What’s This Site For!

January 24th, 2019

Welcome to Deacon Larry’s Homily Website.  Deacon Larry Brockman’s  home parish is Holy Family Catholic Church in Orlando, Florida.  This site contains all of Deacon Larry’s Homilies organized by date.  There are three major categories- Holy Family Sunday Homilies; Holy Family Daily Homilies; and Westminster Tower Homilies.  You are welcome to read and download any homily.  Comments are also welcome. God Bless!

This site has been up for a couple of years now, and I see that there are a number of subscribers.  However, nobody ever comments on these homilies.  Please, I do welcome your comments.  They would help me to be more relevant to user needs!

The Real Thing

January 24th, 2019

St. Francis de Sales

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Heb 7: 25b – 8:6; Mark 3:7-12

Deacon Larry Brockman

As our Gospel today clearly demonstrates, Jesus was and is the real thing- God himself.    Jesus healed the sick, cast out unclean spirits, and worked miracles no other earthly man could do.  And Jesus drew crowds from all over the area because of the authority and truth of his message. 

But Jesus’ earthly ministry ended in the self-sacrifice of the perfect God made man on the cross on behalf of all of us.  It was a sacrifice that atoned for all of our sins and earned salvation for all of us.  The proof of our salvation was his Resurrection and his promise of everlasting life to all who believe in him as passed on by the witnesses to his Resurrection.

Paul’s message to the Hebrews this morning was all about the salvation process.  It is a lesson all of us should heed as well.  Paul talks about it in terms of priesthood.  But in Paul’s days, priests attained their priesthood by birth.  According to their law, only those who were descendants of the Levite tribe could be priests.

They offered animal sacrifices year after year in atonement for their sins on the day of atonement.  But these sacrifices were made by imperfect people- people who died and had to be replaced.  And these animal sacrifices obviously could never properly atone for their sins and those of the people before almighty God.  They were just a gesture of humility and sincere intent to be contrite; they were a remembrance according to the law; they were not a messianic or saving event.  And in fact, the Jews are still looking today for their Messiah.   

Paul then points out that Jesus Christ acted as our priest, the perfect priest.  Jesus, who was and is sinless, lives forever and his sacrifice was and is acceptable to the Father.  Just like Melchizidek, Jesus is a priest, a prophet, and a king.   He does not have any of the shortcomings of previous priests.   

Now Jesus Christ wanted us to participate in the salvation he earned for us by providing us with persons who could act as a high priest for him.  And so, he handed on to his apostles the priesthood at the Last Supper.  We provide bread and wine, fruit of the vine and work of our human hands at each Mass.  They symbolize our willing participation in the Mass, our willingness to sacrifice ourselves.  Every time one of our priests offers that bread and wine and consecrates it as Jesus did, then Jesus self-Sacrifice is memorialized and is offered again to his Father on our behalf.  Jesus told us to do precisely that- in memory of him.  We are present as witnesses to that event at each Mass and we partake of the body and blood of Christ to validate our belief.   

That is what is so important about our Mass.  It is not just a forum for worshipping God; an event held in a special place where God’s word is proclaimed and affirmed and where the congregation says to God that they believe in him and praise him.  Of course, the Mass is all of that too.   

But rather, the Mass is a continuation of the salvation event itself.  Because just as Jesus promised, the bread and wine become His real body and blood.  So, the Sacrifice of the Mass is our way of participating in the original offering to the Father.   

Yes, Jesus Christ is the real thing.  And so is the Mass and the Eucharist consecrated by our Priest. 

It’s Christmas Still!

