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A Life Without Jesus is Pointless | #1010

Fr. Joel Homilies Leave a Comment

Ordinary Time, 2nd Sunday (A) I paid a visit Mission San Luis in Tallahassee. It tells the story of missionaries and martyrs at the dawn of European contact with what is now the United States. I was amazed by their willingness to die for Christ. That night I watched old Seinfeld episodes and wondered: Is your life a show about nothing, or a life lived with purpose?

You will not begin to truly live until you have found something, or someone, worth dying for. St. John the Baptist exists to point to Christ. St. Paul has realized that Jesus is the point of his life. He now spends his life pointing others to Christ. Your life will feel pointless if it isn’t pointing to Jesus.

Going Deeper: Read more about the Martyrs of La Florida Missions. What strikes you as you read their stories?

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Jesus baptism Holy Spirit

Soaking in the Love of God | #1009

Fr. Joel Homilies 1 Comment

Baptism of the Lord (A) The whole Jesus is present under the appearance of bread or wine. Intinction is an option for offering Communion under both species that is more sanitary than drinking from a common cup. We don’t ‘take’ Communion because Jesus gives himself to us. So we open our hands, or our mouth, to receive Him.

Why does Jesus get baptized, if he had no sin? He is baptized for us. He takes our sins into the river like he takes our sins to the cross. His dip in the water makes the waters clean so we can be cleaned by Baptism. Jesus wants to give us all the gifts he has received: life, peace, truth, and the Father’s love for him. We should be like sponges that soak in God’s love and then squish it out everywhere we go.

(12 Jan 2020)

Going Deeper: What did God give you at Christmas time? Write it down, meditate on it, and soak in God’s love for you.

[image source]

Return Home by Another Way | #1008

Fr. Joel Homilies 1 Comment

The Epiphany of the Lord (TEC Retreat Homily) There are some similarities between a TEC Retreat and the Three Wise Men: they left their home country, endured discomforts, found the Christ Child, and went home by a different way. They brought the things that had been the most important to them, and they laid those things at the feet of Jesus. A relationship with Him was their new most important thing.

Many of you have had a great experience away on retreat. Now you are afraid of what will happen when you return to your old life. How can you go back by another way? Take a look at these two images:

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Blessing of the Home and Household on Epiphany

Fr. Joel Being Catholic Leave a Comment

The traditional date of Epiphany is January 6, but in the United States it is celebrated on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8. It is sometimes called “Little Christmas” and marks the arrival of the Wise Men (Magi) to the manger in Bethlehem. The custom of blessing homes while recalling the visit of the Magi is celebrated in most old-world countries. The family gathers. Candles are lit. It is most appropriate to gather around the Advent wreath in which the purple candles have been replaced with white. But other white, non-scented candles may be lit if the family does not have an Advent wreath.

The leader (usually the father or mother) begins by saying:

Peace be with this house and with all who live here.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!

During these days of the Christmas season,
we keep this feast of Epiphany,
celebrating the manifestation of Christ to the Magi.
Today Christ is manifest to us!
Today this home is a holy place.

Let us pray:

Father, we give you special thanks on this festival of the Epiphany,
for leading the Magi from afar to the home of Christ,

who has given light and hope to all peoples.
By the power of the guiding spirit,
may his presence be renewed in our home.
Make it a place of human wholeness and divine holiness:
a place of joy and laughter,
a place of forgiveness and peace,
a place of prayer, service and discipleship.

The leader takes the blessed chalk and marks the lintel (the doorframe above the door) of the main exit door of the house as follows:

20 + C + M + B + 20

(the last two digits are the current year. The CMB stands for the names of the three wise men and also “Christ Bless this Home” in Latin)

The prayer below is said during the marking by another family member, such as the mother or a child:

Loving God, as we mark this lintel,
send the angel of mercy to guard our home
and repel all powers of darkness.
Fill those of us living here with a love for each other
and warm us with the fullness of your presence and love.

After the lintel has been marked, the leader finishes by saying:

Lord our God, you revealed your only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star.
Bless now this household with health,
goodness of heart, gentleness,
and the keeping of your law of love.
May all who dwell here or visit this dwelling with their presence,
find the joy and thoughtfulness of Mary, the God-bearer,
and thus praise and thank you eternally together with Jesus,
the light of the nations,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit and the Church,
now and for ever.

