Archive for the ‘Holy Family Sunday Homilies’ Category

The Two Eve’s

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

Immaculate Conception

Gen 3: 9-15, 20; Eph 1: 3-6, 11-12; Luke 1: 26-38

Deacon Larry Brockman

I recently saw a painting by the famous artist Fra Angelico which showed the Annunciation scene taking place on a portico, one which overlooked a beautiful garden.  It would have been much like the Garden of Eden scene from our first reading! 

Picture these two women- the first Eve and the second Eve, each one sitting alone in the midst of a beautiful Garden.  Both women were approached and entered into a dialogue.  Let’s ponder their stories for a moment.   

The first Eve must have been deep in thought, maybe even prayerful thought; considering all that God had told her and Adam about the Garden of Eden.  And there it was too, right in front of her, the object of her musing- the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  God had told her not to eat its fruit lest she die.  Her visitor could read her mind and he cleverly lied to her;  And he did so in the way most evil is presented in this world- under the guise of something good:  “Oh, that fruit looks good to eat; surely you will not die”; and “God knows that if you eat that fruit you will be like him”!   

So clever- because in fact his answers were half-truths.  The fruit was good to taste and eat; she did not die physically immediately; and lastly, she did acquire knowledge that only God had before that- the knowledge of good and evil.  But what price did she pay for this act of disobedience?  Well, God the Father banishes Eve and her husband from Paradise.   

And all of us, generation after generation of Adam and Eve’s ancestors, are born into this world with the stain of that original sin- the sin of pride, of seeking self-sufficiency.  Because that’s what it was at the roots, wasn’t it?  The serpent, the devil, appealed to Eve’s sense of self- “you can be like God”.  Or another way of saying it would be “You won’t need God any more”.   

I suppose that it has been the same way throughout time.  Mankind would like to think that they have all the answers.  There are folks who believe we know how everything evolved and how everything works.  They say we can even clone ourselves, genetically alter our race; and decide who lives and dies and when.  It’s scary; but it is the logical extension of Eve’s sin.  And it is happening all around us in today’s world.  Our culture teaches us that we can control our own destiny, we don’t need God.   

The truth is, we are better off with God in control.  God made everything and He seeks our cooperation in implementing his plan for how everything evolves.  That’s what he had hoped for in the first Adam and Eve: partners who would help him with His plan.  But instead, sin entered the world through the first Adam and Eve.   

And then came along the second Eve- Mary.  We find her sitting outside overlooking a beautiful garden as well.  Mary was also probably in prayerful thought.  A young, vibrant teenager with the world an open door for her.  But along comes a visitor, the angel Gabriel.  His message is absolutely astounding.  Mary is told she has found favor with God!  Yes, Mary was born without the stain of Original sin- she was and is the Immaculate Conception.  Mary had not sinned to that point and was sinless thereafter.  And so Mary found favor with God.    

But even more than that, Mary was told she would conceive and bear a son; and that her son would be the Son of God. 

Imagine what any teenage girl’s response likely would be!  “What, me!  I want to become a doctor; or I want to get married and have a family; or wait a while, I want to go off and see the world first.”  But Mary agrees to do the will of God as she says:  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done unto me according to your word.”   

And there you have it, the very strong contrast between the first Eve and the second Eve- the difference between putting ones self first, and putting God first.   

Each of us is challenged with the same choice daily in our lives.  In fact, every time we pray, God is there first ready to talk to us about his plan going forward for us- never mind the past.  But are we ready to listen?   

Advent is that special time of the year when we are given time to pause and listen to God so that we will be ready for Jesus’ coming.  This morning, St. Paul summarizes our situation very well when he says: “…We were chosen, destined, in accord with the purpose of the one who accomplishes all things according to his will so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,  We who first hoped in Christ.”   

Remember that always when you pray.  You were chosen to do God’s will so that you might exist for the praise of God’s glory.  That’s what life is all about. 

The End of Our World!

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

First Sunday of Advent

Jer 33: 14-16; 1 Thes 3: 12 – 4:2; Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today Jesus talks about “Signs in the sun, the moon, the stars, and on the earth…”, and so on.   Sounds mysterious, scary, intimidating, fearful and so ominous.   It certainly gets our attention, doesn’t it?   And it begs the question, “what does it all really mean”?     

But then comes the punch line:   Because Jesus tells us that when we see these things coming, we should: “Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand”.      Well, rather than try to explain the end of the world with this passage, let’s narrow the scope a little, and just consider what could happen at the end of our own world.     

