The Spirit Leads Churches and Families | #931

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Pentecost (C) What can we do to stop the decline in the Catholic Church? Not a whole lot, actually. We will not be a thriving parish by trying to be a thriving parish. What we can do is to love Jesus and keep His commandments. We need to be good Christian friends supporting one another. We need to be spouses that discern God’s will and do it together. When we work together and support each other, the Spirit can do great things through us. (9 June 2019)

Going Deeper: Do you and your spouse (if married) pray together and support each other in following God’s will? Do you have close friends that you can talk to about faith? If you do, let them know how much you appreciate them. If you don’t, try and be a good Christian friend to someone else.

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Getting Plugged In To Power From On High | #930

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Ascension of the Lord (C) Jesus ascended into Heaven leaving behind an Israel still oppressed by the Romans and millions trapped in poverty and hunger and ignorance. The job wasn’t finished — why did He leave?

As a busy young pastor I found myself overwhelmed by all the work of ministry. The harder I worked, the more behind and inadequate I felt. Then I started actually talking to God and listening to His Spirit. I realized that I had been secretly serving myself instead of serving God. We won’t thrive as a church, or as individuals, by trying to thrive. We will find ourselves thriving when we stop trying to thrive and just serve the Lord faithfully.

A Disciple of Jesus is a little Christ. Plug into Jesus and start living your mission. We want God to change the world, but He wants to change YOU. (2 Jun 2019)

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The Problem with the Catholic Church Is… | #929

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Easter, 6th Sunday (C) We’ve had a decline in priests, and people coming to Mass, for many years. But it really hits home today as we say goodbye to the Saturday night Mass at St. Anthony. How can we stop the decline of the church in America? The problem is we are “plugged in” to everything but Jesus. If we Christians aren’t connected with Jesus, how can we help other people connect with him? (26 May 2019)

Going Deeper: Do a little unplugging this summer — and spend a little more time and effort connecting with Jesus.

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Behold I Make All Things New – and it Starts with You | #928

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Easter, 5th Sunday (C) What is your dream job, your dream life? Today we see God’s dream: They will be My people, and I will be their God, and dwell with them forever. We want to be good people, but Jesus is calling us to be God’s people. And God’s people love others as Jesus has loved us.

There’s just one hitch: It’s impossible. Before God creates a new heaven and a new earth, he needs to create a new heart and a new mind in you. So God has sent us His Holy Spirit. When we are connected with the Spirit of God, we can love as Jesus has loved. Every time we choose to cooperate with the Spirit, we choose Heaven. This is how people will know God’s love for them: When we have become a community that lives as Jesus lived and loves as Jesus loves. “Behold I make all things new” — and I’m starting with you.

(19 May 2019)

Going Deeper: Bring Jesus to your place of work today: hang up a crucifix in your office, change your desktop wallpaper, put a rosary on the rear view mirror of the work truck, or just pack a holy card in your lunch box and pray it when you need God’s love.

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Two Things Every Christian Mother Should Do | #927

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Easter, 4th Sunday (C) Mothers Day • Women are amazing. So amazing, in fact, that Pope John Paul II like to refer to, “the genius of woman.” A mother tells her baby: “Take, eat, this is my body. Take, drink, this is my blood.” Motherhood is about nourishing and cherishing life; giving of yourself so that others may be blessed. The child enriches the mother as the mother nourishes the child.

In motherhood we catch a glimpse of the Good Shepherd who feeds and nourishes the sheep. When we look for peace, we fail to find it. But when we search for the Good Shepherd, we find peace and joy and every good thing too. And this brings us to the heart of Christian motherhood. Christian mothers feed on Jesus. They draw life from Jesus. When their children are hard to love, they go to Jesus and Mary. Secondly, Christian mothers lead their children Jesus. We all want the best for our children. There is nothing better than God. What you long to give your children, but you cannot, Jesus can and will. Every Christian vocation feeds on God and leads others to God.

(12 May 2019)

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Overflowing With Jesus | #926

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Easter, 3rd Sunday – First Communion (C) Today we get a “post-credits scene” at the end of the Gospel according to John. Captained by Peter, the Church ship is sailing towards the shores of Heaven. Then the disciples sit down to breakfast with Jesus. Through the hands of priests, Jesus gives us the very best: He feeds us with Himself. He does this so we can be full of true life. You should be so full of Jesus that He’s coming out of your mouth! We want to be ‘good people.’ But Jesus is calling us to be God’s people. Ask Mother Mary to help you receive and grow God’s gift of life. (5 May 2019)

Going Deeper: Mother Mary treasured her experiences with Jesus and pondered them in her heart. This pondering helped her to be good soil for the Word of God. Ponder the good things God has done in your life. Is there some area of bitterness in your heart that needs to be softened? Talk to Mary about it.

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Going Deeper-er: I loved this Bible passage so much I chose it as the image for my ordination card. See the artwork at and spend a little time reflecting on the image.

