Following Jesus Christ

January 26th, 2020

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17; Mt 4: 12-23

Deacon Larry Brockman

Do you hear Jesus calling you?  And are you willing to drop everything and just follow after Him like the two sets of Apostles in the Gospel?  And just what does it mean to hear the call and follow after Him?  

 In the reading from Paul to the Corinthians, Paul is preaching against divisions among the people of God.  These are people who have heard the call and have converted to Christianity in the budding Church of the first century.  However, these people are choosing between one person’s message and another’s- in fact, three different people are mentioned, presumably with three different emphases.  But this doesn’t mean their messages are mutually exclusive.   Nevertheless, this has caused discord among the people- divisions; because people just naturally want to keep it simple.  They want to believe that they have got it right and others have got it wrong.   

Certainly, our times are like that.  We are a generation with serious divisions amongst us.  And there are so many different divisions amongst Christians.  There are literally hundreds of denominations and many non-denominational Christian Churches; and each of them will tell you that they are the ones who have the message right.   

Even within the Catholic Church there are divisions- for example, there are those who agree with this pope and those who disagree with him.   

But one thing is very clear from both Jesus and Paul’s message today:  It is really all about following Jesus Christ.  Now, it matters what Jesus said; but it matters more what He did.  Because when you follow someone, then you are really following after what they do.  No matter how eloquent someone is in their message; if they don’t practice what they preach; well, you’ve got to be wary of their message.   

You know, as I look back over the history of the Church,  I am struck by people who have had a tremendous impact on the Church:  Consider St. Francis of Assisi; Saint Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Ignatius of Loyola; and modern Sts. Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, and John Paul II for example.  All of these people practiced what they preached.  And all of them left a twofold legacy.  First, they all had something to say; but secondly, the primary way they validated what they said was the way they lived their lives.  And the way all of them lived their lives was by mirroring the love of God in what they did. Other people could see that they were special people- real saints; and so many of them developed followers.  So, today we have Franciscans, Jesuits, Sisters of Mercy, and other groups that try to emulate the special charisms f these people had.  But these are not divisions; rather they are people who are mirroring the love of God in certain specific ways.   

The fact is, each one of us is unique, and so we are each called in a different way to follow Jesus Christ.  We can choose to drop everything and follow after the special charisms of one of these special people.  Those who choose this path become priests or nuns or join a religious order.  Yes these people have heard the call and responded to it.  They are particularly blessed for committing their lives in this way.  

 But there is another way.  We can look at the way these special saints embraced the Gospel as a way of life, and do something similar in our lives- the ones that God has given us.  We are doctors, teachers, housewives, factory workers, and yes, even fisherman, and whatever else.  And we are all called to live our lives in accordance with the way of life Jesus showed those first disciples who followed him- by doing the will of God and loving others as self.   

We do it in the kindnesses we show other people; how we take care of our sick and elderly;   How we show our children what is right and wrong; how we reject the secular values that are contrary to Jesus’ teaching;  How we respect the dignity of all human life. 

The world badly needs Christians who publicly do as Jesus did.

And that is what it means to hear Jesus and follow after Him.. 

What’s This Site All About

November 22nd, 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!

What Does It Mean for Christ to be King?

November 21st, 2019

Christ The King

2 Sam 5: 1-3; Col 1: 12-20; Luke 23: 35-43

Deacon Larry Brockman

Christ the King!  That means Christ is not the President; not the Prime Minister; not the Emperor-  e is none of these other things.   Rather, He is a King.  You see, He is not elected by either the people, like a President, or by the leaders, like a prime minister; nor is He the leader by virtue of conquest like an Emperor.  Rather, He is chosen and anointed by God the Father.   

Now at first blush, the difference may not mean a lot to you.  But when you really think about it, well, being a King versus any of those other things is quite profound.    You see, being the King means that Christ is sovereign.  He is above all else and first and foremost as Paul says.  No one else either compares to Him nor can they ever compare to Him.  Rather, He is all of the things that Paul talks about in the letter to the Colossians. 

Christ is not King by virtue of acceptance by the people or the leaders of the people or by conquest.  That’s why David was anointed King.  But it is different with Christ.  He is the absolute King not subject to any other authority- not to the people, the leaders, or conquered slaves.   

The fact that Christ the King is above everything else implies that God’s creation is a hierarchy.  We know that there are angels and that angels are in a hierarchy.  We don’t know what else God created outside of our universe.  But the rest of creation in our Universe has levels within it; it is a hierarchy.  To drive that message home, God created hierarchies all over the place for us to see.  The animal Kingdom is a hierarchy; the plant kingdom is a hierarchy.   Even the Universe is a hierarchy of galaxies with dependent stars with planets subject to them.  So, we know the Kingdom of God to be a hierarchy as well.  