But first, let me tell you a little story.   I was coming home from Seattle last week and felt just fine when I got on the plane.   Shortly after the plane took off, I started to shake like a leaf, break out with a fever and sweat, and felt sore all over.   I was coming down with an infection, a UTI to be exact.   I put on my winter jacket, which had come to good use in Seattle.   But even that didn’t keep me warm.   And I was forced to make six or seven painful trips to the lavatory.   Suddenly, there it was, I was facing a miserable trip of 6 straight hours on a plane.   It felt like the sun and the moon and the stars and the whole earth were falling on me for all six hours.   I’m not sure how I ever made it through the flight.   It could well have been the end to my world.     

In fact, it has taken me almost a week of bedrest to feel better.   And I was actually checked into the hospital at one point.   It seems the infection caused me to gain massive quantities of water weight in my limbs and it was taxing my heart; a life-threatening condition.     

This incident reminded me of just how fragile life is.   At any time, everything can close in on top of you, just like the opening words in our Gospel today described.   At any time, life can be taken from us.   So, maybe these words of Jesus are a signal for all of us to consider our own journey. and to recognize when our own worlds are caving in on us, with seemingly everything going out of our control.     

So now, let us then ask the question that Jesus poses.   Will we be ready to stand erect before God when that happens?     

Jesus says we should “beware that our hearts do not become drowsy”.  I had never really thought about that before- drowsy hearts.   But our hearts, the seat of our emotions, our commitment to the Lord, and our spiritual awareness; they can become drowsy by preoccupation with the things of the world.   Things like “anxieties of daily life”- illnesses, food, our daily routine, our leisure; or “drunkenness”- really any kind of addiction, like TV or the internet, or gossip.   When our hearts are drowsy, then our sensitivity to the love of God and others becomes dulled.    

If our whole world were to fall apart suddenly then and we find ourselves face to face with God, we won’t be ready, we will be scared of standing before the Lord.   But we are the fortunate ones, aren’t we?   Because we are God’s holy people, his Church.   We have followed the advice of Paul to the Thesallonians.   We have increased and abound in the love for one another.   And we are committed to conduct ourselves in such a way to please God.   That is what is on our minds, now, and going forward; even in the midst of the “tribulations that are imminent” in each life.     

When we can do this, keep our hearts alive in Christ, then we can stand before the Lord when he comes to us no matter how suddenly or dramatically it happens because we have maintained our focus.   We know what our hearts are seeking.   They are seeking to rest forever in the Lord.  

Loving As God Loves Us

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

6th Sunday of Easter
Acts 10:25-26; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15: 9-17
Dc. Larry Brockman

God is love! So, let us just think about that for a moment.

Ponder the fact that the very essence of Almighty God, who made everything from nothing; knows everything; and keeps everything that he made in existence; is love. It’s the only thing that makes sense, isn’t it? Why would God make anything except that it pleased him to do so; and why would he maintain it unless he loved it? In fact, once God creates something, his attention is always focused on the welfare of His creation. It’s self sacrificial love.

Now you might think of some examples to challenge my statement that everything God created is out of love. For, as Ogden Nash so succinctly put it: “God in his wisdom made the fly and then forgot to tell us why”.

But you know what?” Anyone who studies the hierarchy of God’s created life forms can tell you exactly where the fly fits in. There is an incredible master design of both the physical world and plants and animals. And all of it behaves according to God’s plan. As it says in the creation story in Genesis over and over again; “And God saw that it was good, very good”.

So, while there are things that happen in nature, so called “acts of God”; and there are interactions between animals and animals, or people and people, which seem to contradict what a loving God would do or allow to happen, that simply isn’t true, just as it isn’t true that flies are all bad.

Things may seem differently to us sometimes because we don’t have the big picture; “For who can probe the mind of God” as it says in the Psalms. The problem that we have with God’s “love” is that we really don’t understand love. And in fact, as human beings we will always be incapable of understanding the mind of God, and that includes the depth of his love for us.

I’m sure that parents and Grandparents and can appreciate what it must be like for God when they find it necessary to discipline their children. In so many cases their children just can’t understand the wisdom and love in that discipline. But the parents and Grandparents have been there, done that.

