What’s This Site For!

August 28th, 2017

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!

Who do You Say that Jesus Is?

August 27th, 2017

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 22: 19-23; Rom 11: 33-36; Mt 16: 13-20
Dc. Larry Brockman

Just exactly who is Jesus to you? Is he a voice in the wilderness; a friend; a moral teacher? Or is he something deeper than that? Specifically, is he your Lord and Savior; and is he God himself?

The reason I ask is that it’s hard for us to conceive that another person, who was a human being, could actually be our Lord and Savior, and God himself. That seems a stretch of our powers of reasoning. God made everything- that makes him so far above us in intelligence and capability. That means God is transcendent, far above everyone and everything. And that’s the concept of God held in most religions- especially in Islam and Judaism. It’s really hard to imagine how the transcendent God could take on our limited form and limited intelligence, living within the constraints of humankind, and still be God.

The fact is, that the Jews wouldn’t even pronounce the name of God that was revealed to Moses, Yahweh. Such was their respect for the transcendence of God. As we listened to Paul’s letter to the Romans, we heard that theme as well: “Oh, the depth and riches and wisdom and knowledge of God”. And: “For who has known the mind of the Lord”.

Such would have been the dilemma of the Apostles in today’s Gospel When they were asked by Jesus who he was. These people lived with Jesus; they were with him all the time. They knew that he was special; yet he was just like them. He was like them in culture, religion, stature in society- he was a simple carpenter. But then, there were all those signs and miracles he worked. Still, a faithful Jew of the day, familiar with the scriptures, would have remembered the many signs and wonders that Moses and Elijah and the other prophets had worked. They had indeed worked many miracles that prefigured the works of Jesus, including healings, rising people from the dead, and feeding crowds. And yet, there was just something about Jesus that made him so special. But they had been raised to have the utmost of respect for the Transcendent God. How could they say that Jesus is the Messiah and God?

What it comes down to is that the Apostles, just like you and me, had to come to the conclusion that Jesus was God on Faith. And that Faith was instilled in them by God the Father through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. That is precisely what Jesus said to Peter in the Gospel. When asked by Jesus who he was, Peter, speaking both for himself and as a spokesman for the others, Proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, and the Son of the living God; and so Jesus blessed Peter for proclaiming that because “flesh and blood” didn’t reveal it to him; rather the heavenly Father did.

Indeed, Jesus ushered in an entirely new concept of God- a God who was still far above us- transcendent; but a God who would always be close to us- intimate with us. And the intimacy came by God sharing His son Jesus with us, Jesus who is both true God and true man. It’s a matter of Faith, but all of us who have Faith profess with our lips that Jesus is our God and our Savior.

Now all of this sounds just fine from an intellectual perspective. We can understand that Jesus is God and Savior. But can we move beyond that? Justt how do we put it into practice? How do we live our lives recognizing Jesus as both an intimate friend and Almighty God?

First, we do it by showing the true respect shown to Almighty God. We do that by keeping the Sabbath and making God a priority in our daily lives; then by developing an intimate relationship with Him. You can show respect by listening to what Jesus tells you in your intimate relationship with him.

Each of us will be receiving Communion in just a few minutes. Jesus has left us Communion as a memorial of his intimacy with us. He is present, both as a human and divine person in the Communion we receive. In those few moments at Communion, praise the Almighty God that He is; thank Him for his ever-present relationship with you; and ask Him for the peace of mind and guidance that only God can provide; then listen to the small, still voices of your friend- your Savior and Lord.

Forgiving Our Trespassers

August 17th, 2017

Thursday of 19th Week in Ordinary Time
Josh 3: 7-10a, 11, 13-17; Mt 18: 21 – 19: 1
Dc. Larry Brockman

Recently, I saw a lady in the hospital who was recovering from a terrible automobile accident. A 19 year old woman had driven her car through a red light and hit her friend’s car broadside, killing her friend who was driving. This lady was the lucky one, a passenger in the car who survived; but she had a broken arm and broken leg, and several internal injuries. And she was bitter, not really thankful her life had been spared. She really wanted to talk, and during our talk, the topic of forgiveness came up. She looked at me with piercing eyes and said there was no way she could forgive the woman that killed her friend.

