Archive for the ‘Marriage and Family’ Category

Behold the Tree of Life

February 26, 2023

1st Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

God grew many lovely, fruit-bearing trees in the Garden of Eden, but only two trees are mentioned by name. In the middle of the Garden the Lord God placed the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Tempted by the Devil, Eve ate from the forbidden tree and “gave some to her husband—who was with her—and he ate it.” If only Adam had been willing to confront the dragon-serpent and protect his bride, perhaps even to lay down his life for her! But the first man did not do this and the whole human family fell. (Let men called to lead and protect their families take note.)

Then our Triune God said: “Behold! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil! What if he now also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the Tree of Life, and eats of it and lives forever?” For this reason, God banished our first parents from the Garden. This was not from divine jealousy, but from divine concern for us. Imagine everlasting human lives lived in unending sinfulness; that would be a hell on earth. “Through one man, sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men…” But God promised Adam and Eve a redeemer who would crush the serpent’s head and save us from sin and death.

In today’s Gospel, that Savior undergoes the Devil’s temptations not in a paradise but in a desert. The ancient tempter approaches Jesus and says, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread… If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down (from this temple rooftop)… All (the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence) I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” Jesus refuses each of these diabolical suggestions.

If the Christ conjures bread for himself when hungry, then how can he refuse to fill every hungry mouth? But what good would our filled stomachs be if we are never delivered from sin and death? And if the Christ demands that God his Father protect him from every harm, then how could he ever offer his life’s blood as our saving sacrifice? And if the Christ submits to our enemy’s rule over this world, then how could we ever be free? Jesus Christ understands his messianic mission and where it will lead him. It will lead him to the Cross.

Jesus calls himself the Bridegroom, and St. Paul calls him the second and final Adam. Unlike the first Adam, Jesus Christ the New Adam willingly and courageously lays down his life in battle with the Devil to save us, the Church, his Bride.

“[T]hrough one transgression
condemnation came upon all,
so, through one righteous act,
acquittal and life came to all.

[T]hrough the disobedience of the one man
the many were made sinners,
so, through the obedience of the one,
the many will be made righteous.”

One beautiful Mass preface for Sundays in Ordinary Time praises God with these words: “[W]e know it belongs to your boundless glory, that you came to the aid of mortal beings with your divinity and even fashioned for us a remedy out of mortality itself, that the cause of our downfall might become the means of our salvation…

St. Paul’s tells the Galatians, “Christ ransomed us from the curse… by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree…’” In the tree that is his Holy Cross, we now see the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life combined.

During this Lent, contemplate the crucifix. Meditate upon the crucifix to know goodness, to behold God’s love for us. And gaze upon the crucifix to know evil, to see our sins at work. And ever-faithfully eat the fruit from this Tree of Life, which is Jesus Christ himself given us at Holy Mass. As Jesus taught in the synagogue at Capernaum, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life… For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. …Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” God once said in the Garden: ‘You shall not eat of the Tree or even touch it, lest you die.’ But now Jesus invites us, provided we are well-prepared: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body… given up for you.”

The Loving Communion of Persons — The Larry Feltes & Shirley Conibear Wedding

February 19, 2023

By Fr. Victor Feltes

For the story of humanity, God began with a single couple, Adam and Eve; a single family, the family of Abraham; a single people, the twelve tribes of Jacob; a single nation, the nation of Israel; and ultimately a single Church, a Church for all peoples and lands, the Church of Jesus Christ. Notice the trend of God creating a wider and wider circle of relationship.

This growth is all detailed in the Bible. God began with two in the Garden of Eden, later a family of seventy journeyed into Egypt, generations later hundreds of thousands came out of Egypt in the Exodus, until there was up to millions at the birth of the Church. These events are all recounted through personal stories, about people such as Joseph, Moses, Jesus and Mary and his friends, the Apostles. This was necessary for God’s purpose. Perhaps an angel could be engaged by a long list of statistics and historical dates, But human persons require personal stories of personal experience to come to know God.

God desires us to know him better. In the time of Moses, God commanded his people to worship no other gods. In the time of the prophets, God clarified for his people that there are no other gods. But in the coming of Jesus, God revealed for all people that God is a communion of Persons. Our God is not a solitary oneness but a unity of three, an eternally loving and blessed Trinity.

So why did God create us? Did he need us to do something for him? Was he incomplete without us? No, we are not the result of necessity. God is complete in himself, but his fullness overflows. Love likes to share. Our creation, our existence, is a gratuitous gift. And God desires and delights that we would be in personal relationship with him and in close personal relationship with one another through him.

Larry and Shirley, you are about to enter a holy covenant together. In a moment, you will exchange vows to be married, and we are all here to support you. But hypothetically, could you both survive without marrying each other? Sure. Could you survive without music, or sweet foods, or sunsets? Of course! You marry today not by compulsion, nor from necessity, but freely and overflowing delight. You both desire to be a blessing to each other; to be the blessing that a wife can be to her husband and the blessing that a husband can be to his wife in this holy communion of persons. He desires for you to have holy joys in life, to support each other through the inevitable trials ahead, and to sanctify each other, to grow each other as saints for Heaven with God.

Larry and Shirley, you both know that wedding days are full of many memories, but from this homily I hope you will remember this: at quiet times in days ahead reflect and see how Jesus has walked with you, leading you to this moment. And as you go forward together in marriage, grow in love with him. You, like all of us here, are created in love, made for love, and called to more perfect love, together with our Lord.

Holy Shepherds and a Holy Mother

January 1, 2023

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
By Fr. Victor Feltes

The shepherds, after encountering the herald angels, went in haste to Bethlehem. They knew they were searching for an animal stable, for the angel had told them their “Messiah and Lord” would be “lying in a manger.” They came to the cave of the Nativity and found St. Joseph, Mother Mary, and her holy child. She had wrapped Jesus’ tiny body in strips of cloth called swaddling clothes and laid him in a feed trough to serve as his first crib. On the first Christmas night, lots of people were in and around the little town of Bethlehem. The Roman census had brought so many visitors that there was no room for the Holy Family at the inn. So of all the people in the area why did the angels announce the big news of the Savior’s birth to the shepherds in particular?

Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the law,” about five miles from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. In the law of the Old Covenant, God commanded his people to sacrifice lambs. Every day and especially for the Feast of Passover, lambs were offered on Jerusalem’s holy altar. God’s instructions were clear: the “lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.” By custom, these lambs came from the fields outside of Bethlehem. And so, the young, male, flawless lambs to be sacrificed in Jerusalem were first presented by these shepherds. Mary had a little lamb; the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, and these shepherds made him known. The circumstances of Jesus’ birth foreshadowed what was to come.

Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, would go on to be slain, sacrificed at Passover. His mother Mary, who had wrapped him in swaddling clothes, would go on to see him wrapped in a linen shroud. One Joseph had arranged the place for his birth, another Joseph would provide the place for his burial. Mary, who had given birth to Jesus in a cave, would deliver his body to a rock-hewn tomb. And Baby Jesus, who was laid in a grain box in a city whose name means “House of Bread,” would offer his own Body as the Bread of Life for the salvation of the world.

Today we celebrate Mary as the mother of God. How is she the mother of God? Is she the mother of God the Father? No. Is she the mother of the Holy Spirit? No. Is she the mother of Jesus? She is. Is Jesus God? Yes, he is. Therefore, Mary is rightfully called the mother of God. Celebrating her as the mother of God at the start of each year helps to preserve and protect the truth about who her Son is. Jesus is fully human, born of a human mother, while at the same time he is also fully divine, begotten by God the Father. On Christmas, Mary gives birth to a single person who is both God and man. Without Mary, we would not know Jesus in the way that we do now.

There is further reason to celebrate Mary: God created her to be Jesus’ mother and to be our mother, too. As the recently departed Pope Benedict XVI said, “Mary has truly become the mother of all believers.” He observed that “if Mary no longer finds a place in many theologies and ecclesiologies, the reason is obvious: they have reduced the faith to an abstraction. And an abstraction does not need a mother.” Our faith is more than a mere concept—it is about relationship as part of a family. “Being Christian,” Pope Benedict wrote, “is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” He wrote: “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ.

In the future, Pope Benedict is very likely to be canonized a saint and declared a Doctor (that is, a great teacher) of the Church. He is arguably the greatest theologian of the 20th century. So what would you guess were the last dying words of this brilliant man (according to his private secretary)? They were simply, “Jesus, I love you.” We are blessed and rejoice to have a mother in Mary. And through her we have a Brother, Friend, Lord, and Savior in her Son, Jesus. With this new year, let us rejoice in Jesus Christ, our Mother Mary, and our Catholic Faith, for they produce great saints and salvation from Christmas in Bethlehem to across our world today.

The Power of the Sacraments, the Importance of the Priesthood

June 27, 2022

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

It is possible to receive the sacraments and greatly benefit from their graces without feeling very much. Some babies, for example, sleep entirely throughout their baptisms. The power of the sacraments do not depend upon our emotions. Yet sometimes God gives us the grace of sensible consolations from them. Consider, for instance, the St. Paul’s second grader who, when asked by her mother how she felt after her 1st Confession, joyfully answered, “My soul feels so light!

When I was in high school, as we drove to a restaurant following my Confirmation, I wondered at why I felt so very joyful. Then I remembered, “Oh yeah, the Holy Spirit.” In college, sometimes when I attended weekday Masses I felt very little but sometimes I experienced great consolations. Eventually, I realized that my most consoling Masses typically preceded hard times to come. After that, I would be at Mass and think to myself, “Wow, this feels wonderful. Oh no… Well Lord, thanks for heads up.”

Thirteen years ago this week, I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ at our cathedral in La Crosse. I knew going in that my ordination would come through the bishop’s laying of hands and his consecratory prayer immediately thereafter. I realized I would be a priest by the time my bishop said “amen” at the end of the prayer, but I wondered if there were some precise moment before that when I would be ordained. I had not studied the words of the ceremony beforehand, so after the laying of hands I listened to the words of the bishop’s prayer closely.

For ten sentences, through more than twenty-two dozen words, the prayer recounts what God has done in the past: the Old Covenant priesthood, the high priesthood of Jesus Christ, and the priesthood of his apostles. Then comes these words:

Grant we pray, Almighty Father, to these, your servants, the dignity of the priesthood; renew deep within them the Spirit of holiness; may they henceforth…

At the moment I heard that word, “henceforth,” I felt a pleasant but unsettling wooziness. And the words which followed were these: “may they henceforth possess this office which comes from you, O God…” There was power in those words.

I answered God’s call to become a priest, forgoing the goods of natural marriage and children, because I believe the sacraments and teachings of Jesus Christ’s Catholic Church are that important for souls. The seven sacraments are not empty words and gestures, but important and effective instruments of God’s saving power.

My own ordination came to mind as I contemplated Fr. Matthew Bowe’s priestly ordination last Saturday. I’m reminded of my own ordination day whenever I attend an ordination. I imagine the same thing happens for those of you who are married when you attend a wedding; you’re reminded of your own wedding day and the vows that you made. Now a wonderful thing about entering into priesthood or marriage is that you now know your calling, your vocation, the state of life in which Jesus wants you to follow him. There is then no purpose to looking back, lamenting what was left behind, or looking to alternate life paths on left or right, but to simply plow ahead.

Jesus called Matthew Bowe, Fr. Matthew followed after him, and this brings all of us great joy. People tell me Matthew was so quiet and shy as a child. But if Jesus is calling you, he grows and strengthens you, so there’s no reason to be intimidated. Many feel unworthy to be a priest or a religious brother or sister. Of course! Everyone is unworthy, but Jesus still calls us like he did the apostles; asking us to follow him before long we’re perfect. The priesthood saves souls and God’s vocation for your life (whatever that is) is always the best, so if Jesus is calling you to be his priest, follow him. And if you see someone else who seems to have a calling to priesthood or religious life, do your part to encourage them to follow Jesus Christ.