And so, we have to accept on Faith that God is Love and that love is what motivates everything He does. And it is not such a great leap of faith either. Because here we all are- we came into existence out of God’s love; and out of God’s love we were given life, talents, limitations and a free will. God does not interfere with that out of love. He lets us take our “gift of life” and run with it. However life unfolds for us, it is constantly maintained by God within the constraints of the consequences we face for our own choices made by our free will.

Now, our readings today tell us more about God’s love. First, God loves all of us the same, but manifests that love differently. Wasn’t that the point of the reading from Acts? The Disciples were uniquely gifted by God. After all, they were born as part of the chosen people, the Jews, and they lived with Jesus and were intimately familiar with him. Then, they were witnesses to his resurrected body. They had everything going for them in accepting the Faith. These Jews did not mix with Gentiles. It would have been unthinkable for them, taboo.

But those hundreds of Gentiles that heard the Gospel Story accepted it on Faith. They were welcomed into the Church and received the gift of the Spirit. Peter recognized that, different though they might be, these Gentiles were ready. They were loved just as much by God, but that love was manifested differently.

Now since God loves all of us the same Then clearly, if we are made in the image in likeness of God, that means all of us are called to love one another as He loves us. That’s what Jesus tells us in the Gospel and John says in the second reading. God sent Jesus to us to redeem us- the gift of his only begotten son. But Jesus also gave us a roadmap, the Gospel, for how to love as he loved us. It’s called unconditional, sacrificial love, the kind of love where a person, “lays down one’s own life for his friends” as Jesus says.
You know what? We are called to do that all the time, aren’t we? Mom’s and Dad’s do it all the time for their children; children do it all the time for their aged parents; men and women in the armed services, police, and fire departments do it all the time for the rest of us. Whatever station in life you have, you are likely called to sacrifice your own interests for others in some way. That’s what Jesus did for all of us. And that’s the kind of love we are called to show for each other.

But the challenge is that we are called to love everyone, even those pesky folks down the street who we don’t like, just as Peter and his disciples were called to love and accept the Gentiles.

When you think about God’s love for us, it can be no other way, can it?

Getting Things Right With God

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Third Sunday of Lent
Ex 20: 1-17; 1 Cor 1: 22-25; John 2: 13-25
Dc. Larry Brockman

Did you notice that most of the words in the ten commandments deal with our relationship with God? We are to love and honor God, not take his name in vain, and rest on the Sabbath.

The other 7 commandments deal with the relations we have with others- a list of “thou shalt nots”. Sin seems so much easier to determine in these later commandments, doesn’t it? We know when we don’t honor our parents and elders; or when we hurt someone physically or mentally; or when we lust after someone or cheat on our spouses; or lie or covet things that don’t belong to us.

But how about our relationship with God? How do we determine when we are in a right relationship with God? When are we loving God with our hearts and minds and souls, rather than having “false gods” before him? In fact, what does a false god really mean in this day and age?

In order to appreciate what it really meant to have false gods for the Hebrews I think it’s instructive to transport ourselves back to what it must have been like in their day The Hebrew People were escaping slaves. For centuries they had been subjected to Egyptian Masters who worshipped pagan Gods. And being subject to them meant lots of things. Not only were they subservient to them, and so had to do all the menial work for them; but the Hebrew people and their customs were suppressed at the expense of these Egyptian overlords and their ways. The culture they grew up in worshipped cows and pharaoh; the value system that was in “vogue” was different.

So, many of the folks who were Hebrew slaves gave lip service to the practices of the Jewish faith at the time. They were just along for the ride- trying to escape slavery. So their faith in God was secondary, weak, maybe even non-existent. Most of them lived their lives according to norms for Egyptian society.

When Pharaoh wouldn’t let the Hebrews go, God worked incredible miracles for Israel in the plagues that wreaked havoc upon Egypt. After God sent all the plagues on Egypt, the Egyptians wanted to be spared from blood in the Nile, drought, famine, flies, locusts, and dead first borns. In fact, the Egyptians were so anxious to get rid of the Hebrews at any cost after these plagues that they even gave the Hebrews all their gold and silver when they sent the Hebrews on their way!

But then, they thought better of it, saying “What have we done”; so they chased the escaping Hebrews down, backing them up against the Red Sea. Then God worked another miracle- parting the Red Sea, and after the Hebrews had a chance to cross, God backfilled the sea on top of the Egyptian pursuers.