Now we are used to the phrase that “All men are created equal”.  But you know what- that is not really true if everything is a hierarchy, is it?  What is true is that God created each one of us as He saw fit.  God does not create junk; so everything He created is good, and everything he created was created for a purpose.  God uniquely “gifted” each of us with the life that we have in the times that we were born into; we are all pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle that is in God’s mind.   

We are all of equal value to God; but that doesn’t mean that we are all created with equal value in our frame of reference because God made some of us more talented than others in the eyes of our peers.   

You see, the reality of who we really are is only known to God.  We are like icebergs floating on the sea to the world.  To God, he sees all of us, including the potential we will have in the Kingdom of God; the only thing the world sees is the part that sticks above the surface.   God sees the part below the surface as well.   

Now I mention all of this because we need to be good subjects.  We need to recognize Christ as the King, like the so-called good thief in the Gospel rather than scoff at God and his ways like the bad thief did.  Good subjects submit to their King without question.  They do the will of the King at all times and they accept the role they were given without coveting something more for themselves.   

In return, like any good sovereign, the King will protect and serve His loyal subjects and provide for their common good.  But God is so much more than the best of benevolent Kings from of old, that His subjects will enjoy everlasting happiness and joy.

Life is about learning to live the life God intended for us; to be happy with the gifts and blessings that we have; learning to avoid comparing ourselves to others; and learning to share for the common good.  Life is about becoming loyal subjects of Christ the King.  If we trust Him and submit to Him; ultimate happiness will be ours our forever. 

The Wisdom of God is the Spirit!

November 14th, 2019

Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

Wis 7: 22b-8:1,Luke 17: 20-25

Deacon Larry Brockman

Some people say that the Holy Spirit is not in the Old Testament.  But today we hear more about the nature of the Holy Spirit than in any place else in the Bible.  We hear about an “intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, agile, and clear” spirit.  Isn’t that just magnificent!

And the author goes on and on with other attributes as well.    We would all do well to read and reread this first reading.  It would greatly assist all of us in understanding when we are influenced by the Holy Spirit as opposed to other spirits which are constantly attacking us, suggesting how we can feed our desires and self rather than get close to God.  Daily we are accosted by these evil spirits who urge us in various ways.  They tell us; “If it feels good, do it”; “What about something just for me”; and “Don’t be bothered by that” when our conscience haunts us.   

But the Wisdom that the Holy Spirit infuses in us helps us to be in harmony with God.  And harmony with God brings joy, an everlasting joy.   

Now this reading is paired with Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees on the Kingdom of God.  Jesus has been talking about the Kingdom of God as he journeyed through Galilee and Judea.  But the audience didn’t get it   Even after all the parables on the Kingdom of God, parables we have been hearing for the last several weeks, they just didn’t get it. The Pharisees didn’t get it either.  They all just didn’t get it.  I’m not sure we all get it.   

So, Jesus tries again.  He says “The Kingdom of God is not something you can see”; and “The Kingdom of God is amongst us”.  How can both of these be true? 

Indeed, we live in a world that is shared by the people of God and the people of this world.  The two factions don’t live in harmony but are in constant friction.   

For some, life is all about themselves; it’s all about getting whatever satisfaction they can out of this world while life lasts.  These people are inspired by the spirit of evil that rejects God’s spirit and urges folks to live for themselves.  They are rewarded by comfort, pleasure, money, power, things, whatever the world has to offer. Their goal is always to be happy and avoid suffering in this world.   

Others are honestly trying to listen to God.  They are looking for God’s will for them and they are prompted by true “Wisdom”, which come from the Spirit of God, the kind of Wisdom we hear about in the first reading.  These people are rewarded by a feeling of satisfaction infused by God when they are in harmony with God.  That satisfaction is something that lasts forever.    They suffer, work, sacrifice, and love unconditionally. They experience feelings of joy and satisfaction instead of comfort and the world’s happiness, like the feeling you get from nurturing your children, helping someone else in need, or taking care of an aged parent  despite the pain and discomfort one incurs in the process.   These are the “Holy Moments” that Matthew Kelly talked about in the book we all got last Easter.   

And so, the Kingdom of God is amongst us, and co-exists with the World as we know it.  It is not something that can be seen.  But it is something we can all experience.  

When that flash of lightning occurs when we pass from this world to the next the sheep will be separated from the goats,   And we will follow Jesus with the rest of his flock into the Kingdom of God, all those who are filled with the Spirit of God. 

The Beatitudes As a Way of Life

November 6th, 2019

Westminster Towers Ecumenical Service

Matthew 5: 1-12

Deacon Larry Brockman

Well, did all of you enjoy your Halloween last Friday!  Was this place full of carved pumpkins, pumpkin spice latte, spooky skeletons, and costume parties?  Did you know that Halloween is now the second largest holiday in the US?    But do you also know what Halloween is really all about? 

