“Be a Man”!

February 1st, 2018

Thursday of Week 4 in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 2: 1-4; 10-12; Mark 6: 7-13
Deacon Larry Brockman

“Take courage and be a man”. These are David’s words to his son Solomon as David rested on his deathbed.

And just to make certain Solomon understood what that meant, David elaborated on what it means to be a man (or woman). It means following the law of God- his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees. In other words, putting away any tendency to folly and to accept the responsibilities of life. But first and foremost, the will of God.

In Solomon’s case, his role was to rule Israel as a successor to God’s chosen one, David. Solomon had received a mandate, his marching orders. He was to do God’s will and obey Him in all things and to make certain that his descendants and the people followed the will of the Lord and kept his law. Solomon was a prefiguring of the Messiah to come. Through Solomon, the promises made to King David were to be passed on to David’s descendants and the Kingdom of Israel would be maintained.

Only things didn’t work out that way. Solomon and his descendants strayed from the path, Their emphasis was on things of the world- a worldly Kingdom; and their priests and Pharisees distorted the meaning of the law. Rather than a law that moved their hearts, they interpreted the law literally.

Nearly 1000 years later, Jesus arrives on the scene. Jesus became the true Messiah that Solomon prefigured. He was the first-born son of God, and God’s chosen one. And Jesus mission was to preach repentance. Jesus message was to live the law of God in your heart. And so, Jesus commissions the disciples to preach repentance.

The disciples’ authority is established by the power Jesus gave them to cast out evil spirits and to cure the sick and lame. They are given their marching orders, and discharged to carry them out- to go forth two by two and spread the message of Jesus, a call to repentance; to love your neighbor as yourself; and to find and do the will of God in your life.

We are nourished today by two messages. The first message is the message in the first reading. Given human tendencies, civil authorities will lose favor with God if they do not follow his lead. In fact, our civil leaders have fallen into the same human trap as the kings of Israel. They are preoccupied with things of the world- getting elected, making money, and wielding power. They do not govern the people according to God’s law, a law of love.

And our spiritual life has to go deeper than following the law. It is only human to look for a way to follow the law in a literal sense- to do what is required to satisfy the letter, but not necessarily the intent of the law, and then to settle onto a comfortable plateau of compliance.

But that is not satisfactory to God. And so, the Gospel message rings loud and clear for us today. The Church has been commissioned by Jesus to go into our midst with the message of repentance. We are the townspeople who receive that message. Do we welcome God’s message amongst us? Or are we rejecting it. Rejecting it can take many forms- but procrastinating and even forgetting on a daily basis are the easiest paths.

We are just a couple of weeks away from Lent. The time is coming for us to reflect on our role as Christians. It is a time to “take courage, and to be a man”. And that means repenting of our ways.

The Church Speaks the Truth!

January 28th, 2018

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dt 18: 15-20; 1 Cor 7: 32-35; Mark 1: 21-28
Deacon Larry Brockman

I suppose it’s just human nature, but the fact is that people just don’t like to hear the plain truth. And they especially react to the truth when it is spoken with Authority. This is typical in today’s world because many people question absolutes. And yet, the truth is in fact an absolute, isn’t it.

And so when someone comes along who speaks the truth- the plain, unfiltered truth- and that person has authority to back them up, well, that is threatening because it means no amount of, wells, yes buts, on the other hands, and the like matter. The person in authority can and will be able to counter them. Evil reacts to truth presented this way.

What is an absolute truth, for example? Well, there either is a God or not. If there is a God, then certain things are morally wrong because they go against God and his plan for creation. And so, there is such a thing as sin. That also means there are truths that flow from the basic truth. God exists, and moral right and wrong and sin flow from that basic truth as a consequence.

Now in the Old Testament, the Israelis were exposed to the plain, unfiltered truth when God spoke directly to them. They didn’t like that; it was fearful because the voice of the Lord and the fire that accompanied it terrified them. And so they pleaded with Moses to appeal to the Lord for a softer approach. Today we hear from Moses that God promised to send them prophets like himself.