January 3rd, 2019

Lessons and Carols

2018

What an incredible story! Yes, we have all just heard an incredible story unfold before us. Many thousands of years ago, the Lord God promised his people a Savior. And he delivered on his words in his own time- more than a thousand years from the time of that promise. But he did it, he delivered. He sent His only son to become one of us and show us the way. We call it the Incarnation.
And the Incarnation is what is truly unique about Christianity. You see, the Son of God became intimate with our human nature- He was born like one of us; and he lived as one of us, worked as one of us, suffered like one of us, and died like one of us. But then, he rose from the dead, showed himself to over 500 people and promised all of us the same resurrected life forever with him if we follow after him.
And so, we have testimonies- eye witness testimonies- and the Gospels that tell and validate that story, incredible as it may seem. Our God is not some distant, transcendent God who we cannot approach; rather, our God has elected to become one of us, and yet maintain his divinity in some mysterious way that we are incapable of understanding. But he did it, and the proof is in the story we have just heard.
We should be absolutely exuberant, bursting with joy, and tremendously thankful for all of that. Because the real meaning of life has been laid out before us- everlasting life with our creator, with Jesus Christ and his Father.
And indeed, that is what Christmas is all about. Christmas is all about Christ. Because of Christ, we have been saved, and we have been shown the way.
Now two thousand years have passed since the events in the nativity story. The secular world, led by the powers of darkness, first introduced doubt, skepticism, and erroneous teaching to try to derail the truth about Christ and the joy that it brings. And so we have all these splinter religions- like those who believe Jesus is divine but not human; and those who believe he was human but not divine; and those who warped his teaching about our great sacrament of the Eucharist, which Jesus left us to maintain his presence with us for all time. Many of their followers are well meaning but misguided folk who hunger for but are ignorant of the whole truth.
The division among the people of God is sad indeed. It is our duty to help them with the truth by displaying our faith and knowledge of the truth.
And yet, even sadder are the later attacks on Christianity- attacks by a secular society. Many in our modern society don’t believe in God at all; or if they do, they believe that any belief in a God is as valid as any other belief. Yes, our Christian roots are being undermined by secular society’s politically correct morphing of Christmas into the Holiday Season. The forces of darkness are hell bent on making the “Spirit of Christmas” something other then what Christmas is all about. I am here to tell you that our Trees and decorations and gifts and cards, and everything else we do this time of the year, are all about Christmas, and the joy that the Incarnation brings. They are not about the “Holiday” season.
Now don’t get me wrong. God bless those folks who want to celebrate Hanukah or Kwanza, or some other “Holiday” at this time of the year every year. That’s their choice; but realistically, they are a minority riding the coattails of Western societies roots in the Christian feast of Christmas.
We Christians celebrate what Christmas is really all about- that is, to relive the joy over what Christ’s coming into the world 2000 years ago brought us. When we give each other gifts, we do so because we realize that Christ gave freely, unselfishly to all of us. And our gift is a memorial of the gift of everlasting life that Christ has brought us. Our fleeting happiness over the gifts we receive is symbolic of the joy that we should all realize about our prospect for the gift of everlasting life in heaven that Jesus gave us. It will bring Joy that will last forever and ever. And not only that, it is our duty and obligation to infect the rest of society with our Christian joy. We are here to evangelize secular society by proclaiming the truth of Christmas.
I hope that all of you enjoyed the wonderful music and spiritual lessons we presented tonight. If you did, join me in proclaiming the Christian message to the world because the Christmas season lasts from Christmas until the Baptism of the Lord on January 9th.So enjoy the Epiphany this weekend, which commemorates the visit by the Three Magi on January 6th.
Yes, we are still in the Christmas Season. Merry Christmas to all!

The Two Eve’s

December 8th, 2018

Immaculate Conception

Gen 3: 9-15, 20; Eph 1: 3-6, 11-12; Luke 1: 26-38

Deacon Larry Brockman

I recently saw a painting by the famous artist Fra Angelico which showed the Annunciation scene taking place on a portico, one which overlooked a beautiful garden.  It would have been much like the Garden of Eden scene from our first reading! 

Picture these two women- the first Eve and the second Eve, each one sitting alone in the midst of a beautiful Garden.  Both women were approached and entered into a dialogue.  Let’s ponder their stories for a moment.   

The first Eve must have been deep in thought, maybe even prayerful thought; considering all that God had told her and Adam about the Garden of Eden.  And there it was too, right in front of her, the object of her musing- the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  God had told her not to eat its fruit lest she die.  Her visitor could read her mind and he cleverly lied to her;  And he did so in the way most evil is presented in this world- under the guise of something good:  “Oh, that fruit looks good to eat; surely you will not die”; and “God knows that if you eat that fruit you will be like him”!   