Today Jesus tells us we must forgive, not just once, but 7 times 70 times. Now that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to forgive the 491st time. Rather, 7 times 70 means as many as needed.

You know what? It is impossible for me to envision the Kingdom of God any other way. Let me explain. First, for every offense someone has committed against us; we have likely offended someone else the same way. Isn’t that the point of the parable today? And many of the times we offend others are we not even aware of it. Someone plays the radio too loud; someone parks his car too close to yours; someone makes an unkind or nasty remark without thinking; someone nicks the side of your car with their car door; someone cuts you off in traffic; someone won’t let you cut in; someone cuts the line at the movies or grocery store. That someone is likely you as often as it is done to you! And these are all little things; but they all require forgiveness. Most of us can live and let live on these little things; but have we forgiven the offenders, or have we just let it go?

Then secondly, there are the “big” offenses that we find harder to let go of and forgive- like the car accident the lady in the hospital experienced. Now this category includes lots of things, like family arguments and disagreements where people stop communicating; and things that separate us from parents or children or friends or coworkers, maybe even permanently. And there are the various ways people cheat each other with money- cheating people out of an inheritance; cheating them in a business deal. There are those who do violence against us; and of course, there are those who say things about us that we just cannot forgive. We can conceive of a whole lot of “big” unforgivable offenses like these. That said, we have an obligation to recognize the sins that we have committed and to go confess them so that we are right with God.

Let’s face it, we have all done things that we know are wrong and have hurt someone else, including some of the things mentioned above. So we go to Confession and ask for forgiveness from God. In fact, we actually expect God to forgive us for those sins, don’t we? Because He has told us that he will forgive us those sins we confess, right.

But he has also told us this: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And today he tells us we need to forgive those who trespass against us 7 times 70 times. Why? Because when he forgives us, and we go to the Kingdom of God, we will be amongst all those people who “trespassed against us!” All of us will need to love and accept everyone that is in the Kingdom of God; and we simply can’t do that unless we have forgiven them, no matter how often they have hurt us. That’s why I can’t envision a Kingdom of God without this kind of radical forgiveness.

Let me ask each of you to do something this morning. Examine your life and find one person that you have told yourselves the proverbial “7 times 70 times” that you cannot or will not forgive them; and forgive them from the heart so that you would be comfortable in the coming Kingdom of God.

Listening to the Lord in Adversity

August 16th, 2017

Westminster Towers Ecumenical Service
1 Kings 19: 3-16
Dc. Larry Brockman

I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a single one of you that hasn’t had to deal with adversity during your long lives: the loss of a loved one; job loss; sickness or infirmity; natural disasters; the effects of war; or psychological disasters. Indeed “Into every life, a little rain must fall”.

But how about some drastic adversity that happens even when you feel you are right with God, something that happens in your life that leaves you spellbound; where your emotions include fear, a feeling of loss of control, panic, and more; and despite your abiding faith? A situation like that calls for strong faith; yet it is your faith is that is being tested, isn’t it?

Now ultimately, each of us needs to recognize that God is in control. When we think we are in control and things are going well, then all is fine. But when things don’t go well even when we think we are right with God, then we lose heart and begin to doubt. Something drastic happens, and we panic when we experience the feeling of loss of control. Just what can we do in such cases?

I have some close friends who are in just such a situation now- a lovely couple who have been married nearly 55 years. The lady has terminal cancer that has spread rapidly. Her caretaker husband recently had a heart attack that has been complicated by other issues. He is in near panic because he cannot care for his wife any more in the condition he is in. He feels he has been doing everything right. He asks, “Why has God abandoned me.” He feels things are out of control.

Well, such is the situation with Elijah in our reading. Elijah, as he says in the reading, believes he has been most zealous for the Lord; but despite his best efforts, he is in trouble and is in a panic. To understand why, let me present some background.