Well more than a thousand years ago, in the 600’s, Pope Boniface IV decided that Christians needed a day to honor the dead saints.  He called it “All Hallows Day” and it began the night before on “All Hallows Eve.”  That morphed into Halloween.    In the 900’s, the date was moved from May 13 to November 1st by Pope Gregory III.  That’s because the Europeans were used to honoring the dead at the beginning of the Winter period.  Originally, the people were encouraged to dress up to look like the different saints in the church.  These were the original Halloween costumes.   

But there were still a lot of pagans around and it seems they also honored their dead around the same time.  On or about that time of the year, they believed that the ghosts of the dead arose and they could walk about amongst us.   

So society has unfortunately merged what was a wonderful tribute to the saints with some of these old pagan customs including dressing up like witches and ghosts and heaven knows what all!   

Today, I want to talk to you about the saints, not all the hype about Halloween.  Because that’s what all All Saints Day is really about and that’s what all of us are interested in, right.  Like the famous song, “When the Saints Go Marching In”, says: “I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in” \ and I’m sure all of you do too.   

It happens that when our different churches celebrate All Saints Day on November 1,they all pretty much use the same bible readings.  Our Gospel reading today is one of them, the Beatitudes.  But one of the other readings is from Revelation 7,which describes the gathering of all of the saints in heaven in these words:  “After this I had a vision of a great multitude which no-one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb’”. 

Yes, all the saints are gathered around God and his throne in heaven.  And I am sure all of us want to be in that number when we die.   

But let me ask this.  Just what is a saint?  We have Saints like Joseph and Peter and Paul and all the Apostles.  They were all called to a very special life directly. And we have Saints like Francis, Ignatius of Loyola, Dominic, and Anthony of the desert; and Saints like Theresa of Calcutta and Theresa of Lisieux and Catherine of Sienna.  They heard God’s call; gave up everything, and I mean everything, and dedicated the rest of their lives to God.  And we have Saints like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Jerome who did wonderful things in preaching and teaching and putting the bible together.  The Church recognizes all these people for their special holiness and they were all honored by being named saints.   

But is that what it means to be a saint?  Is that what we have to do to be in that number, something truly exceptional?  Do we all have to give up everything and dedicate our lives to prayer and the Lord.   

Now I know that all of us here are making an honest effort to seek and live by God’s will, but that’s not what I mean.  I mean do we have to be people who separate from society like the people mentioned above did, giving up family and everything else, in order to be saints.    And then consider this.  Do any of us feel a little uneasy or guilty when you read about some of these saints because you have not done something exceptional?  Especially all of us here who are a little older and most of our life has happened?     

Well, you should know that a saint is any person who lives a holy and righteous life.  All those in heaven are saints, not just those our churches honor with the special title.  Saints hear the will of God for themselves and live their lives accordingly.  Most saints are regular folks just like you and me.   

In fact, I think it is important to recognize that man’s primary calling on earth comes from Genesis.  It was given right after man was created and right after the first man was blessed.  In Genesis 1:28, God said “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.”  That’s what almost all of us are called to do.  We are called to married life, to have children, and to be fruitful.   

Most of us don’t have any problem at all with the multiply part, do we?  But what does it really mean to be fruitful?  Well, fruitful is the means by which we “subdue the earth”.  We are fisherman, farmers, soldiers, policeman, engineers, teachers, nurses, caretakers, musicians, artists, whatever.  We are what makes the world go around and provide for food, water, shelter, entertainment and the well-being of our brothers and sisters.  The world cannot exist without us; neither can God’s will be accomplished.  We are responding to the specific talents and gifts and interests and environment we were born into.  That’s what most of us were called to do.   

Sometimes we feel inspired to pursue things of interest to us, and we do;  God fills our lives with circumstances that we must deal with; and we do  But most of us have not heard a special call like the ones the named saints above heard.  And that is OK.   

You see, God doesn’t make junk.  God lovingly formed each and every one of us.  It was his will to place us in this time and place, and with the people we were placed with.  And God showed no favorites in his creative mode.  He gives each of us our unique talents, and judges each of us one-on-one based on what we have done with them.  We are not compared with anyone else.   

And that brings us to our Gospel today.  You see, just like there will be a great crowd gathered around the throne in heaven as in the description in Revelation; there was a great crowd gathered around Jesus in our Gospel reading.  Jesus gave all of those folks in the crowd, the ordinary people, the saints in the making, their marching orders.  We know those marching orders as the Beatitudes.  They instruct us on what we should do rather than should not do, which the Mosaic law emphasized.  Let’s look at each one carefully.  

Let us recognize that the words blessed and happy are both used, depending on the translation.  So, when one is blessed, they are truly righteous with God, and at the same time, they are happy.   

