What’s This Site All About

April 14th, 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!

Suffering Servants- All of Us

April 14th, 2019

It’s such a contrast. the two Gospels we heard this morning.   

First, Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph.  They had all heard about the raising of Lazarus and his other miracles.  And so, Jesus is heralded by a crowd proclaiming: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”.   

But just a little while later, things have changed.  Now the crowd shouts “crucify him” over and over again.  And Jesus is subjected to the most cruel and inhumane treatment.  He is sentenced to death on a cross.  What happened?   

Well, make absolutely no mistake about it, Satan was alive and active in the world sewing seeds of descension; orchestrating evil deeds; waiting and lurking for any opportunity to make things worse; looking to corrupt those who are vulnerable; and playing on pride, greed, and all the other sins of the heart.   

What happened is really very simple.  The people of Jerusalem lacked real Faith.  They believed in a God who rewarded them for keeping the law, but their faith was weak and vulnerable. They were happy to praise Jesus as long as he worked miracles and fed them abundantly. They also expected this miracle worker to get rid of the Romans for them.

But when Jesus came, he preached in the temple.  He preached things the authorities didn’t want to hear.  And when he attacked the motives and methods of their leaders; when Jesus offered a new and better way, one that would require them to change; and when it became clear he wasn’t challenging the Romans; well, then the worst qualities of human nature took over.   

Jesus did not follow the detailed p’s and q’s of the law.  He even drove money changers out of the temple, ridiculing their motivation to make money.  You have to wonder what the common folk felt when they saw this.  Because rather than “getting right” with the Lord in a simple pigeon or dove offering, they were being told that it takes more than that; it takes a conversion of the heart; an offering that is a real sacrifice; not just some token offering.   

So, Jesus called into question the motives of both the leaders and the people, and even identified their hypocrisies in the process.  Their self-image was hurt; they fell victim to pride.  I can hear it now: “I’m not as bad as all that”.  And the miracles he worked just made the matters worse, diminishing the leader’s reputation even more.  The Jewish authorities became jealous and angry.  They were ready to do anything to get rid of this “imposter”.   

And then there was Judas.  Jesus was not bringing a revolution to bear against Roman rule as Judas hoped he would do.  Jesus’ revolution meant changing the heart not the government.  And so, Judas was upset and impatient with Jesus and his greed for money and control took over, so he betrayed Jesus.   

And so, Satan had a welcome audience- vulnerable people who were so taken with their own self-interests that they would do anything to get rid of Jesus.  They wanted this voice of conscience out of the way.  And Satan was all to ready to whip them into a frenzy.   

Our readings today talk about suffering in general.  Isaiah’s prophecy addressed the suffering of the entire Jewish people during the Babylonian exile.  But it also predicted the sufferings of Jesus.   

Our second reading is a first century hymn incorporated by St,. Paul into one of his epistles.  It summarizes Jesus sacrifice for all of us quite well.  Here is God made man, humbling himself in the most extraordinary way.  A totally innocent man who gives freely of his own life to save all of us and offer us a resurrected life in the kingdom of God.   

And so, God highly exalted Jesus- and that is what Christianity is all about.  We are to follow in the footsteps of this God-made Man so we too can share in everlasting life and joy.   

But wait a minute; there is a catch.  It seems that all of us need to share in the sufferings of Christ.  Yes, all of us are given a life of challenges where we have to face choices- choices between comfort and suffering; choices between right and wrong; choices between standing up for what is right  or taking an easier more comfortable road; choices between doing things in the light of day or doing them in the deceptive cover of night.  All of us are confronted with these types of choices.  Only the strength of our faith and the graces that come with it can sustain us in these situations.   

The Gospel of the passion is uncomfortable for us to hear.  It is even more uncomfortable when it is effectively dramatized, as it was in Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”.  And there are even more challenging descriptions of the Passion than that which we can voluntarily look at, like “The 24 hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” by Luisa Picareta, which is an hour by hour chronicle of the horror of the passion.  The purpose of these vivid descriptions is for us to appreciate just what Jesus Christ did for us.  It was not just physical suffering, but intense mental and spiritual suffering as well- more suffering than any of us could possibly bear. 

And that is the point.  God was willing to send His son to do that for each and every one of us.  We surely can endure the sufferings that each of us has been called to endure for the sake of our Faith.   

Palm Sunday and Holy Week are that time each year when each of us is called to reflect on all of this.  And to make our commitment to believe- really believe.  And really believing means putting your faith into action.   

All of you here are making that choice on Easter Sunday.  God bless you all and your Faith.   

Ask and It Will Be Given to You

March 14th, 2019

Thursday of First Week of Lent

Es C: 12, 14-16, 23-25; Mt 7: 7-12

Dc. Larry Brockman

So, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.   For everyone that asks will receive.”    That sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? And perhaps some of you may even be skeptical from your own previous experience.  But Jesus always speaks the truth.  So, how do we resolve our experience with Jesus words?  How can we be sure our prayers will be answered in the future?   

