Archive for the ‘Holy Family Sunday Homilies’ Category

Following Jesus Christ

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17; Mt 4: 12-23

Deacon Larry Brockman

Do you hear Jesus calling you?  And are you willing to drop everything and just follow after Him like the two sets of Apostles in the Gospel?  And just what does it mean to hear the call and follow after Him?  

 In the reading from Paul to the Corinthians, Paul is preaching against divisions among the people of God.  These are people who have heard the call and have converted to Christianity in the budding Church of the first century.  However, these people are choosing between one person’s message and another’s- in fact, three different people are mentioned, presumably with three different emphases.  But this doesn’t mean their messages are mutually exclusive.   Nevertheless, this has caused discord among the people- divisions; because people just naturally want to keep it simple.  They want to believe that they have got it right and others have got it wrong.   

Certainly, our times are like that.  We are a generation with serious divisions amongst us.  And there are so many different divisions amongst Christians.  There are literally hundreds of denominations and many non-denominational Christian Churches; and each of them will tell you that they are the ones who have the message right.   

Even within the Catholic Church there are divisions- for example, there are those who agree with this pope and those who disagree with him.   

But one thing is very clear from both Jesus and Paul’s message today:  It is really all about following Jesus Christ.  Now, it matters what Jesus said; but it matters more what He did.  Because when you follow someone, then you are really following after what they do.  No matter how eloquent someone is in their message; if they don’t practice what they preach; well, you’ve got to be wary of their message.   

You know, as I look back over the history of the Church,  I am struck by people who have had a tremendous impact on the Church:  Consider St. Francis of Assisi; Saint Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Ignatius of Loyola; and modern Sts. Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, and John Paul II for example.  All of these people practiced what they preached.  And all of them left a twofold legacy.  First, they all had something to say; but secondly, the primary way they validated what they said was the way they lived their lives.  And the way all of them lived their lives was by mirroring the love of God in what they did. Other people could see that they were special people- real saints; and so many of them developed followers.  So, today we have Franciscans, Jesuits, Sisters of Mercy, and other groups that try to emulate the special charisms f these people had.  But these are not divisions; rather they are people who are mirroring the love of God in certain specific ways.   

The fact is, each one of us is unique, and so we are each called in a different way to follow Jesus Christ.  We can choose to drop everything and follow after the special charisms of one of these special people.  Those who choose this path become priests or nuns or join a religious order.  Yes these people have heard the call and responded to it.  They are particularly blessed for committing their lives in this way.  

 But there is another way.  We can look at the way these special saints embraced the Gospel as a way of life, and do something similar in our lives- the ones that God has given us.  We are doctors, teachers, housewives, factory workers, and yes, even fisherman, and whatever else.  And we are all called to live our lives in accordance with the way of life Jesus showed those first disciples who followed him- by doing the will of God and loving others as self.   

We do it in the kindnesses we show other people; how we take care of our sick and elderly;   How we show our children what is right and wrong; how we reject the secular values that are contrary to Jesus’ teaching;  How we respect the dignity of all human life. 

The world badly needs Christians who publicly do as Jesus did.

And that is what it means to hear Jesus and follow after Him.. 


Thursday, September 26th, 2019

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 6: 1a, 4-7; 1 Tim 6: 11-16; Lk 16: 19-31

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today we hear about complacency! 

First, Amos tells us of the complacency of the Judeans in the Southern Kingdom of Israel when their brothers in the Northern Kingdom were conquered by Assyria and sent off in exile.  Amos correctly predicts their doom, because the South was soon sent into exile in punishment for their complacency- they stood by and did nothing.  Their comfortable lives were ended when they were sent into exile.  This was complacency of an entire people- the people of the Southern Kingdom   

Then, in our Gospel today, we hear of a complacent person.  The rich man Divas was happy with his own worldly life, yet complacent over the plight of Lazarus who was daily visible to him.  This is a singular incident in the Gospel, where names are given in what seems like a parable.  And the judgment the rich man receives is harsh indeed- everlasting punishment.    This person is not just simply complacent.  Rather, he doesn’t consider his actions sinful at all.  Most probably this person considered himself a abiding by the Mosaic Law.  He was just enjoying his God-given prosperity.  You see, in first century Jerusalem, people believed that God rewarded those who kept his law and punished those who did not.  So in his mind, the rich man’s prosperity was proof that he was righteous; he simply left Lazarus alone in the punishment he had brought on himself.  Initially Jesus’ audience would have had this view as well.   

But the dialog that Jesus describes between Abraham and the rich man shatters this view.  Because Abraham tells him that he did not listen to Moses and the prophets.  For the Mosaic law required that a portion of a person’s wealth be shared with the poor. The rich man does not dispute this, almost an admission of guilt.  Now other elements of the story amplify the rich man’s selfishness, and an absence of his contrition.  Because the fine purple garments and the sumptuous dining reveal the true nature of the rich man’s heart.  He is living an extravagant life; he is putting on airs.  The rich man was focused on his present life, as if that were all there was to life.   

Now after death, the rich man recognized Lazarus from his place of torment; but he still expected Lazarus to wait on him in his troubles.  Yes, he is sorry that he is in torment, but he is not repentant because he still believes himself above Lazarus.   

Jesus uses this story to make it abundantly clear that we cannot be complacent in the face of the suffering of others; rather, we have a responsibility to pay attention to what is going on around us.  We have a responsibility to show compassion and share the gifts that God has given us.   

It is easy to fall into complacency if our focus is on this world and ourselves.  But we can lose eternal life by being complacent.  That’s what happened to the rich man.   

Paul tells us this morning what our real focus on life should be.  We are to pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness in our daily lives.  And we are to lay hold of eternal life as the focus.  He says that these things follow after we make a “noble confession”.  The noble confession is our conversion, a conversion from a life which is focused on this world  to a focus on doing God’s will in seeking eternal life; that’s what the confession is all about.  It is an awakening in our inner most being about the fact that life in this world is not what life is all about and a realization that relationships, especially our relationship with God, are what is lasting.   

Now it seems to me that our current society is full of paradoxes when it comes to complacency in the face of suffering.  Indeed, our country provides a tremendous portion of the relief services for the troubled spots throughout the world.  And Americans, have a long history of not being complacent as the Southern kingdom of Israel was in its day.  For example, Americans didn’t ignore the evils of Hitler and Stalin; we were decidedly not complacent.   

But what about us as individuals?  During the devastation in the Bahamas caused by Hurricane Dorian we saw a tremendous outpouring of compassion.  The response was quick and meaningful over a broad spectrum of our community- hardly the response of a complacent people.  But how long did it last?  How long was it be before we resumed our lives and put this suffering behind us?  It’s only natural, when we live in relative comfort, to fall into complacency.  After all, out of sight; out of mind- that’s the paradox.   

But the reality is that there are Lazaruses all around us all the time- the person stopped by the side of the road with a flat; the neighbor who just lost their spouse; a friend who lost his job; someone who was diagnosed with a terminal illness; and many, many other similar situations.  We can continue to pass over these situations in the humdrum of life and the relative comfort of our lives.  But that is what complacency is, isn’t it?   

Now this parish is blessed by a very active St. Vincent de Paul convention.  They are celebrating (celebrated) their anniversary this weekend at this (the 10:30) Mass.  They are there to help the Lazaruses of our world; the ones that are all around us.  They do incredible work; but they could do so much more.  Contact them to see how you can help. 

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.”