Archive for the ‘Dr. Phillips Sunday Service’ Category

Salvific Suffering

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zech 12: 10-11; 13:1; Gal 3: 26-29; Luke 9: 18-24

Dc. Larry Brockman


Suffering!  It is something that all of us try to avoid, and yet, it is an integral part of life for all living creatures.  Jesus told his disciples that he would suffer greatly in our Gospel.

In fact, Jesus fulfills the prophecy in our first reading.  Jesus, part of the Trinitarian God-head, was sent by His Father to become one of us.  God’s first born son suffered greatly at the hands of the establishment.  He was not exempt.  And all of us mourn the horrible tragedy that Jesus endured on the cross.  But as Zechariah says, when Jesus fulfilled his salvific mission, he brought to the “inhabitants of Jerusalem”  “A fountain to purify from sin and uncleanliness”.

What does that mean?  Well, the innocent God-made-man suffered for all of us; he suffered mentally, spiritually, and physically; but bore it all because it was the will of the Father.  Jesus showed all of us the way to bear God’s will for us with dignity and resolve, even if it means suffering.   And all of us are purified from our sin and uncleanliness if we believe and follow Jesus.  Jesus made it clear that if we are to follow him, we must each suffer too when he says:  “He must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”.

Now, I think that many of us are a bit confused about what our cross is.  We focus on Jesus horrible fate; and maybe even presume that to be worthy of God’s favor  We are going to have to bear the same kind of test.

But that is not the case.  St. Paul tells us that “through faith, we are all children of God”.  Yes, we need to believe first and foremost.  And Baptism symbolizes that we believe and embrace that faith.  Even if we were Baptized as an infant, that is the case because through our parents, family, the church, and our own efforts as well-meaning Christians, we come to believe and to live that faith just exactly where we are planted.  We cannot earn our salvation, our favor with God.  But through God’s infinite mercy, we are forgiven our sins and made sharers of the salvation that Jesus earned for us.

And so, although we are all sinners, we are all given the opportunity to choose to carry our crosses.  Our crosses are the talents, limitations, irritations, challenges to our faith, and decisions we make in life as each of us walks through life.  Some of us suffer physically with chronic diseases or life-threatening illnesses.  Some of us suffer from the burdens of caring for others; some of us suffer from the ravages of old age; and some of us work long hours for years and years.  Some of us suffer mentally, under pressure from relatives, bosses, coworkers, and others in our lives.  Some of us suffer spiritually because we want something for ourselves other than what we have been given by God; and in some cases, we want something different than what we have been called by God to do.  But all of us, in one way or another, suffer in this life.

Today is Fathers Day.  Many of us are Fathers or Mothers.  The Cross we bear in being a Father or Mother is a significant part of the lives of those of us who chose marriage and family as a vocation .because along with the many joys of being a parent, there are moments of suffering- separation, pain over a child’s misery, and clashes of wills.  Our responsibilities never end when it comes to our children and even our parents.  We need to focus on being the best parent possible in parallel with accepting all of the other elements of the daily cross God has given us.

And so, the major challenge in life is to find God’s peace and joy in the midst of accepting and carrying our crosses.  That’s what Jesus showed us through the Gospel.  That means we continue to believe and to trust in him no matter how difficult the suffering; and no matter how grim the situation. .And we need to be ready at any time for the ultimate test- namely, are we following his will- our crosses to bear, when he calls us home.

Just one week ago, 50 people here in Orlando were brutally mowed down by a maniac.  These folks had no hint that there time had come.  Yet, we can be called at any time, like these 50 folks; circumstances beyond our control can result in our time coming.

Are you ready; are you carrying your cross as Jesus asked you to do?  Because if you are doing your part, then recognize the promise Jesus leaves you with in today’s Gospel.  “Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it”.

Love Others As I Have Loved You

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 14: 21-27; Rev 21: 1-5a; John 13: 31-33a, 34-35

By Deacon Larry Brockman

(This Homily may also be seen and heard by accessing Catholic Community TV at and then scrolling down to 7AM 5th Sunday of Easter and clicking on the Mass.  You can speed forward to the homily.)