You know, I recently led a Bible Study called “Lectio Prayer”.  It was based on an age-old practice called “Lectio Divina”.  This is a Latin term for prayerful reading of the holy scriptures.  The idea is that our prayer life is enhanced by using Lectio Divina.  You see, the author of that study made this interesting point.  He said that all prayer is initiated by God.  That’s right, all prayer is initiated by God!  So, that means we have to listen to God first to engage in prayer.    

When you think about it, we should all approach our prayer relationship with God like we approach a friendship.  A true friend listens to what we have to say; but to be a true friend, we have to listen to them as well.  And God’s agenda for us is always more perfect than anything we might conjure up for ourselves.  So, we should be open above all to what God has to say.

God sincerely wants to help us with our needs.  But there is a difference between our needs and our wants.  Take a lesson from Queen Esther in our first reading.  She is not praying for her wants, is she?  Rather, she is sincerely concerned and troubled by the terrible cunning and guile of the King’s assistant, who has tricked the King into a decree to kill all of the Jews.   

So, opening your prayer with a long list of requests and complaints doesn’t seem like the way to talk to a friend; and it is definitely not the way to talk to God.   We should start our prayer humbly asking God to talk to us and be prepared to listen.   

Now I am sure many of you recognize that God speaks to us in very subtle, gentle, and mysterious ways.  So, it may be easy to miss how God is calling you to pray.  But God certainly does speak to us through the scriptures, the word of God.  When we read scriptures, something usually leaps out at us too.  That is often God’s way of asking us to reflect more on it.  It may hold the key to our path forward.    

And God speaks to us in those nagging feelings we have that something is wrong in our lives or the lives of our loved ones.  Those feelings are God calling you to reflect and change something.  They are moments which are calling out for you to get into a quiet, undisturbed environment, and humbly open yourself up to what God has to say.  After you have listened to God, then it is time to share your concerns and feelings.   

But be careful of what you ask for.  We can all take a lesson from Queen Esther.  As I said before, she was not praying for her wants; but rather for an urgent need.  And Esther was asking for help- not intervention.  She wants God to put the right words in her mouth to persuade her husband.  Esther is concerned about a true need- and is only asking for the grace to act effectively. 

That’s what we should ask for.  Ask for strength, for the right words, for the wisdom to deal with the need that we have.   

There are many times that good people have been soured by what appears to be a rejection by God of their prayer- a sick friend or relative does not pull through; the job you sought did not come through; some immanent natural disaster like a hurricane sweeps over us despite our prayers.   

Well, God can work miracles; but usually God works in natural ways.  And we are part of that solution.  God works through us, as he used Esther to persuade the King.     

Sometimes God’s wisdom is mysterious and seems like out-of-the-box thinking.  Is that really so surprising?  God is so far beyond us that we cannot possibly see his plan or know his ways.  We need to trust God and hope that our prayers will be answered for our ultimate good.   

Perhaps it was that friend or relative’s time; perhaps there’s a better job for you; perhaps the natural disaster will put you in a place that’s far better in the eyes of God.  Perhaps God wants to close one door and open another in your life.   

We are God’s children now.  We always have the best interests in mind for our children when they ask for something, don’t we?  And sometimes they ask for something and the best answer is “no” or “not right now”.   God does the same with us.   

So “ask” but ask with all humility and sincerity, “And it will be given to you”. 

What is Lent All About

March 13th, 2019

Wednesday Ecumenical Service

Luke 4: 1-19

Deacon Larry Brockman

Lent!  It’s that time of year 40 days before Easter when some people give up chocolate or beer or any one of a number of things.  Why?  What’s it really all about?   

Well this Gospel talks very clearly about it.  You see, Jesus lived the very first Lent.  After his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, our Gospel today tells us that, filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus went into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, and that he ate nothing in those days.  That means that Jesus fasted for 40 days.  And why did he go into the desert?  To pray and reflect on his life.  Jesus felt the need to go into the Wilderness and reflect on his life!   

At the end of the reading today, we see that Jesus’ entire life changed after those 40 days.  Rather than being a humble neighborhood Carpenter in the sleepy village of Nazareth in the Hill Country, as Jesus had been for some 20 years of his life- 20 years, Jesus emerged as a teacher of a new way of life.  He visited all the Synagogues in the area and preached a message of repentance and renewing one’s relationship with God.  And all who heard him were moved by his message.   

Then in his home town, he made his mission abundantly clear.  For in Nazareth, Jesus read words from the scroll of Isaiah.  Those words described his mission., the mission of the one and only Messiah- the Christ.  And Jesus boldly told his own people that he was that Messiah; that he was fulfilling the prophecy in their own hearing.  Jesus life had indeed changed forever.  

So, Jesus emerged changed from his 40-day Lenten retreat, for that 40 days prepared him for what God wanted him to do.  Jesus emerged with the understanding that he was the Son of God; and Jesus emerged with knowledge of God’s will for him as a human person.  Jesus was ready for the mission to preach, suffer, die, and be resurrected; all to bring each one of us who follow him everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.   

Lent is simply that time in the Church Calendar when each of us is called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  We are called to prepare ourselves for the resurrection and everlasting life.  We are called to spend time “in the desert” fasting, praying, and resolving to find our mission, God’s will for us.  We are called to look forward; not backwards.  We are called to leave our sin and imperfections behind, and to be transformed by that desert experience.     