First, we hear, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  Now it is easy to focus on the word “poor” here.  But it is “poor in spirit”, not financially poor Jesus is talking about.  All kinds of commentary has been written about this.  And the general sense is that Jesus is referring to people who defer in spirit.  The poor in spirit are those who recognize their own limitations. Their focus is not on letting their own spirit dominate them as if they were a god unto themselves.  Rather, we must all come to recognize that our life force is a free gift from God.  And so we need to defer our spirit and our inclinations to the will of God to fully experience that gift.  We will be happier if we defer to God’s spirit because we will not lust after the things of this world.  They cannot bring us ultimate happiness; only God can do that.  For those who are poor in spirit, the kingdom of God is theirs.  And that is the happiness we all ultimately seek.   

Next, “Blessed are they who mourn”.  This seems strange at first but think of it this way.  Virtually all of us strive for the right thing, but somehow fall short.  That is something to mourn about.  It is a recognition of our own humanity; our own limitations.  Try as we might, we fail in some ways of weakness over and over.  But it is important that we recognize that, and so mourn over it.  Jesus is telling us that if we are sincere in our mourning, we will be comforted.  It’s the same as our relationship with children, isn’t it?  No matter how many times they mess up, we are there to comfort them and tell them it will be OK.   

Then, “Blessed are the meek”.  Those who are meek quietly submit to the will of the Lord.  When God points them in a direction, they go that way- like the person who must care for a sick child or an elderly parent.  Such people may be besieged by lots of influences and temptations along the way, but they quietly hold fast to their calling.  They will inherit the land,  This is as if to say that even though some of the things of the world seemed to pass them by   while they held firm to their purpose, ultimately they will inherit “the land”, a place with the Lord.  And that is what is really important.   

Now true Christians not only follow their instincts on what the Lord is calling them to do, but they also seek God, they are proactive.  So “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied”.  Indeed, those who seek God spiritually in prayer will be rewarded.  And this also applies to hungering and thirsting for justice.  So, we cannot be complacent in a largely secular world.  We have to be meek; but we also have to hold firm and seek justice for ourselves and others.  Jesus is telling us we will be rewarded for our efforts if we do.   

I am pleased that after the many years of right-to-life activity here in Orlando the proactive pressure worked, because the Planned Parenthood clinic on Tampa Avenue closed.  This was Justice for the most vulnerable members of society- the unborn.   

And in the midst of all of the trials of life, each of us has been hurt- hurt by family members, employers, neighbors and friends.  Just as we expect God to be merciful to us in the face of our failings, so also we need to be merciful to those who offend and hurt us.  Hence, “Blessed are the merciful”.  In a sense, those who are merciful achieve a special level of happiness.  Because they let go, rather than hang on to anger and hurt.  Holding on to anger and hurt never makes one happy.  Jesus says that merciful people will receive mercy.  Indeed, God is merciful to those who show mercy to others.   

Next we have “Blessed are the clean of heart”.  Ah, yes, the heart.  Where your heart is, so also is your treasure.  The heart is how we really feel about things.  It’s where our real relationship with God is.  We cannot hide or deceive God, who knows what is in our hearts.  And things that derail the purity of our hearts are lusts for things of this world like power, money, relationships, things.  If these are the focus of our hearts, rather than our relationship with God, then God knows it.  Also, people would be uncomfortable looking into the eyes of an all good God in the face of their own impurity.  But those who are pure of heart are ready to see God.  

 “Blessed are the peacemakers”.  That’s a really tough role, isn’t it, being a peacemaker.  We all tend to want our side; understanding how to defer to another is hard.  And for those things that go on around us, well, it’s prudent to just stand by and let other people deal with a situation.  Why get involved?  Well, because we are called to be peacemakers- in our families, in our jobs, in our community.    When people know you are the real thing; if they know that you are pure of heart and not biased, then they will honor you when you fill the role of peacemaker.  

Those who are peacemakers are truly the children of God, they are a reflection of God himself, projecting love and a true spirit of kindness., just like their Father.   

And lastly, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness” or “for my sake”.  Indeed, a real Christian cannot go through life without being attacked by the devil and his minions.  It’s a multi-pronged attack of ridicule, insult, avoidance, pain, suffering, and all kinds of evil.  Because when you are doing the right thing, you are an obstruction to the plans of those who run the world.     

But the reality of life is that all of us will suffer.  Jesus Christ suffered a horrible passion and death for the sake of his Father and for the sake of righteousness.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called and destined to experience the same.  But this life is only a stepping-stone to eternity.  And those who hold firm will be rewarded with the Kingdom of God.   

Earlier this week I visited a man in the hospital who had a horrible disease.  He was a man of great faith.  He was covered with festering sores all over his body and was in constant pain- pain that no medication could control.  This condition has lasted now for 2 years.  He knows he will not survive; but he is having a problem dealing with the pain and the effect on his family.  I could do nothing but pray for him, this modern-day Job.   But then I suggested he offer it up to God and told him he would constantly be in my prayers.   