For the last couple of weeks.  The pattern in our readings has been the same.  First, a reading from Acts that chronicles how the early church spread like wildfire.  Second, there’s an excerpt from the book of Revelation  that talks about what happens when we all reach heaven.  And third, a Gospel reading from John establishes that Jesus is God; Jesus then goes on to give us some advice for when he leaves his human form at the Ascension.

And the reason for this pattern is to remind us each week of the Easter Season just how deep and far reaching the Resurrection event is, not just for the early Church; but for all of us who believe.  The Church is trying to spread the joy and enthusiasm of the early Church.

Today, we hear of the manifold travels of Paul; and how many people were converted at each stop.  Priests, also known as Presbyters or Elders, were ordained at each location to keep the Church going there.  And they offered a service on Sunday- a service of the Word and of the Eucharist- just like we do.  They did that because that’s what the early disciples were told to do at the Last Supper.  We are doing the same 2000 years later.

The second reading reminds us of the fullness of our heritage as believers- everlasting life with Jesus, the Lamb of God, forever and ever.  Today, we hear that there is a New Jerusalem and that there is no more sea.  The sea is the dwelling place of the Beast, or devil, in the book of Revelation.  But for those who reach heaven, the Beast will be no more, and his dwelling place will be gone.  All that will remain for us is everlasting happiness.

So, are you excited about all that yet?  Because you should be, that’s the whole idea of the repetition, the pattern the Church presents during these weeks of Easter.  The Church wants us to realize that we have all been blessed.   All of us experienced the evangelization by the Church and then Baptism and membership in it.  We are commissioned now to go be witnesses to the end of the earth and “pass it on” as it was passed on to us.  If we do that, we will experience the glory and joy of everlasting life described in the second reading.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus first talks about his glory.  Jesus carefully groomed his Apostles and Disciples for that moment- the moment when he would come into his glory, the moment when the plan of salvation will be clear to all.  The Apostles didn’t understand right then, but everything happened so fast after that.  The plan unfolded and happened before their eyes as witnesses.  And the glory of the Lord was revealed to them on Easter Sunday as the impossible happened.  A man who had been brutally tortured and murdered had arisen; and not only that, he was different.  He could appear and disappear at will; and he could pass through walls and doors; he was dazzling in appearance; and he would live forever with his Father.  Jesus promised that same Resurrection of the body to all of us, and he promised that it would last forever if we followed him.

Now Jesus knew that he was going to leave the Apostles, since his role as God made man had been fulfilled.  And so, he gave key advice to them; he told them:  “As I have loved you, so you should also love one another!”

As I have loved you.   This is what was new in Christianity- the love of God manifested by God made man.  The story of how Jesus loved us is what the Gospel as a whole is all about.  For Jesus, love consisted in this: doing the will of the Father always by loving others rather than his own self.  It was first of all made known in the ordinary things of life, Jesus’ friendships and fellowship with his Apostles; in the many miracles and kindnesses that he showed the rejected members of society, such as lepers and sinners; in the favors he did for strangers such as raising a child from the dead; and in the teaching he did through the parables.  Jesus showed all of us what God’s real love was all about by living a life of service for others rather than by seeking power and using it for his own end.  Then, he was called upon to suffer and die because the radical way of life he preached was rejected by the authorities.

Impressive as it was, all of what Jesus did would have passed into oblivion had it not been for the Resurrection.  That changed everything because nothing like it ever happened before.

All of us are given an opportunity to love “as I have loved you”.  It all begins in the ordinary things of life- your family, including your children and your parents, even when they are sick or handicapped or aged; and in those people that God has placed in your life at work and play, including those who need your help in tough times.  Love of others even means deferring our own agendas for the good of others.

That’s the advice Jesus left us.  For as Jesus said in the Gospel: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Understanding the Kingdom of God

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

Christ The King

Dan 7: 13-14; Rev 1:5-8; Jn 18:33b-37

Dc. Larry Brockman

A Kingdom!  It’s not something that we can relate to in this country.  We have no “King”; in fact, our revolution occurred because we wanted to escape from domination by a King.  And so, as a result, the “Kingdom of God” may seem a little fuzzy for us.  The closest thing to a king that we can relate to is all the fuss made over other nations royalty.  We see them glorified in earthly terms and venerated.  But we have no equivalent in our society.