One would have thought that these mind boggling miracles would convince the hardest of hearts that the God of the Hebrews was the one, almighty, all powerful true God; and that they would be thankful and heed God’s will. But the sad truth is that even after all that, as Moses heads down the mountain with the commandments written on them, he finds the Hebrews having cast a golden cow as a god. Why? Because they were hungry and thirsty; and because Moses had left them alone for a time. They longed to return to Egypt where water was abundant and there were fleshpots to eat. They neither appreciated what God had done for them, nor had they put him first.

Our society is not really so different, is it? As Catholics we are a minority, imbedded as slaves to an ever growing secular culture. Many of us live in a false sense of worldly prosperity. We are neither thirsty nor hungry, and what satisfies us is what we spend most of our effort pursuing. It isn’t just food and drink either. What captures the attention of our hearts is often the things that our culture offers- Sex, Drugs, Pop Culture, Sports, Computer Fantasies, whatever. How many of us really put God first?
You know, that’s what made Jesus so angry in the Gospel. The whole temple scene disgusted him because the people were not putting God first. People were supposed to bring the right offering to the temple for sacrifice. But it was convenient to pick up a dove or oxen in the courtyard inside the temple rather than bring it with you on your journey. This convenience, according to some sources, was conveniently expensive as well. The people were being taken advantage of. And then, the money changers made it convenient to leave just the right size offering.

Yes, people were there in the temple doing what was required But they had lost sight about what it was really all about- putting God first in all that they did; and worshipping God with their hearts and minds.

We are in the middle of Lent- a time to examine our lives and make a correction. It’s time to put God first in your life. It’s time to trust in that little voice you hear in your head that tells you something needs to be changed. For as Paul says to the Corinthians, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom”.

So, ask yourself if there is anything in this world that is holding you back from God’s mission for you. Let go of it, and come to the Lord during this holy season of Lent.

“Blessed Are Those Who Believe and Have Not Seen”

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Second Sunday of Lent
Gen 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8: 31b-34; Mark 9: 2-10
Dc. Larry Brockman

Today, we hear two of the most awesome and interesting stories in the Bible. They are about Faith, strong Faith, the kind of Faith all of us must have.

First, through Faith Abraham is obedient to God’s command to sacrifice his only Son, Isaac. And second, Jesus is transfigured before three of his Apostles as he discusses the details of his passing with Moses and Elijah. These Apostles are called to believe in what they actually saw; not just what they were told.

The story of Abraham and the sacrifice of his son Isaac prefigures God the Father sacrificing his only son Jesus Christ. Let me explain: Did you know that the name Abraham means “Great Father”. Imagine how society must have viewed a childless 100 year old man whose name was “Great Father”! You can almost hear the skeptics comment about Abraham’s pronounced faith. “So, how is God going to make a great nation out of you”! Imagine Abraham’s shame and frustration as decades go by; and yet, though he remains childless, he still has faith.

But then imagine Abraham’s joy when God’s promise that he would have a son was fulfilled in Isaac. And Isaac grew to become a strong young man. Only then, the Lord unexpectedly demands that Abraham sacrifice his son as a burnt offering! Wow, what an up and down ride that must have been for Abraham.

And yet, notice how calm and trusting Abraham is through it all. Some verses were left out of our account that really demonstrate how trusting both Abraham and Isaac were. Let me give a couple of examples. First, Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice up the mountain. That means Isaac was no young kid; he had to be a strong young adult. Second, Isaac asks his father where the Lamb was for the sacrifice. And Abraham responds “God will provide”. What all that means is that a strong, viral, Isaac allowed his 100 year old Father to tie him down for the sacrifice! Yes, Isaac was willing to allow his Father to sacrifice him. That certainly prefigures how God the Father was willing to sacrifice his only Son, Jesus and Jesus was so obedient to the Father’s will that he was willing to give up his life.

Now we can see how Abraham acts calmly and deliberately, trusting that God’s will was the most important thing. There is no emotion or appeal by Abraham in the account. Another verse that’s missing mentions that although God the Father speaks through an Angel, He was watching very carefully everything that happened, and so at the critical moment, what did God say? “I know now how devoted you are to God since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son”. Yes, Abraham exhibits an incredible faith and trust in God. The kind of faith and trust that exists between Jesus Christ and God the Father is prefigured by the human manifestation of obedience and love shown by Abraham and Isaac. And yet, strong as it was, it was still imperfect.

The whole incident tells us just how much God loves us in not withholding the sacrifice of his only Son; And how much love the Son had for the Father and us in allowing himself to be sacrificed In order to save all of us.