In one way or another, all of us have to deal with pain and suffering.  It is part of life; and its duration can be indeterminate.  God tests those he loves; and sometimes we cannot know why.  But the Kingdom of God is there for all who endure this suffering with dignity and grace.  And that Kingdom will be ours for ever and ever.   

And so, the Beatitudes are a script for those of us who live normal lives.  Se are all called by God to do his will and to live life to the fullest.  God loves each of us.  None of us has been favored by God when he created us.  Rather, we were all created in his image and likeness, and each one for our own special life with our own talents and limitations.  Some people are called by God for special tasks.  But the overwhelming majority of us are called to “Be fruitful and multiply.”   

When Jesus Christ looked out over the massive crowd in Galilee, some 5000 families, He preached to them how they should live their lives.  He preached the Beatitudes to them.  It is Jesus’ script for how they could be happy and achieve everlasting life with him.  And it is just as applicable to us today. 

The Crown of Righteousness!

October 27th, 2019

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sir 35: 12-14, 16-18; 2 Tim 4: 6-8, 16-18; Lk 18: 9-14

Deacon Larry Brockman

Righteousness!  It is one of those things we hear about often but fail to understand fully.  Just what does it mean to be righteous?  

The Hebrew roots of the word righteousness relate to the justice that God gives those people who conform to his covenant with Him.  So, the Jews of Jesus time would have understood that the righteous are those who deserve justice because they conform to the law.   

In the New Testament, Paul talks often about righteousness.  There, the word means those who live in conformity to God’s will.  They are “right” with God.  There is a subtle difference, and that is emphasized in our readings today.  

 First of all, righteousness calls for personal humility.  I am talking about true humility.  A truly humble person knows who they are.  That is what we hear from St. Paul this morning.  We hear about who he really was.  Paul was dedicated to the conversion of the Gentiles.  He was knocked off his horse, blinded by God, and told to change his ways.  He was told not to persecute the believers of Jesus Christ, but rather, to preach Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.  Paul, who was an important Rabbi in the Pharisaic Jewish Movement, dropped everything and dedicated the rest of his life to preaching Christ.  Paul knew who he was, a servant of Christ, called to do his bidding as a travelling preacher.  In today’s second reading, we find him in chains in a Roman prison at the end of his life. 

While it may seem that Paul is anything but humble about his righteousness, these circumstances and the life of Paul shed a different light.  Paul is simply recognizing who he was.  Paul knew that age and his commitment to the Lord had taken its toll.  He sensed that life in this world was almost over for him.  Paul was not comparing himself to others; just recognizing who he really was called to be.   

Then, in the Gospel we hear about a second aspect of true humility.  The parable that Jesus tells makes it very clear that we need to concentrate on our own faults rather than compare ourselves to others.  It may actually have been true that the Pharisee kept the law literally.  He may not have sinned the way he attacks others in his statement.  He probably didn’t commit adultery; he probably wasn’t dishonest; and he probably wasn’t greedy.  But that isn’t what would make him righteous.  This would have shocked the crowd; because the essence of Judaism at the time was literal compliance with the law.  

What would make him righteous is whether he responded to God’s calls to him.  Did this man hear that little voice inside his heart that prompted him in every day life?  Did he find out who God really wanted him to be, and then follow that plan?  From Jesus’ description, this man was focused on the law, and judged what others did rather than what he was called to do.  He wasn’t motivated to dig deep down in his heart and recognize his failings like the Tax Collector was.   

Sirach talks this morning about God and Old Testament Justice.  His opening statement is very important.  He says: “God knows no favorites”.  It just simply has to be that way with God.  God created each person out of love.  God loves each and every one of the people he creates the same.  Just like we love our children equally.  God has designed each of us the way he intended for us to be.  Unfortunately, not all of God’s children learn to know and serve God; just like not all of our children respond to the best efforts of their parents.   

Our relationship with God is ultimately one on one; it is not relative to others.  Only God is aware of all of the gifts and incumbrances that each person He created is dealing with.  God will justify each of us on the basis of the gifts he gave us.  God’s judgment is based on the one on one relationship we have with Him.  And in your relationship with God, He only cares about how you are responding to him, not how you are doing relative to others.  That certainly comes across in the parable in the Gospel.   

Not only that, but God is only interested in what happens going forward.  His mercy is unlimited; He forgives us for everything and anything as long as we confess, believe in him, and vow to repent. 

The good news is that all of us are called to righteousness with God.  From the beginning God sent us all out into the world to “be fruitful and multiply”.  That’s what most of us were called to do.  To go out into the world, raise our own in the image and likeness of God, and be fruitful.  That means providing for our families and using the talents and gifts God gave us.   