By the year 300, Lent had emerged in the Christian Church as a time of penance and reflection for the 40 days leading to Easter.  There were very strict fasting rules imposed by the early Church.  In fact, the original fast rules only allowed one meal a day at Noon, and no meat was allowed at that meal.  These rules have been greatly relaxed in virtually all the congregations that still practice Lent formally.  But the need for Lent still exists.     

Oh, before I forget it, let me mention why Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.  Some of you can and probably have done the math.  If Lent is 6 weeks and 4 days long, that’s actually 46 days.  But because Sunday was always considered a day of celebration in commemoration of the Resurrection , the Church exempted the six Sundays of Lent from the Lenten fast.  Also, the word Lent is rooted in an Anglo-Saxon word that means “Spring”.  This is because Spring is the emergence of new life, a new beginning.  That is what our Lenten experience should do for us.  It should help us to leave old sinful ways behind and emerge refreshed in spirit for a new beginning.  While this is the root of the English term we use for the Season of Lent, the fact is that in most other languages, the word used for Lent is a derivative of the word 40; the emphasis is that the renewal is spread over 40 days.     

So, Lent has been part of the Church calendar since the very first centuries of the Church.  Let’s take a closer look at what happened in the Gospel this morning, and perhaps that will give us a few clues about how to spend our Lenten season.   

First, let me describe a few historical things about why Jesus did what he did.  Some of you may be familiar with the book of Jonah.  Almost everybody knows about Jonah and the whale.  But there’s more to the story than that.   

You see, Jonah tried to run away from God because he didn’t want to follow God’s orders to him to prophesy to the people of Nineveh.  Jonah had been told to march through the huge city of Nineveh and to preach a call for repentance by the people because the people of Nineveh had sinned greatly.  Jonah was afraid to march through Nineveh and make that proclamation; and what’s more, he detested the people of Nineveh over the great evil that came from within it.  So, he fled on a ship; but was thrown overboard by the crew when he revealed his secret.  You see, the crew blamed Jonah for the terrible storm that hit the ship because he had angered the Lord.  It was then that Jonah was swallowed by the whale.  From within the belly of the whale, Jonah makes a fervent cry for mercy to the Lord, and a promise to do God’s will.  After 3 days and three nights, Jonah was spat forth on dry land by the whale.   

Then Jonah did, in fact, march through the city and preach repentance.  He told the people that they had just 40 days before Nineveh would be destroyed.   But alas, what did the people do?  According to the book of Jonah, the people put on sackcloth and fasted; and the King of Nineveh arose from his throne, put on sackcloth, and urged the people to repent.  He issued a decree that all the citizens should repent of their evil fast.  And the people did precisely that. 

Meanwhile, Jonah climbed a hill overlooking the city, and awaited the destruction of Nineveh.  It never came because the people had repented; they had changed their lives and had shown humility and contrition for their offenses.   

Now I am sure the symbolism in this story hasn’t escaped you.  The people had just 40 days to repent.  They put on sackcloth, an itchy, horrible irritating self-mortifying way to walk around.  And they fasted, a common practice associated with penance.    Jonah was in the whale for 3 days and three nights.

Later in Jewish history, these elements were copied by many Jewish people who were looking to reflect on their lives.  They would dress in sackcloth, fast, and go into the wilderness for 40 days to reflect.  In fact, that is precisely what John the Baptist did before he emerged for his Baptismal ministry.  And by the way, those who were planning to enter the early Church, the Catechumenates, were required to put on sackcloth and fast beginning Ash Wednesday!  They maintained that practice during all of Lent.  

And so, it is not surprising that Jesus, who was a devout Jew, would do the same thing- go into the desert for 40 days and wear sackcloth and fast while he reflected on his life.   

Notice that the Gospel this morning mentions Jesus’ fast explicitly.  It says He ate nothing.  Why is fasting considered a requirement and what value does it have?  Well, many mystics have commented on how much fasting helps one to concentrate, to put one in the right mode for reflection.  I am sure most of you experience that mid-afternoon slumber that comes after a fine lunch.  It does make it hard to concentrate without a nap first!  Indeed, there is validity to the Mystics assertion to be sure.   

But there are symbolic reasons for fasting as well.  Consider this- Adam and Eve were asked to do a partial fast.  They were not to eat of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Sin came into the world as a result of the fact that Adam and Eve broke this partial fast.  And so, when we fast, we display a measure of self-discipline that is in the spirit of God’s desire for our first parents.  We are demonstrating that we will self-sacrifice something in our life as a symbol of our intent to comply with God’s will, not our own.   

Now today, I think that it is appropriate to talk about other kinds of fasting rather than just fasting from food because the reason that most of us can’t find the time to reflect on our lives during the season of Lent  Is that we are just too hung up on activities in our lives.  We get stuck in a routine that eats up all our time.  Reading fiction, surfing the internet, Facebook, checking e-mails, watching TV, playing cards, various clubs, and on and on.  These activities can sap our time so that we don’t have the time, and in some cases, we don’t have the energy to reflect and repent of our ways.  So, if you decide to make a Lenten Fast resolution, consider fasting from something that robs you of the time you really need for prayer and reflection.   