So clever- because in fact his answers were half-truths.  The fruit was good to taste and eat; she did not die physically immediately; and lastly, she did acquire knowledge that only God had before that- the knowledge of good and evil.  But what price did she pay for this act of disobedience?  Well, God the Father banishes Eve and her husband from Paradise.   

And all of us, generation after generation of Adam and Eve’s ancestors, are born into this world with the stain of that original sin- the sin of pride, of seeking self-sufficiency.  Because that’s what it was at the roots, wasn’t it?  The serpent, the devil, appealed to Eve’s sense of self- “you can be like God”.  Or another way of saying it would be “You won’t need God any more”.   

I suppose that it has been the same way throughout time.  Mankind would like to think that they have all the answers.  There are folks who believe we know how everything evolved and how everything works.  They say we can even clone ourselves, genetically alter our race; and decide who lives and dies and when.  It’s scary; but it is the logical extension of Eve’s sin.  And it is happening all around us in today’s world.  Our culture teaches us that we can control our own destiny, we don’t need God.   

The truth is, we are better off with God in control.  God made everything and He seeks our cooperation in implementing his plan for how everything evolves.  That’s what he had hoped for in the first Adam and Eve: partners who would help him with His plan.  But instead, sin entered the world through the first Adam and Eve.   

And then came along the second Eve- Mary.  We find her sitting outside overlooking a beautiful garden as well.  Mary was also probably in prayerful thought.  A young, vibrant teenager with the world an open door for her.  But along comes a visitor, the angel Gabriel.  His message is absolutely astounding.  Mary is told she has found favor with God!  Yes, Mary was born without the stain of Original sin- she was and is the Immaculate Conception.  Mary had not sinned to that point and was sinless thereafter.  And so Mary found favor with God.    

But even more than that, Mary was told she would conceive and bear a son; and that her son would be the Son of God. 

Imagine what any teenage girl’s response likely would be!  “What, me!  I want to become a doctor; or I want to get married and have a family; or wait a while, I want to go off and see the world first.”  But Mary agrees to do the will of God as she says:  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done unto me according to your word.”   

And there you have it, the very strong contrast between the first Eve and the second Eve- the difference between putting ones self first, and putting God first.   

Each of us is challenged with the same choice daily in our lives.  In fact, every time we pray, God is there first ready to talk to us about his plan going forward for us- never mind the past.  But are we ready to listen?   

Advent is that special time of the year when we are given time to pause and listen to God so that we will be ready for Jesus’ coming.  This morning, St. Paul summarizes our situation very well when he says: “…We were chosen, destined, in accord with the purpose of the one who accomplishes all things according to his will so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,  We who first hoped in Christ.”   

Remember that always when you pray.  You were chosen to do God’s will so that you might exist for the praise of God’s glory.  That’s what life is all about. 

Abundance in Need

December 5th, 2018

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Is 25: 6-10a; Mt 15: 29-37

Deacon Larry Brockman

Well, it’s that time of year again, the “Holiday Season”.  Yes, our secular society has morphed our wonderful Christmas celebration into a “Holiday Season”.  And our holidays are characterized with an abundance- an abundance of good cheer, food, parties, cookies and presents.  It’s as if an abundance of pleasure is what the spirit of Christmas is all about.   

Well, believe it or not, today’s readings are all about the abundance of God’s blessings.  And that’s something we should all want- an abundance of God’s blessings.  However, our Christian concept of abundance is better matched to the real meaning of Christmas than the abundance we hear about in secular society.   

In today’s Gospel, we first hear about the working of many miracles- many of the lame, the deformed, the blind, and the mute are healed.  And then, Jesus feeds 4000 people with a few loaves and fish.  By the way, this is not the feeding of the 5000.  That incident came earlier in the Gospel.  No, this is actually a second incident of mass feeding of a crowd.  Clearly, Jesus abundantly heals, and Jesus abundantly provides food for the hungry- so much so that there were seven baskets left over; and that’s seven baskets more than they began with!  That is real abundance.   