And then we have the story of the Transfiguration in the Gospel. Notice that this is an out-of-the-world experience. These three Apostles witness a conversation between a dazzling Jesus Christ in a transfigured body with two dead figures from the past- Moses representing the law and Elijah representing the prophets. Other Gospel accounts mention that they were discussing Jesus’ passing. In other words, they were discussing Jesus’ passion, death, and Resurrection and how it would fulfill both the law and the prophecies of old. These were two dead figures from 500 to 1000 years before! Just imagine how that must have dazzled Peter, James and John.

And then, God the Father speaks from the cloud. There are only two manifestations of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit simultaneously in the New Testament; and these three Apostles were witnesses to both of them. And yet, they couldn’t understand what it all meant. They didn’t appreciate the direct revelation that had been given to them. As the Gospel says, they were “questioning what rising from the dead meant.”

Today, we are made witnesses to all of this by the Word of God, the Bible. We are not first-hand witnesses; but rather, we are called to witness these truths solely through the Word of God which we have just read. We are called to believe, to have faith, under circumstances more demanding than these great Apostles. That is our calling; a calling to a Faith as strong as that of Abraham.

Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.

Modern Day “Leprosy”

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lev 13: 1-2, 44-46; 1 Cor 10: 31 – 11: 1; Mark 1: 40-45
Deacon Larry Brockman

Today, we hear all about Leprosy. In the ancient world, Leprosy was a truly dreaded disease. If you had it; then that was it for you because there was no cure. You would experience a slow, painful death.

The First reading talks about what the Mosaic Law prescribed for Lepers. That law was written to protect everybody else; it did nothing to comfort or cure the Leper. The Leper was an outcast, who had to leave home and family. He had to wear his garments rent, or torn, so that his sores were visible. This would assure that anyone passing by would be able to discern his Leprosy. And the Leper was not to approach anyone. Nobody could even touch him or they would be ostracized as well for fear that the disease would spread.

Just imagine how that made the Leper feel- no human contact whatsoever; no physical contact, no hugs, nothing. Contrast all that to the Gospel Story of the Leper. The Leper boldly comes forward to approach Jesus. And kneeling before the Lord Jesus with a humble and heartfelt demeanor, he begs Jesus to heal him. Jesus, moved by compassion, wills that the Leper be cured. The Leper is cured instantly, a major miracle for that time and age! And despite being admonished not to mention his cure to anyone, the Leper broadcasts his good fortune to all.

So, what does this all mean to us? Well, think of Leprosy and sin in an allegorical sense. There is absolutely nothing that mankind could do about Leprosy in either Moses or Jesus day and age because it was beyond medical science; it was incurable. The Leper was isolated and doomed to death. It took the word of God and the grace that flows from it to cure the Leper. And the Leper was cured instantly. One can imagine his joy, and why he ignored Jesus request not to publicize his good fortune. The man must have been beside himself because he had regained his life.

Similarly, when we sin, there is no earthly remedy for it. We are isolated from God and if our sin is serious, we are doomed to death. Like the Leper, we must approach God with a humble and contrite heart, kneel before him, confess our sin, and ask for the remedy from him. It takes the word of God and the grace that flows from it to cure us of our sins because sin is an incurable disease in the mind of God for those who are unrepentant. Like the Leper, if we are truly heartfelt in our appeal to be healed of Sin, then God will heal us instantly, just as He healed the Leper. And like the Leper, we should be joyful to know that we are restored to God’s good graces, and ready for renewed zest for life in the Kingdom of God.

Now the signs of sin, especially in today’s secular society are also kind of like the sores that appear in Leprosy. They are blemishes that we carry around with us and they haunt us. Addictions, gossip, loss of temper, unkindness, lust, and envy are just some of the sins that can haunt us. They may not be as physical in appearance as the sore of Leprosy; but they are obvious blemishes on our character- often obvious to others around us.

Persons who are isolated from God by these sins are often preoccupied with themselves. They can be depressed and out of sorts because their consciences eat away at them. Like leprosy, this hurt can’t be healed by the secular society that tempted them; but such hurt can be healed by God, and God is moved by compassion to do so. All we have to do is recognize our sin, kneel before God, and ask for forgiveness.