Yet in Biblical times, Kingdoms were the norm.  Everybody understood that a King was the absolute ruler.  All Dominion and Glory and Power belonged to the King, or Caesar or Emperor, or whatever he was called.  People understood the concept.  That is why Israel longed for the restoration of the Kingdom in Jesus’ time, because they were sickened by the corrupt and repressive domination of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans.  They wanted their own Kingdom with a just ruler, like David of old.  But they could only think in terms of an earthly Kingdom

One thing we know for sure:  Heaven is the Kingdom of God.  And so, whether we are familiar and comfortable with Kingdoms or not, we need to understand the Kingdom of God and how it differs from kingdoms in this world.  All of us have been offered everlasting life in that Kingdom; none of us has been promised everlasting life in this world.  Aside from life in the Kingdom of God after our earthly life, there is only the prospect of death.

So what is the Kingdom of God like?  Well, it is not a democracy- none of us gets a vote there, as individuals, we don’t get a say about what happens.  It is not a republic either- diverse groups of people don’t matter in its governance, only the King’s will matters.  God alone will make the rules, and give the orders, and make the rewards.  And the rewards are great- joy and happiness and freedom from all pain and suffering forever. Like all Kingdoms, the head of the Kingdom of God wants loyalty and service from his subjects.  Each of us has been given the opportunity to show our loyalty and to serve the King while we live.  We are called to respond to that opportunity by accepting the Word of God, Jesus Christ, on faith.  That’s the loyalty part.  And then by living according to the word of God by following the Gospel as a way of life, and by doing the will of the Father for us.  That’s the service part.  It is on these criteria that we will be selected for the Kingdom of God or not.  Put another way, these are the basis for our judgment.

Today we hear multiple accounts of the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Notice how similar the first two accounts are.  One like the Son of Man will come, and then everything will change- life as we know it will be different, because God, and His designated Son, will reign forever- with all dominion and glory and power.  There will be no more competing kings or earthly powers; no more death and suffering.  They also establish that Jesus Christ is that King.

Now the important point today is the message that this Kingdom is coming-  It is coming for all of us.  Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.  And the Gospel makes it very clear in Jesus’ own words that his kingdom is not of this world.  Funny, isn’t it.  Because we have just spent 10 or so weeks in ordinary time on the church calendar hearing about the kingdom of God in parables and stories and other snippets from the Gospel.  We hear that the Kingdom is amongst us; that the Kingdom is a hidden treasure waiting to be found right now; and that there is joy in heaven over repentant sinners because they will share in the Kingdom.  So how can the Kingdom be amongst us and at the same time not be of this world?

Well, the joy that we all seek is the joy that is in our hearts when we know that we are in harmony with God.  Nobody can take that away from us, no matter how much mental or physical stress or pain we may be under.  If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, in other words your King, then the Kingdom of God is already there for you.

What It Means to Be a Saint

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

All Saints Day

Rev 7: 2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3: 1-3; Mt 5: 1-12a

Dc. Larry Brockman

Good News, in fact Great News! This is our feast day. That’s right. It’s your feast day and my feast day because we are the saints that the readings today are all about.

You see, the vision that St. John describes in Revelation, the one of the countless folks with the white robes- these are the believers who survived the great period of trial. And we are those true believers- that’s why we are all gathered here, because we are the believers. And so, as the saying goes, the Kingdom of God is ours for the taking. All we have to do is believe and survive the great period of trial- the life God gave us on earth.

Now as I listen to the Gospel, I hear the great period of trial described for each of us. Because I can’t help but think that life is all about learning the lessons that each beatitude teaches.

And so, each of us must first learn we are “poor in spirit” because each of is lacking in one way or another. It is important that we recognize that- it’s the virtue of humility.

Each of us experiences losses- loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of health; and we mourn these losses. But God wants us to know that in the face of any such losses, He still loves us. And so, we will be comforted, always.