Notice that the Gospel this morning is silent on how Jesus prayed and reflected.  Only this do we know for sure:  that Jesus did his 40 days in the Wilderness or Desert; that he went there to pray; and that he was tempted by the devil.   

Now going into the wilderness is an extremely valuable tidbit of information.  You see, that means Jesus needed to go to a place where there would be no distractions.  Our desert can be the sanctity and solitude of our own homes or rooms.  But of course, that means we turn the ringers off on our phones and cell phones; we turn the radio or TV off, and truly make an effort to reflect in silence and without distractions, because distractions are a perfect way for the devil to derail us, you can be sure.  And it is best to get into a prayer routine.  Pick a time and place every day for your prayer so that you get into a routine.  

I recently conducted a Bible Study called “Lectio Prayer”.  It was based on an age-old practice called “Lectio Divina”.   This is a Latin term for prayerful reading of the holy scriptures.  The idea is that our prayer life is enhanced by using Lectio Divina.  You see, the author of that study made this interesting point.  He said that all prayer is initiated by God.  So, that means we have to listen to God initiate prayer.   

You know, we should all approach our prayer relationship with God like we approach a friendship.  A true friend listens to what we have to say; but to be a true friend, we have to listen to them as well.  And God’s agenda for us is always more perfect than anything we might conjure up for ourselves.  So, opening your prayer with a long list of requests and complaints doesn’t seem like the way to talk to a friend; and it is definitely not the way to talk to God.   We should start our prayer humbly asking God to talk to us and be prepared to listen.   

Now I am sure many of you recognize that God speaks to us in very subtle, gentle ways.  But God does speak to us through the scriptures, the word of God.  When we read scriptures, something usually leaps out at us.  That is often God’s way of asking us to reflect more on it.   

And God speaks to us in those nagging feelings you have that something is wrong in your life.  They are God calling you to reflect and change something.  Take advantage of the time and solitude you make available in Lent to ponder God’s messages for you, and then get focused for the future, focus on making your life better in God’s eyes.   

When you are done with your reflecting and prayer, hopefully you will emerge with a new Spirit of enthusiasm for life and a determination to act on God’s will for you.  In a sense, this call to action is akin to “Almsgiving”.    Any material favor done to assist the needy, and prompted by charity, is “almsgiving”.  But what is important is that we give of ourselves out of charity, whether it is time, talent, or treasure that we give.  To be sure, a generous contribution of money really helps the poor.  But our Lenten renewal is about more than that; it means giving of yourself, especially in areas that you have the time to help in; or the talent to do something that really helps someone else.  As an example, in a place like this, there can be many lonely or new people.  Extending ourselves to these people is a legitimate form of almsgiving.   

That brings us to the majority of today’s reading- the three temptations of Jesus.  Jesus’ Lenten experience was certainly not unique in that respect.  You can be sure that the devil is going to try to derail whatever progress you make in your prayer life, especially if you are resolving to make a change and improve your life.   

Notice that Jesus three temptations are at the end of the 40 days, not at the beginning or in the middle.  The devil will do or say anything to keep us from performing the will of the Father.  He wants us to focus on our own comfort and the satisfaction of our own desires above everything else.  And so, the devil attacked Jesus after he was ready to return from his Lenten experience and do his Father’s will.   

Let’s take a look at each temptation and see if they apply to us as well.  First, Jesus is prompted to turn stone into loaves of bread.  Now Jesus fast is over; the 40 days are done.  He is going to get something to eat.  But the devil is trying to test Jesus vision of what has the highest priority to him.  He is urging him to satisfy his hunger immediately by foolishly performing a miracle, as if he must have bread immediately to live.  Jesus response is clear- we do not live by earthly food alone.  This is a recognition of the fact that even before our need for food and water there is a life force that sustains us.  We need always to recognize the God given life force above our bodily needs.  We need to be in harmony with God, the provider of our life force.  That comes before any desires of the flesh- food, water, companionship, and pleasure.    

The second temptation is one of power.  The devil offers all the Kingdoms of the world- fame, power, control- all that would be given to Jesus if he would worship the devil.  Jesus response is ever so clear- “You shall worship the Lord your God; Him alone shall you serve.”    Basically, the heart of this temptation is a desire to be totally independent.  It says that we don’t need God.  Indeed, the lust for power, money, and control all indicate the desire to be self-sufficient, for security on our terms.  Our world is plagued by many people who don’t trust in the Lord; they want to be in control.  And they foolishly seek money and power and all those things the devil offered to Jesus, as a means to security.  But all these things can pass away!  

In fact, anything that serves to consume us in this way is like an idol.  It can control our lives; but it cannot give us everlasting happiness and the Kingdom of God.  But we are tempted, because we like to be in control.  

In the third temptation, Jesus is taken to the high place in the temple and is tempted to throw himself down from the heights.  The devil asserts that if Jesus is the Son of God, then the angels will come to his aid and he will not be hurt.  Jesus response is that “You shall not put the Lord your God to the Test”.   