Lent is just a few days away from us. Lent is a time when we are called to examine our consciences, repent of our sin, and renew our relationship with God. We will be conducting a Lenten Mission from February 19th through the 21st here at Holy Family. Renowned inspirational speaker and author Fr. Cedric Pesegna will conduct the mission. As part of the mission, a Penance Service will be held on February 20th. The mission and the Penance service are excellent opportunities to cleanse yourself of your Leprosy, your sin. Don’t miss that opportunity.

Healing the Broken Hearted

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Job 7: 1-4, 6-7; 1 Cor 9: 16-19, 22-23; Mark 1: 29-39
Deacon Larry Brockman

Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted!

And certainly, that’s a good description for Job today. If anyone was ever brokenhearted, it was Job. Here is a righteous man, meaning a man who loved the Lord and lived according to God’s Law. So Job was in a right relationship with God. And yet, Job had lost everything by human standards- his wife, his livelihood, and his health. Job was indeed brokenhearted and even cries out for an end to it all.

It’s a sentiment many of us experience during the course of life. In the midst of your comfort, which you worked hard to achieve, everything seems to crumble around you. It can be triggered by a job loss, the loss of a loved one, a medical diagnosis, the political environment; or even by the onset of a nasty long term flu. You feel depressed, brokenhearted, and even a little bit angry.

The question even arises in your mind- why did this happen to me? You look around and see people who don’t seem to have a relationship with God. They don’t go to church; they seem preoccupied with themselves and life’s pleasures. But by George, they are prospering and here you are, miserable. So, what is all this about Praising the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted? What does that mean?

I think St. Paul gives us a hint on how to resolve this dilemma in Corinthians. You see, Paul understands that life is not all about comfort. Rather, life is all about our relationship with God. Nothing else really matters in the end, does it- our wealth, our health, and even our friends, don’t matter.

Paul was struck off his horse in the midst of his zealous efforts to persecute the people of God, the Christians, and commissioned by Jesus to preach to the Gentiles. He didn’t say: “OK Lord, I’ll do that, but there are a few tents I’m commissioned to make first so I can make the house payment (Paul was a tentmaker by trade). No, he dropped everything and went off and preached the Gospel to the Gentiles, not knowing where his next meal and shelter would be in the process. We know that Paul worked his trade while he preached the Gospel from some of his other letters. So he found a way to do God’s mission for him and still eek out his sustenance.

Now in today’s reading, Paul says this: “If I preach the Gospel, there is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me.” Yes, Paul understands that an obligation has been imposed on him. God has imposed this mission on him. He is free to embrace it or not; but there are consequences either way. Only, the way to true righteousness with God is when we take up our cross and follow our mission. And when we are right with God, then nothing else matters.

So it was to Paul. Paul emphasizes that he could willingly or unwillingly follow that obligation to preach. His recompense if he willingly preaches the Gospel is righteousness with God. I get a sense of weariness in Paul’s words- He’s been at it for some time, but he feels he must keep going without break to save as many as possible. That is what is expected of him. He must endure whatever else befalls him on that path. And his ultimate recompense is a share in the promise of the Gospel- eternal life.

I was struck by the parallel between Paul’s mission and Jesus mission in today’s Gospel. This story is right in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel- just as Jesus is getting started after his Baptism. Jesus is preaching a new way, something different than the teaching of the Jewish Pharisees. Jesus is preaching “repentance”- that is, the need to change the way people live their lives. Instead of embracing the comforts of the world, people need to embrace love of God with their hearts, and to love their neighbors in the same way.

In the last couple of weeks, the “authority” of Jesus teaching has been emphasized in the daily and Sunday Gospels. “Authority” is what gives someone the right to do what they do. Jesus was not schooled by the Jews; Jesus was not authorized by the Romans or the Jews. Rather, Jesus authority was established by the works he did. And here, at the beginning of his preaching ministry, Jesus shows his authority by going around the country, visiting synagogues to cast out demons and cure the lame and sick.

Today’s Gospel shows how truly daunting that task was. Just like Paul, Jesus has left his life as a simple carpenter to follow the promptings his Father gave him to preach a Gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins and to heal the possessed and sick in the process. Jesus gets virtually no respite; no comfort in the process.

His disciples even chase him down after a very busy day while he tries to get a few hours to himself. Jesus realizes that he must press on and says: “Let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there also.”

No matter how you feel about your life today, the only thing that really matters in the end is whether you are righteous in the eyes of the Lord. That is something we all need to go away and reflect on. Our Parish mission is coming up right at the beginning of Lent. It will be a golden opportunity for all of us, brokenhearted or not, to get in a right relationship with the Lord- to “Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted!”