Notice that God will put his words in these prophets’ mouths. So, even though the prophets were to act as a buffer, they were still speaking the truth; and God told the people to listen to them. The authority of the prophets was established by the works they performed- a series of miracles and accurate predictions of the future. But make no mistake about it their main purpose was to tell the truth, God’s truth. They did that faithfully, even though many of them suffered greatly as a consequence. For example, Jeremiah was thrown in a cistern and left to die and Isaiah was sawn in two.

Of course, Moses promise was also fulfilled by Jesus Christ as well. Jesus was the word of God incarnate, and spoke the unfiltered word of his Father.

Now the Gospel says that Jesus spoke with authority. If one has “authority”, that means they have the right to do what they are doing. In government, authority is acquired by being elected, or by designation form a higher authority. In education, authority is established through knowledge of the topic. When speaking on behalf of God, authority is established by the ability to show the works of God.

Certainly, the Old Testament prophets established their authority by working miracles and by accurately predicting the future. Jesus worked even greater miracles, and thereby established his authority. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus’ authority has more of the authority that comes from educational knowledge to start out with. For Jesus was teaching, and he spoke about God with the ring of truth that not even the “authorities” of the Jewish faith, the Chief Priests and Rabbis could compete with. This frightened the evil spirit in the man in the temple just as the truth always frightens those who are evil. The evil spirit basically validated Jesus’ authority by recognizing Jesus for what he is- the Son of God.

It is just as essential for us to listen to God’s prophets and to listen to Jesus today as it was for the people in Moses time and in Jesus’ time. That is the basic message in both the Gospel and our first Reading. The problem is that our world is full of authorities- people who are experts, people to whom elected officials have delegated power. Our challenge is to determine which voices out there hold legitimate authority and then to listen to the truth that is spoken by the legitimate authority.

The best place to start is with the Church. Jesus delegated his authority to his Apostles and Disciples. And this has been embellished by the great doctors of the Church and Saints over the last two thousand years. We have an obligation to listen to the Lord speak through his Church. The Church speaks the truth; and the truth will set us free- forever.

Living By Example to Combat Evil

January 17th, 2018

Westminster Tower Ecumenical Service
Ephesians 6: 10-18
Deacon Larry Brockman

We don’t hear much about the devil today, do we? In fact, evil is not something we hear a lot about either.

In our secular society, things are relativistic, because society teaches that goodness or badness depends on your point of view, your frame of reference. Nothing is absolute in today’s society. Freedom and Tolerance are what we need; we need to be free to believe our own thing; and we need to be tolerant of others beliefs and practices above all. Such freedom and tolerance are supposed to foster a peaceful and happy society.

Only they don’t and haven’t. Today’s secular world is neither peaceful nor happy. Freedom and Tolerance have not worked as they are being practiced in our society.

I believe that it is no accident that our society has evolved this way. Rather, in my opinion, the evolution of secular society is being orchestrated by the forces of evil. It is being orchestrated by the devil.

Once our society abandoned the concept that it was based on Judeo-Christian values, and adopted the idea that all value systems need to be respected, then evil crept in. And so, there was room for Satanists, Atheists, Agnostics, Wichens, and other alternate belief systems. These belief systems teach morality which is at odds with generally agreed moral positions in the main-line religions. Additionally, the traditional family system has been augmented with alternate family models like same-sex partnerships with adopted children. These alternate life styles lead us away from God’s natural law.

We gather a couple of times a week at most for a couple of hours in worship. Meanwhile, secular society broadcasts these alternate values 24-7. They permeate movies, media, TV, and live events. Is it any wonder that the new generations buy into secular values rather than traditional values?

Our local bishop gave each of the clerics in the Diocese of Orlando a book for Christmas. It’s entitled “To Light a Fire on the Earth”; and it is about Bishop Robert Barron. Some of you may have heard of him. He’s an Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles; but he is best known for his huge following on social media, including Facebook; and a raft of you-tube videos on religious topics. He has been compared to the late Bishop Fulton Sheen because he is a Catholic prelate with a wide audience that cuts across a large segment of the population. He is followed by Catholics and Protestants alike.

Bishop Barron is concerned about the statistically large part of our population who have no faith at all. He calls them “nones”. Some 56 million Americans are “nones” according to a 2015 Pew Research study. Even more alarming, 36 percent of Millennials, our young adult population, are “nones”l That means one out of every three young adults don’t believe in God or don’t integrate God in their lives. In essence, our freedom and tolerance are spawning a society that has no central beliefs at all! So rather than safeguard the many belief systems; Secular Society is fostering non-belief because of the largely hands-off, I’m OK, your OK policy. We are standing by in the face of evil.

