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

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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!

+Fr.Joel

Footnotes: cf Acts XXIX Ministries | Image

mary with an advent wreath

What is the Reason for the Season? The Answer Will Surprise You | #1003

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Advent, 3rd Sunday (A) Rejoice! We have a Savior! Jesus Christ comes to rescue us from the lies of the Enemy. God has not abandoned us! Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us. God has always been with you, from your first heartbeat to your last breath. Even though we have abandoned God, he has never abandoned us.

The second lie is that there’s something wrong with you. Yes, we have made mistakes and done terrible things. But our failures did not cause God to run away from us. In fact, your very sinfulness is the “reason for the season.” God sent Jesus right into the dark and cold of our sinfulness. Jesus is not afraid of the dark. He wants to warm your frozen heart with the fire of his unconditional love.

The third lie is that we can’t trust God. Even John the Baptist is disappointed with the Savior’s lackluster performance. God responds that sorrow and mourning will flee, but we must be patient and let God’s plan unfold. Jesus remains faithful and lives a life of self-giving love even when the world is cold and dark and rejects him. Only in trusting God will we find true life.

I would like to tell you that my Advent is going really well. The truth is I’ve been tired, sick, grumpy, and behind in present buying. Fortunately, the church does not say, “Rejoice because you’re winning at Advent.” Instead: Rejoice in the Lord always. Next week I will talk about how to receive and respond to God’s offer of salvation. But for this week, rejoice that the Savior is near.

(15 Dec 2019)

Going Deeper: Have you seen signs this Advent season of your need for a savior? How have you been seeing Jesus near to you each day?

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jesus saves peter from drowning

Rescued by Jesus Christ

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Part 3 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

Why did Jesus die on the cross? We know that the cross was an instrument of torture and oppression. Roman citizens could not be crucified; it was reserved for slaves and foreigners. Crucifixion was an agonizing public spectacle designed to send a strong message: rebel against us and we will torture you to death. But Jesus is the King of the Universe, the Son of God, and therefore all-powerful. He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set him free. Why would he let himself be killed? Christians have answered this question in three ways. First of all, God wants us to see in the flesh how much He loves us. “I asked Jesus, ‘How much do you love me?’ And Jesus said, ‘This much.’ Then he stretched out His arms and died.” (see John 3:16 and 15:13).

The second way is that Jesus shed his blood as atonement for our sins. The ancient world offered the sacrifice of animals to cleanse them of sins. But only a Sinless One could make a perfect offering to God. Evangelicals like to say, “Jesus paid a debt he didn’t owe, because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.” (see Romans 6:23, II Corinthians 5:21 and I Peter 2:24).

The third way to see that Jesus’ death answers the problem we spoke of last week: “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:15). Principalities refers to ranks of angels and demons. Powers are Sin and Death and Hell. The ‘public spectacle’ refers to a Roman military parade. When they defeated foreign enemies, the leaders would be brought back in chains and paraded through the streets of Rome. Imagine a captured Osama Bin Laden, chained naked inside a cage, and carted through the streets of New York in a victory parade. That kind of public spectacle was a normal part of Roman life. St. Paul is using military language on purpose. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he was Almighty God smuggled into the enemy’s stronghold under cover of darkness. Jesus came to fulfill the ancient prophecy that the offspring of Eve would “crush the serpent’s head” (Genesis 3:15). Jesus, by his obedience even until death, won the victory over sin and death and struck a mortal blow to the Kingdom of Darkness. He chained the Devil and freed all of Satan’s captives.

So the short answer to the question is this: Jesus died on the cross because you matter, and you matter far more than you ever imagined. You were worth dying for. He saw you a powerless slave to sin and he came to set you free. “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36) Praised be to God, who gives us the victory in Jesus Christ!

Part 4: New Life in Christ

man leaping off a cliff rejecting his father

Are You a Victim of Identity Theft? | #1002

Fr. Joel Homilies Leave a Comment

Advent, 2nd Sunday (A) In our first reading, God promises to solve the problem of evil. He will strike the ruthless and slay the wicked, freeing the poor and afflicted. There will be no harm or ruin on all God’s holy mountain.