For Those Who Are Looking for a Change

Sunday, 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.”

It’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!

Sunday, 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..

Living as Priests, Prophets, and Kings

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mal 1:14b – 2: 2b, 8-10; 1 Thes 2: 7b-9, 13; Mt 23: 1-12
Deacon Larry Brockman

Hypocrisy and pride! These are central themes in our readings today. And those who acted as priests of the people were the central characters. But in the New Covenant, all of us are made priests, prophets, and kings at Baptism. And so, these words of warning by the prophet Malachi and by Jesus apply to all of us in our roles as Baptized people.

During each Mass, we hear that Jesus is a priest forever in the line of the high priest Melchisedek, Have you ever wondered what that means? Well, in the days of Abraham and earlier, priests of the High God were first born sons and Kings. They offered first fruits as priestly offerings and they governed either their families or tribes as king.

That all changed during the Exodus when the Israelis fashioned a golden Calf for their God. Through Moses, God established the Levitical Priesthood to atone for this great sin of the Israelis. The animal offerings they offered were a constant reminder of that sin and their need to keep the Law. But these offerings would never be able to atone for sin because they were offered by an imperfect priest who had to be from the tribe of Levi. God promised to favor his people if they kept his laws. But the Israelis broke the Law of the Covenant over and over.

In the time of King David, the Lord promised a Messiah from the house of Judah, not from the house of Levi One who would be a first born son. He would be a Priest and King, like Melchisedek of Old.

For the last two months I have been leading a Bible Study on the book of Hebrews. The central theme of Hebrews is that the Levitical priesthood of the Old Covenant became obsolete and was replaced by the Priesthood of Jesus Christ and his Apostles through the Church. Jesus fulfilled the promise made to King David. He was a first born Son from the house of Judah, not a Levite. The sacrificial offering of himself on the cross and subsequent Resurrection and Ascension accomplished what the Old Covenant priesthood could never do.

In our first reading, Malachi points to another fault of the Old Testament Priests. In Malachi’s days these priests also served as judges- arbitrators of the law. Malachi calls these priests biased and hypocritical by showing partiality in their decisions and giving false instruction in the law. Moreover, he accuses them of pride- doing what they do to be seen and to take places of honor, rather than out of conviction.

Jesus has similar things to say about the Pharisees. The Pharisees were teachers of the law; they offered no animal sacrifices as the Levite Priests did. To remind themselves of the law, they would write the ten commandments on pieces of cloth, and then attach them to their clothes as the phylacteries. Jesus said that they loved places of honor and would burden people with the letter of the law, but that they had no heart. Jesus is repulsed by them calling themselves Rabbis, Teachers because just like the priests in Malachi’s time, they were hypocrites and prideful leaders. They were supposed to be spiritual fathers, but they were not teaching how to live the law in their hearts. Rather, they were only looking after their own interests.

Rightfully, Jesus points out that we have one true spiritual father- God. Jesus served his Father as Priest and King, and was our Father model, made in the image and likeness of his Father. Jesus always deferred to the will of his Father. He lived a humble life and did everything from the heart. He delegated that Priestly role to our ordained priests at the Last Supper. That’s why we call our priests Father today, because they serve in the role as the High priest, Jesus Christ, every time they offer Mass.

The really good news is that by virtue of our Baptisms, we have returned to the ancient custom of anointing our children as Priests, Prophets and Kings. That is why Fathers are heads of their families, and priests of the domestic church, the home. It is an awesome responsibility.

Our second reading from 1 Thessalonians gives a clear contrast between the Old Testament priesthood and the New Testament priesthood. For Paul reminds the Thessalonians that while he was with them he served as their Pries. After his Baptism and conversion of his heart, Paul preached the Gospel to the Thessalonians with affection. He treated them with kindness and gentleness, as a mother cares for her children. He did all that while continuing to care for himself by working, not expecting or accepting compensation for his efforts. This was a man who preached the law from the heart, and practiced what he preached. And as a result, his efforts bore much fruit. Paul was the great evangelizer and apostle to the Gentiles.

My dear people, all of you are called in Baptism to be priests, prophets and kings. You are called to accept the word of God and the teachings of the church in your hearts- your faith; and by word and deed, to live and project that faith. You are called to be humble Fathers to your families, and great evangelizers in this secular world of hypocrites and prideful people.