Each of us needs to learn to step back and not be too pushy at times- in other words, be meek. Life is not all about us- life is about give and take. Each of us needs to seek God’s will for us in all of the circumstances of life-. That is what it means to hunger for righteousness because righteousness is defined as harmony with God.

And everyone who hopes that God will show them mercy knows that they must show mercy to others. Jesus taught us that in the “Our Father”. We also need to be pure of heart- that is, have a clear conscience. When we do not have a clear conscience, it is God who is nudging us to make things right. Life has many ways of showing us how violence and bickering lead to disaster. That’s how we learn to be peacemakers.

But make no mistake about it. Every single one of us will be challenged at some point in our lives to stand up for what is right, and to reject what is wrong. Yes, every one of us will face some sort of persecution for our faith. It may not be like the Christians in Syria facing the ISIS threat. But it is persecution just the same: the cynical look of peer pressure to “go along or be ostracized” when we object to today’s loose morals; pressure from elected officials to “get with it” when we take a staunch respect life position; or any of a number of other things society or the government does to pressure people who hold to their convictions.

Yes, the beatitudes kind of sum up the lessons each of us faces in life. And yet, as Jesus proclaims, if we learn the lessons implied in the beatitudes, then we will have survived the great period of trial, and the Kingdom of heaven is ours.

In the second reading, we learn what the Kingdom of God will be like. We are children of God now, and we are treated as children of God. Our duty is to believe God’s word, and to act on it in love, always, even when we can’t understand everything. Then, when we pass on to the next world, we will enter the Kingdom of God; we will be part of that great multitude of folks wearing white robes.

As John so eloquently says it, we will be like Him. Indeed, God made us in his own image and likeness, so man will share in the glory of God. And there can be nothing like that!

God’s Special People

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Num 11: 25-29; James 5: 1-6; Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48

Dc. Larry Brockman

I want all of you to think of yourselves as special today. Because just like the people in Moses time, you are in that special group of people on whom the Spirit of the Lord has descended. In fact, you are kind of like Eldad and Medad, who were absent from the main assembly, but, as believers, they were still gifted with the spirit. So, even though you are not out there working and mixing with the main assembly; you are still gifted with the Spirit- a spirit who gives people the ability to counsel, to prophesy, to teach, and to comfort, among other things.

And you know what? You are badly needed right where you are to do exactly that. In fact, you are especially needed right where you are because many of your contemporaries are at the end of the line. They have lived the fast track of life, and now it has ended and they don’t know where they are going. But you know where you are going. You are all looking forward to the everlasting state of happiness in the Kingdom of God. Yes, the kingdom is there for all who believe and repent of their sin.

And so, it has already begun for you because despite your infirmities and limitations, you know that the best part of life lies ahead; and the joy that comes with that knowledge fills you as you bear the hardships of life.

Are you ready to perform mighty deeds? Because many of the folks right here with you are waiting to hear about the good news, and to be blessed with the same spirit that you have dwelling within you- a spirit of hope, of comfort, of enthusiasm, and of peace in the future.   Jesus says it well in today’s Gospel: “Whoever is not against us is with us”; and “anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward”. That is all of you who show your love and spirit to your fellow mankind, especially those who are lost and looking for meaning in life and the future. By your spirit, the spirit of hope and of joy, you can transform others who are confused and seeking the truth.

Now to be sure there are many out here that fit the description in James letter today. They have lived life mostly for themselves. But now, their gold and silver has corroded, and that corrosion has been a testimony against them; they “lived on earth in luxury and pleasure”; they “have fattened their hearts for the day of slaughter”. They have condemned; and they have injured the righteous.

But you, brothers and sisters have good news for them because it is not too late to for them to repent. You can be instruments of conversion, because you bear the truth, and by your example and testimony, you demonstrate that Love conquers all, and that life with God is our ultimate goal. Surely, if you do that, your reward will not be lost.

