly, then discard one mask and save the other. Not sure if I should wash my hands before or after, I do both.

A sense of accomplishment washes over me. I have anointed a patient, and I didn’t die. I also have a new respect for doctors and nurses. What I have just been through is part of their hourly routine. They work every day around dangerous infectious diseases. Any day they could take one home with them. So thank you, medical personnel for risking your lives for us. And just know that if you happen to become infected, I have an N95, and I’m no longer afraid to use it!

Living Well – True Joy

Fr. Joel The Loving Life

At his weekly Angelus this weekend, Pope Benedict blessed the Baby Jesus for nativity scenes. His little address is very interesting. If what he says is true (I’ll let the reader judge that), it contains the key to true joy:

“It is a source of joy for me”, said the Holy Father, “to know that your families still conserve the custom of making nativity scenes. Yet it is not enough to repeat the traditional gesture, however important it may be. We must seek to live what the nativity scene represents in the reality of our everyday lives: that is, the love of Christ, His humility and His poverty”.

“The blessing of the ‘Bambinelli’ – as they are called in Rome – reminds us that the nativity scene is a school of life where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in possessing many things but in feeling ourselves to be loved by the Lord, in making ourselves a gift for others, and in loving one another

Let us consider the nativity scene: the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph do not appear to be a very privileged family, they had their first child amidst great hardship, yet they are full of intimate joy because they love one another, they help one another and, above all, they are certain that God is at work in their story”.

“And the shepherds”, the Pope asked, “what reason do they have to be happy? That newborn infant will certainly not alter their poverty and marginalisation. Yet faith helps them to recognise in the ‘child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger’, the ‘sign’ of the fulfilment of God’s promises for all the men and women ‘whom He favours’, even for them!”

For this reason, Benedict XVI explained, true joy consists in “feeling that our individual and community lives are touched by and filled with a great mystery, the mystery of the love of God. In order to be joyful we need … love and truth, we need a God Who is near, Who warms our hearts and responds to our most profound expectations.”

Benedict XVI, Angelus, 13 Dec 2009

Fr. Joel’s homily for Dec 13

Fr. Joel Homilies

Adv3 – Rejoice, the Lord is Near (7:50)

Advent, 3rd Sunday. Rejoice in the Lord always, the Lord is near! John the Baptist calls his listeners to their deepest desires – Peace, Joy, and Unconditional Love. These desires can only be filled by God. Advent is the season of realizing our need for God and of refusing all the things that fail to satisfy. Just as we rejoice in the Lord, so also God rejoices in us. (13 Dec 2009)

Readings | Subscribe | iTunes