This temptation encourages us to presume too much.  We can presume that no matter what we do, God always loves us and will save us.  We presume too much when we don’t take our sins seriously by simply saying that we believe.  Not so; for that is putting the Lord God to a test.  God gave us life, talents, and a set of rules to live life by.  He sent his son to die for us and to offer us a path to share in everlasting life.  We cannot presume that his mercy will be given to us.  It is our obligation to live our lives in such a way that we are always prepared for the day of judgment.  For after all, Faith without works is dead.   

Then, our Gospel tells us that the devil left Jesus “for a while”.   Indeed, our battle with the devil is ongoing; but it comes in increments.  It comes especially during times of weakness, like Jesus in this story.  Jesus was weak from 40 days of fasting- and weary from the harsh wilderness experience.  It is then the devil attacked him; and it is in our moments of weakness that the devil will attack us- when we are not feeling well; when we are distraught; when our defenses are down from alcohol or drugs.  In any of these or like situations, the devil will be there.  

And so, Lent is that season of the Church year in which we have the chance to follow in Jesus own footsteps in order to get ready for the Resurrection of the Lord and the Everlasting life that he offers us.  It is a time for us to practice self-discipline and self-control.  It is a time for us to break away and reflect on the meaning of our life.  It is a time for us to make a change for the better.   

We can best prepare for Easter by a regimen of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  But expect to be hounded by the devil, who is relentless in his efforts to get us to focus on self and not the Lord.   Lent can and should be a joyful experience for those who love God.  Whatever it takes to get closer to the Lord should make us joyful.  And that is what Lent is really about- a new beginning, no matter what has happened in the past.

What the World Needs Now is Prayer!

March 12th, 2019

Tuesday Benediction

2 Chron 7:14

Dc. Larry Brockman

Reparation!  This holy hour is about reparation. 

And for sure, each of us has come here tonight in all humility to seek the forgiveness of the Lord for our personal shortcomings.   

But the fact is that we are a fractured, divided people.   Political acrimony and divisiveness permeate our country.  Our congress seems stalemated, and unable to get anything meaningful done.  Some people are so focused on the acrimony that they are actually hindering efforts to solve our problems.   

And you know what?  This environment is kind of like what the Israeli people faced at the time Chronicles was written.  But the people came together collectively in all humility to ask for God’s help- His help to heal their land.   

We need that too, we need to heal our Land.  And to do that, we need to turn from our evil ways, pray to God for forgiveness, and make reparation for our collective sins.   

When I was young, each Sunday we would pray at the foot of the altar for the conversion of Russia.  And guess what?  The communist regime fell, and now Russia’s Eastern Orthodox faith is alive and well.  True, they have a long way to go.  But our prayers worked- our collective prayers.   

We have a long way to go in this country now as well.  Much of our country has lost its faith and moral anchor.  That’s why there is so much acrimony.  So, we need to humbly come before the Lord as we have tonight.to ask for God’s forgiveness and help.  And our reparation consists of the shining example of a believing, faith filled community.  A community that believes that this kind of group prayer does work.  Amen. 

It’s Ash Wednesday Again!

March 6th, 2019

Health Central Ash Wednesday Service

Joel 2: 12-18; 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2; Mt 6: 1-6, 16-18

Deacon Larry Brockman

Well, here we all are again for Ash Wednesday.  Another year has passed, and Lent begins today.   

A good question for you to ask today is this:  Has anything changed in your life in the last year?  Or are you still living pretty much the way you lived last year?  Are you bogged down in a busy routine, and don’t seem to have the time to break out of it?  Do you sense a growing distance with someone important to you; or are you having problems with someone close to you but don’t seem to ever be able to address them; or maybe you are losing control of something in your life?  Do you have a sense of guilt or concern about any of that?  Do you sense that your relationship with God is suffering?

Because if any of those things resonate with you, now is the time for renewal.  Lent is the classical time on the Church calendar for folks to make some time to reflect on where there are going and what they are doing and to then make a change for the better.  To quote St. Paul:  Now is the acceptable time.

You see, change is absolutely inevitable.    If you wait long enough then something will happen and there will be change- an illness, the loss of a loved one, a betrayal by someone we love.   Any of number of things are percolating around us and can suddenly change our lives forever, even rob us of the chance of healing things because the opportunity is gone.     

The church recommends the three pillars of Lent as a process for renewal.  They are:  Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving.   

You know, fasting has been proven by the great mystics to be an effective way to clear our minds so we can come to grips with what’s going on in our lives.  In fact, that’s what John the Baptist and Jesus both did.  They went into the desert, fasted, and reflected on their lives and where they were headed.  The Gospels tell us that Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, and that he survived temptations of the flesh, power, and pride.  But when he emerged, he could see his three-year mission clearly.  And he also saw that he would suffer, die, and be resurrected.  That 40 days is the origin of Lent.  The Church encourages each of us to do as Jesus did.   