These gifts of healing and daily bread are signs of God’s intention to bless his people with abundance.  We have only to ask sincerely, as Jesus did, and God will provide for our needs.  Because, you see, God is the ultimate Santa Claus!  God always gives to others without expecting anything in return.   

Now notice that Jesus’ actions in today’s Gospel are characterized by one common factor-  Genuine Need.  The lame and deformed and blind and sick had a genuine need; and the crowd which hadn’t eaten for three days had a genuine need as well.  It is God’s will that His people be healthy and that their basic needs be met with abundance.  God will answer our prayers for such needs- and with abundance.   

But that is not the same thing as wanting something even if we ask for it in prayer.  Because there is often a difference between something we want and something we need.  In fact, God frequently gives us what we need rather than what we want when we pray.  That can be a real problem for us- because we think we know what we need and so, that is what we ask for.  But God loves us so much that he will respond to us with abundance for what we really need.  God is the best judge of that.   

I propose we all try something a little different this year for Christmas.  Let us compose our Christmas lists a little differently.  Let us ask God for what we really need, rather than what we want.   

Perhaps a little quiet time to reflect on how you can change your life for the better next year.  Or to help develop a skill that helps others.    Perhaps you can anticipate a real need by one of your loved ones, and that can be your gift to them.  Maybe some quality time together with a neglected family member.  Or Giving up time with the game controller and interacting with your siblings instead.   

Our first reading talks about God’s ultimate gift to all of us- everlasting life in paradise.  Then, we will be provided with a rich, never ending feast that meets all of our needs and wants.  But we’re not there yet.    While we live this life, our goal should be to love others as Jesus did.  God gave the world his only son, Jesus, at Christmas.  Jesus gave abundantly of his talent and fed thousands in the miracles.  His focus was on giving abundantly to meet real needs.  His focus was on fulfilling God’s plan.  And he achieved salvation for us all by doing so.  That is ultimate happiness and self-fulfillment.   

Maybe we should try the same thing- giving of ourselves.  It might make us happier than all the wants we can think of! 

The End of Our World!

December 2nd, 2018

First Sunday of Advent

Jer 33: 14-16; 1 Thes 3: 12 – 4:2; Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today Jesus talks about “Signs in the sun, the moon, the stars, and on the earth…”, and so on.   Sounds mysterious, scary, intimidating, fearful and so ominous.   It certainly gets our attention, doesn’t it?   And it begs the question, “what does it all really mean”?     

But then comes the punch line:   Because Jesus tells us that when we see these things coming, we should: “Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand”.      Well, rather than try to explain the end of the world with this passage, let’s narrow the scope a little, and just consider what could happen at the end of our own world.     

But first, let me tell you a little story.   I was coming home from Seattle last week and felt just fine when I got on the plane.   Shortly after the plane took off, I started to shake like a leaf, break out with a fever and sweat, and felt sore all over.   I was coming down with an infection, a UTI to be exact.   I put on my winter jacket, which had come to good use in Seattle.   But even that didn’t keep me warm.   And I was forced to make six or seven painful trips to the lavatory.   Suddenly, there it was, I was facing a miserable trip of 6 straight hours on a plane.   It felt like the sun and the moon and the stars and the whole earth were falling on me for all six hours.   I’m not sure how I ever made it through the flight.   It could well have been the end to my world.     

In fact, it has taken me almost a week of bedrest to feel better.   And I was actually checked into the hospital at one point.   It seems the infection caused me to gain massive quantities of water weight in my limbs and it was taxing my heart; a life-threatening condition.     

This incident reminded me of just how fragile life is.   At any time, everything can close in on top of you, just like the opening words in our Gospel today described.   At any time, life can be taken from us.   So, maybe these words of Jesus are a signal for all of us to consider our own journey. and to recognize when our own worlds are caving in on us, with seemingly everything going out of our control.     

So now, let us then ask the question that Jesus poses.   Will we be ready to stand erect before God when that happens?     

Jesus says we should “beware that our hearts do not become drowsy”.  I had never really thought about that before- drowsy hearts.   But our hearts, the seat of our emotions, our commitment to the Lord, and our spiritual awareness; they can become drowsy by preoccupation with the things of the world.   Things like “anxieties of daily life”- illnesses, food, our daily routine, our leisure; or “drunkenness”- really any kind of addiction, like TV or the internet, or gossip.   When our hearts are drowsy, then our sensitivity to the love of God and others becomes dulled.    