Things That Matter

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dt 4: 1-2, 6-8; James 1: 17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mk 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Dc. Larry Brockman

It is human nature to try to keep it simple.  We like it that way- the simpler, the better.  And so, a firm set of rules- do’s and don’ts- that is what all of us would really like to live life by.  We all want to know where we “cross the line” between right and wrong.  It’s like a defensive game the whole way.

The Israelis had such a list of rules- the Mosaic Law.  At the foundation of the Mosaic Law was “The Ten Commandments”.  These were simple and clear.  They were intended to communicate the essence of what is right and what is wrong in each area of life.  Do Honor the one true God, do keep holy the Sabbath, do honor your parents; do love God and your neighbor;  Don’t lie; don’t kill, don’t steal, and don’t covet what belongs to others.

Notice, though, that each of these is open to interpretation.  For example: what does it mean to love?   What does it mean to honor?  And what does it mean to lie?  Just when do we cross the line between desiring something we see and coveting it?

Now Moses made it clear to the Israelis that they were to live by these statutes and decrees.  But they were not to add or subtract from them.  And yet, that is exactly what the Israelis did- they added and even subtracted from them.  They did that because the Israelis had to come to grips with how to define these terms.  Rather than each person taking the spirit of these commandments into their hearts, and using their conscience as their guide, the establishment embellished the rules with hundreds of details that rounded out the Mosaic Law.

This became especially obvious after a thousand years of clarifications so that at the time of Jesus, we see the kind of thing that happened in the Gospel Story.  Somehow, in their zeal to assure that “Thou shalt not kill”, the detailed practices for cleanliness were issued.  One had to abide by all these practices to the letter.  And in so doing, the Jews actually diminished the real intent of the law.  For being kind to visitors and guests is certainly a priority of the heart;  To do otherwise would injure a person; whereas detailed observance of the rules of cleanliness ranks a little lower on the scale of being hospitable.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not criticizing the necessity to observe rules of cleanliness.  It’s just that the hypocrisy stood out in the Gospel story, and this was the point Jesus was making.  What is evil is the intent that comes out of us from our hearts.  The Pharisees disdained Jesus and his followers.  They were simple folk; not educated in the fineries of their faith; and they didn’t seem concerned with these rules.  Rather they seemed interested in spreading the word that Jesus taught, in being proactive.  And so, they practiced a different kind of morality- a morality that took into account what came from their hearts instead of a morality that just checked to see if one had crossed the line.  Jesus says that “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly” are all things that come from within our hearts, and these are the real evils of this world.

As we go through our daily lives, we are faced with a continual challenge to live our Christian faith.  All of us want to feel that we are doing the right thing.  But we like to keep it simple, and so, we audit ourselves against the Ten Commandments in very simple terms.  We haven’t killed anyone;  but what about gossip or avoiding people or any other ways we can hurt people.  We haven’t lied; but have we withheld, evaded, misrepresented, or exaggerated anything.  And we haven’t stolen; but we may resent folks for what they do have.  And how about our parents and loved ones- are we neglecting relationships and duties.

St. Paul has some words for us today that will help.  He says, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves”.  Yes, we need to be careful that we are not deluding ourselves.  Our lives need to be proactive; not reactive.  Instead of avoiding the little things that really don’t matter, we should be practicing the things that do matter, like seeking out opportunities to love our neighbors in need; like being there for those who have nobody else; and like bearing hardships with dignity and grace.  If we do that, then the little things that we do wrong won’t matter because God will see that it’s what’s in our hearts that really matters to us.

Suffering With Jesus- Our Own Crosses

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Palm Sunday

Mark 12: 12-16; Is 50: 4-7; Phil 2: 6-11; Mak 15: 1-39

Deacon Larry Brockman

It’s difficult, isn’t it, listening to such a gruesome account of Jesus suffering and death?  The movie the Passion of Christ a few years back was so vivid in the depiction of the horror of these events;  it too was hard to bear.  And yet, these images come to mind as we hear the yearly proclamation of the Passion.  They are reading a much longer version in our Churches, you know.   This one is abbreviated in the interest of time.  But we all feel the horror of the suffering Jesus went through, even with the shortened version and it is difficult and uncomfortable for us.   