What We Have to Give is Enough

June 19, 2022

Corpus Christi Sunday
By Deacon Dick Kostner

Have you ever wished that you could do more or give more during your life? Sure you have because part of being human is the desire to always try to do more than what you think you are capable of doing. This is not bad for it makes us strive to accomplish more than what is possible in our present condition. The problem is that sometimes this is not possible it might be because of a disability that we have been burdened with. It could be physical, mental, financial. It might be because we see ourselves powerless because of circumstances that appear beyond our control. That is what the disciples of Jesus faced in our “Father’s Day” Gospel Jesus shares with us today.

The disciples face a dilemma in today’s Gospel. Jesus has been teaching a crowd of thousands of people and his friends have come to realize that they have no food to provide for the crowd and no resources to take care of that many people. They search for an answer and help from the crowd but find but a couple of fish and five loaves of bread. They are overwhelmed and they do what we would do and search for a miracle from their friend Jesus. After all he can walk on water and raise people up from the dead. He certainly can take over and solve this problem right?

Is that not what we all do when we are overwhelmed with our life problems? Sure, we pray for a miracle. We look to someone else to take over. Although Jesus could do just that after all He is God, but what does he do? Jesus does not take over but rather he tells his disciples to take care of it themselves. He puts them in charge. He does not allow them to slip out the back door and find someone else to solve the problem rather he empowers them to find a solution and shows them that he believes in them to solve this problem.

The disciples search for an answer and find but two fish and five loaves of bread, which they take to Jesus confessing that this is all they could find. Jesus takes what they have found, blesses the food, and tells the disciples to distribute what they have to the people. They do as he says and guess what, it not only feeds all the people but there is also food left over. Jesus shows them that all they need to do is to do the best they can and then have faith that God will provide them with enough support to solve any problems they may run into.

Let me share with you my true story of how this plays out. The Law School I attended in Chicago required a grade average a 82% or the student would go on probation. If one at any time would go on probation a second time you were expelled. There was one exam for each course for each semester. It was a timed exam and consisted of five or six essay questions which contained multiple issues and rules of law to apply. I always was running out of time and not completing in full all the questions and yes I went on probation the first semester. Pressure was on and I knew this was my last chance. Sweating this out a couple of semesters I made it without another probation until my final year. Just before my semester exam I said a prayer to God telling him I was doing my best but wondered if He really wanted me involved with this profession. The exam day drew near and a met with Bob, a friend of mine after one class to have a beer and forget about the exam day. I confessed to him that I had been on probation before and that I always seemed to run out of time before completing the questions to my satisfaction. He looked at me and said, “Dick, are you out-lining each question before you apply the law?” I looked at him puzzled and said, “I don’t have time to do this.” He laughed and said that I needed to do that first for each of the questions and then go into application of the law for the instructor would see that I had arrived at the issues and knew the law which was 90% of the grade. Well I took his advice and was one of twelve of our class of 200 who graduated.

Today we celebrate the gift God has given us in the Eucharist. His body and blood for us to consume and give us all that we need to find success and fulfillment in this world of problems. This gift requires only that we do the best we can in handling problems of life and then if we offer this up and ask the Father to bless it, that this will be enough! Today is Father’s Day and I know that dads want the best for their children but many times feel powerless in helping their children solve life problems. Jesus gives to us dads the solution. All that we need to do is to try to do the best we can and then offer it to God as a gift and guess what? This, and faith the size of a mustard seed, will be enough! Happy Father’s Day and remember what we have to give of ourselves is enough in God’s eyes!

The Lover’s Return — Funeral Homily for Richard “Dick” Aubert, 85

February 24, 2022

Dick was swept off his feet and went head over heels on his first date with Michele. It was during the winter which spanned 1959 and 1960. They were both quite young. He had just returned from service in the U.S. army She was piously contemplating becoming a nun. Facilitated by mutual friends, Dick and Michele decided to go ice skating together.

There were a lot of people at the rink that night. Many skaters going to-and-fro on the ice. Suddenly, during a moment while Michele was either distracted or not nearby, Dick slipped, and fell, and smacked his head on the ice. Michele later saw somebody sitting on the ice, a crowd of people gathered around him, but she did not realize that that young man was her date.

Having suffered a concussion, Dick was brought off the emergency room. But Michele thought he had ghosted her. She assumed he had abandoned her, without even saying goodbye. Surely this must have seemed like the end of their relationship. How could a relationship continue after that? Well, Dick soon returned, explained what he had happened and where he had gone, and they booked a second date.

After a year of dating, they committed their hearts to each other, entering a marriage covenant in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Eau Claire in 1961. And their love bore fruit, particularly in three daughters; Catherine, Lori, and Heather, in their grandchildren and great grandchildren.

We are gathered here on this day, rather than gathered elsewhere, because of one man more than any other. For love, he pursued a holy and beautiful bride. He was painfully struck down, and they were separated for a time. She did not understand why they were parted and had not hoped to see him again. But then he rose again and returned to her, and their love has borne fruit since. I speak of Jesus Christ and his Church. Behold, he makes all things new, renewing his mysteries within our lives.

The holy love of a husband and wife reflects the holy love Christ and his Church. Dick and Michele have been married for sixty years, even throughout the past three years of his mental decline, living together at home until just three months ago.

On a day like there are tears from sadness due to parting and tears from beholding the beauty of faithful love. Jesus will one day wipe every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, when this world is finally set free from slavery to corruption and this old order has passed away, replaced by the new. St. Paul urges us to “consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

The Lord Jesus, who makes us children of God the Father; Christ, the lover of our souls, who proposes to us an everlasting covenant with himself; Jesus Christ, who suffered with us but rose again, he is the reason we are here today for Dick’s funeral. In this broken world of suffering and beauty, Jesus is our cause for hope and our greatest consolation.