Jesus is Dying to Have a Relationship With You | #925

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Easter, 2nd – Divine Mercy Sunday (C) Why do we celebrate Divine Mercy after Easter, instead of before? Jesus has won mercy, a gift which his disciples desperately need. As we watched Jesus die for us we learned what True Love really looks like. And now we see how much we fall short. So we come to God for mercy.

We see mercy as a gift we don’t deserve. God sees it differently: the gift that God wants to give is the gift of his Friendship. He welcomes us, His unworthy friends, back into friendship with Him. His mercy is endless because he continues to desire a relationship with us. He is always willing to remove the obstacles that we have put between us and our Friend. Jesus is dying to be your friend! Jesus is dying to forgive your sins! Jesus is dying to give you new life!

Mercy isn’t just something we receive; it is also something we give. Stay in a relationship with God and you will find the strength to forgive as you have been forgiven. (28 Apr 2019)

Going Deeper: Who is in need of my mercy? Don’t let today end without offering someone the gift of mercy.

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New Life in Christ (Easter Letter 2019)

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“I was not expecting that!” One of the second-grade students shook his head in wonder. We were acting out the story of the Prodigal Son. We had gotten to the point where the son comes to his senses and decides to return home. The kids were expecting this worthless son to be greeted by an angry father. Instead the father runs to him, embraces him, and kisses him. “You are still my son, and I love you unconditionally” — that is meaning of the ring, the sandals, and the finest robe. We were not expecting an explosion of love and mercy.

We were not expecting the Resurrection. Jesus was supposed to be the King who would bring about the Kingdom of God. Instead of ending on the throne, he ended on the gallows. He had utterly failed to make an impact on the politics of the day. He had not achieved any economic success. The powerful and important had all rejected his message. His followers abandoned him just as quickly as they had joined him. The poor were still poor, the oppressed were still oppressed, and the dead were still dead. His life, by any human standard, was a colossal failure.

This ‘failure’ turned out to be the most successful life ever lived. Jesus’ life marked the turning point in human history. Everything before him prepared for his coming. His Incarnation unites him to every human being. His death was offered to forgive your sins and mine. His Resurrection is the explosion of love and mercy that we desperately need.

Jesus won a new life for us. So why are we still living the old life? Why do we keep trying to figure out how to become successful by human standards? Why do we run from past failures and try to bury them? Why do we judge ourselves by the image in the mirror or the amount in our pocketbook? Why do we let fear and anxiety control us? Why do we run from the Father’s love for us? Awake O sleeper and rise from the dead and Christ will give you life! The Resurrection will only change your life when you begin to believe in God’s love and mercy. Stop trying to survive in the pigsty. Come home to the Father’s love for you. On that first Easter, Jesus rose from the dead. This Easter, it’s your turn.

Peace and Easter joy,
Fr. Joel

Now it’s Your Turn to Rise from the Dead | #924

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Easter Sunday • The weather is getting warmer and all around us we see signs of new life. Sometimes, emptiness is a sign of new life. Take for example an egg. If you were to go walking in the woods and find an egg shell cracked open and empty, you would know that some new life has hatched.

We see new life as we gather at an empty tomb. The One who was dead has Risen from the dead, and now He lives forever and ever. Today, this Easter, God wants to give you new life. Where have you experienced death or hopelessness? This is where God wants to heal, transform and resurrect you. Jesus is already there in the darkness working to transform you. Here are three ways to help grow His new life within you:

  1. Practice dying. Each night when you go to bed, pray an Act of Contrition and die to the old you. Then say a Hail Mary and put your life in the hands of our Blessed Mother.
  2. Practice rising from the dead. Every morning you can rise to a new day and a new you in Christ. Pray an Our Father and let God help you be his wonderful child.
  3. Practice going to heaven. Heaven is a place of peace. There are no Mondays in heaven. Our work there is to praise God. We are all brothers and sisters and no one is rich or poor. And God is with His people. We can experience Heaven every single Sunday: a day of rest, renewal, relaxation, and worship. A day for family and friends. A day when the Risen Lord meets us at Sunday Mass. There we eat His flesh and drink His blood and receive God’s new life within us.

Two thousand years ago Jesus rose from the dead. Now is your time, today is your day: it’s your turn to rise from the dead.

(21 Apr 2019)

Going Deeper: Practicing dying. Practice rising from the dead. Practice going to heaven.

The Cross in the Ashes | #923

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Good Friday • In the midst of the burned out wreckage of Notre Dame Cathedral, God’s light is shining. Jesus could carry his cross because he knew that his Father would be with him every step of the way. His life had meaning, his suffering had a purpose, and this would all be worth it. This is the Paschal Mystery. God brings light out of darkness and the dead to life. Can I recognize the Paschal Mystery in my life? (19 Apr 2019)

Going Deeper: How do your sufferings look different when you see them in the light of the Paschal Mystery?

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