Fr. Joel’s Homily for Aug 9

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ord19 – Seminarian Appeal (8:13)
Ordinary Time, 19th Sunday. The prophet Elijah is exhausted and prays for death, but God feeds and sustains him. Our Church is tired too and sometimes seems to have little hope. But we have good news — God continues to work with, call and inspire young people. Our Diocese now has 22 seminarians and 10 of those are new this year. We are doing our yearly Seminarian Appeal and I ask you to please be generous. Pray, Encourage, and Support young men and women as they seek their vocation. I hope that they can discover the same happiness I have found. (9 Aug 2009)

More information on the seminarian appeal.

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Fatherly priesthood

Benjamin Priesthood

Thanks to everyone who sent, “We’re glad you’re a priest,” greetings for the feast of St. John Marie Vianney. He poured everything he had into his priesthood, and God added a little more and made it special!
Some people commented that they wanted to let me know I was doing a great job because they knew it was hard. I had bought my brother a coffee mug which said “Fatherhood, the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Although priesthood is not easy, I would not trade it for the whole world and everything in it. If you live the priesthood like fatherhood, it is the best life you could ever give away.

One Boy’s Generosity (17th Sunday, July 26)

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ordinary Time, 17th Sunday. The first reading shows how Elisha the prophet feeds 100 people with the generosity of one man, who gave his first-fruits to God. In the same way in the Gospel, the 5,000 are fed because one boy was willing to give all he had to Jesus. We are invited to do the same. Will you keep everything back, or give a little, or will you too give everything to Jesus? (26 Jul 2009)

Evil proves God exists

Benjamin God & Faith

– Fr Benjamin

Atheists will argue strongly that God does not exist, but evidence for the non-existence of God is a little hard to come by. They generally point to all the evil in the world as proof that God does not exist. If a good God really made the world, why would we have wars, racism, violence, exploitation, hunger and famine? Therefore, the argument concludes, a good God does not exist.

However, most atheists deny the existence of any evil spirit like the devil. What proves the devil does not exist? Could they point to all the good in the world as proof that the devil does not exist?

Just as atheists have to account for all the good in the world without pointing to God, they need to account for all the evil in the world without pointing to the devil. So they are forced to attribute all the wars, violence and exploitation to human beings. The problem is that most of the people we meet are good people who just want to live in peace. If most people just want to live in peace, why isn’t there peace? Atheism’s favorite target is to blame religion for the crusades, terrorism, unrest and violence worldwide. The problem is, a huge amount of violence is not religiously motivated at all. Most murders, robberies and wars have nothing to do with religion. The holocaust and Stalin’s purges were atheist horrors of violence far worse than all the religious crusades put together.

Instead of blaming religion, many will blame ignorance or lack of economic development. As countries become more educated and developed they no longer want to engage in wars. This is only partially true, since the United States has low literacy and is technologically highly developed but still engaged in war.

I firmly believe that no natural explanation can justify all the violence we see in the world. If most of the people in the world want peace, there should be peace. Why can the United States put a man on the moon, but putting wells in poor countries is too difficult and expensive? Why can we develop a GPS system, but it is too hard to develop a world trade system that helps the poor? It seems that despite our good intentions, we are thwarted in tasks that are not logistically very hard. Peace treaties fall apart, however, war is declared, and more lives are lost. Our best intentions are thwarted…by evil!

Those who promote pro-life causes or fair trade, who champion environmentalism, or are opposed to the exploitation of animals all have a similar experience. They see people who are intelligent, reasonable, and kind, suddenly become abusive when the conversation drifts into territory that challenges behaviors. Why can people be reasonable and logical in every other topic but not in this one?

Far from proving that God does not exist, the evil in the world proves that there are evil forces active beyond human reckoning or human control. Humans are generally good people, but evil sometimes gets a hold of them and moves them in terrible directions. This is the only explanation why a generally decent man can murder his brother, or a decent, peaceful country can declare war on another decent, peaceful country. This is the best explanation why intelligent people who are curious about everything do not want to know where their meat comes from.

Evil, however, always has a limit. The Spanish say “No hay un mal que cien años dure,” there is no evil which lasts a hundred years. Today, we can go to the Nazi gas chambers as a museum, not as prisoners. Totalitarian communism, which threatened to trap the whole world behind an iron curtain, has already collapsed. Many would say, “It collapsed because it didn’t respect human freedom.” But we should ask, “Who wrote the law that says human freedom must be respected?” Yes, evil exists, but it does not endure. Good might struggle, but it survives. This, for me, is the strongest argument that the world was made by someone who loves what is good.

Fr. Joel’s Homily for July 12

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ord15 – God with Us (9:04)
Ordinary Time, 15th Sunday. As a new priest in an unfamiliar place I find myself welcomed by others but not able to answer any questions. In the course of my priestly studies and my time as a new priest, I discovered that God works through me anyway despite my lack of skill and knowledge. God will work through you as well. (12 Jul 2009)

Death be not Proud

Fr. Joel Church meets World, Society Today


Michael Jackson is still dead.
As though afraid that Americans would forget, the media could talk of nothing else. Listeners, viewers and readers were treated to special reports and tributes, pictures and interviews, and talk, talk talk. The “King of Pop” had passed.