The Mother of Jesus was There

January 16, 2022

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Peleabendran

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, today we celebrate the second Sunday of ordinary time. After the Solemnities of Christmas, Epiphany, and Baptism of the Lord, we enter into an ordinary time. In the beginning of Ordinary Time, I invite you to think about Mother Mary’s role in the life of Jesus.

Every child’s vocation is the parents’ constant prayer, not only after the birth of a son or a daughter but as prophet Jeremiah says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I dedicated you.” I used to see my father attend Mass every day in my parish. As a family, we prayed the Rosary every evening. My mother used to say three Rosaries each day even though she was illiterate. One day, I asked her, “Do you know the Mysteries of the Rosary?” She replied to me, “No.” I asked her then, what are you saying? She said, “Just an Our Father and Hail Mary.” Her simple prayers helped me to become a priest.

Mothers are timeless teachers in the classroom of life and, alongside fathers, the most influential educators. Mothers teach us to believe in God. Mothers teach us the value of God’s word through their lives. Mothers are one of the first indications of God in our lives.

Moses was one of the major figures in the Old Testament. Although we are not told much about his mother, she played a very important role in his life. The Jews had been in Egypt for 400 years under the rule of the pharaohs. One pharaoh then ordered all male Hebrew babies to be killed. When Moses’ mother gave birth to a healthy son, instead of killing him she took a basket and coated the bottom with tar to make it waterproof. She put her baby in it and set him among the reeds on the bank of the Nile River.

Just imagine the sorrow and agony of that mother, how much she cried when she returned home. Her prayer was answered by God. Pharaoh’ daughter came to bathe in the river and one of her maidservants saw the basket and brought it to her. She adopted the baby as her own (Moses’ mother was even paid to nurse him) and he grew up in the palace. Years later, after many hardships, Moses was used by God as His chosen instrument to free the Hebrew people from slavery and lead them to the edge of the Promised Land. Moses’ mother showed great trust in God’s faithfulness. Her prayers helped Moses to grow in faith and trust and to liberate and lead their people from bondage to the Promised Land.

When we look at today’s Gospel, on the third day, a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus is withdrawing Himself from her authority. Jesus knew what His mission was and whom it was that was leading and guiding Him. The miracle itself served to draw others to follow Jesus.

Mary had the gift of prayer or intercession. She knew that her Son would not refuse her anything good. So, she immediately interceded on behalf of her people. This was Jesus’ first miracle. When Mary and Joseph presented their newborn Son, Jesus, to the priest in the Temple, they consecrated Him to God. Mary acknowledged that God had a plan for her Son and agreed to do everything in her power to cooperate with God’s purpose for him. Likewise, you Christian parents consecrate your children to God in the Sacrament of Baptism and promise to do everything possible to help your children to do what God wants in their lives.

Herod tried to kill Jesus, so Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to protect their Son. Christian mothers keep your children away from evil forces that could harm them. Mary and Joseph took their Son, Jesus, to the synagogue in Nazareth each week in observance of the Sabbath and took him to the Temple in Jerusalem each year for Passover. Mothers, follow Mary’s example by going to Mass each week and taking your children with you because it is so important to pray with others. When Jesus was crucified, Mary stood at the foot of the Cross and suffered with him. She never abandons her child, particularly when things are at their worst. This sort of enduring love is exemplary for Christian mothers. Children get into trouble; sometimes for the right reasons, sometimes not. Mothers, like Mary, stand with your children throughout life, especially when things go bad.

Yes, my dear parents, be with your children all the time like Mother Mary, so that your children will grow like Jesus: doing good work in society, being faithful to God, and being faithful to you.

Jesus Chose Them for Each Other, for Himself, & for Us

December 8, 2021

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

This December 8th unites two of our greatest saints: the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. Today we celebrate both the Immaculate Conception and the conclusion to the Year of St. Joseph. Our Lady, under the title of “The Immaculate Conception,” is the patroness of our country. And Joseph, under the title of “St. Joseph the Workman.” is the primary patron of our diocese. Last year, our Bishop William Callahan proclaimed a year dedicated to St. Joseph beginning May 1st. Then, last December 8th, Pope Francis unexpectedly announced a Year of St. Joseph for the entire Church worldwide. As a result of this, our diocesan celebration of this Year of St. Joseph is the longest in the world: 19 months and 8 days in full. And this is very fitting, since our diocesan patron’s name, “Joseph,” means “he will increase.”

How beautiful it is that this date brings together Mary and Joseph! He, the noble head of the Holy Family; and she, the Immaculate Heart of their home He, her chaste guardian; and she, his loving spouse. Both are absolutely faithful and obedient, courageous and righteous. And both of them were chosen by God, chosen for each other, and chosen for Christ. Mary became Jesus’ loving mother and Joseph became Jesus’ nurturing foster-father. God chose them “before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.” Our Lord Jesus Christ chose them for himself and he also chose them for us.

Does Jesus get jealous at the Church celebrating Mary and Joseph? Does our Catholic devotion to Mary or Joseph detract from devotion we ought to have for Christ? In his recent book, “Consecration to St. Joseph,” Fr. Donald Calloway answers: “What brother would be offended if his younger siblings expressed love towards their mother and father? What man would be upset if another person wrote a song about his mother or placed roses at her feet? Likewise, what son would be disturbed if someone praised the virtues of his father? A person who honored a father would not receive condemnation from the father’s son. On the contrary, such a person would receive praise and tremendous favors from the son.” I would add that love in a family is not a zero-sum game, but that healthy love makes love grow larger. Devotion to Mary and Joseph does not make us love Jesus less, but helps us love him more.

Jesus has not diminished these parents who cared for him on earth. He has exalted and shared them with us. He has made his mother the mother of all Christians. Like the first Eve who “became the mother of all the living,” Mary is the spiritual mother to all those alive in Christ. He has made his foster-father Joseph, who successfully safeguarded the Holy Family through its trials, spiritual protector of the universal Church And ‘never was it known that anyone who fled to their protection, implored their help, or sought their intercession was left unaided.’ So be sure to befriend St. Mary and St. Joseph. Jesus loves them dearly and they aided him on earth. He wills that you would know them, and love them, and be helped by them through this life, too, by their powerful, loving care.