All respond: Amen.

All join hands and pray together the “Our Father.”

The leader then invites all to share a sign of peace:
Let us offer each other a sign of peace.

Other doors may be marked by family members, especially children marking the doors of their own bedrooms. If possible, the family may continue the celebration by sharing a special meal together.

Source: This blessing service was adapted from the one that St. Josaphat Basilica in Milwaukee gives out each year at this time.

A Jar Full of Christmas Joy | #1007

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The Octave of Christmas & the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God • We continue to soak in the Christmas mystery. Wouldn’t it be great if every one of our homes was a little Bethelehem, a little Nazareth? Mary had the most deep and the most intimate relationship with God that we could possibly imagine. She wants us to have a deep, personal, and intimate relationship with Jesus too. Follow her example and ponder God’s good gifts in your heart.

(1 Jan 2020)

Going Deeper: Decorate a quart jar. Once a week write down one blessing that you are grateful for. At the the end of the year, empty the jar and reflect on your blessings from the whole year.

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three people wood working

Want More Peace in Your Family? Do This One Thing | #1006

Fr. Joel Homilies, The Loving Life Leave a Comment

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (A) All that wonderful family togetherness at Christmas may have proven that ours is not the Holy Family. So today we return to Bethlehem. On Christmas we focused on the Christ Child. Now we “zoom out” to learn from Mary and Joseph too.

If you want more peace and love in your family, then love, honor, and obey your parents. Your husband. And Almighty God. St. Joseph was probably the least qualified to lead the Holy Family. The secret to his success was his willingness to listen to God and obey him. Mary obeyed Joseph because Joseph obeyed God. And Jesus obeyed them both. We can only be a team when we have a sense of mission and purpose outside our ourselves. Let us dedicate our family to serving God in the coming year.

(29 Dec 2019)

Going Deeper: How can I be more obedient to God, my husband, and/or my parents? Plan to bless your home together as a family on January 6th.

This Year Elves Put Up My Christmas Tree | #1005

Fr. Joel Homilies 3 Comments

Christmas Day • Are you afraid of the dark? Most grownups no longer need a night-light. But we hide from the darkness of our past and our fears. Jesus comes to be your friend, a friend who is the Light. He is the answer to the yearnings of your heart. He loves you and wants a relationship with you. What do you have to do? Just leave the door unlocked. Jesus will enter your heart and Christmas will fill your soul.

(25 Dec 2019)

Going Deeper: Every time we take Communion, we are responding to an Altar Call. Jesus wants to give himself to you. Come forward only if you are willing to open your heart to Jesus, and make a gift of yourself to him. Those who aren’t Catholic or aren’t able to take sacramental communion can come forward with their arms crossed for a blessing. Say AMEN and really mean it. And if you find yourself in church but are not prepared to give yourself to Jesus, then remain in the pew. We respect your journey.

baby Jesus nativity scene

Christmas Letter for 2019

Fr. Joel Church meets World Leave a Comment

A Light in the Darkness

Some days it can be hard to have hope. School shootings. Missing children. Domestic violence. Global terrorism. Climate change. Cancer; it seems always another person has gotten cancer. Mental Illness. Suicide. A college Freshman told me she has lost three high school classmates to suicide. If that isn’t a sign of hopelessness, I don’t know what is. You might think this is a terrible place to start a Christmas letter. But this is exactly where the first Christians placed Christmas: on the darkest day of the year. God looked down on us and saw a world grown cold and dark. He knew that there was only one answer: we needed the warmth of His love and the light of His truth. Jesus is the Light of the World. He came to give us light and true life, and yes, hope in our hopelessness. He was not afraid to enter into our sinful, broken world. Jesus is not afraid of the dark.

You might think his mission failed. It’s been 2000 years and there’s still just as much darkness as ever. Maybe more. Is the Light of Christ not strong enough or bright enough? Is Baby Jesus just not powerful enough to face the forces of Darkness? Come Easter, we will celebrate the Victory of our King over the forces of darkness. The problem is not in Jesus, or in the world. The problem is in your heart and mine. We often prefer the darkness to the light. It is more familiar and more comforting. It gives us the illusion that we can be in control. Heart after heart has grown dark from sin and cold with selfishness. Until the light of God’s love seems all but extinguished around us.