Where did evil come from? The Bible explains evil through the existence of a person called the Devil or Satan. God created the Devil. But He made him good, perhaps the best and the brightest of the angels. But he rebelled against God and led a rebellion against God. He was cast out of Heaven. Now he wanders the world with his demons seeking the ruin of souls.

He envies us and he wants to separate us from God. He operates by sowing doubt and fear rooted in lies:

  • God doesn’t love you.
  • God doesn’t care about you.
  • You can’t trust him.
  • He doesn’t want you to be happy.
  • He has abandoned you.

The Devil doesn’t do a great deal of harm himself. He sows lies and doubts and then steps back and watches us destroy each other and self-destruct. We don’t believe we are beloved children of God. We choose to use and abuse. Victims of abuse become abusers. We become trapped in patterns of sin and violence. And we get farther and farther from God. His ultimate goal is to separate us from God. The farther we get from God, the more we experience doubt and despair and darkness and death.

The good news is that all his lies are false: God is a Good Father, who loves you, and has not abandoned you. And help is on the way!

8 Dec 2019

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victim tied by kidnapper

Kidnapped by the Enemy

Fr. Joel God & Faith Leave a Comment

Part 2 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

Have you seen the warnings about human trafficking? It often happens in poor countries where young people have few job opportunities. Someone promises them a good job and a better life in another country. They agree, and sometimes pay heavily, to be smuggled illegally into a distant country. But that’s when they discover that the promises were all lies. Their identity documents are taken. They are forced to work difficult jobs or in the sex industry. They are beaten and threatened daily. Sometimes their families are threatened. They may be trapped for years, unable to speak the local language, unable to prove their identity, and with no way to reach out for help. Human trafficking isn’t just a foreign problem. Even our local young people are vulnerable to trafficking. People will meet them in person or online, promise them a better life, and then kidnap them for devious purposes.

In some way we are all victims of human trafficking. God loves us and wants us to be happy. But God isn’t the only force operating in our world. There is also an Enemy, called the Devil or Satan. He was created by God. Some believe he was very good, the best of all the angels God had created (the name Lucifer actually means ‘light bearer’). For reasons unknown to us, this amazing angel started a rebellion against God. He and other angels rejected God’s will and became very evil. They were cast out of Heaven by Archangel Michael and the faithful angels. Now they prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. And they operate like human traffickers.

Remember the snake in the Garden of Eden? He lied to Adam and Eve. When they chose sin, they forgot their identity as God’s children. Their personal sin in some way sold the human race into slavery. We are born into a world dominated by Sin and Death. Remember that we haven’t stopped being God’s good creation. But we struggle with our identity as children of God. We are lied to and hurt and hurt others in a perpetual cycle of sin. We suffer abuse and are guilty of abusing others. We feel the longing of separation from God, but our own choices often take us farther from God. We are the Prodigal Son.

Part 3: Rescued by Jesus Christ

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wandering track through the wilderness

Searching in the Darkness for Your True Identity | #1001

Fr. Joel Homilies Leave a Comment

Advent, 1st Sunday (A) I helped track a deer. We looked for a long time in the dark before we finally found one little drop of blood. We followed the trail and found the deer closer than we expected.

Advent can often feel like wandering in the darkness looking for the presence of Jesus. Take time each day to journal to this question, “Where did I see Jesus today?” You’ll soon notice God’s presence more and more, and closer than you expected.

Not only do we live in Creation, but we ourselves are creation. Do you notice that each person is a unique image of God and precious to him? Do you treat yourself with reverence as a unique masterpiece of God? This idea is the root of Catholic teaching on sexuality and gender identity. St. Paul knows the danger of identifying ourselves by our sexual activity or the ‘desires of our flesh.’ These are deep parts of who we are. But they are not the deepest part of who we are. We were created by God our Father, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and called by the Holy Spirit. This is our true identity.

Accepting nature as a gift from God frees us from stumbling in the darkness of error and confusion. Follow the Precious Blood walk in the Light of Christ. He will reveal to you the true depth of what it means to be human.
O House of Israel Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

(1 Dec 2019)

Going Deeper: Visit Walt Heyer’s website SexChangeRegret.com and educate yourself about this important contemporary issue. Offer a prayer for those who struggle this particular area of their life. How can you see others more clearly as an image of God? How do you look different when viewed in the light of God’s love? Where did you see Jesus today?

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