Our Shared Roots — Funeral Homily for Maxine Zwiefelhofer, 90

November 12, 2021

In her first ninety years of life, Maxine has been a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother; an aunt, a grandma, a great grandma, and a great-great grandma; a talented nurse, a good friend, and a devoted Catholic. Among her many traits and experiences, on this day of her funeral I would like to highlight one hobby of hers which has been a blessing to our community and a point of pride for her family.

Maxine has been a hobbyist in history. She wrote “The History of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church” in Cooks Valley, which detailed more than one hundred years of this parish from 1885 to 1995. Maxine spent many days researching genealogy at the Chippewa County Historical Society, and even traveled with family to Scandinavia and Denmark to explore their ancestral roots. She wrote books of family history, recounting the lineages of the Toppers, the Olsons, the Zwiefelhofers, and the Bleskaceks.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: the U.S. Census Bureau says there are more than 150,000 different last names in our country today, with some 5,000 last names in common use. Have you ever noticed, that with the whole forest of humanity to choose from, most people prefer to research those family trees which have branches which reach themselves? For instance, Topper was the family name of Maxine’s father, Ernest; Olson was the maiden name of her mother, Elizabeth; and Zwiefelhofer was the last name of her husband, David. Here’s another statistic: there are more than 20,000 Catholic churches in America. Of all the churches in all the towns in all the land, why did she write a history about this one?

You know the answer. Maxine explored the genealogies of those particular families and recounted the history of this particular parish because she belonged to them and they belonged to her. Our past provides us with our identity. If we were to lose all of our memories but could still think and walk and talk, we would wonder about who we are. Our family and community, our origins and past, inform us about who we are. As Christians we know our family, community, origins, and past are more than merely natural.

Who was Jesus describing in the gospel we just heard? Who is merciful and meek? Who are peacemakers, clean of heart? Who hungers and thirsts for righteousness and unjustly suffers for what is right? Who do these Beatitudes refer to? The Beatitudes describe the blessed saints, but first and foremost they describe Jesus Christ himself. You and I as Christians you are their siblings, brothers and sisters within the family, the community, the communion, of God’s Church. Our origin is that we were created by God in love. That is your origin. Our past is that Jesus Christ came and died and rose for us. That is your past. And rooted in this true identity, our future is full of hope.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans declares “that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death,” and if “we have died with Christ… we shall also live with him.” As foretold through the Prophet Daniel, one day, “those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,” some to everlasting disgrace and others to eternal life. Then “the wise shall shine brightly… and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.

Let us pray today for Maxine’s soul and renew our true identity in Jesus Christ, so that she and we with him may be one holy family, one holy Church dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.

Marriage is for Life

October 3, 2021

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In “the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” They are no longer two but one flesh. “Therefore,” Jesus says, “what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Jesus teaches, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

Now Christ’s Church does believe and teach that there can be situations where it is prudent and right for a person to physically or legally separate from their spouse. Perhaps there’s physical or emotional abuse in the marriage; destructive, unchecked addictions; or obstinate infidelity. And after the marriage falls apart the Church can investigate whether something essential to that marriage being a binding, sacramental bond before God was missing from the start.

It is possible for Catholic brides and grooms to fail to marry sacramentally in many ways. For instance, the couple might get invalidly married outside the Church; inside a courtroom, on a beach, or in a barn. The bride might feel forced to marry such that her consent is not free. The groom might lack the psychological or physical capacity for marriage. Or one of them might say the vows without not really meaning them. There are many ways a marriage can be sacramentally invalid and non-binding. And where the Church finds sufficient proof for this she will grant an annulment, permitting the man or woman to remarry. So as I said before, being divorced is not necessarily a sin; it does not automatically bar you from receiving Communion. However, to abandon one’s spouse without cause, or to remarry when you are not free to remarry, are sins that require repentance.

What God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Jesus said this in response to a question about divorce, but what other things of human sexuality has God joined from the beginning which no human being should separate? God joined sexual relations to the covenant of marriage. He joined love-making to the possibility of life-making. And he joined one’s biological sex to one’s identity. God created them male and female, one man and one woman, not identical sexes—but physically and spiritually complimentary mates, and made God them man and wife in a covenant for life.

God’s first commandment in the Garden was “be fruitful and multiply,” and today we hear Jesus tell us “Let the children come to me.” His wish is to bring “many children to glory,” as our second reading says. God’s Word in the Bible celebrates having many children as a blessing, not a curse. Today’s psalm proclaims this blessing

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
  in the recesses of your home;
  your children like olive plants around your table…
  May you see your children’s children.

Indeed, being surrounded by the love of many offspring is among the greatest blessings for the aged. But human beings separating sexuality from an openness to life distorts God’s plan and the society around us.

Contraception is not something new. It existed in ancient times. Genesis relates how a man named Onan repeatedly “wasted his seed on the ground” during intercourse to avoid conceiving children. “What he did greatly offended the Lord, and the Lord took his life…” Egyptian scrolls dating to 1850 B.C. describe other methods and the pagans practiced contraceptive techniques in the Roman Empire in the days of Christ and the Early Church. The Church Fathers, such as St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Augustine, and St. John Chrysostom condemned acts of contraception or sterilization. Even the first Protestants denounced contraception, too. Martin Luther the founder of Lutheranism, John Calvin the founder of Calvinism, and John Wesley the co-founder of Methodism all wrote against it.

All Christian groups were agreed on this less than a century ago. That is until the Anglicans in 1930 became the first Protestants to officially approve artificial contraception use for hard cases. (Thirteen years before, in 1917, the same group had declared contraception “demoralizing to character and hostile to national welfare.”) As is the way of such errors, the exception became the norm and the Protestant denominations changed their teachings. By 1961, the National Council of Churches could pronounce that “most of the Protestant churches hold contraception… to be morally right when the motives are right.” The Catholic Church, however, stood firm and stood alone against the spirit of the age.