The King of Israel, Ahab, has married a pagan woman named Jezebel. She is an evil woman, a “femme fatale” if there ever was one. She has corrupted her husband and the Israelites with her pagan religion, worshiping the god Baal. She has killed virtually all of the Israelite Prophets except Elijah. And her husband Ahab has deferred to her in everything. At first, there is prosperity. But then Israel is hit by a severe draught. And all the Prophets of Jezebel’s false god Baal have been assembled to pray for rain. Elijah challenges them, proposing a burnt offering of a fine ram. But the fire must be set by calling on their God to start it. The prophets of Baal accept the challenge, but after many hours of invocation, they fail. Finally, Elijah sets his ram on the altar near the end of the day. He then calls on his servants to douse the altar and kindling three times with water. Even so, when Elijah calls for fire from the Lord, Elijah’s prayers are answered and the altar is consumed by fire.

This so impresses the people, that they follow Elijah’s lead to chase away the prophets of Baal, who are all slain by the sword, all 450 of them! Then Elijah waits for the fulfillment of the successful offering to the Lord. And indeed, despite all indications to the contrary, including a cloudless blue sky; in a sudden change, a deluge of rain descends on Israel.

Nevertheless, when Jezebel hears of what Elijah has done, she vows to have Elijah killed. Knowing that Jezebel is the real power, Elijah flees in panic- and today’s reading tells us what happens next.

Notice the emotions which Elijah is experiencing. First, he is afraid. Why? Because he has done right by the Lord, and he has shown the false god Baal as just that, a false god. Not only that, he brought rain through the Lord to end the draught. And yet, things are still out of control and he is still under attack. He feels the Lord has abandoned him.

Second, he is at wits end. He doesn’t know what to do next. In his mind, he was worked the ultimate miracles in the face of the full force of the enemy. By invoking the Lord’s name, he has successfully offered the sacrifice to the Lord where the prophets of Baal have failed. And what is more, these false prophets have been slain and the draught ended. What more can he do? How much more adversity can he face. And so, he runs away, runs away without a plan. He says, “I’ve had enough, I can stand no more; take me, my life is at an end.” And after a long journey into the desert, he falls asleep under a broom tree.

But an angel awakens him and urges him to eat and drink. A cake and water are provided for him. Now this cake symbolizes the “bread of life”- like the manna in the desert before; and like the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus gave us at the Last Supper. And as such, it represents the nourishment Elijah really needs; the presence of God within him. And so, refreshed from this nourishment, Elijah travels for 40 days and is led by the Lord to the mountain of Horeb.

40 days is a symbol as well. Just like the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 days; and just like Jesus went into the desert for 40 days to reflect; so Elijah wanders for 40 days on a journey that the Bible experts tell us would only have taken 5 days, until he comes to the mountain of Horeb, which is another name for Sanai. Elijah is being prepared for an encounter with the Lord.

Now in earlier scripture, Moses ascends Sanai only to encounter the glory of almighty God. That glory was manifest in a cloud and the wind, and in the thunder and lightning, and in fire. But things are different for Elijah. For although God is present for him during all those things; the Lord’s voice was not present in any of those things. Rather, after all the loud and boisterous commotion, the Lord’s voice is heard in a tiny whispering sound. That’s what gains Elijah’s attention.

After recognizing the presence of the Lord, Elijah first pours out his anger and frustration to the Lord. And then listens, really listens, to the Lord’s response. And what is the Lord’s response. First, “Go back.” Wow! Such a lot of meaning in so few words. It’s translates to- “Take courage, go back and face this thing head on; I will be with you; how can you doubt me, my grace is enough; look at what I have done for you so far”. And then he gives his specific direction- anoint this person as the new king; and that one as your successor. What is not obvious is that it took years, yes even years after Elijah passed away, Before the things the Lord challenged Elijah to do on his return were fulfilled.