So, Bishop Barron wants people of Faith to “Light a Fire on the Earth.” He wants people of Faith to evangelize the “Nones” out there.

I tend to agree with him; and I’ll bet that most of you do too. The big question is how? How do we evangelize the growing sea of atheists, agnostics, and new-age “nones”? Barron thinks he has an answer. He says we can effectively evangelize others by emphasizing the beauty and joy associated with what we Christians believe.

Now I thought a bit about that, and it seemed to me that us older folk have a definite roll to play in that process. You see, we have all lived 75 plus years, and have kept the faith. Just look at all of you here today- living examples of Faith. You have weathered wars, storms, disruptions, attacks, illnesses, heartbreaks, losses, and all kinds of other perils. In other words, you have seen evil, and have stood fast against it; and rather than embrace bitterness, you have held firm to your faith. You have come out of your trials with Christian joy as you await the central hope of your Christian Faith- the everlasting life in the Kingdom of God that awaits the believer. Our generation of believers and our hope are the testimony that the younger generation needs to hear.

In essence, we have done what Paul advises the Ephesians to do in the face of evil in our reading today. Going forward, we need to redouble our efforts and we need to show the strength of our faith and our conviction to it to our families, especially the younger members of our families.

You know, there was a time when people our age generally lived with their families. Young people got to know and enjoy intimacy with their grandparents, and great grandparents. And that intimacy taught some very important lessons. They can be summarized like this:

“Make no mistake about it, life is full of challenges. Nobody gets a free ride; everyone will have their fair share of suffering and discomfort just as I have. And some day, if you live a long and fruitful life, you will be right where I am- older and not so nimble. But that’s OK, because I thank the good Lord for the good times. And for the trials too, because they made me a stronger person. Not only that, the best is yet to come. Because a good life here is not the end-all that society tells you. I’ve been there and done that- but it didn’t satisfy. Our Christian Faith and Hope guarantee that we will live forever in peace and joy in God’s Kingdom. And that is something better than the good life here.”

So, let us now focus on how we all got to the place we are in now spiritually, and how we can strengthen it so we can spread that faith to others. Well, we drew our strength from the Lord, and put on the armor of God in order to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.

Paul uses a Roman soldier’s armor elements as symbols to make his point on what that armor is. First, he says we must be covered from head to foot. That means our whole person needs protecting- our minds, bodies, and spirits.

Now Paul makes no bones about it. He says our battle is not with mere flesh and blood, but with Principalities and Powers- both fallen choirs of angels; with the “world rulers of the present darkness”; and with the evil spirits in the heavens. That’s two spiritual foes, because Paul is making a distinction between the devil and the fallen angels on the one hand and the “evil spirits” in the heavens, presumably those who have died and are banished from God, on the other hand. Diabolic spirits orchestrate and coordinate; and evil spirits urge us, tempting us in every way. I am sure we can all relate to how the world has morphed and placed us in a spiritually dangerous environment.

Next, our loins must be girded with “truth”. Yes, there are absolutes; there are truths. The truths of our faith- belief in God, accepting the laws of God and nature; and recognizing the reality of sin. Nowadays, the truth seems to be watered down. But Paul first speaks of being girded with truth. We have girded ourselves with the truth of our faith.

Second, we are to be clothed with the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness means being in a right relationship with God and the breastplate protects our hearts. Wherever our hearts are, that’s where our real priorities are. If we have faith and maintain a prayer relationship with the Lord, that goes a long way towards establishing our righteousness, because we receive God’s grace in response to our prayers. We all have a prayer relationship with God, right.

Next, our feet must be shod in the readiness for the gospel of peace. The gospel is the story of how the Word of God, Jesus, came to dwell amongst us and live as we do. We must walk along the same path as Jesus did in the Gospel- a walk that includes following God’s will, no matter what the consequences.

Peace here is the inner peace of knowing that we are in a right relationship with God, not necessarily the peace that the world offers. As we walk, we offer that peace to those who we come in contact with. If we are at peace inside, that will come across. This is the kind of peace that our current generation does not have, and may not understand.