At the end of 1930 and again in 1968, the popes wrote encyclical letters reaffirming the constant teaching of Christ’s Church about the nature, purpose, and goodness of marriage and the marital act; and repeating the consistent and ancient rejection of all directly-willed acts of contraception, sterilization, and abortion. In 1968, St. Pope Paul VI predicted in his encyclical Humanae Vitae that the widespread use of contraception would broadly lower morality, increase marital infidelity, lessen respect towards women, be coercively imposed by governments, and promote the self-harming belief that we have unlimited dominion over our bodies and human life in general.

According to its advocates, contraception was supposed to strengthen marriages, prevent unplanned pregnancies, improve women’s happiness, and reduce abortions. After decades of cheap and widespread contraceptive use, half of all pregnancies are unplanned, half of all marriages end in divorce, women report lower and lower levels of happiness throughout the decades since the 1970’s, and about one-in-five U.S. pregnancies end in abortion, with more than 60 million killed since Roe vs. Wade in 1973. When persons and societies decouple and oppose human sexuality to its life-creating purpose, many harmful errors follow. You can trace the path of one error leading to the next. We are now to the point that many people cannot even define what a woman or a man is.

I would be remiss here if I did not mention that the Church teaches that there can be holy reasons and virtuous means to avoid conceiving more children. Natural Family Planning (also known as NFP) uses signs from a woman’s body to identify the days in her cycle when she can conceive. Equipped with this knowledge, for serious reasons a couple may virtuously abstain from the marital embrace to avoid a pregnancy, while respecting God’s design and the dual meaning of the marital act.

Couples who practice NFP report growing in communication, self-control, and intimacy. They are more open to discerning and embracing God’s plan for their families and are statistically less likely to divorce. Not only is NFP completely natural, the information it tracks about a woman’s body commonly leads to the diagnosis, treatment, and cure of health disorders, from infertility to life-threatening illnesses. Unlike common chemical contraceptives, NFP does not cause increased risks for breast, liver, or cervical cancer; nausea, vomiting, stomach problems, or diarrhea; depression, mood swings, or lowered libido; and it does not cause spontaneous abortions (by preventing implantation of newly conceived children into the uterine wall).

Realize that NFP is not the Rhythm Method. The old Rhythm Method simply counted how many days had passed since the woman’s last cycle and was a moral but rather ineffective approach. Faithfully-followed NFP techniques have a 99% effectiveness rate, comparable to illicit methods of artificial contraception. If you would like to learn more about NFP, visit the Diocese of La Crosse’s website and search for “NFP”. There you can investigate NFP techniques, their science and their benefits, and register for on-line courses.

Whether or not you are married, whether or not you are past the age for children, I hope that you will recognize that in the chaotic, constantly-changing, errant stream of human history, is our stable rock for truth is Christ’s Church. The Bride of Christ, our mother the Church, calls us to follow her teachings from Christ as faithful, trusting, loyal sons and daughters. Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Do not miss out on blessedness, in this life or the next.

A Labor of Love — Funeral Homily for Alice Karr, 91

August 31, 2021

No funeral homily can present the complete fullness of a Christian’s life. At best, I think a funeral homily can focus on aspects of a person’s life, and through this, help reveal the beautiful, saving mysteries of God. In the brief, less than 200-word obituary which Alice wrote for herself, she noted that she taught and was the principal of schools in Gary, Indiana; Milwaukee, Marshfield, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and in Littleton and Denver, Colorado. Today, I would like to reflect upon these years of Alice as an educator/administrator.

In 1984, she became principal of Good Shepherd Catholic School in Denver, Colorado. The school’s prospects at the time were very bleak, having a registered enrollment of just 34 students. But “during her first two years on the job, [she] put herself on a 78-hour week, organized a recruitment program, showed maintenance men how to clean bathrooms and mop floors, opened the first middle school in the Archdiocese, organized many elective classes, and involved parents in maintenance.” Her pastor at the time praised her “exceptional leadership and organizational abilities” and observed how her “relationship with faculty, students, and parents has been unusually successful; and all are supportive of her administration.” By her third year on the job, the total student enrollment was 280 and still growing. As one parent recalled, Alice “made a personal commitment to each child by providing the best possible educational environment … I remember the dire warnings we all received about the lack of future our school faced. Without [her] loving, dedicated, and wise guidance—not to mention the 12-hour days she puts in—we would be without our school. She is truly a remarkable person.” This story of Alice’s faithful fruitfulness was featured in a 1987 article of Today’s Catholic Teacher Magazine when they named her their November “principal of the month.”

This was not this first time Alice had made the press. She was also profiled in the summer of 1970, within the pages of The School Sisters of Notre Dame Magazine, in a piece entitled “Educator for the Special Child.” It describes her work at the Lorenz Institute, a private, non-sectarian, residential treatment center in Eau Claire for emotionally-disturbed children. When Alice accepted the invitation to become the principal at a facility such as this, the article recalls “she knew what she could expect—anything, at any time.” The author notes how “hours of duress, frustration, and Excedrin strain [would take] their toll” on Alice and her teaching staff, but Alice would buoy them with her seemingly constant smile, ready humor, and practical wisdom. One man interviewed said he saw Alice’s work with the staff as even more valuable than that with the children. She was a dynamo of productive energy back in those days, too. The staff affectionately dubbed her “the black and white tornado.” Why did Alice labor so incessantly? 12-hour days, six-and-a-half days a week, quite possibly until she had eventually burnt herself out. Why did she so dedicate herself to her work like this? The answer, the reason, is love.