If our whole world were to fall apart suddenly then and we find ourselves face to face with God, we won’t be ready, we will be scared of standing before the Lord.   But we are the fortunate ones, aren’t we?   Because we are God’s holy people, his Church.   We have followed the advice of Paul to the Thesallonians.   We have increased and abound in the love for one another.   And we are committed to conduct ourselves in such a way to please God.   That is what is on our minds, now, and going forward; even in the midst of the “tribulations that are imminent” in each life.     

When we can do this, keep our hearts alive in Christ, then we can stand before the Lord when he comes to us no matter how suddenly or dramatically it happens because we have maintained our focus.   We know what our hearts are seeking.   They are seeking to rest forever in the Lord.  

Baptism of James Michael Brockman

November 17th, 2018

Baptism Homily for James Brockman

Ezekiel 36: 24-28; John 3: 1-6

Dc. Larry Brockman

Today we gather to celebrate James Michael Brockman’s Baptism.   And Baptism is a rite of passage, one in which a person is reborn by water and the Holy Spirit.     

All of us are first born into life in this world.   And we would just belong to this world unless we somehow long for something more than that.   That something more is everlasting life with our creator.   But just how do we achieve that- everlasting life with our creator?   Well, it requires a rite of passage.    

In our Gospel, Nicodemus was confused by Jesus’ comments that one needed to be reborn of water and the spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God.   Well, that is what Baptism does for the person.   Baptism is the rite of passage that opens up the way to everlasting life.   When a person is Baptized, they are reborn by water and the spirit.   The water washes away their sin; even if it is just the human tendency to sin by our imperfect nature.   We call that Original Sin.   And then they are reborn in Spirit, by receiving God’s spirit.   God’s Spirit changes everything because it inspires a person to align themselves with God’s will for them.   That’s really the secret- aligning our lives to God’s will for us.     

James Michael is too young for a conscious decision to do God’s will.   But his parents and Godparents are here to make that decision for him by proxy, and then by living a life that gives James a good example.     

Later on, James will be confirmed in his faith as a teenager.   That is when he will confirm his acceptance of the faith his parents chose for him today.   And so, the Church welcomes James today, a new soldier for Christ.   Rejoice, because James is an heir to everlasting life in the Kingdom of God  

Hold Firm for a “Little While”.

May 10th, 2018

Thursday of 6th Week of Easter
Acts 18:1-8; John 16: 16-20
Dc. Larry Brockman

“You will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” Such were the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples. They just didn’t understand what the “little while’s” meant in his words to them.

These men had been through it all with Jesus. Now that he had risen, they expected him to stay with them so that things would be the same as they had been during his earthly life and ministry. Or even better, that they would be part of some worldly conquest restoring the Jewish nation. But that wasn’t what Jesus meant to do at all. After all the breakdown of scripture he did for them, after all the time he spent with them, they still didn’t get it- that this life was not what it is all about.

Indeed, Jesus words apply to all of us today too. It will seem that Jesus is not with us, particularly when the world closes in on us with its skepticism, cynicism, doubt, and persecution of our true Faith- and especially when we get close to death. That will cause us to grieve; but our grief can be turned to joy if we hold firm to the end in our belief, our faith and follow the Gospel path in Jesus footsteps.

I visit a local hospital twice a week to help the chaplain. I visit a lot of folks there who are facing death. Some of them have been suddenly plucked from the mainstream of life and now face an uncertain future in this world- a heart attack, a stroke, a cancer diagnosis- or any of a number of other surprises. And it is clear that many of them are scared- scared of infirmity or death.

Even many of those who profess to believe are scared of death. They are in the middle of that “little while” where it seems God has abandoned them. Many can only think about what they will be missing if they die- their children, their activities, their retirement; as if these things are the whole meaning of their life. To be sure, many are concerned about leaving loved ones vulnerable, a sense of duty, as well. Indeed many of these folks are preoccupied with the world at a time when they should be getting closer to God. Some are even angry with God rather than working to get closer to Him.
Now I bring all this up because we are a people who like to be in control. We like to plan everything in our lives. We plan for our education, for employment, for marriages, for child rearing, for entertainment, and for retirement.