And at any time during our life, we can reconcile ourselves with God.  All of us are called to the personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  All of us are called to be like the Tax Collector.  The Tax Collector was one of the most hated persons in first century Jewish society. a person thought to be complicit with the Romans, inherently dishonest, greedy, and far from the law.  All of us are sinners like the Tax Collector in our own way.  But if we truly know who we are and were called to be, we recognize the things we have done wrong and are willing to change going forward, then all of us can become righteous with God.

At the end of life, if we have that personal relationship with Christ, and we maintain our true humility.  then just like Paul, all of us can expect the crown of righteousness. 


September 26th, 2019

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 6: 1a, 4-7; 1 Tim 6: 11-16; Lk 16: 19-31

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today we hear about complacency! 

First, Amos tells us of the complacency of the Judeans in the Southern Kingdom of Israel when their brothers in the Northern Kingdom were conquered by Assyria and sent off in exile.  Amos correctly predicts their doom, because the South was soon sent into exile in punishment for their complacency- they stood by and did nothing.  Their comfortable lives were ended when they were sent into exile.  This was complacency of an entire people- the people of the Southern Kingdom   

Then, in our Gospel today, we hear of a complacent person.  The rich man Divas was happy with his own worldly life, yet complacent over the plight of Lazarus who was daily visible to him.  This is a singular incident in the Gospel, where names are given in what seems like a parable.  And the judgment the rich man receives is harsh indeed- everlasting punishment.    This person is not just simply complacent.  Rather, he doesn’t consider his actions sinful at all.  Most probably this person considered himself a abiding by the Mosaic Law.  He was just enjoying his God-given prosperity.  You see, in first century Jerusalem, people believed that God rewarded those who kept his law and punished those who did not.  So in his mind, the rich man’s prosperity was proof that he was righteous; he simply left Lazarus alone in the punishment he had brought on himself.  Initially Jesus’ audience would have had this view as well.   

But the dialog that Jesus describes between Abraham and the rich man shatters this view.  Because Abraham tells him that he did not listen to Moses and the prophets.  For the Mosaic law required that a portion of a person’s wealth be shared with the poor. The rich man does not dispute this, almost an admission of guilt.  Now other elements of the story amplify the rich man’s selfishness, and an absence of his contrition.  Because the fine purple garments and the sumptuous dining reveal the true nature of the rich man’s heart.  He is living an extravagant life; he is putting on airs.  The rich man was focused on his present life, as if that were all there was to life.   

Now after death, the rich man recognized Lazarus from his place of torment; but he still expected Lazarus to wait on him in his troubles.  Yes, he is sorry that he is in torment, but he is not repentant because he still believes himself above Lazarus.   

Jesus uses this story to make it abundantly clear that we cannot be complacent in the face of the suffering of others; rather, we have a responsibility to pay attention to what is going on around us.  We have a responsibility to show compassion and share the gifts that God has given us.   

It is easy to fall into complacency if our focus is on this world and ourselves.  But we can lose eternal life by being complacent.  That’s what happened to the rich man.   

Paul tells us this morning what our real focus on life should be.  We are to pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness in our daily lives.  And we are to lay hold of eternal life as the focus.  He says that these things follow after we make a “noble confession”.  The noble confession is our conversion, a conversion from a life which is focused on this world  to a focus on doing God’s will in seeking eternal life; that’s what the confession is all about.  It is an awakening in our inner most being about the fact that life in this world is not what life is all about and a realization that relationships, especially our relationship with God, are what is lasting.   

Now it seems to me that our current society is full of paradoxes when it comes to complacency in the face of suffering.  Indeed, our country provides a tremendous portion of the relief services for the troubled spots throughout the world.  And Americans, have a long history of not being complacent as the Southern kingdom of Israel was in its day.  For example, Americans didn’t ignore the evils of Hitler and Stalin; we were decidedly not complacent.   

But what about us as individuals?  During the devastation in the Bahamas caused by Hurricane Dorian we saw a tremendous outpouring of compassion.  The response was quick and meaningful over a broad spectrum of our community- hardly the response of a complacent people.  But how long did it last?  How long was it be before we resumed our lives and put this suffering behind us?  It’s only natural, when we live in relative comfort, to fall into complacency.  After all, out of sight; out of mind- that’s the paradox.   

But the reality is that there are Lazaruses all around us all the time- the person stopped by the side of the road with a flat; the neighbor who just lost their spouse; a friend who lost his job; someone who was diagnosed with a terminal illness; and many, many other similar situations.  We can continue to pass over these situations in the humdrum of life and the relative comfort of our lives.  But that is what complacency is, isn’t it?   

Now this parish is blessed by a very active St. Vincent de Paul convention.  They are celebrating (celebrated) their anniversary this weekend at this (the 10:30) Mass.  They are there to help the Lazaruses of our world; the ones that are all around us.  They do incredible work; but they could do so much more.  Contact them to see how you can help. 

What’s Your Name?