So, there’s a strong message in that prophecy. Elijah was God’s servant; he had only to do God’s will; but he could not even expect to see it all happen on his watch. He just needed to move forward on trust; and God would provide what he needed when he needed it.

And so, when we are faced with this kind of adversity, what lessons can we learn from Elijah? First, we cannot run from the situation. It didn’t work for Elijah, and it won’t work for us. Second, if you truly believe that you are faithful to God, then trust that he will be there for you. You may not believe that angels are there for you, but think again, because most of us are helped by angels when we are in a panic- your closest friend that consoles you and helps you; the perfect stranger who just happens to show up at the right time; a minister or priest; the police; even a secular counselor. You may never even see them again, but they were your special angel at the time.

Third, you need “the bread of life”. It is there for you- Jesus Christ is always there for you. For those who believe, it is available in the Eucharist. But Jesus is just a prayer away in any event. You may need to go out into the desert- to get alone; to make free time; but He is there for you.

Fourth, it may take some time to dispel the panic and get things back under control. It takes the biblical “40 days”; which is whatever is right for you under the circumstances. That could be 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, 40 days.

Next, you have got to listen for the voice of the Lord. Normally, that voice will be a tiny whispering sound- not the strong voices of our culture and society. That’s why solitude and quiet can become important. Don’t hesitate to pour out your dilemma on the Lord first. Elijah certainly did that. But then do listen, listen to the quiet urgings in your heart.

Chances are, the message will be similar to the one the Lord gave Elijah. “Get out there and turn it over to me. I will be with you; do your best.” And lastly, do not be surprised if it all doesn’t happen the way you envision or want it to happen. After all “God’s ways are not your ways”. What is important is that your soul be at peace; that you feel the presence of God by your side at all times; and that you are trusting in God’s providence.

God loves us; all of us. His love is everlasting. He will not abandon us. He sends his angels, nourishes us, and looks after us in adversity. We have only to accept His love and trust.by listening to the tiny whispering sound.

The Treasure of the Church

August 10th, 2017

St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr
2 Cor 9: 6-10; Jn 12: 24-26
Dc. Larry Brockman

Today is the Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr. Not only do I share the same name, but by the grace of God, I share St. Lawrence’s Diaconal calling as well.

St. Lawrence’s story is riveting, and was recorded for us by St. Ambrose. In the third century, Lawrence served as Pope Sixtus II’s Deacon. As Pope Sixtus was being led to his execution under the Roman Emperor Valerian’s persecution, Lawrence lamented that he was not sharing in Sixtus’ fate. So Sixtus remarked to him prophetically that he also would lose his life in just three days!

Indeed, the Roman’s then summoned Lawrence and demanded the “treasures of the church” from him, knowing that Sixtus’ Deacon was the keeper of the purse. Lawrence cheerfully agreed to provide them the treasures. But Lawrence assembled all of the poor, widowed, maimed, and lepers in front of his accusers and boldly proclaimed that these were the treasures of the Church. The Romans seized Lawrence and sentenced him to be burned alive on an open grill. As Lawrence was being executed, he was allegedly heard admonishing his tortures in defiance to turn him over, he was done on one side.

St. Lawrence understood what it meant to die to oneself. He had dedicated his life in service as a Deacon, and he was obedient to Sixtus and the Church. Lawrence treasured the Christ in all of his people; the breathing, living, spirit of God; and the goodness that dwells in all of us despite what the external appearances or the assessment in the eyes of the world tells to the contrary.

Indeed, Christ does dwells in the poor, widowed, maimed, and lepers amongst us in today’s world. This includes those with severe diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and all forms of physical disabilities- today’s maimed and lepers; it includes the homeless, the jobless, victims of human trafficking and many who live day to day- todays poor; and it includes those who have lost loved ones or lost everything in some tragedy- todays widowed. There are many of these people in our affluent community. And, as in Lawrence time, they are the treasure of the Church because God desires that all of us be saved. We are the body of Christ; and the Body of Christ is the strength of the Church and the Kingdom of God.