Now you don’t have to fast from food any more- just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  You can, if that is what is getting in the way of your need to pray and reflect.  Indeed, we probably all eat too much.    That can bog us down, even make us sleepy and listless.  Chances are that most of us could free some time up by fasting in other areas though.  Too much Facebook; too much TV; too many sporting events, too many lunches; you get the idea.    But whatever you need to fast from, use the time that you break free in a productive way. 

In fact, that would be a good time for the second pillar- Prayer and Reflection on what’s nagging you inside, whether it’s any of the things I mentioned or something else.   You know, some of the experts claim that it is God who initiates all prayer.  So, that little voice inside of you that nags you about something, may just be God calling you to share it with Him.  If you can find a quiet place and some free time, spend that time in prayer.  And that doesn’t just mean reciting a prayer, and you talking to God.  God wants a relationship with each and every one of us- a two-way relationship.  So, we have got to listen to God as well as talk to him.   

God speaks to us in varied and strange ways- but often directly through His word.  So, pray over the Sunday or weekday readings.  There‘s a little “Daily Bread” pamphlet covering the next three months available from the Chaplain.  That would be a good way to start.  And you may be surprised how your needs may be met when you listen to those little prompts that God gives you.   

The last Pillar is “Almsgiving”.  That doesn’t just mean dropping a few bucks in the collection plate; or even giving a little extra to your favorite charity.  In recent years, the Church asks for us to contribute our time, our talent, and our treasure.  Almsgiving can be from any of those three.  Almsgiving is a measure of how well our Fasting and Prayerful meditation worked.  We are giving back to God.   

You see, God has an agenda for each of us.  And a part of that agenda is giving of ourselves.  Whatever time, talent, and treasure we have, it all comes from God anyway.  And when we make our time or our talent or our treasure available to others in response to Him, we are showing God that we trust that he has our best interests in mind.  We might even find that he answers our requests in the process.   

So, after we receive our ashes today, rather than walking around with long faces and gloomy hearts because Lent is upon us today, let us be happy instead; let us surrender to our basic need to make positive changes in our lives.  Now is the acceptable time!   

Removing the Splinter in Our Eye

March 3rd, 2019

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sirach 27: 4-7; 1 Cor 15:54-58; Luke 6: 39-45

Deacon Larry Brockman

So, how many of you have a splinter in your eye?  I don’t see anyone here that suffers from that problem.   

Of course, if I did, I would be guilty of exactly what Jesus is talking about- I would be guilty of concerning myself with the faults of my brothers and sisters rather than being concerned with my own actions and getting rid of my faults.   

You know, it is comforting to compare oneself with others who we perceive have greater faults, isn’t it?  It makes us feel better about ourselves.  It gives us an excuse for staying just the way we are rather than working to make ourselves the best possible person in God’s eyes.  

 I think that’s why scandal and gossip are so attractive to some folks.  It takes the heat off of them; they can consume themselves with judging and ridiculing others and divert attention from themselves.  And so, the world is quick to judge someone who is caught cheating on their spouse; stealing from the cookie jar; or acting irresponsibly in some situation.  And while everyone is busy echoing their outrage at this other person, our own faults get a free ride!  But God is not concerned with who we are relative to others. God is only concerned with who we are in relation to his will for us.   

Now, the irony is that all of us really do need to make judgments, only our judgments should not be condemnations; rather, they need to be discernments about the things that affect our own actions.   

Permit me to explain: Notice Sirach’s words of wisdom: ”When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks”.  You see it is the influence that the evil people in the world have when they speak out of authority that engenders real evil.  So, we do need to judge; particularly what people say.  We need to put their words and thoughts through a sieve to determine their real intention; to see their real effect; to assure that they don’t lead us astray.   

That’s what Jesus means when He says: “A good person out of the goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil.”  Perhaps an example would help.   

There’s a carefully crafted movement in our society that uses the term “Pro-choice”.  These people make their arguments from a positive perspective- a woman has the right to choose whether she has a baby or not.  Who can be against that- a woman’s right to choose?    But when you put that argument through the sieve, the truth surfaces very quickly.  First, a couple already has the right to choose making the baby or not.  So, they already made the choice.  Second, the sieve exposes the fact that other people’s rights are at stake- the baby’s rights.   

Now I use this example because it is just so clear.  And almost anyone can see how this evil is degrading society- making us more selfish; undermining the family and dulling our sense of guilt for murder.  The events in New York State and Virginia recently are dramatic evidence of all of that.     

But there are so many other subtle evils.  How do we assure we can discern them?   

Well, that’s why Jesus talks about the blind leading the blind.  In fact, consider these evils- euthanasia, pornography, drugs, and gangs.   Many people who sell such evils are blind; they have been seduced by evil and don’t even see it.  And some of most basic needs- food, clothing, and entertainment- are tainted by economic evils like chemical preservatives, slave labor, and cheap thrills.  Yet society buys their products because it is expedient.  And so in fact the blind are leading the blind because most people are not properly equipped to discern, to put their words through a sieve.   

And so what does Jesus say?  He says that “But when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.”  And that is the secret.    We must be fully trained as disciples of Christ; trained by those we can trust.   The Church has handed down the Gospels and Scriptures as well as the traditional teachings of the great Church Doctors.  That is something we can trust; that’s how we can be prepared to make proper judgments about what we hear.   