Well how many of us plan for our real future, everlasting life? Because after we pass on, we have this wonderful hope for the future, one that is guaranteed for those who believe and practice their faith. It is an everlasting life in heaven with God and with all of those who love him.

Have you ever thought about what that would be like? Have you planned for it? Because, you see, if you think about earthly situations where we hold grudges, don’t forgive, avoid certain kinds of people, and work for our own benefit to the exclusion of others, well, it certainly won’t and can’t be like that in heaven, can it?

So, take advantage of today’s wake-up call by Jesus. Take some time to plan for the ultimate future. It may require some changes in your daily life. Then you will be ready for the future in a little while when Jesus will be with all of us again- all of us. And our grief will turn to joy.

Loving As God Loves Us

May 6th, 2018

6th Sunday of Easter
Acts 10:25-26; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15: 9-17
Dc. Larry Brockman

God is love! So, let us just think about that for a moment.

Ponder the fact that the very essence of Almighty God, who made everything from nothing; knows everything; and keeps everything that he made in existence; is love. It’s the only thing that makes sense, isn’t it? Why would God make anything except that it pleased him to do so; and why would he maintain it unless he loved it? In fact, once God creates something, his attention is always focused on the welfare of His creation. It’s self sacrificial love.

Now you might think of some examples to challenge my statement that everything God created is out of love. For, as Ogden Nash so succinctly put it: “God in his wisdom made the fly and then forgot to tell us why”.

But you know what?” Anyone who studies the hierarchy of God’s created life forms can tell you exactly where the fly fits in. There is an incredible master design of both the physical world and plants and animals. And all of it behaves according to God’s plan. As it says in the creation story in Genesis over and over again; “And God saw that it was good, very good”.

So, while there are things that happen in nature, so called “acts of God”; and there are interactions between animals and animals, or people and people, which seem to contradict what a loving God would do or allow to happen, that simply isn’t true, just as it isn’t true that flies are all bad.

Things may seem differently to us sometimes because we don’t have the big picture; “For who can probe the mind of God” as it says in the Psalms. The problem that we have with God’s “love” is that we really don’t understand love. And in fact, as human beings we will always be incapable of understanding the mind of God, and that includes the depth of his love for us.

I’m sure that parents and Grandparents and can appreciate what it must be like for God when they find it necessary to discipline their children. In so many cases their children just can’t understand the wisdom and love in that discipline. But the parents and Grandparents have been there, done that.

And so, we have to accept on Faith that God is Love and that love is what motivates everything He does. And it is not such a great leap of faith either. Because here we all are- we came into existence out of God’s love; and out of God’s love we were given life, talents, limitations and a free will. God does not interfere with that out of love. He lets us take our “gift of life” and run with it. However life unfolds for us, it is constantly maintained by God within the constraints of the consequences we face for our own choices made by our free will.

Now, our readings today tell us more about God’s love. First, God loves all of us the same, but manifests that love differently. Wasn’t that the point of the reading from Acts? The Disciples were uniquely gifted by God. After all, they were born as part of the chosen people, the Jews, and they lived with Jesus and were intimately familiar with him. Then, they were witnesses to his resurrected body. They had everything going for them in accepting the Faith. These Jews did not mix with Gentiles. It would have been unthinkable for them, taboo.

But those hundreds of Gentiles that heard the Gospel Story accepted it on Faith. They were welcomed into the Church and received the gift of the Spirit. Peter recognized that, different though they might be, these Gentiles were ready. They were loved just as much by God, but that love was manifested differently.