Then Paul talks about holding Faith as our shield. Faith includes all the principles of our faith. We have first of all, got to know what they are. We have to know what we believe. Then believe and accept these principles of our faith just because God has revealed them to us- not because we can prove them in a battle of wits. This is a testimony in humility- that we recognize there is a higher power, and that it is beyond our understanding. We owe our life and destiny to that higher power. And so, such faith is our motivation, because the hope we have for salvation has also been revealed to us. Indeed, many “flaming arrows” have, and will come our way in the course of life, but we have, and we will, deflect them all by the firmness and conviction of our faith.

That brings us to the helmet of Salvation. The helmet protects our head, our minds, from being misled. It helps us to fend off other priorities than our Christian hope.

Lastly, the Holy Spirit is our sword. All of us who have been Baptized are heirs to the Spirit. And the Spirit is a powerful weapon in fighting the forces of evil. It is the Spirit who gives us the strength to recall and practice the Word of God. It is the Spirit that gives us our zest and enthusiasm for life. The Spirit enables us to communicate to those around us that we still believe; that we have fought the battle; and are winning.

What the world needs now is belief in God, real love, recognition of truth, and embracing God’s will for mankind. We can all help to change the world because through the working of the Spirit we can draw in today’s skeptics, the “nones”. They will see the Spirit and Love of God working within us just as the third century pagans saw it in the early Christians. We can light a fire by showing the World real Christianity in practice. For all of us here, that is 75+ years of it, pure Christian Joy.

What Are You Looking For?

January 4th, 2018

Thursday of Second Week of Christmas
St. Elizabeth Seton
Jn 3: 7-10; Jn 1: 35-42
Deacon Larry Brockman

“What are you looking for”?

I think these words ring just as true for all of us as they did for Andrew in this morning’s Gospel. First, something happens that awakens us to our need. Andrew was looking for something new; that’s why he was following John the Baptist in the desert. Then he found it: John the Baptist’s words suddenly gave direction to Andrew and his companion. Andrew heard the words “There is the Lamb of God”. In other words: “There is the answer to the restlessness about what it’s all about.”

And so, just like Andrew, we should go forward and seek after that answer when it is pointed to us. The arrival of the Christ Child at Christmas is like John the Baptist’s declaration. In fact, the whole season of Advent memorializes the theme: “The Lord is coming, there he is, follow him”. And as we go after the truth, we should hear Jesus calling back to us: “What are you looking for”? and “Come follow me and I will show you where I dwell”.

In fact, the whole process described in the Gospel applies over and over again to each of us. Whether it’s in our prayers or in other pursuits of the truth like a book we are reading or a class we are taking to seek the answer to the age old question of “What’s it all about”. Indeed, those are times to turn our attention to the Lord and follow him as he calls us.

The four Gospels tell us how Jesus followed the call to holiness. They chronicle Jesus through 3 years in word and deed. They show how he went into the desert and pondered what it was all about for him; how he determined God’s will for him in the midst of temptation; how he came out from the desert and launched his ministry; and how he was called to hold firm to the Father’s will even when threatened by evil men who didn’t like his message. Jesus held firm to the end by gving his life rather than forsake the will of the Father.

St. John’s epistle helps us with the follow-through. Whatever you do to help you in your quest of the Father’s will, you need to act in righteousness. Righteousness is holy and upright living in accordance with God’s standards. We are righteous when we are right with God. If what we are doing is not in accord with God’s standards, then do not kid yourselves; you are not righteous. St. John’s words are stronger- he says we are in sin if we are not righteous.

Life is full of times when we wonder what it’s all about. A break in the normal routine, like the Christmas Holidays, and the whole idea of a new beginning for the New Year calls our normal routine into question. These times give us the opportunity to feel that urge that maybe a change is needed. Don’t let the opportunity pass.

What are you looking for?

On Being Greater Than John he Baptist

December 14th, 2017

Thursday of Second Week of Advent
Is 41:13-20; Mt 11: 11-15
Deacon Larry Brockman

So, the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist!

But, you see, it was Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that opened the kingdom of Heaven to mankind. So, all the great Old Testament Saints- the Patriarch’s, Prophets, and the other figures of the Old Testament had to wait until Christ paved the way to the Kingdom of God in order for them to enter it. Clearly, all those who have entered the Kingdom of God are better off.