July 18th, 2019

Thursday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Times

Ex 3: 13-20; Mt 11:28-30

Deacon Larry Brockman

So, does your name tell who you really are?    It seems different today than it was in the past, doesn’t it?  Because today, our last name identifies our family; and our first name usually refers to a name that is popular, or maybe a name from a close relative- a Grandma or Grandpa or Aunt or Uncle.   

It didn’t use to be that way.  Millers were millers, Smiths were Blacksmiths; and in my case, my family were the people that lived by the brook.

And in the ancient world things were different too.  The ancients valued their name because it told who they really were.  Moses wanted to know what this mysterious God’s name was because he knew that the name would transmit the essential information about who God really was.   

And God tells him very simply: “I am who am”.  So simple, and yet so packed with meaning.  God’s name implies that he is and always has been and always will be.  God describes himself as one who existed always- before anyone or anything else.  He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He doesn’t say he was the God of those patriarchs; rather, he is still their God.  And that says a lot too.   

I don’t know about you, but when I think about God as having created everything, the universe and any companion universes; and everything and everyone that has ever lived; and that he relates continually to everyone and everything at the same time; well, that puts me in an awesome fear of God.  He is so mighty and eternal; and our abilities are so limited in time, space, and capacity.  It is truly humbling to think of ourselves in the face of God, no matter how gifted we might be in the eyes of the world.  We are nothing compared to our God.   

Now God speaks to Moses about how he heard their cries for help and was answering them.  And the whole Exodus story is an awesome example of how this transcendent, almighty God acted in their behalf.  He saved the Israelis from the Egyptians with mighty works.  So, God intervened out of love for his people.  But still, the God of the Old Testament seemed remote and above us all.  His love was mysterious and veiled.   

Today’s Gospel is short and sweet.  Jesus, who is also God- the second person of the Blessed Trinity- says this to us: “Come to me all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

We have travelled through the Liturgical year.  Jesus came, lived, preached, suffered, died, was resurrected from the dead, and returned to the Father.  So, our God deigned to send his Son to be one of us- He became present to us in ways that we could all understand.  The Incarnation provides us with an alternate picture of God from the almighty, totally transcendent God of the Old Testament.  As Jesus says himself, “for I am meek and humble of heart.”  Yes, God is almighty and above everything and anything we can understand.  But He is also meek and humble of heart.  In the face of almighty God, that is what each of us is called to be as well- meek and humble of heart.   

You see, we have a brother, the Son of God who became like us in every way except for sin so that we could put aside the fear of the almighty.  Jesus gave us the example of his own life so we could see how we could become close to Him.  We do that by following the example of Jesus in the Gospel.   

And just what is that.?  Well Jesus became who God wanted him to be.  Jesus sought the will of God for Him and lived that life. That is what we are all called to do as well- to be the person God calls us to be.  We are called to be:  Mothers, fathers, priests, nuns, caregivers, providers, defenders of the faith, artisans, scholars, athletes and many other things. 

We are each gifted with missions and talents tailored just for us but to give glory to our creator.  That is who we are; and that will be our name forever. 

Points of No Return

June 30th, 2019

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19: 16b, 19-21; Gal 5: 1, 13-18; Lk 9: 51-62

Deacon Larry Brockman

A point of no return.  That’s what Jesus is talking about.   

We saw it demonstrated in our first reading about Elijah and Elisha.  Elisha was chosen by the Lord to replace Elijah.  He had a choice- to follow or not.  But if he followed, he would pass beyond a point of no return.  Because once we find God’s will for us, there is no going back and forth from our calling to our former way of life.  God wants us to make a commitment and follow his will for us without reservation.   

Each of us goes through an initial stage in life when life is all about us.  It is natural and a consequence of our human nature.  And during our lives, we go through transitions that lead us to a more and more mature state.  First, we are infants, then toddlers, then children, then young adults.  And at each stage in our development, we learn to move beyond the earlier stage and not look back.  Each such stage in life transitions us to less preoccupation with ourselves, and more interaction with either the world around us or the people around us or both.   

Then, most of us fall in love and marry someone special- someone that we accept just the way they are.  We are willing to sacrifice ourselves at the expense of our loved one.  We are in love with them.   

And because we are made in the image and likeness of God, that love propagates itself in the children we bear which is like the Spirit of God that reaches out and extends beyond God to touch others.  

And so, we transition to yet another stage- the parenting stage in which our love extends not just to our parents and spouse but now to children and eventually grandchildren.  And as we transition, there is no looking back. We are on a continual progression of growth that moves us beyond.   We cannot afford to look back; we need to move forward.   

Well in parallel with these human growth stages, we also experience spiritual growth as well.  Initially our experiences are limited to this world.  But God touches each of us continually with His Spirit.  We become more and more aware of the beauty that has been forged by our creator.  And we consider the limits of worldly existence.  All of us come to the conclusion that we will die some day.  All of our ancestors have, and we are no different.   