He was not famous for his humanity, his wisdom, his courage our his kindness. He was famous for one thing: Entertaining. In sad but fitting tribute, his memorial was entertainment. Famous singers and sports stars, songs, a little silence, some multi-media special effects. For those who consume entertainment, it looked like a church service. For someone like me, intimately acquainted with services, it looked like entertainment. They told stories, they sang songs, they talked of his virtues, they said we would never forget. It was as though the world of entertaining could only mourn by giving us more entertainment. Perhaps as long as the band played on, we might forget why we had gathered. But we couldn’t help but notice: Dressed with flowers and bathed in light, it looked more like a centerpiece than a concession to death, but it was still a cold, hard coffin.
Michael Jackson is still dead.

Wisconsin was in mourning too, but not for him.
Flags flew at half mast. Newspapers told us of the plans. The city of Peshtigo cried. One of its sons, the young and handsome Steven Drees, had joined the Army. He left for Afghanistan on his on 19th birthday, and five weeks later he came back in a coffin. His Army unit was ambushed by insurgents and Steven fought back, defending his brothers bravely until a piece of sharpnel pierced his brain. They flew his body home where it was met by the Patriot Guard Riders, veterans on hogs who provide a very solemn and very Wisconsin escort to deceased military. Engines throbbing and flags flying, they wound their way to his old school.

Steven’s body was laid out in the gym where he had played basketball. More than a thousand sobbing friends and family gathered to wish him farewell. His coach told us what a great teammate he had been, and how from now on he will award someone “Teammate of the Year” in honor of Steven Drees. A general said he was well-liked, a good soldier. The priest said that God is love. And still, his star-spangled coffin lay cold and mute, a testimony to human powerlessness. His former teammates could do nothing for him but sob quietly. The American Army, arguably the greatest in the world, was powerless. We could have sent men to conquer the moon if we wanted, but we couldn’t help Steven. Our human skill at taking life bested our skill at saving it.

Steven entered the afterlife unarmed and alone. The freedoms he fought for no longer apply to him. Democracy cannot help him, and injustice cannot hurt him. Though the flag drapes his coffin, it cannot save him. The general presented his parents with two posthumous medals but they hardly seemed to comfort his family. The casket was walked out by 6 strong men, each as young as he was. His twin brother, widowed girlfriend, family and friends marched out. Steven Drees, young, likeable, full of promise, was dead.

As dead as Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Robert MacNamara, Oscar Mayer.
It shouldn’t end this way.

And it doesn’t. Someone has conquered the afterlife. One of our own made it to the other side and came back again. Like an infiltrator behind enemy lines, he fought and defeated the last and greatest enemy we face: Death itself.

I do not know whether Steven was ready to go or not. I do not know the state of his soul. Nor do I know in the afterlife whether Michael Jackson will be white or black. But I do know one thing: Michael Jackson is dead. And Steven Drees is dead. But Jesus Christ is not dead. And therein lies our hope.

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” — Jesus Christ (John 11:25-6)

If we beleive that Jesus died and rose, God will bring forth with him from the dead those also who have fallen asleep believing in him.” — St. Paul (1 Thes. 4:14)

Fr. Joel’s Homily for June 28

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ord13 – How to Raise the Dead (6:24)
Ordinary Time, 13th Sunday. Jesus heals an elderly woman because she has faith in him. He raises a young girl from the dead because of her parents’ faith. We often meet people who act like they are dead — weighted down, worn out, hopeless. We might think we can do nothing to help them, but we are wrong. As Christians we can show them love, compassion and encouragement. Jesus will work through us to raise the dead. (28 Jun 2009)

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This is my last homily at my current parish before I start at a new place. It was a sad moment not only for me, but also for the whole parish. While I make some allusions to the transition, I determined just to preach the homily that had come to mind instead of reflecting back on my time in the parish. I’m not sure where the hum came from; maybe it was the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Joel’s Homily for June 21

Fr. Joel Homilies

Ord12 – Fathers Day (9:20)
Ordinary Time, 12th Sunday. God has put order to the universe, creating a reliable, dependable environment for his children to play in. Fathers are called to do the same. It is like building a cathedral — the family is a lasting witness filled with mystery where God is worshiped. Many families have had the experience of setting out with good intentions but finding themselves trapped by a storm in the middle of a lake. Only God’s help can gives us what we need to build good families in God’s image. (21 Jun 2009)

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Fr. Joel’s Homily for June 14

Fr. Joel Homilies

Corpus Christ – Communion through Sacrifice (7:22)
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus loved to sit down to a good meal. Eating with him, sinners become friends, friends become disciples, and disciples become saints. But we cannot forget that in a world gone wrong, there is no Communion without Sacrifice. Christ sacrificed so that we could have communion with him. We too must sacrifice to make this communion a reality for us. (14 Jun 2009)

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Here is an excerpt from Pope Benedict’s Homily at St. John Lateran today:
“Becoming the Eucharist: let this be our constant desire and commitment! So that the offer of the Body and Blood of the Lord we make upon the altar may be accompanied by the sacrifice of our own lives. Every day we draw from the Body and Blood of the Lord the free and pure love that makes us worthy ministers of Christ and witnesses to His joy. What the faithful expect from a priest is the example of authentic devotion to the Eucharist. They like to see him spend long periods of silence and adoration before Jesus, as did the saintly ‘Cure of Ars’ whom we will especially recall during the imminent Year for Priests”.

“Aware that, because of sin, we are inadequate, yet needing to nourish ourselves from the love the Lord offers us in the Eucharistic Sacrament, this evening we renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Such faith must not be taken for granted!”