Archive for the ‘Holy Family Weekday Homilies’ Category

Ask and It Will Be Given to You

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Thursday of First Week of Lent

Es C: 12, 14-16, 23-25; Mt 7: 7-12

Dc. Larry Brockman

So, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.   For everyone that asks will receive.”    That sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? And perhaps some of you may even be skeptical from your own previous experience.  But Jesus always speaks the truth.  So, how do we resolve our experience with Jesus words?  How can we be sure our prayers will be answered in the future?   

You know, I recently led a Bible Study called “Lectio Prayer”.  It was based on an age-old practice called “Lectio Divina”.  This is a Latin term for prayerful reading of the holy scriptures.  The idea is that our prayer life is enhanced by using Lectio Divina.  You see, the author of that study made this interesting point.  He said that all prayer is initiated by God.  That’s right, all prayer is initiated by God!  So, that means we have to listen to God first to engage in prayer.    

When you think about it, we should all approach our prayer relationship with God like we approach a friendship.  A true friend listens to what we have to say; but to be a true friend, we have to listen to them as well.  And God’s agenda for us is always more perfect than anything we might conjure up for ourselves.  So, we should be open above all to what God has to say.

God sincerely wants to help us with our needs.  But there is a difference between our needs and our wants.  Take a lesson from Queen Esther in our first reading.  She is not praying for her wants, is she?  Rather, she is sincerely concerned and troubled by the terrible cunning and guile of the King’s assistant, who has tricked the King into a decree to kill all of the Jews.   

So, opening your prayer with a long list of requests and complaints doesn’t seem like the way to talk to a friend; and it is definitely not the way to talk to God.   We should start our prayer humbly asking God to talk to us and be prepared to listen.   

Now I am sure many of you recognize that God speaks to us in very subtle, gentle, and mysterious ways.  So, it may be easy to miss how God is calling you to pray.  But God certainly does speak to us through the scriptures, the word of God.  When we read scriptures, something usually leaps out at us too.  That is often God’s way of asking us to reflect more on it.  It may hold the key to our path forward.    

And God speaks to us in those nagging feelings we have that something is wrong in our lives or the lives of our loved ones.  Those feelings are God calling you to reflect and change something.  They are moments which are calling out for you to get into a quiet, undisturbed environment, and humbly open yourself up to what God has to say.  After you have listened to God, then it is time to share your concerns and feelings.   

But be careful of what you ask for.  We can all take a lesson from Queen Esther.  As I said before, she was not praying for her wants; but rather for an urgent need.  And Esther was asking for help- not intervention.  She wants God to put the right words in her mouth to persuade her husband.  Esther is concerned about a true need- and is only asking for the grace to act effectively. 

That’s what we should ask for.  Ask for strength, for the right words, for the wisdom to deal with the need that we have.   

There are many times that good people have been soured by what appears to be a rejection by God of their prayer- a sick friend or relative does not pull through; the job you sought did not come through; some immanent natural disaster like a hurricane sweeps over us despite our prayers.   

Well, God can work miracles; but usually God works in natural ways.  And we are part of that solution.  God works through us, as he used Esther to persuade the King.     

Sometimes God’s wisdom is mysterious and seems like out-of-the-box thinking.  Is that really so surprising?  God is so far beyond us that we cannot possibly see his plan or know his ways.  We need to trust God and hope that our prayers will be answered for our ultimate good.   

Perhaps it was that friend or relative’s time; perhaps there’s a better job for you; perhaps the natural disaster will put you in a place that’s far better in the eyes of God.  Perhaps God wants to close one door and open another in your life.   

We are God’s children now.  We always have the best interests in mind for our children when they ask for something, don’t we?  And sometimes they ask for something and the best answer is “no” or “not right now”.   God does the same with us.   

So “ask” but ask with all humility and sincerity, “And it will be given to you”. 

Holding Fast to Your Faith

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

St. Paul Miki & Companions

Heb 12: 4-7, 11-15; Mark 6:1-6

Deacon Larry Brockman

What an opening shot that was in our first reading: “Brothers and Sisters:  In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.”  What a strong message that was for the faithful.   