We are all told that Jesus carried the sins of all of us in his suffering and death.  And indeed, when we read the book of Revelation, there are multiple references there to those who are saved having been washed in the blood of the Lamb- the Lamb being our savior Jesus Christ.  So yes, the events we just heard describe how Jesus suffered and died a horrible death and shed his blood for all of us.   

But you know what, God’s primary motivation for sending Jesus was love, not some super accounting scheme to send Jesus to remit our sins so we could all be saved.  And so, we need to understand what the love is all about.  God so loved us that he sent his son to show us the way.  And the way involves suffering and death, not just for Jesus; not just for some of us; but for all of us.  All of us must seek out and find God’s path for us, and then bear with the suffering that is part of our lives.   

God loved us so much that He sent His son to live that message.  Jesus was not spared his lot of suffering; in fact his plate was full.  But if we understand that Jesus is God, and that God doesn’t have to suffer; and yet He was willing to bear human suffering for the sake of all of us, then we get the message.  It is a message of love; the same kind of love that engenders forbearance of suffering for those who care for a loved one; the same kind of love that sacrifices self for the welfare of children; and the same kind of love that motivates a man to work tirelessly to support his family.  Only it’s an infinitely pure love, a love that most of us can’t really conceive of.  It’s love of mankind even when they ignore their God; defy their God; persecute their God; torture their God, and even kill him.   

Today, let us reflect for a few moments on that kind of Love- the love Jesus had for us.  That’s the kind of love all of us are called to practice in this world.   

Learning How to Handle Our Exile

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

4th Sunday in Lent

2 Chr 36: 14-16, 19-23; Eph2: 4-10; Luke 16: 19-31

Deacon Larry Brockman

“God gave His only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  That is all of us because we believe!  What great cause for rejoicing!  And those words by Jesus to Nicodemus are echoed as well by Paul:  “God brought us to life in Christ- by grace you have been saved.”  More cause for rejoicing!   

But you know what.  That isn’t all that Jesus and Paul said.  There’s more.  But before getting to that, recall some of the history lesson in the first reading.   

Notice that the whole story of the Israelites is summarized there.  First, we know that the Israelites were God’s chosen people.  They had been brought out of slavery and given the promised land by God.  Yet despite being “saved” by their God, in the generations that followed, priest after priest, and all the people were guilty of ignoring the word of the Lord that was given to Moses and spread by the messengers of God and the prophets.  The Israelites are described as having done abominable deeds, even polluting the sacred temple of the Lord.  And so what happened to them?  After a period of many “second chances”, the Lord loses patience, and they are overrun and scattered by the pagans in exile.  And then, after the appointed time of purification had past, some 70 years in all, the pagan King Cyrus issues a decree enabling the faithful remnant to return to their promised land.   

This story should sound familiar.  It is the precursor of our own story.  We, too, have all been saved; but we were not saved for this life.  Rather we were saved by the Lord for eternal life.  God sent His only son to suffer on the cross, die, and then be resurrected from the dead to eternal life.  And God promised all of us who believe the same eternal life that His son has achieved in rising.   

But you know what?  We all have to go through our exile; to be purified of our past sins.    Listen again to Jesus and what he says to Nicodemus:  “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.”   Now Paul argues that:  “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ”   So, God loves us despite our sins, and has saved us despite our sins!   

We must obtain forgiveness for our sins through Confession.  But they are still not the kind of deeds that we would want exposed to the light of God.  That’s where our purification comes in.  Catholics call it Purgatory.   

We cannot save ourselves- God did that for us through His son.  But if we believe, really believe in all that Christ taught and promised; we confess our sins, and repent of them.    Then what flows from us is good deeds, deeds that are done by us in Christ, that is, in his name; deeds that are done by “living the truth” of our faith; and deeds that we have no hesitation in showing in the light. 

Christians whose deeds shine forth in the light are ready for the Last Judgment and the Kingdom of God where they will remain forever in the Light of Christ. 