And so Jesus is continuing the theme of Advent that something new is about to happen. The days of Old Covenant are over; the waiting is over. The message of expectation of the Messiah is at an end; and with the coming of the Messiah, a better place will become available for all of us. John the Baptist symbolically fulfills the return of Elijah to announce the Lord’s coming and the day of the Lord. This prophecy came from the last lines in the very last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi.

And yet, elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is already amongst us! How can this be?

Well, Jesus the Messiah was amongst the people of his day. Jesus had eternal life living within him, and his death, Resurrection, and Ascension opened the Kingdom of God to all of us who follow in faith by doing God’s will. That opening was symbolized by the tearing of the veil from top to bottom in the Temple at the moment of Jesus Death. You see, the veil was used to keep everyone out of the holy sanctuary in the Temple except for one day a year when only the High Priest entered to offer a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people of Israel. But the veil was permanently torn at Jesus death. This symbolized the fact that all are now able to enter the Holy Sanctuary, the dwelling place of the most High God, by following after Jesus footsteps. We do that by believing in Jesus and by taking up our crosses and following his example of doing God’s will. Anyone who does this will be greater than all those who have not entered the Kingdom of God.

Notice that God has also told us that he will help us. Recall Isaiah’s words in the first reading. Twice he says: “I will help you, says the Lord.” He will give us the tools to break down mountains and crush them. Yes, Jesus gave is the Holy Spirit and the treasures of his graces in the Sacraments to help us combat whatever mountains get in our way.

Today we are being called to take heart, to listen to the prophecy of the coming of the Lord from Malachi, Elijah, and John the Baptist. We are called to take advantage of the spiritual help the Lord has made available to us because something new is about to happen- the Christ Child is coming, and the Gospel, the good news of Jesus life is about to be played out. In it can be found the way, the truth, and the light. And all those who follow it are guaranteed a place in the Kingdom of God. All those who follow have the potential to be greater than the Prophets, for our salvation is amongst us. Alleluiah

For Those Who Are Looking for a Change

December 10th, 2017

Second Sunday of Advent
Is 40: 1-5, 9-11; 2 Peter 3: 8-14; Mk 1: 1-8
Deacon Larry Brockman

Picture this scene in your mind. Israel has been ravished serially by Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, and Roman conquests over some 500 years. But now, there is a period of great calm in the Roman Empire and the Israeli provinces. The Romans are very tolerant of other Religions, and have even granted some local autonomy to the Jews. And so, with peace, prosperity has come to Israel. And yet, there is just something not quite right. People feel some kind of emptiness, lack of purpose, anxiety, or depression. They are looking for something else.

And so, as the Gospel tells us, large numbers of people from Judea and Jerusalem are going out into the desert to see and hear what John the Baptist has to say. He is a voice crying in the desert, He tells them to repent and make way for the coming of the Lord. His message must have resonated with the people who were looking for something better. because they went back and encouraged others to come out- hence large numbers came out

We are a people who have been ravaged by several world wars and other wars over the last 150 years. We have also enjoyed a period of relative calm and prosperity following those wars. We have a government very tolerant of all beliefs. And yet, there is something missing in our age as well, isn’t there?

There are many signs of the problem- people addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, Facebook, cell phones, TV, sports, gossip, you name it. And yet, none of these addictions truly satisfies them. Many folks tell me their time is fully occupied, and yet as soon as the fast pace lets up, they tell me they are bored or unsatisfied. And so, our society seeks out psychiatrists, self-help programs, new age religious movements and cults; They try miracle diets, physical and mental exercise programs and other movements all aimed at making a change for the better.

Doesn’t this means we are already essentially flocking to the desert to hear voices crying in the wilderness? We are looking for something new. But are we really feeling better? Have we found what we are looking for?

Well, it is time to come back, to come back to what has worked for nearly 2000 years- our Christian roots. Every year, the Church gives us that opportunity at Advent to the Christian voice of one crying in the wilderness, calling for repentance of sins, and making a place for the coming of the Lord.