Our Gospel parable tells us that we must put aside our own desires and allow ourselves to die to them, else we die alone and abandoned. On the other hand, if we fall to the ground, and let God take over, then we will produce much fruit.

But then after that parable, Jesus says this directly. “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” And Jesus is with all those who believe and hope in him, including the maimed, poor, and widows. Jesus goes on to say: “The Father will honor whoever serves me”. And that is our ultimate goal: to follow Jesus and share in the honor of those who serve him.

The Feast St Lawrence is a reminder that all of us are called to get involved. The suffering part of the body of Christ is all around us. They are the treasure of the Church; they are our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. We need to bring them home because that is how all of us will thrive.

As Paul tells us in today’s reading: “Whoever sows bountifully will reap bountifully;” and that “God is able to make every grace abundant for you”. So, if you know someone who is sick, struggling, losing their mobility, or recovering from a disaster; help them in their moment of need. Don’t wait to be asked. They are the treasure of the Church.

Spiritual Rule of Dominic

August 8th, 2017

Benediction
Feast of St. Dominic
Dc. Larry Brockman

Today is the Feast of St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers. St. Dominic is also famous for his “rule”. In essence, this “rule” provides guidelines for living life yet maintaining spiritual discipline; a spiritual discipline that focuses on a regular set of spiritual practices as a first priority!

Now it seems to me that in our busy world, something like the rule of Dominic is badly needed for folks like you and me. Our society is saturated with noise- I-pod noise, phone noise, text message noise, TV noise, highway noise, you name it noise.

That’s why this simple centuries old Benediction ceremony is so special. Once a month we have the opportunity to give Jesus, our redeemer, undivided attention- first in adoration; and then in a quiet, scared environment, to reflect on the humdrum of daily life with all its conflicting demands; and let the Lord talk to us.

So slow down, relax, and exercise some spiritual discipline. Let this be a foundation for your own “rule”; a regular set of spiritual practices that has first priority in your life.

Cooperating With God’s Purpose

July 16th, 2017

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55: 10-11; rom 8: 18-23; Mt 13: 1-23
Deacon Larry Brockman