The Tiny Whispering Voice

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

19th Sunday Week in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Rom 9: 1-5; Mt 14: 22-33

Dc. Larry Brockman


Terrified! The disciples were stuck in the middle of the Lake, some 3 miles from shore working for hours against the wind, and tossed by the waves.  They were afraid their ship would be wrecked.  And this had gone on for hours- because relief didn’t come until the fourth watch- some 8 or 9 hours after they left Jesus.   They were experienced with boats; they knew what they were doing.  They trusted their own skills but they had worked themselves into a panic.  They were terrified!   

Just like the prophet Elijah in the first reading was.  Elijah had faithfully proclaimed the word of the Lord as it came to him; he had followed the directions of the Lord.  He had challenged the prophets of Baal in a standoff.  And it had resulted in a total humiliation of the prophets of Baal.  Baal was the god of Jezebel, who was married to the Israeli King.  When her god had been humiliated along with his prophets, Jezebel had ordered her husband’s soldiers to find and kill Elijah.  But Elijah ran for his life, escaped, and was hiding in a cave.  He too, was terrified because he didn’t know what to do.  He had done as the Lord bid him; and here he was in dire straits.   

Does either of these situations seem familiar?  Have any of you felt helpless against the forces of nature, almost in a panic as the Apostles were?  Perhaps abandoned, stranded, overcome by a hurricane or tornado, or down with an illness.  Have any of you been in a situation where it seemed like the whole world was against you?  Perhaps you were let go at work; you were let down by somebody; or you were persecuted for some reason.  Indeed, all of us have had moments like the Apostles and Elijah.  Life is like that for everyone.   

These are humbling experiences of life that all of us have.  And we learn a couple of things from these kinds of incidents.  First, we learn we are not in control, and second, we learn that we can’t do it all by ourselves.   

I suppose that in many of these incidents, we are just living life using the talents that God gave us.  We think we are in control and we think we can do it ourselves.  But the facts are that neither of these things is true- we are not in control and we cannot act alone.  We find that out fast enough when things build up against us.  We need Faith, Faith in the Lord always, faith that whatever happens, the Lord means the best for us.   

Peter expressed that Faith well by recognizing Jesus on the water.  That’s why he jumped in the water, and walked after him.  But when Peter wavered in his faith because of the ever present storm then he began to sink and needed Jesus to save him.  All of us, too, have Faith, but we can sometimes waver because the circumstances keep knocking on our door relentlessly.  And yet, it is only Faith that can and will sustain us.   

There is also something really fascinating about how the incident ends.  The storm disappears when Jesus gets in the boat.  Yes, indeed, when we really have God besides us, then the storm disappears.  We need God besides us at critical times.   

That’s what makes Elijah’s situation a little different.  Notice that Elijah recognized the need for God right from the beginning and so he was waiting for the word of the Lord.  But the Lord was not in the storm or the fire or the earthquake.  Rather, the Lord was in the tiny whispering sound.   

That is likely the way it will be for us.  If we have faith, and we are sincerely trusting in the Lord, we will probably not find the answer to our prayers in the storm or earthquake or fire that is going on around us.  Rather, we will find it in silence.  We have to stop whatever it is that we are doing as important as that may seem to be at the moment.  We have to stop and listen for the voice of God.   

It is called prayer, and we have got to make time for it.  We need to pray even when we think we are in control because we need Jesus there right beside us all the time to keep the storm under control.  And we need to find the time to pray even when we are busy because it is the highest priority we should have.   

Jesus had a tough day on the day that this miracle was performed.  He and his disciples buried Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist in the morning.  Then, they attempted to get away so Jesus could pray and reflect on his loss.  But the crowds followed him, and he ministered to them instead, working the miracle of the loaves and fish.  After that, he sent the Apostles on in the boat. Why? Because as late as it was, he still needed to go up the mountain and pray.  Then, after that prayer, he walked back to the shore, and some 3 miles out onto the water to his friend’s boat.  The human side of Jesus needed to pray; he needed the time with God.   How much more do we in our humanity need God in the moment of need. 

So when the going gets really tough, then it is time to pray. 

Listen for the tiny whispering sound.    