Albert Einstein once said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. So guess what- more of the same won’t work. Perhaps that’s what was so attractive about John the Baptist to the first century Jews. The establishment taxed their prosperity and built a lavish new temple. But they went to the desert to hear a revolutionary preacher. They were tired of the establishment telling them how to keep the letter of the law, and things were very much about the world because of the secular emphasis of the Romans.

John told them that something new was coming, something that would change everything. A savior was coming who would show them the way to a new way of life, a way of life that would lead to everlasting peace and happiness in the Kingdom of God.

Now, we hear from Peter’s epistle this morning that the second coming of Christ could come at any time. Indeed, any of us could be called from this life at any time. We need to be ready; we need to be prepared for the coming of the Lord. And true happiness here can be summed up as an inner peace that we are ready for that second coming. That comes when we are focused on God’s will for us, just as Jesus was focused on God’s will for him.

So this morning, let us all resolve to take advantage of the next two weeks to get ready for the Lord. Set aside the things of this world that interfere with the voice crying in the wilderness, and seek out something new.

Perhaps a little prayer would help: “Lord, prepare a path in our hearts for the coming of your Word. Let his glory be revealed among us as we live that Word. Bring low the mountains of our pride, and fill up the valleys of our weaknesses. Break down the walls of hatred that divide us, and make level the paths to peace in our families and nation. May we change our lives to live your will, now and forever, Amen.”

Trusting in the Eternal Rock

December 7th, 2017

Thursday of First Week of Advent
Is 26: 1-6; Mt 7: 21, 24-27
Deacon Larry Brockman

“Trust in the Lord Forever! For the Lord is an eternal rock.” Now that’s the kind of foundation we should all seek for our lives. It’s the kind of foundation Jesus is describing in his parable. It sounds very straightforward, doesn’t it? Trusting in the Lord and making God’s word our foundation.

But you know what? In the heat of the battle, we need to make decisions daily. And we are constantly confronted with uncertainties. It always seems that “It depends” and “it’s all relative”. But you see, in order to make good decisions in situations calling for discretion, our foundation just has to be rock solid, otherwise, we falter and don’t know what to do.

How do we make our foundation solid? Well, we not only need to know what is right and wrong, but we need to know them well enough to survive “it depends” and “it’s all relative” situations. And we need to know where we are going with our lives, and why. We need focus in order to eliminate our uncertainty.

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We all learned that in school. So what we are really talking about is making God the foundation for our edifice, our whole selves. And we need to make decisions with both our head and our hearts, that whole self. So it’s not just knowing the word of God and what the Church teaches that constitutes our foundation. We also have to feel what is right and wrong from the depths of our being. That comes with intimacy with God. We not only need to know about God, but we need to know Him like a friend.

Sounds pretty demanding, building our foundation on the Lord, doesn’t it? That’s why Jesus said we need to act on his words. Acting on his words is not just listening; and it is not even limited to taking them to heart. It means more than that. It means making a permanent commitment to the Lord. We need to be tied to him as any house is tied to its foundation.

These readings are so appropriate because Advent is our opportunity to make a difference in how we live our lives each year as we prepare for the two comings of Jesus Christ. Yes, we are preparing for the coming of the Christ Child. And that is important because the incarnation, the fact that God sent His son to live as one of us in a human body, is what distinguishes Christianity from other religions. God became one of us and showed us the way to eternal life through the story of his life- the Gospel. We need to be ready to follow him and seek the Kingdom of God as our focus.

But we must also be ready for the second coming. That will happen for all of us at the moment of death. And that could come at any time. So we can’t waver from our path; we need an even more rock solid foundation to our faith for that. That comes from a close relationship with God : through our prayer life. It comes from putting God’s will first in our life. It comes from building our confidence that we know the right thing to do.

Let me suggest that we get off the high speed rail of life for a couple of weeks, and to use some time to firm up our foundations. Make a plan for the coming year to learn more about your Faith and your Lord. And then put it into practice. Let go and trust in God’s mighty hand in the years to come.

Yes, trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal rock.

It’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!

December 3rd, 2017

First Sunday of Advent
Is 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7; 1 Cor 1: 3-9; Mk 13: 33-37
Deacon Larry Brockman

Today, we are being called to a frame of mind in our scriptures, a frame of mind that makes you ever comfortable that no matter when the Lord comes, we are ready for the second coming of Christ. It is not so much a call to stop everything and get ready for the moment when He comes because the scriptures tell us we don’t know when that is. But rather, it is a call to be ready for any moment that he comes, now and for the rest of your life. So it is a way of life Jesus is asking us to live.