God’s light is no less powerful than it ever was. The same light that filled the hearts of the first believers is waiting to change your heart. It may seem small only because we are distant from Him. If you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you. If you love Him, He will come and make His dwelling within you. Your heart will be filled with Jesus’ warmth even on the coldest days. Your life will be guided by His light no matter how dark the world is. You will grow and glow and your heart will bring His light to others. He wants us to draw near and be with Him not just this one day of the year, but all 366 days of this leap year. Jesus is not afraid of your darkness. Are you afraid of His Light?

Your brother in Christ,
+Fr. Joel

coffee cup and tea kettle

All He Wants for Christmas is You | #1004

Fr. Joel Homilies 2 Comments

Advent, 4th Sunday (A) Sometimes we think a gift is perfect but it ends up sitting on our shelf. Other times a gift we don’t appreciate ends up being super useful. God offers the gift of a relationship with Himself. Ahaz is not open to a relationship with God. But Joseph is willing to welcome the Christ Child even though it totally changes his plans.

We tend to be “consumers” of religion. I was a good person all year, why did I get coal in my stocking or have to spend Christmas in the hospital? Where is the peace, joy, or answer to prayer I’ve been looking for. God never promised those things. God promised he would be Emanuel, God-with-us, in good times and in bad.

Are you open to a relationship with God? Is your friendship with God the most important thing in your life — something you use ever day, even if it doesn’t fit your own plans? Or do you put God out of the way “until I need it some day”?

A surprising number of Catholics plan to celebrate Christmas without Christ Mass. Maybe for them Christmas is just presents and family time. They don’t realize God is offering them a relationship. You probably haven’t gotten all your gifts yet. In fact, you may have forgotten the birthday boy himself. The Good News is there’s only one thing on Jesus’ Christmas list: You. God cared enough to send his very best. What are you giving Jesus this Christmas?

(22 Dec 2019)

Going Deeper: How can I give Jesus the gift of myself at Christmas time? How can religion be less of a consumer transaction and more of a personal relationship?

Thank you St. Anthony PCCW!

Jesus offering his hand

New Life in Christ

Fr. Joel God & Faith 1 Comment

Part 4 of a four-part series on the Good News.

  1. Created by God our Father
  2. Kidnapped by the Enemy
  3. Rescued by Jesus Christ
  4. New Life in Christ

The Jews had been slaves in Egypt. Then Moses came and led them out. As the Israelites marched out into the desert, they thought they were free. But their wandering in the desert would expose their deeper slavery. Their hearts were enslaved to false worship (the golden calf), to their desires (complaining about food), and to their fears (refusing to trust God). It took 40 years for them to truly become free. They only experienced freedom when they were able to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

We think of ourselves as free people. We have freedom of speech and of religion and many other freedoms as Americans. We have the freedom to go to church any time we want to. It just so happens that most times we don’t want to. Even though Jesus has defeated the Devil and opened the gates of Heaven, we continue to choose slavery. Jesus could be talking to us in John 8:21-59. He tells some Jews that had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They respond, “We are descendents of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus responds, “Every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.” He then goes on to point out that they are believing the Devil’s lies and doing the works of the Devil.

We have bought the lie that freedom means, “I can do whatever I want to do.” Jesus is offering us a relationship with the Father, which is the freedom to love and be loved. But to experience it, we have to accept the Father’s lordship over us. This means surrendering to God’s will and being obedient to Him. To us, who grew up in a culture of slavery, the freedom Jesus offers actually looks like slavery. But God created us for Himself, and we will only find true life in Him. The alternative is to live for myself. We all know what a terrible idea that is, and how it leads to a slavery of desires and fears. Ultimately the “freedom” of the world leads us to total isolation and loneliness. Most Americans are living a life of solitary confinement in the prison of their own egos. You were made for more! Communion with God is true liberation. And Jesus is the way to the Father. Come live in the Light, accept the Truth, and find true Life!


Footnotes: cf Acts XXIX Ministries | Image