And in fact, in Paul’s day, there were many who did suffer terribly for their faith; many who shed their blood.  Yesterday, we heard about St. Agatha.  Because she rejected the advances of the Roman Leader in Sicily, she was tortured mercilessly; they even cut off her breasts!  But when they tried to burn her at the stake, an earthquake frightened off the Romans, and legend has it that St. Agatha died in prison.  I read recently that as many as 1 out of every 100 Christians in the first couple of centuries were martyred for their faith.   

Today is the feast of St. Paul Miki and companions.  Paul Miki was one of 25 Christians crucified on a hill above Nagasaki Japan in the late 16th century following missionary efforts by Jesuits and Franciscans to convert the people of Japan.  All 25 were put to death just because they preached Christ.  The Japanese wanted to root out the Christian movement in its infancy in Japan.   

One would think that such a brutal campaign would have ended it; but when Christian missionaries returned to Japan some 200 years later, they found over 1000 Christians there- such strength of Faith.   

How about you and me?   We live in an age when our Christian Faith is constantly being persecuted.  Dozens of people have been killed by the sword in Iraq and Syria and Egypt just because they are Christian.  Closer to home, people are being arrested and sued for following their consciences on Christian doctrine.  And there are people, some even claiming to be “Catholic”, defending the “right to choose” to abort a baby, and even to kill a newborn baby on the delivery table.  They are popping corks and celebrating the passage of laws in New York that allow just that. 

How can we live our lives so that it makes a difference in such a messed-up world?  Do we have to shed our blood to be saved?  We are just citizens, not politicians or activists, right.   

Well, we can certainly express ourselves to our elected officials; and we can vote.  But you know, there is an even better way; one which really demonstrates our faith but isn’t so drastic.  It is one that Paul mentions to the Hebrews this morning.  Because Paul also says this to the Hebrews: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”   

First peace.  Yes, we can all be civil to each other and be peacemakers.  But also “For that holiness without which no one will see the Lord!”  Ah, now that is much more difficult- to live lives of holiness so that everyone sees the Lord in us.  We are challenged to live that way every day by acting civil to our neighbors; showing love and respect in our families; worshipping the Lord and not secular things on the Sabbath; and giving of our time, talent, and treasure to help someone in need.  Basically, our kindness must be ever present on behalf of the Lord, while all the time we hold fast to what our faith is when we are challenged.   

And when is our faith challenged?  When others want us to gossip or gang up on someone; when others talk about the right to choose versus the right to life and we sit by idly; when we are affronted by immoral and objectionable material in the media and say nothing; and when an activity interferes with the practice of our faith but we do it any way.    Doing the right things in these situations are ways we can “see to it that no one is deprived of grace”; and that “no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many are defiled”.   

Each of us has the opportunity to win the struggle against sin.  For some, holding fast to their faith means shedding blood.  For all, holding fast to the faith is what it’s all about. 

Is the Law Written in Your Heart?

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

St. Maria Soledad Torres

Heb 10: 11-18; Mark 4:1-20

Deacon Larry Brockman

“I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds.”  This is the New Covenant of the Lord as Paul presented it to the Hebrews.    And you know what?  When people are committed to their Faith, when they seek the Lord and desire to do his will as an integral part of their lives, then the New Covenant applies to them.  

I suppose that the large crowd that came to hear Jesus was full of folks who came for some very different reasons.  On the surface, they came to hear this special preacher because of his reputation.  But really, only some came because they were seeking after the meaning of life.  Others came because it was the thing to do; or they felt justified by seeking spiritual diversity; or they wanted to belong; or they were dragged there by their spouse or family; or any of a number of other reasons.   

And what did they hear?  They heard about seeds sewn along a path.  Can’t you just imagine the reaction?  What’s he talking about?  What a bunch of baloney?  I came here for this?  What does this have to do with me?  Is that all there is?   

But you know what, many folks come to Mass sometimes on Sundays for some of the same reasons.  Some come because they are committed to their faith with their hearts.  But there are many other reasons that other folks come- some to justify themselves or to become belong to a community; others as sort of a guilt offering for their pre-occupation with the world; or because of peer pressure from their spouse or family; or to serve as an example for their children.  God bless them for whatever reason they come because they may be converted in heart by the living word of God at any time.   