If all there is to our lives is the world and what it has to offer, then the selfish standards of the secular world would make sense.  But that is simply not true.    As Paul says in our second reading: “When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility…”,  “…then the word that is written shall come about.”  And the word that is written is everlasting life.   

Jesus leaves us with this thought: “For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.  So then be strong, fully devoted to the work of the Lord.”  And be able to discern what comes from a righteous heart. 

On Loving Our Enemies

February 24th, 2019

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Sam 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Cor 15:45-49; Luke 6: 27-38
Deacon Larry Brockman

It’s a hard teaching, isn’t it?  Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.  It runs counter to our human nature; the innate tendency we have for self-preservation.  Indeed, from the very first, we all tend to think of ourselves.  So, just how do we overcome that self-centered focus and why is it so important?   

I think St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians this morning help.  Paul contrasts the first man- Adam with the last Adam, Jesus Christ.  He says the first Adam became a living being.  And what do we know about the nature of living beings?  That a living being has natural instincts.  And so, that living being strives to meet self-needs: food, water, comfort, affection, entertainment, and pleasure instinctively, and kind of in that order as one basic “need” after the other is satisfied.  Basically, our instincts for self-preservation motivate us to suppress anyone and anything that gets in the way of the satisfaction of our self needs.   

But you know what, when all of our “natural” needs are met; then we basically become bored, don’t we?  We ask inside, “what’s next”; and even, “what happens when I get old and I die”.  We begin to think about the spiritual, things that transcend our nature because all of us hope that we will live forever.   

But Paul makes it clear that the spiritual did not come first.  First, we become familiar with earthly things just like Adam.  And that is necessary for the self-preservation of life itself.    Then Paul says the last Adam came into the world.  Paul says that last Adam is spiritual.  Let me repeat precisely what he said: “The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven”.   

And so Jesus brings an answer to these nagging questions- what’s life in our natural world really all about; and what happens after we die?  Jesus tells us about the spiritual realm in which there is no time.  Jesus tells us about the Kingdom of God and that Kingdom lasts forever.  Jesus tells us that such is the destiny for all who believe in him and follow him.  There, in the kingdom of God, all who belong to it will be happy and content forever and ever.   

Yes, we believe that Jesus came amongst us- the spiritual assumed a human nature to give us a roadmap for getting to the Kingdom of God when we die.   

Jesus’ entire life was one of self-giving; not self-satisfaction.  Jesus bore hardships and a painful death at the hands of his enemies.  Jesus gave everything he had; turned the other cheek; and loved his enemies.  Jesus left us the Gospel as a way of life.   

And this part of the Gospel gets to the heart of the matter because Jesus just comes right out and tells us that we must love everyone, even our enemies.  That’s what it means for us to transcend from a creature of this earthly world and grow spiritually so we can be a citizen of the kingdom of God.   

Why this? Well first because God said so, and that should be enough.  We must all accept the fact that God’s understanding, his knowledge, his judgment, in other words, His wisdom, are far above anything we are capable of conceiving.  The Bible tells us that first and foremost God is love.  And so, we who are made in his spiritual image and likeness need to love as He loves.   

God chose to create everyone and everything out of love and God chooses to keep loving all of his created beings because God is always there to forgive them and welcome them back, no matter what they have done.  God wants all of us in the Kingdom with him.  And so, out of honor and respect for God, and in obedience to his word and commands we are called to do the same. 

That’s really why David did not take revenge on Saul when he had the chance, isn’t it?  David said as much when he recognized that God chose Saul as his anointed one.  And no matter what Saul did to David, out of honor and respect for God, and knowing God’s desire that Saul be saved, David would not kill him and interrupt that process.   

In fact, there are many stories of conversion by folks who did much harm to Christ and his Church.  St. Paul is a primary example; for he persecuted the early Christians before his Conversion.  But there are so many others, even in today’s world- like the Turkish radical who shot Pope John Paul II; like the person who accused Cardinal Bernardin of sexual misconduct.   

All of us have people in our lives who we just don’t care for.  They may gossip on us; scheme against us; rub us the wrong way; and hurt us in many, many ways.  But they are all part of God’s plan for his Kingdom.  As hard as it might be, we just have to cooperate with that plan.  We can’t always like them; but we can love them.  After all, love conquers all.

Holding Fast to Your Faith

February 6th, 2019

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

St. Paul Miki & Companions

Heb 12: 4-7, 11-15; Mark 6:1-6

Deacon Larry Brockman

What an opening shot that was in our first reading: “Brothers and Sisters:  In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.”  What a strong message that was for the faithful.   

And in fact, in Paul’s day, there were many who did suffer terribly for their faith; many who shed their blood.  Yesterday, we heard about St. Agatha.  Because she rejected the advances of the Roman Leader in Sicily, she was tortured mercilessly; they even cut off her breasts!  But when they tried to burn her at the stake, an earthquake frightened off the Romans, and legend has it that St. Agatha died in prison.  I read recently that as many as 1 out of every 100 Christians in the first couple of centuries were martyred for their faith.   