In the first reading, Isaiah longs for the coming of a savior who will do great works. He had this hope, because the Israeli people had not followed the Lord. He thought that if only people were sent a savior who did mighty works, then they would believe and follow him.

Then Isaiah said that the Lord is the potter, and the people are the clay. And that people need to let the potter form them. The potter forms each person into a specific role that complements the other believers in the community. They worship together; they reinforce each other’s faith and they evangelize others together.

Such a Messiah never came in Isaiah’s day. But he came in the person of Jesus Christ much later. Christians are the beneficiaries of that first coming, with the magnificent miracles worked by Jesus in the Gospel.

Paul praises the Corinthians for putting Faith into practice. For he tells them they were “enriched in every way” as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among them, and that “they are not lacking in any spiritual gift as they wait for the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.” As a result, He tells them they are called to eternal fellowship with Jesus Christ- that was their destiny. You see, the Corinthians were a community that heard the story of Jesus and believed in the miracles and the Resurrection. The Corinthians worked together to accomplish God’s plan. In their age, that plan was to spread the faith to the wider community through word and deed. They did that by showing everyone that they believed and they did it by mirroring the love and joy of Christ. And so Christianity spread like wildfire.

So it is to be with us. The Eucharistic celebration is a visible symbol of our commitment to the Church to be an active member of a believing community, a community that worships together, reinforces each other’s beliefs, and carries those beliefs to the greater community by evangelizing in word and deed.

We need to be formed by the Lord as a potter forms the clay to fulfill our roles in that community. We need to work together as the Church to mirror the joy and love of Christ to those around us. If we do all that, then we will be ready for Jesus second coming at any time because of the inner peace of doing God’s will continuously.

Advent is our time to prepare for the coming of Christ child, right. But our society has lost sight of what that means. Instead we have “Holiday Trees”; “Holiday Cards”; and “Holiday Parties” But this is Christianity’s feast- we are getting ready for a Christian Holy Day, one that rejoices over the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man. The Incarnation shows how intimate God became with us, and by following after Jesus through the Gospel, we have been promised everlasting life in heaven. Our role as a believing community of Christians is to celebrate and rejoice over the coming of Christ. We shouldn’t hide it or disguise it; we should actively show it.

And so let us celebrate Christmas the way it was intended to be celebrated, proclaiming to the secular, politically correct World around us, that it’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays; and that we are celebrating the great mystery of our faith, the joyful coming of God made man, Jesus Christ!

Merry Christmas..

Speaking out for Jesus at Christmas

November 30th, 2017

Thursday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
Feast of St. Andrew
Rom 10: 9-18; Mt 4: 18-22
Deacon Larry Brockman

So, according to Paul, “Their voice has gone forth to all the earth and their words to the ends of the World”. This leads us to conclude that all have had the opportunity to believe in Jesus Christ. These words condemn those who have heard and have not chosen to believe.

The problem with that is that people forget with time. I’m not talking about individual people; but “people” in the collective sense, so whole Peoples have forgotten about Christ over the course of a couple of generations. In today’s world, many of our brothers and sisters right here in this country have never heard of the real Jesus Christ; nor have many people in the rest of the Western World. Their parents have become dulled to the message of Christ for a variety of reasons: by the ravages of war, unable to reconcile a loving God with what happened; by prosperity of means, for who needs God in the midst of all the pleasures and comforts of the world; and by ignorance- a willful disinterest in learning about things of God when there is so much to overload our senses. And so, Churches and Christ can be all around us, but the people who see it have never really heard of Christ. They haven’t seen what Christ can do for them.

Also, knowledge of Christ is suppressed over a third of the World by Islam, which strictly forbids any Christian evangelization in the areas they control. And Christianity has never penetrated over large areas of Asia where Eastern religions are practiced. And so, we have a very serious problem. We need to spread the word- we need to evangelize. The need for us to be Christ to the world has never been more urgent.