At The Lorenz Institute, the magazine author records, the staff didn’t know what to make of Alice at first, but “evidence of [her] concern for the boys and girls unfolded day by day.” For example, “An upset boy expecting a scolding was taken off guard by the firm hand [she] laid on his shoulder, by the penetrating gaze of her steady eyes, and—once the lad’s defenses were lowered—a teasing word and/or serious directive reached its mark.” The article includes a photo of one corner of her office at that facility. The caption describes “a unique conference setting: a plain folding chair for her, a brightly decorated milk-can stool for the child. This arrangement puts the child higher than the adult, and, immeasurably, the child grows.” Alice believed love to be the very best behavior modifier. “It is not enough to teach children how to read and write,” she said, “we must show them how to live with each other.” Alice believed we must teach others to love through loving them, by loving them like God loves us.

Jesus has a great love for children. Once, calling a child over and putting his arms around it, he said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” “It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” When children in the Gospels knew Jesus’ love towards them they were being shown God the Father’s love as well. And when children experienced Alice’s love for them they were being shown a partial reflection of God’s love for them.

Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them,” Jesus says, “for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, realize that we are God’s children now. The Father has adopted us as his own sons and daughters because he loves us. Today we pray for Alice’s soul, as is right and just, for who among us is perfect? But if you have ever witnessed Alice’s love for you, then realize that you have seen a small reflection of God’s love for you.

Valuable Lessons for Life — The Craig & Debbie Zwiefelhofer Wedding

June 22, 2021

Ring Heart Shadow on Bible

Craig and Debbie, today you are here in this beautiful church to freely give yourselves to each other in marriage. Christ’s Church has discerned and affirms that you are both free to marry, and we gather together to celebrate this day with you. The excellent Scripture readings that you selected, and which we all just heard, contain valuable lessons for life. May their inspired insights bless your marriage and every household which takes them to heart.

In our first reading, on their wedding night, Tobiah arises from bed and says to his wife, “Sister, get up. Let’s pray…” Sarah gets up and they start to pray, praising and thanking God, and asking for his help and blessings. And they conclude, saying together, “Amen, amen.” There are couples who have shared a bed for decades who have never shared their prayers like this. They may go to church on Sunday or pray before meals—and that’s great—but sharing prayer as a couple like this is a greater intimacy. You do not need to be eloquent. You can even pray together silently. On a regular basis, offer two or three personal things for your spouse to pray about for you, and ask your spouse to share two or three things you can pray about to God for them. You can pray silently for each other for even just a minute or two and simply wrap up with an Our Father and Hail Mary.

A couple that prays together, and for each other, will be more perfectly one. A life of prayer is also a cure for our anxieties and fears. St. Paul reminds us in our second reading, “The Lord is near.” Therefore, he writes:

“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
  by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
  make your requests known to God.
  Then the peace of God
  that surpasses all understanding
  will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The world and my problems may be bigger than me, but God is bigger than them both. Pray often and God’s peace, even without your fully understanding what he is doing, will secure and calm your hearts and minds. St. Paul then goes on to teach the Philippians and us another lesson:

“[B]rothers and sisters,
  whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
  whatever is just, whatever is pure,
  whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
  if there is any excellence
  and if there is anything worthy of praise,
  think about these things.”

If you ask someone, “How you doing?” and they say, “I can’t complain,” they don’t mean it literally. Everybody can complain. Things to complain about are all around us. Even good things can be complained about for not being better. Anybody can complain because complaining is easy. But to focus on what is lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy is a choice. Highlighting the good in your everyday life will nurture peace within you, peace between you, and peace around you. Finally, we come to Jesus’ words in our Gospel. Jesus tells his disciples:

“This is my commandment:
  love one another as I love you.
  No one has greater love than this,
  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Ahead of you are good times and trials, both joys and sufferings, Mount Tabors and Mount Calvarys. Choose to love through them all and your Good Fridays will lead to Easter Sundays. In conclusion, pray together, focus on what is good, and choose to love like Jesus loves you and you will be blessed.

Hearts Like His — The Nathan & Cassandra Hagenbrock Wedding

June 12, 2021

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart of JesusNathan and Cassie’s wedding day lands upon this, the third Friday after the Feast of Pentecost, the eleventh day of June. God’s providence has arranged it that they be married on this special day – a feast day, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, during a month especially dedicated to Jesus’ Sacred Heart. You can see depictions of the Sacred Heart inside this church. There is the statue of Jesus behind me, here in the sanctuary, and presently another statue in our devotional corner in the back. In artistic depictions, you may see Jesus’ Sacred Heart resting upon his chest, or maybe he holds it in his hand offering it to you, and sometimes his heart is depicted by all itself. In every depiction it is a human heart, crowned with thorns, pierced on the side, with flames and a cross emerging from the top. What is the meaning of these things? What do they reveal about Jesus? And what do they mean for Nathan and Cassie and us?

The heart is the organ within every human being which is most associated symbolically with emotion, devotion, and love. Since becoming man through his Incarnation two thousand years ago, the Eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, has possessed a literal human heart in himself. And Jesus has personally experienced human feelings as well. But Jesus and his heart are not merely human, but divine. This reality is symbolized by the flames. As at the burning bush in Exodus, these flames do not consume his heart, but coexist with it and glorify it. Jesus feels and loves with a divine intensity, and this love leads him to sacrifice for love. This love gives rise to the Cross, upon which he suffered for us. This love occasions the crown of thorns, which he wore for us. And this love led to Jesus’ heart being pierced, the event we hear about in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ Sacred Heart is human and compassionate, divine and loving, long-suffering and glorious. And it is the will of Jesus, meek and humble of heart, to make our hearts like unto his, that you may endure suffering, be loving, and be made glorious.

You can see that this world is broken. Other people are broken. And you know, Nathan and Cassie, that though there is a great deal to like about you both, neither of you is yet perfect. Know that in your marriage, you will inevitably encounter suffering; sufferings caused by the world, sufferings caused by other people, and sometimes sufferings caused by each other. But when these thorns and small cuts come, do not let the fire of your love go out. Choose to keep loving, willing the good of each other. This is how Jesus loves us, and how he calls us to love.