Now since God loves all of us the same Then clearly, if we are made in the image in likeness of God, that means all of us are called to love one another as He loves us. That’s what Jesus tells us in the Gospel and John says in the second reading. God sent Jesus to us to redeem us- the gift of his only begotten son. But Jesus also gave us a roadmap, the Gospel, for how to love as he loved us. It’s called unconditional, sacrificial love, the kind of love where a person, “lays down one’s own life for his friends” as Jesus says.
You know what? We are called to do that all the time, aren’t we? Mom’s and Dad’s do it all the time for their children; children do it all the time for their aged parents; men and women in the armed services, police, and fire departments do it all the time for the rest of us. Whatever station in life you have, you are likely called to sacrifice your own interests for others in some way. That’s what Jesus did for all of us. And that’s the kind of love we are called to show for each other.

But the challenge is that we are called to love everyone, even those pesky folks down the street who we don’t like, just as Peter and his disciples were called to love and accept the Gentiles.

When you think about God’s love for us, it can be no other way, can it?

Untangle Yourself!

April 29th, 2018

5th Sunday of Easter
Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15: 1-8
Dc. Larry Brockman

All that talk about vines and branches and grapes in today’s gospel reminded me of something that happened when I was in Tennessee a week or so ago.

My neighbor invited Jane and I over for dinner. They have a fantastic view of the mountains from the deck outside their home. As we looked out over that view, I spied a half dozen grape vines planted on my neighbor’s yard. They looked unkempt and dangled all over the place. So I said to my friend, “How were the grapes this past year”? “Terrible”, he replied, “There were many bunches, but they all shriveled up and there was no fruit of any kind.” Knowing the answer ahead of time, I said: “Didn’t you prune them?” “No”, he said, “I read about how to do it but just got confused”.

So I told him that when I lived in California I had had grapes. And I offered to come by during the week and show him how to prune them. “Oh, yes” he said, and I will watch what you do for next year.” And so it was that I pruned my neighbor’s grape vines. There were years of unpruned growth; long dangling branches and dead branches and all kinds of undesirable meandering growth. When I got done, there was just a tenth or so of the vines remaining.

You see, a grape vine only generates so much life giving sap. Fruit only develops on the first 2 or 3 buds of last year’s growth. If you leave most of the growth on the vines, the sap will be wasted on unproductive growth. There will be little if any fruit, and the grapes that do make it will be small and sour.

But if properly pruned, there will be a couple of long strands of old wood with short spurs of last year’s growth on them. And the sap will pour into the productive buds on last year’s growth, giving large bunches of sweet grapes! That’s the way God designed grape plants to produce fruit.

If the farmer cooperates with God’s plan, and prunes the branches properly, then he will be rewarded with lots of fruit. But if the farmer does it “his way”, whatever that is, he is bound to be disappointed.

And so it is with people as well. As Jesus remarks, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does, he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” This is precisely what I did to my neighbor’s grape vines.

People have a nasty tendency to “do it my way”, as the old Frank Sinatra song foretells. Most of the time, that involves many paths leading in all kinds of directions, paths that keep extending from year to year without bearing fruit like unpruned vines on a grape plant. These many paths are aimed at what we want to do; many of them are paths leading to self-gratification, which ends without bearing fruit. Other paths bear little if any fruit.

But God knows which paths, which urgings in life, lead us to bear fruit, that is, the kind of fruit that helps build the Kingdom of God. These are the fruits of the Holy Spirit- Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. He chastises us, that is prunes us, in an attempt to block the false paths. When we cooperate, his life giving energy can strengthen our growth along the fruitful paths. When we fight him, our energy is sapped up in the unproductive meandering paths that lead nowhere.

When a person looks down on an unpruned grape vine, he can see a mess of tangled random growth leading nowhere, and likely to continue to nowhere unless something changes. But each of us is blind to this analogy in our own lives. We get involved in too much; we become committed to multiple paths leading nowhere, and we refuse to be directed according to God’s plan. That would involve painful pruning; cutting off the known for the unknown and making a change. And like a grape vine, a lot of stuff needs to be pruned so new things, God’s ways, can be experienced and be fruitful!
John tells us in the second reading that if our hearts do not condemn us, then we can have confidence that God will give us whatever we ask him. Our hearts rest easier when things are simple.

So ask yourselves this. What can I do to get rid of those tangled branches in life that really lead nowhere? Then cut them out, and follow the urgings of the Lord instead. If you do that, God the Father will be glorified, and you will become a disciple of Christ.