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Zech 9: 9-10; Romans 8: 9, 11-13; Mt 11: 25-30

Dc. Larry Brockman


“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”!  How many of you remember that late 80’s song by Bobby McFerrin.  Don’t Worry, Be Happy, I am not going to sing it for you! It has had 26 million views on You Tube, for those of you who are interested. 

The first time I heard that song, I reacted to it with cynicism.  How can we just let unsettling things happen all around us, and still go away not worrying and being happy?  The lyrics of the song, for example, speak of a man whose bed was stolen and whose landlord was evicting him.  And yet he sings: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” over and over.   

But you know what, that is exactly what Jesus is asking us to do in today’s Gospel.  The Gospel can be summed up: Don’t worry, be happy as long as you trust in me, and live life accordingly.”   

Perhaps a little bit of background on the context of today’s Gospel, would help.  Jesus had just been rejected by the learned Pharisees of Jewish Society.  He had been talking about knowing God; experiencing God through His forgiveness and Love; and having a relationship with God.  The Pharisees had been talking about knowing about God and His rules, the law of Moses.  The Pharisees rejected Jesus teaching because he didn’t preach about the law; but rather about knowing God.  But the Pharisees didn’t really know God because they had not experienced Him.  They were trying to get to God by keeping all the rules.  They were seeking God with their heads not their hearts.  And so, they were missing experiences and relationships and communion with God.   

Jesus message was only heard by those who were seeking God with their hearts.  These were people who were not so hung up with the details of the law; rather they took the time to experience life and listen for God’s voice.  They were people who didn’t think so much about God as they felt for Him and His presence in their lives.  Children are like that; and that’s why Jesus said that we need the heart of a child to recognize Him.     

Now Zechariah predicts the coming of the Messiah in the first reading.  Notice that the savior is described as meek; and riding on an ass.  Royalty commonly travelled on an ass or a colt or the foal of an ass.  Zechariah describes his royal savior as meek.  In other words, the savior is humble.  And indeed, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy, riding into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass.  But Jesus was also meek and humble of heart, as he describes himself this morning.  Knowing that he was the Son of God, he nevertheless humbled himself by seeking and then doing God’s will for him.  Jesus had taken the time, had gone out into the desert, and had listened to God.  And so, when he returned, he took up his yoke, meaning the mission His Father had for him, and bore it with love.  Nothing else mattered in the clutter of his world.  It wasn’t an easy mission because it involved sacrifice and pain.  But it was easy in the sense that He always knew He was in harmony with the Father and His will.   

Jesus is advising us to do the same this morning.  Jesus says that all who are weary of heavy burdens should come to him, for he will give you rest; and that they should take on his yoke, because “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light”.  Jesus was referring to the onerous burden that the 565 + rules of the Mosaic Law, particularly as amplified and taught by the Pharisees, placed on the Jewish people.   

Now I ask you, is it any different today?  What a heavy burden society place on us today.  We work, we are taxed, we have mortgages, cars, boats, activities, social obligations, family obligations, sports, and on and on;  And most of it has to do with “doing the right thing by our families”.  On top of that, we try to observe all the rules and regulations of our Faith.  Our burdens are heavy.  But just like the Pharisees and those who accepted their burden, we don’t really get to know God in all of that.   

And So, Jesus words apply to us today as well.  First, we need to be meek and humble of heart.  That will eliminate a lot of the burdens.  We don’t have to compete with the Joneses.  We don’t have to match society’s expectations of the perfect family.  But, with true humility and meekness, we do need to hear God’s voice amongst all the thunder.  God’s voice begins with his Word and the scriptures; but it doesn’t end there.  Rather, God’s voice is where the scriptures lead us, and God’s voice tells us who we really are and what is really important. 

First and foremost, a relationship with Jesus is important and then, relationships with our loved ones.  Love itself is important.   

When Jesus says the yoke is easy, he means it is easy mentally more than anything else because if we are at peace with God and ourselves, then it will be easy to accept and we will be happy.  And when he says the burden will be light, he doesn’t necessarily mean literally.  Rather, He means light in the sense of whether it is bearable.  Even the heaviest of burdens are bearable if we are happy that they are the right thing for us to do.   

And so we come to understand that as Christians, we really can sing:  “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.