This persistent decision to love is essential, but it is not enough. To love beyond human strength requires God’s strength; divine fire burning in your heart. You must love with Jesus’ love by connecting with him; praying daily, worshipping weekly, and communing with him constantly (spiritually or sacramentally) as you are able. Love each other by the love with which he loves you.

Choosing to love with the love of Christ in marriage is now your calling. This vocation together is to be for your joy, fruitfulness, and glory in the likeness of Christ. May Jesus Christ make your our hearts like unto his Sacred Heart, so that you may endure suffering, be loving, and be made glorious, like Jesus Christ himself.

Believe Like Children

June 5, 2021

Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Earlier this week was the last day of classes for another academic year at St. Paul’s Catholic School. This pandemic-impacted year posed challenges, but we prevailed. Our school met in-person throughout and gave our children a full education – focused on forming not only their minds but also their souls as well. This aspect is so important, it is the reason the Catholic Church has schools. A true education is not complete unless a person learns about God, about Jesus’ saving words and deeds, and how to live, both now and forever, as a Christian like him.

This is why I encourage any of you who have children attending public school to enroll them into Catholic school for this fall. Ask our school families about how excellent a school it is. They’ll tell you. Pray on this decision, ask the Lord where he wants your sheep to be. And realize that a great Catholic education for your children is much more possible than you might think.

My favorite part of being the pastor of a Catholic school is teaching and speaking with the children. Their openness to the things of God is beautiful. In their classroom or in church, you can teach these little ones holy truths and they joyfully believe them. This openness is part of why Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” and “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Sometimes I’ll meet with a class of youngsters and their teacher in the church outside of the Mass. We remind the children how to use the Holy Water at the doors to bless themselves and to genuflect when they reach their pews. Then I love to teach them and ask them questions, questions like, “Where is Jesus here?

Sometimes kids point to the big crucifix on the wall and I tell them, “That’s only a statue of Jesus. Seeing it reminds us of Jesus and can help us pray to him, but that’s just a statue which looks like him. Where is Jesus really, truly present in this room?

The children then point to the golden box at the foot of the cross – the Tabernacle – inside of which, I explain, within a special container called a ciborium, is kept Sacred Hosts consecrated at previous Masses. At the priest’s words of consecration at Mass, these Hosts became Jesus Christ, his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, really and truly present, really and truly him.

In our Catholic churches, what is typically located front and center? Not the priest’s chair, not a donation box, not even the baptismal font, but Jesus’ Tabernacle and the altar. This is because Jesus Christ and his Holy Sacrifice are at the center of our Catholic Faith. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, This is my Body, and Do this in memory of me. And his Bride the Church has listened, believed him, and obeyed him, celebrating his Real Presence at the Holy Mass throughout the centuries to this day.

It has been humorously observed that for second graders preparing for and receiving their First Communion it can be harder for them to believe that the round, flat, unfluffy, Consecrated Host was ever bread to begin with than it is for them to believe it is Jesus. This is because they believe that Jesus can do, and does do, the things he says. On this feast of Corpus Christi, let’s humbly turn and become more like those children, who accept that their good and loving friend, our Lord Jesus Christ, is truly here before us.

“As the Father Loves Me, so I Also Love You”

May 8, 2021

6th Sunday of Easter

Who was the first person on earth to know you in your lifetime? Upon reflection, you realize it was your mother. Your mother knew you long before you knew her. And I would wager that she loved you as herself, even willing perhaps to lay down her life for you with the greatest love.

An unborn baby’s understanding of things, of its mother and of itself, is limited. But the mother surrounds the baby. She is responsible for and behind the child’s entire universe. The little one is totally dependent upon her, and experiences everything in the midst of mom. Though the sound is quiet and somewhat muffled with distracting noises, the listening little child can hear the mother’s voice and feel her pulse. Imagine an unborn baby doubting and asking, “Does Mom really exist? Is there really a mother at all?

It is right that we love our mothers, though we ought not to make them into idols. When Cornelius met St. Peter, the Roman centurion fell at his feet to do him homage, but Peter raised him back to his feet, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.” Only one mother in human history has been perfect, but our parents present us with our first living image and icon of God.

The Holy TrinityAs much as a baby receives from his or her mother, the Son of God receives still more so from his Father. How does God the Father give life to his Son? The Son is eternally begotten of the Father; “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.” The Father gives his whole being to the Son, and his Son, so loved, receives everything with joy. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” How does God love you and me like the Father loves the Son?

For starters, God loves us first. The Father and Son are coeternal, but the self-gifting of the Father is the source of the Son, who then loves the Father, self-gifting himself in return. Likewise, God loves us and gives himself to us first, before inviting us to do the same. “In this is love,” St. John writes in our second reading, “not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” And St. Paul tells the Romans, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Another way we are loved like the Father loves the Son is in how we receive every good thing from God. Like an unborn child receives from its mother, and the eternal Son receives from the Father, you receive everything from God through Jesus Christ. St. Paul speaks of the importance of the Son to the Colossians: “In him everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible… all things were created through him… He is before all things, and in him everything continues in being.” For us, Jesus Christ is the one through whom all good things come.

Now would it make any sense for an unborn child, who is cherished by its mother, to see his or her mommy as an enemy? Or could God the Father and God the Son ever be rivals? Of course not! And yet we are guarded against Jesus. We hesitate to share our time with him, we hesitate to give our money for him, we hesitate to forsake our habitual sins for him. So I challenge you, I dare you, to trust more in him who loves you.

When Jesus says, “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,” he is not threatening to stop loving us. No—we must keep Christ’s commandments, doing his loving will, to fully receive everything he wants to give us. Jesus, who is first loved by God, who receives everything from God, who does God’s will, who rejoices and remains in God, who loves God and self-gifts himself fruitfully in return to God, desires you and me to experience the same blessedness. “If you keep my commandments,” he says, “you will remain in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. … It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”

This Sunday, let us love, honor, and pray for the mothers from whom we were born on earth; while we love, honor, and trust all the more the eternal Son through whom we are born again from above.