mary with an advent wreath

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

Fr. Joel Homilies Leave a Comment

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

Fr. Joel God & Faith Leave a Comment

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


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 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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Created by God Our Father

Fr. Joel God & Faith Leave a Comment

Part 1 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 truth is, Father, I can pray better in my tree stand than in a church.” People say this and then they look at me like I’m going to get offended. My best prayer all year was the five days I spent kayaking around Isle Royale. We had no cell service; we could just barely get the weather radio channels. The strongest channel was from Canada and it was in French. We got up with the sun and ended with campfires. I enjoyed picking thimbleberries for dessert and watching the huge carpet of stars at night. Most of the time we are surrounded by things humans made: homes, cars, TVs, clothing. We don’t realize how much ‘daily life’ is cut off from reality. When we finally get out in the world God made, after a little bit of disorientation and panic, we start to feel a deep sense of relief.

The Bible starts with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” I often bring up the first 3 chapters of Genesis. I have come to realize that if you don’t get this right, the rest of the Christian message makes little sense. “God created.” That means that we are surrounded by creation. Beatles and bacteria, dogs to dinosaurs, the solar system and the ecosystem — they are all art projects of our Father God. We are taught from a young age to see the world as “evolution”, that everything came about because of random chance and natural selection. We forget that the Theory of Evolution covers only how things came to be, but does not answer who made them or why they were made. And this is what the Bible focuses on: God made the world, and he made it for us.

Do you realize that you too are a Creation of God? God pauses to think before he makes human beings (Genesis 1:26). Humans are made in God’s image and likeness. He blesses them and says, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.” He gives us dominion over all the creatures. We are stewards of creation but not masters of it. Because while we have dominion over all creation, we too are a creation of God. When you look at the creatures around you, do you celebrate God’s genius? When you look at your body in the mirror, do you say to yourself, “God made this”? And he saw that it was good! We should marvel at the beauty of creation. God does. At the end of the work, God stood back and admired all his creation: “and behold, it was very good.”

Part 2: Kidnapped by the Enemy

Advent: Your New Favorite Season

Fr. Joel Being Catholic Leave a Comment

Advent often gets forgotten in the rush to Christmas. In fact, in a gathering of priests, only one thought to name it as his favorite season. I want to share with you the secret to enjoying Advent. You have to think of it like a walking pilgrimage. Instead of a big “aha” moment at the end, you learn to enjoy taking a step each day. And the secret is to start looking for Jesus. Each day take a journal and answer this simple question: “Where did I see Jesus today?” Do this and you’ll find that Christmas takes on a whole new meaning.

kneeling knight

This Is Why Catholics Genuflect at Mass | #954

Fr. Joel Homilies 1 Comment

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (C) God is, and God created all that is. But there was trouble in Paradise: the Enemy convinced Adam and Eve to decide right and wrong for themselves. They became slaves of fear, sin, and death. Now God has sent Jesus to set us free. Jesus restores our identity as God’s children, atones for our sins, and leads us to the Kingdom of God. Will you serve Jesus? When we genuflect at Mass, we are saying: I give you the honor, glory and praise. I put my life at the service of the true King.

(24 Nov 2019)

Going Deeper: Practice genuflecting.

via Gfycat | Featured image: Kneeling Knight Painting

Season XII was made possible by generous support from Mission Partners John & Judy, Kathy, Steve & Ann, Brigette, Todd, Christopher, Tammie, Gary & Sally, St. Anthony PCCW | Supporters Michelle, Joan, Melody, Sue, Mary, Romie & Mary Lou, Steve & Jackie, Ted & Vicki, Verla, JoAnn, Candice, Sue, Tom & Sue, John & Amy, Jim & Joanne, and listeners like you!

Power Surge

Fr. Joel Free Range 1 Comment

I keep track of stats on my podcast and website. Usually I get up to 100 daily visitors on a good day, and much fewer on a slow day. Downloads vary but rarely exceed 400 any given week. Except for November 21-22, where we experienced significant jumps in both. Take a look at these charts to see what I mean.

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A Power Source Greater Than the Sun

Fr. Joel Being Catholic 2 Comments

You often hear me talking about a personal relationship with God. By personal, I don’t mean “private.” I’m not encouraging everyone to have their own “personal” Jesus. I am referring rather to a relationship between persons. You are a person, and the One God is three Persons, and so your relationship with God is a relationship between persons.

Now Pope Francis is a person, and I’m a person too. I know a lot about Pope Francis. I’ve read some of his writings. I see him in the news. I get his tweets every morning as if the Pope were texting me. I saw him in person in St. Peter’s Square on June 26, 2013. But I don’t have a personal relationship with him. We’re not friends, we don’t talk regularly, and even if we met in person we wouldn’t share deep personal things.

I think a lot of us expect to have this same kind of relationship with God. We believe in his existence. We know about him. He seems like a nice guy. He dresses in white and lives a long way off. He can’t possibly be interested in little old me. And so we are content with an impersonal relationship. But God is not content to remain at a distance from you. In a famous letter to her sisters, Mother Theresa wrote:

Jesus wants me to tell you again, specially in this Holy Week, how much love He has for each one of you – beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus – one to one – you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel – but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He is longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear Him saying, “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person – not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say, “I love you” – impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead – meditation only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him – speaking in the silence of your heart. (“Varanasi Letter” of 25 March 1993)

Some people are surprised to hear a Catholic saint talk like this. “We never heard this growing up; that’s something those Bible churches talk about.” But all the great saints had this one thing in common: at some point they became friends with God. They experienced his love in a personal way and said “Yes” to his love for them. His love fueled their passion to dare great things: feed the hungry, serve the poor, teach children, convert pagan nations, and turn wastelands into flourishing monasteries.

The burning love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the engine that powers the Catholic faith. His love warms our churches and burns away our sins. It inspires young women to give their life to him as sisters, and young men to be celibate priests and monks. It inspires Catholic families to be open to life and to raise Godly children for heaven. Love for him is incarnate in our beautiful old churches built by poor immigrants, our many Catholic schools and universities and hospitals and long history of heroic saints.

Why is the Catholic Church running out of steam? Has Jesus stopped loving us? Absolutely not! The sun itself is less powerful than the love of Jesus, and will burn itself out long before we run out of God’s love. But we are freezing to death, insulated from God’s love by comfortable consumer lives. More and more we don’t even know how to let other human beings love us, let alone God himself. And in this state of coldness we think that celibate priesthood is too much to ask of a young man. Yes, celibacy, saving sex for marriage, openness to life, faithfulness in marriage — it’s all too much to ask if we are relying on our own power.

Anyone who is sincerely trying to live his Catholic faith to the best of his ability will sooner or later discover that the Catholic faith is beyond his ability to live. And we will be faced with two choices: put up a good show, or find a way to change the teachings we find impossible to live. But there is a third way, and that is allowing yourself to be  “plugged in” to the ultimate power in the universe. Jesus could not have been more clear: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We don’t have to look far to see all the nothing we can accomplish by our own hard work. But with God, all things are possible.

Are you friends with God?