And so, we seek the ultimate purpose in life.  Is there an author to life?  What is my relationship with Him?  Will I live beyond this life, and in what way?  Many of us seek more and more knowledge about God.  Hopefully, we progress beyond knowledge about God and begin to feel God’s presence in our lives.   

As we develop that relationship with our creator, we are moved by His Spirit.  And that Spirit moves us to seek and find God’s will for us.  Most of us discover that we are already in the middle of God’s plan for us because we have been blessed with our spouse; with certain talents, with certain limitations, and with certain desires.  These things are all well and good.    But then, and at varying times in our lives, we sense that God has something special in mind for us.  We are called by him for something out of the ordinary for us.  We are called to put aside the goals that we have for ourselves, and endeavor to help others.  For most of is, it is not a life changing call; for others it is.   

But whenever we follow that call- to be there for a friend in need; to care for a sick loved one; to teach Sunday School; to volunteer in some capacity; to visit the sick or the interned; or to do something truly extraordinary as Mother Theresa was called to do, we cannot look back.  We need to look forward and focus on God’s nudge lest we derail ourselves. 

That’s what Elijah did; whereas the man in the Gospel is holding back just a little.  We cannot hold back because life is full of points of no return.   

The ultimate point of no return is our death in this world.  For those who have not looked back; there will be a guaranteed place in the kingdom of God for them. 

Dealing With False Prophets (U)

June 26th, 2019

Wednesday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time

Gen 15:1-12, 17-18; Mt 7: 15-20

Deacon Larry Brockman

I wonder whether we have false prophets in our day?  Jesus says they would come to us in sheep’s clothing, but underneath they would be ravenous wolves.  Prophets. you know, tell us what things will be like in the future.  They are either prophets of doom; or prophets of boon.  Most people like the second kind of prophet, don’t they?   

I don’t know about you, but a whole bunch of things leap out at me about prophets of boon.  How about the advertising industry for starters?  We are constantly bombarded with claims on products by advertisers all telling us how much better our lives would be if only we bought their products.  They are claims that are hard to believe; probably because they are not true, or at best, they are half true.  And underneath, we know that there is just one motive- money, not our welfare.  This includes ads for toothpaste, soda drinks, beer, chips, all kinds of foods and entertainment, and a whole lot more.  They are replete with promises, implied promises.  They use good looking women or guys with the whitest teeth, or having the best time at the party, or any number of other visual traps that sell us.  Everything looks so good on the surface.   

Most of us are not taken in by these kinds of false prophets.  Probably because all of us have bought these false narratives a time or two, and so, we learned from our mistakes.  We can tell what the real fruits of their efforts are.   

But there are other, much more serious false prophets who use the same techniques to sell something as good.  They are not selling products; they are selling visions as a means of gaining power.  I’m talking about politicians; politicians whose hidden agenda differs from what they are selling.  They couch what they say by making it all sound so good.  Free college education for everyone; free health care for everyone; a big increase in the minimum wage; a tax cut for everyone; eliminating stifling government regulations on business and the environment; and safeguarding the second amendment.   

But you have to wonder if they are sheep in wolves clothing.  Are they promising these agendas to gain and maintain power?   Or do they really have our best interests at stake?  Because each one of the 6 things I mentioned comes at a cost, doesn’t it?  And basically, the costs are not addressed by their promises; rather, the emphasis is on all the “good” that is promised.  Some things appear to be good on the surface, but when you look at them closer or over time they end up being very bad.  Unfortunately, consequences like this and real costs are ignored.   

But just like the products pushed by the advertising industry, we can often tell when we’ve been hoodwinked.  Because most of the time, politicians just don’t deliver on their promises.  And if they do, the consequences, come back to bite us.  So, we sometimes know what the fruit of their labors is.  The challenge is to find someone who delivers on their promises and handles the consequences.  We are looking for the truth; not propaganda.  And in our society, that is getting really difficult to find.   

Then there are the prophets of gloom.  They are like barking dogs, warning us about Global warming or complete financial collapse due to the national debt or and of a number of international threats and dangers.  It is harder to sort out the truth from these doomsayers because the issues are so complex.  And besides, it is human nature to want to hide from gloom and doom.  Old Testament Israel constantly ignored true prophets like that   

But you know, there is an oasis in all of this.  There is a place all of us can go to test everything and determine whether the prophets of gloom and the prophets of boon are bearing good fruit or bad fruit.  And that oasis is our relationship with God.  Abram’s story this morning is an example.  If we have a relationship with God; and we ask him sincerely what the right thing is to do; he will guide us; he will answer our prayers; and we can put our trust in him.  He may not explain it all in such a way that we fully understand everything, especially all the consequences.  More than likely, he will just point us in the right direction.  We will get the right feeling, a sort of common sense.   

Do we have false prophets in today’s world?  You bet; they are all around us, especially as we get close to an election year.