You know, God’s purpose is really very simple and clear. Isaiah sums it up perfectly: “It (that is, His Word) shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it.” Thus, no matter what anyone tries to do to the contrary, Including the Caesars, the Vikings, the Vandals, and the Napoleon’s of the past; or the Stalins or Hitlers or Bin Ladens or Putins in current times; ultimately God’s Word will return to Him fulfilled. That is God’s intent and purpose: His will will be done.
The questions that remain for us are how well will we cooperate in helping accomplish the Word, and how long will that take. Paul makes it crystal clear, that although we may have to suffer in cooperating with Jesus’ Word, the rewards are incomparable and involve everlasting happiness. That’s what he means when he says that all creation is groaning as we await for the redemption of our bodies.
Well then, how can we cooperate? Today’s Gospel is all about how we respond to the word of God. If we respond properly to God’s Word, then we are cooperating. Parables are rich in ambiguous and multiple layers of meaning. But what is interesting about this parable is that Jesus deciphers many of those layers of meaning for us in plain ordinary language. We don’t have to speculate on them.
First Jesus talks about why he uses parables in the first place. He says it’s because people look but don’t see or understand; and they listen, but do not hear. So, we have to be disposed to listen and understand.
Now all of you folks are here today. You are willing and anxious to hear the word of God, right. But there is more to it than that. Jesus is really talking about a disposition of the heart.
Where is your heart this morning? Is it focused on what you are going to be doing after Mass? Perhaps it’s focused on the baseball game this afternoon; or the gathering you are planning tonight? Or even the beach trip or picnic you are planning? We owe God our undivided attention right now as we hear the Word of God. Else, we may hear, but not understand.
Now notice that the seed, which represents the Word of God, is scattered just about everywhere. So everyone is exposed to the word of God. Jesus explanations bear on the reason, or ultimately, the excuses, for why no fruit is born of that seed.
As Jesus unravels the meaning of the parable, we learn that the seed, or Word of God, is heard but not understood by some; others hear it, and initially respond, but when they are challenged, they fall away because they have no roots; others yet receive the word amongst thorns, that is distractions, and so they easily cave in to the distractions of this world. Only those who receive the word with the right disposition, the rich soil, produce fruit.
Now, as we listened to this parable, my bet is that most of us quickly dismissed how some of those excuses fit us. But maybe that’s not really true. Maybe all of us are a little bit guilty of each one of the excuses. So let’s talk about each one.
First, lack of understanding: If you think that you can come here once a month; or even once a week, and truly understand the Word of God, you are kidding yourselves. Real understanding comes with familiarity. You have got to be familiar with the Word of God to really understand it. Let me ask you this: What do you read and what kind of TV or movies do you watch? Do you do any spiritual reading? Do you read or study the Bible? Or are you mostly watching and listening to products of “Pop culture”- the latest whiz-bang surrealistic movies and secular music? If your diet is the latter, you won’t really understand the Word of God- it will just go in one ear and out the other, because as soon as you leave here, your senses and attentions will be reinforced with what you normally feed them. Your fleeting exposure to the Word will most likely be lost- “Out of sight; out of mind”.
Then there is the matter of our roots. What are your roots in your Faith? The deeper your roots- the more you know about and embrace your faith. Then you will be better equipped to fight temptations and allurement. That means the more you read about and know God, the more you spend time with and pray to God; then the better off you will be in resisting temptations, because like a friend in need, God will be nudging you when you are tempted.
Next are those who are dazzled by the wonderful things of this world- indulgence in pleasures, money, sex, power, pride; all the things that give fleeting happiness, but not lasting fulfillment. Once again, where is your heart? What is it that really gives you joy, real joy? I’ll bet that most of us feel the best when we know we are helping others; when we know that we have responded to the voice of our conscience; when we are aligned with the directions God nudges us in. The joys of this world are always followed by tomorrow’s hangover, aren’t they? But doing God’s will brings us peace and true contentment.
We all have an opportunity to be part of something truly magnificent- the Word accomplishing God’s purpose. God is after each one of us 24/7 with nudges and inspirations that help the word of God achieve its end. We have only to pay attention and listen- a child calling us; someone in need in our neighborhood; our aged parent or friend. When you hear it, take heed. It is an echo of your salvation in the making.