St. Paul talks about confessing with the lips, and believing with the heart; and that if we do that we will be saved. That’s all of us here, right. But if that is really so, then our lives should be full of enthusiasm for Christ. After all, if you believe in your heart and confess with your lips, you would be zealous for the Lord. Others should see that; others should be moved by that; others should be anxious to find out why you are so joyful and want to know more.

But chances are, we hold back- after all, we must be politically correct- no talking of religion or politics; no expression of moral judgment in the workplace or schools; no condemnation of secular values and media for religious reasons. It’s as if we are trained to say: I’m OK; your OK; just let me believe what I believe on my own, and I will leave you alone. But that is not confessing with your lips or believing in your hearts. Keeping our faith to ourselves wasn’t good enough in Jesus’ day, and it is not good enough today.

Jesus needed a team of disciples to follow after him. He needed to preach what was right; do what he preached; and leave a legacy behind to evangelize the Gospel. That’s how people confess with their lips and believe in their hearts the Word of God.

This morning, we hear about Andrew’s call. But this Gospel is taken out of context. Jesus did not walk up to Andrew, Peter, James, and John out of the blue as these words appear to indicate out of context. Take Andrew’s case. Andrew had been an ardent disciple of John the Baptist; and had shared all of that with Peter. Andrew had also been Baptized by John; and heard John’s words about who Jesus was. So, Andrew didn’t just respond out of the blue- he had been thinking about his life for some time. When Jesus tapped Andrew for help, it pushed him over the top. He and Peter left and followed the call. They didn’t just keep it to themselves.

This time of year, we are preparing for the joyous feast of Christmas. It is central to our belief as Christians. The focus on cards, trees, cookies, parties, presents, decorations, and all of the other secular emphasis on “The Holidays” distorts the real meaning of Christmas. Let us all make a resolution this year to confess with our lips and believe with our hearts, that Jesus Christ is what Christmas is all about.

It is always “Merry Christmas”, and it is all about Christ.

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

November 16th, 2017

Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary time
Wis 7: 22b- 8: 1; Luke 17: 20-25
Deacon Larry Brockman

So, the Kingdom of God is amongst us! And yet it is not something that one can announce and point to. Such a mystery.

And it certainly is a mystery to us human beings, because we lack the wisdom to truly comprehend the concept. We confuse God’s wisdom with earthly concepts for wisdom- a mixture of intelligence and knowledge; reasoning and observations. Yet we constrain our faculties to the things of this physical world, not the least of which is the dimension of time.

One thing is certain. Those who enjoy the Kingdom of God are alive; but to be alive means more than just life in this world. Some people have embraced life in the larger sense. They prioritize a relationship with God in their earthly lives. And to be alive in this way is to have God living in them- God’s spirit motivates and graces them. These folks are privileged with the special gift that the author of Wisdom speaks about this morning. They are the “holy souls that Wisdom passes into from age to age”. They are destined to everlasting life, and since they are alive today, and they are amongst us, then the Kingdom of God is amongst us as well.

Because some people have been gifted with Wisdom, they exhibit the characteristics listed in that first reading to a greater extent than most people. There is a sense about them that exudes intelligence, holiness, and uniqueness. Their wisdom exhibits itself in many ways, is subtle, quick, and clear. It is unstained, certain, not baneful, and keen. It is unhampered by the opposition, kindly, firm, and beneficial to those who come in contact with them. They are secure, firm, and tranquil people.

If you think about some of the really holy people of our century, people like John Paul II, Padre Pio, and Mother Theresa, these characteristics leap out at us. All three of these people were unique, yet each of them exhibited the characteristics of true Wisdom to a greater extent.

But you know what? All of us are invited to be holy as these special saints were holy because all of us are invited to the heavenly Kingdom by virtue of our Baptisms. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says as much. It is God’s will that all of what the Father gave him be saved. And Jesus says that the Father gave all of us to him.

Jesus did his part: He came, he showed us the way to live life by accepting the will of the Father and suffering whatever the consequences in worldly reaction. He left the Gospel as his roadmap. And then he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, the seat of the Kingdom of God. In so doing, he opened up and paved the way for us.

Now it is up to all of us to follow his example. Our first step going forward is to seek out the Wisdom of God. When it comes, it will be a subtle knowing; a warmth that comforts our hearts when we are troubled as long as we respond to His urgings. That’s what it means to seek ye first the Kingdom of God.