Today is the feast of St. Paul Miki and companions.  Paul Miki was one of 25 Christians crucified on a hill above Nagasaki Japan in the late 16th century following missionary efforts by Jesuits and Franciscans to convert the people of Japan.  All 25 were put to death just because they preached Christ.  The Japanese wanted to root out the Christian movement in its infancy in Japan.   

One would think that such a brutal campaign would have ended it; but when Christian missionaries returned to Japan some 200 years later, they found over 1000 Christians there- such strength of Faith.   

How about you and me?   We live in an age when our Christian Faith is constantly being persecuted.  Dozens of people have been killed by the sword in Iraq and Syria and Egypt just because they are Christian.  Closer to home, people are being arrested and sued for following their consciences on Christian doctrine.  And there are people, some even claiming to be “Catholic”, defending the “right to choose” to abort a baby, and even to kill a newborn baby on the delivery table.  They are popping corks and celebrating the passage of laws in New York that allow just that. 

How can we live our lives so that it makes a difference in such a messed-up world?  Do we have to shed our blood to be saved?  We are just citizens, not politicians or activists, right.   

Well, we can certainly express ourselves to our elected officials; and we can vote.  But you know, there is an even better way; one which really demonstrates our faith but isn’t so drastic.  It is one that Paul mentions to the Hebrews this morning.  Because Paul also says this to the Hebrews: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”   

First peace.  Yes, we can all be civil to each other and be peacemakers.  But also “For that holiness without which no one will see the Lord!”  Ah, now that is much more difficult- to live lives of holiness so that everyone sees the Lord in us.  We are challenged to live that way every day by acting civil to our neighbors; showing love and respect in our families; worshipping the Lord and not secular things on the Sabbath; and giving of our time, talent, and treasure to help someone in need.  Basically, our kindness must be ever present on behalf of the Lord, while all the time we hold fast to what our faith is when we are challenged.   

And when is our faith challenged?  When others want us to gossip or gang up on someone; when others talk about the right to choose versus the right to life and we sit by idly; when we are affronted by immoral and objectionable material in the media and say nothing; and when an activity interferes with the practice of our faith but we do it any way.    Doing the right things in these situations are ways we can “see to it that no one is deprived of grace”; and that “no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many are defiled”.   

Each of us has the opportunity to win the struggle against sin.  For some, holding fast to their faith means shedding blood.  For all, holding fast to the faith is what it’s all about. 

Is the Law Written in Your Heart?

January 30th, 2019

Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

St. Maria Soledad Torres

Heb 10: 11-18; Mark 4:1-20

Deacon Larry Brockman

“I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds.”  This is the New Covenant of the Lord as Paul presented it to the Hebrews.    And you know what?  When people are committed to their Faith, when they seek the Lord and desire to do his will as an integral part of their lives, then the New Covenant applies to them.  

I suppose that the large crowd that came to hear Jesus was full of folks who came for some very different reasons.  On the surface, they came to hear this special preacher because of his reputation.  But really, only some came because they were seeking after the meaning of life.  Others came because it was the thing to do; or they felt justified by seeking spiritual diversity; or they wanted to belong; or they were dragged there by their spouse or family; or any of a number of other reasons.   

And what did they hear?  They heard about seeds sewn along a path.  Can’t you just imagine the reaction?  What’s he talking about?  What a bunch of baloney?  I came here for this?  What does this have to do with me?  Is that all there is?   

But you know what, many folks come to Mass sometimes on Sundays for some of the same reasons.  Some come because they are committed to their faith with their hearts.  But there are many other reasons that other folks come- some to justify themselves or to become belong to a community; others as sort of a guilt offering for their pre-occupation with the world; or because of peer pressure from their spouse or family; or to serve as an example for their children.  God bless them for whatever reason they come because they may be converted in heart by the living word of God at any time.   

But this morning, Jesus makes it clear he is looking for people who are truly committed to him with their hearts.  They may not be perfect- nobody is perfect.  And the people who think they are perfect, well they are probably the ones with the most to learn.  But they come with all humility seeking something better- the real meaning of life.   

Now Jesus spoke the truth in parables so that only those who came to hear him with their hearts would perceive the truth.  Jesus deliberately structured his message to challenge his audience.  He was challenging them to be open with their hearts and minds to a new and exciting message about the ultimate purpose of life.  Anyone who was committed to the earth and fleshly existence would perceive that message as a lot of baloney.  Only those who were honestly seeking the truth would be open to it.  If their minds and hearts were open to his message; they would get it because the Spirit of the Lord would work on them.     

The same thing is true today each and every time folks come to Mass.  When you hunger and thirst for the Word of God with your heart, and you yearn to receive the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, then coming to Mass on Sunday, and in fact any time you come to Mass; well then, the Mass will be something special to you.   

But when you come for any of the other reasons, there will always be something wrong-  the music wasn’t quite right; the homily was too long; it’s the same old thing every time, and on and on.   

When Paul quotes the Old Testament; “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds.”  He is talking to all of the people of God who come before him honestly seeking the truth.  To those, the Spirit will move them to understand what is hidden from the multitude.  The salvation promised in the New Covenant belongs to such as these.