Funeral Reflection for Hank Caruso

July 14th, 2017

Funeral Eulogy for Hank Caruso
Mt 5: 1-12a (Beatitudes)
Deacon Larry Brockman

It has been my pleasure to know Hank for over 12 years now. My wife Jane and I met the Curusos in Tennessee at St. Francis in Townsend while on vacation, and quickly learned of some common ground- our roots in Orlando and a common friend in the Diaconate. Hank and Jane were very helpful to Jane and me whenever we visited our place in Tennessee, right across the road from their house.
Hank was the middle son of an Italian immigrant and his second wife. Hank was born in 1939. He grew up going to school at St. James Cathedral and later Bishop Moore High School. After Hank married Jane, they settled along the South Florida Coast, but returned to the Orlando area a few years later, where Hank and Jane lived in Winter Park and raised their family for 36 years. Hank was a Corvette owner for over 20 years, an avid boat owner, and a water sports enthusiast. He worked as a Biomedical Engineer at Philips; but Hank was one of those people who worked to live; not lived to work. He rarely talked about his job in the time I knew him. But Hank took his Catholic faith seriously; he was a Eucharistic Minister and a very active member of the men’s club at Sts. Peter and Paul for many years.
Hank had a dream for when he retired. He wanted to live in the East Tennessee mountains, relax, hike a bit, and farm. So, in the 2003/2004 time frame, the Caruso’s left Orlando and built their retirement home halfway along the Foothills Parkway at some 2000 feet elevation in the Top of the World above Maryville Tennessee. It is 10 degrees cooler there than in Knoxville in the summer; and yet still relatively mild in the winter. Hank bought a tractor, and cleared enough land for a fair-sized garden. And so, Hank had a good 10 years to live his dream. Daily, he used his tractor and tended his land. I can remember tales of bumper crops of butternut squash, grapes, and tomatoes; and lots of hiking. Indeed, I remember a garage full of squash! And the Carusos took us along on some of those hikes. Hank also helped maintain order and peace in the Top of the World Community as an officer of the Homeowners Group.
Hank became a Reader at St. Francis, and a member of the Parish Finance Team. He was a key player in their effort to establish a parish there when St. Francis was a Mission church. Hank was also quite helpful to the Deacon there, Deacon Mike Nestor. Although Mike couldn’t be here today, he asked me to pass along his respects.
Jane and I really enjoyed the 10 years or so of visits to our vacation spot and Jane and Hanks company and hospitality. We hiked together, played together, and chewed the fat around our fire pit as retired folk do. We shared our family experiences; we relished in the photos of Hank and Janes tour of Sicily and the hospitality of his family; we watched how kind and generous Hank and Jane were in caring for Janes’s 90+ year old mom for many years. We were also witnesses to the onset of Hank’s Parkinson’s like disease. We watched it slowly but surely eat away at Hank’s vitality. We never heard Hank complain. Indeed, he endured his infirmity with the utmost of dignity. But we could feel the pain that they both experienced when it became clear they were going to have to leave their mountain home and retirement dream to return to Orlando and be close to family.
Over the last two years, we have remained close to the Carusos with frequent dinners out and evenings of cards. And in that time, we saw Hank maintain his spirit in the face of his terrible disease.
Our Gospel today talked about the Beatitudes. Life is all about learning to live the Beatitudes so that when we meet our Lord Jesus Christ, we will be ready for the Kingdom of God. It seems to me that Hank Caruso learned that lesson well. Time and circumstances led him to humble acceptance, generosity, mercifulness, peacemaking, and other aspects of the beatitudes. Rest in peace now Hank; enjoy your heavenly reward. We will all miss you.

Aligning Our Work Ethic to God’s Will

July 13th, 2017

Thursday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
Gen 44:18-21, 23b-29; 45:1-5; Mt 10: 7-15
Deacon Larry Brockman

One of the foundations of our American society is a good work ethic. It’s that conviction we have that we can do wonderful things if only we find our thing and apply ourselves to it judiciously. Early on, we are all taught that if we go to school and learn a skill or expertise to our liking; then we can do it; we can become self-sufficient and successful in society and make our own destiny. We even pray that God will bless our efforts to do whatever it is that we want to do. We are taught that we are free to choose our vocation and run with it.
But our readings today add some twists to that whole idea of living life that way. Because the stirrings inside of us to discover “our thing” are a battle between God’s word and spirit on the one hand; and the devil and his forces on the other hand. If our primary motivation for what we do is “self” fulfillment; then the devil is winning that battle, and we need to be cautious. But if our motivation is based on seeking God’s will for us, then we can be comfortable we are on the right track.
Today’s readings have some interesting perspectives for us about this battle. In the Gospel, Jesus says: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give”. Yes, each of us has received gifts that we have not had to pay for. They are our talents; our likes; and even our limitations. So it is quite natural for us to move towards those things we are good at and away from the things that limit us; we are drawn to the things God has graced us with. But then there is the other part- “without cost you are to give”. So, these talents are not just for us, but for the benefit of others as well.
Therein lies the key to discerning how we use what we were given without cost. For example, the disciples were given the power to cure and drive out demons. It was not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of those who needed it to recognize the Kingdom of God. In today’s world then, a financial adviser’s success in the eyes of God is not whether he makes a lot of money for himself, but rather, whether he helps a lot of people. This kind of discernment is needed in each of our lives- doctors, lawyers, accountants, plumbers, teachers, engineers, whatever.
Now sometimes we have a feeling of being trapped in life. Despite our best efforts, we look back on life and we see that we are in a job or career or situation where we sense that things are not right. Our inner voice tells us we are on the wrong track. And we resist making a change because we are afraid. Just what can we do?
Well there’s another major message imbedded for us in today’s reading on the story of Joseph and his brothers. Our lives, from God’s perspective, are a “zero sum” process. No matter how disastrous your experience in life is up to now; if you are humble enough to recognize and repent of your mistakes, then God views the process going forward as more important than whatever has happened in the past. Not only that, God can turn disaster into triumph for you.
And so, as we listen to the deplorable mess that Joseph’s brothers caused by selling their brother Joseph into slavery and lying to Jacob; we see how God turned the whole situation around. Joseph becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man, and in Joseph’s own words: “It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.”
So, no matter how disastrous you may think your situation is, take heart, because God is there for you with a solution. It may mean some pain- certainly Joseph and his brothers felt pain. But he is there for you nevertheless. It is never too late to get on God’s page for you.

When People of Faith Pray Together

July 6th, 2017

Thursday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time
Gen 22: 1b-19; Mt 9: 1-8
Deacon Larry Brockman

“When Jesus saw their Faith…”. That really caught my attention this morning. Picture the scene in your mind for just a moment. Jesus gets off the boat and a large crowd approaches him with a paralyzed man on a stretcher. Then try to capture just what there might have been about “them”, the people who were carrying the man, that projected great Faith? Was it their great numbers, their enthusiasm, their persistence? This, by the way is the same incident described in Mark, the one where the paralytic was lowered through the roof. So yes, these people were determined and persistent.

Or was it something that Jesus could just sense in the air- an intangible group sense of sincerity, hope, trust, even deferral amongst the people. Maybe it was all of these things. Think of a time when the sense of a crowd that you observed spoke more than anything else.
Now we too, are a people of Faith. We are sincere, committed, believers. We come together, we pray together, we know each other, we support each other, just as the people in the small town of Capernaum did. And all of us, yes every single one of us, has our share of trials and sufferings that we bear. And when we pray, we usually pray for specific solutions to our trials and specific reliefs of our sufferings. After all, that only makes sense.
Now all of us know someone we would like to collectively lower into Jesus house and ask for a healing just as the people bearing the paralytic did. They had one and only one thing in mind: this poor man was paralyzed and they sincerely wanted to see him cured. We would have only one thing in mind: our friend or relative is suffering greatly and we really believe that Jesus can heal them.

Now call back the vision of this incident in your mind. Much to everyone’s surprise, Jesus does not heal the paralytic at first. Rather, he forgives his sins. Think about that for a moment. Jesus, who is God made man, and who can look into the minds and hearts of all of the people there and the poor paralytic, decides that what is really needed is forgiveness of this man’s sins. How many times do we pray on behalf of someone else and feel that our prayers are not answered? Well, those folks who lowered the man to Jesus must have felt the same way.

The cynics in the crowd, the religious leaders, noticed this immediately, and accused Jesus of Blasphemy. You see, they believed that nobody but God could forgive sins. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe that Jesus was playing games with those people. I believe his immediate response, the forgiveness of sins, was what God mandated. But given the challenge, Jesus used the situation to make an important point: that it was easier in human terms to forgive sins than to heal a paralytic. And so, Jesus went on to cure the paralysis to make the point that he was God.

Nevertheless, we can miss a major teaching in this incident if we concentrate on the cure and not Jesus’ first response. The fact is that our prayers, especially the sincere, faithful prayers of groups of people- people like families suffering as a result of the illness or infirmity of a loved one; or communities suffering from the effects of some man made or natural disaster; or groups suffering the effect of discrimination- their prayers are heard by God and they are answered. But they may not be answered in the way all of us hope or expect.

If we are lucky, we are sometimes enlightened on how God answered our prayers. We sense that things came out for the best sometime later. But in the short term, our faith may be tested. Isn’t this exactly the case in the story of Abraham and Isaac in the first reading?
So, I urge all of us to hang in their when we pray together as a group- for our families, our community, and for our nation. God hears our prayers, always, when we pray together with great faith and sincerity.