But this morning, Jesus makes it clear he is looking for people who are truly committed to him with their hearts.  They may not be perfect- nobody is perfect.  And the people who think they are perfect, well they are probably the ones with the most to learn.  But they come with all humility seeking something better- the real meaning of life.   

Now Jesus spoke the truth in parables so that only those who came to hear him with their hearts would perceive the truth.  Jesus deliberately structured his message to challenge his audience.  He was challenging them to be open with their hearts and minds to a new and exciting message about the ultimate purpose of life.  Anyone who was committed to the earth and fleshly existence would perceive that message as a lot of baloney.  Only those who were honestly seeking the truth would be open to it.  If their minds and hearts were open to his message; they would get it because the Spirit of the Lord would work on them.     

The same thing is true today each and every time folks come to Mass.  When you hunger and thirst for the Word of God with your heart, and you yearn to receive the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, then coming to Mass on Sunday, and in fact any time you come to Mass; well then, the Mass will be something special to you.   

But when you come for any of the other reasons, there will always be something wrong-  the music wasn’t quite right; the homily was too long; it’s the same old thing every time, and on and on.   

When Paul quotes the Old Testament; “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds.”  He is talking to all of the people of God who come before him honestly seeking the truth.  To those, the Spirit will move them to understand what is hidden from the multitude.  The salvation promised in the New Covenant belongs to such as these. 

The Real Thing

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

St. Francis de Sales

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Heb 7: 25b – 8:6; Mark 3:7-12

Deacon Larry Brockman

As our Gospel today clearly demonstrates, Jesus was and is the real thing- God himself.    Jesus healed the sick, cast out unclean spirits, and worked miracles no other earthly man could do.  And Jesus drew crowds from all over the area because of the authority and truth of his message. 

But Jesus’ earthly ministry ended in the self-sacrifice of the perfect God made man on the cross on behalf of all of us.  It was a sacrifice that atoned for all of our sins and earned salvation for all of us.  The proof of our salvation was his Resurrection and his promise of everlasting life to all who believe in him as passed on by the witnesses to his Resurrection.

Paul’s message to the Hebrews this morning was all about the salvation process.  It is a lesson all of us should heed as well.  Paul talks about it in terms of priesthood.  But in Paul’s days, priests attained their priesthood by birth.  According to their law, only those who were descendants of the Levite tribe could be priests.

They offered animal sacrifices year after year in atonement for their sins on the day of atonement.  But these sacrifices were made by imperfect people- people who died and had to be replaced.  And these animal sacrifices obviously could never properly atone for their sins and those of the people before almighty God.  They were just a gesture of humility and sincere intent to be contrite; they were a remembrance according to the law; they were not a messianic or saving event.  And in fact, the Jews are still looking today for their Messiah.   

Paul then points out that Jesus Christ acted as our priest, the perfect priest.  Jesus, who was and is sinless, lives forever and his sacrifice was and is acceptable to the Father.  Just like Melchizidek, Jesus is a priest, a prophet, and a king.   He does not have any of the shortcomings of previous priests.   

Now Jesus Christ wanted us to participate in the salvation he earned for us by providing us with persons who could act as a high priest for him.  And so, he handed on to his apostles the priesthood at the Last Supper.  We provide bread and wine, fruit of the vine and work of our human hands at each Mass.  They symbolize our willing participation in the Mass, our willingness to sacrifice ourselves.  Every time one of our priests offers that bread and wine and consecrates it as Jesus did, then Jesus self-Sacrifice is memorialized and is offered again to his Father on our behalf.  Jesus told us to do precisely that- in memory of him.  We are present as witnesses to that event at each Mass and we partake of the body and blood of Christ to validate our belief.   

That is what is so important about our Mass.  It is not just a forum for worshipping God; an event held in a special place where God’s word is proclaimed and affirmed and where the congregation says to God that they believe in him and praise him.  Of course, the Mass is all of that too.   

But rather, the Mass is a continuation of the salvation event itself.  Because just as Jesus promised, the bread and wine become His real body and blood.  So, the Sacrifice of the Mass is our way of participating in the original offering to the Father.   

Yes, Jesus Christ is the real thing.  And so is the Mass and the Eucharist consecrated by our Priest. 

Abundance in Need

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Is 25: 6-10a; Mt 15: 29-37

Deacon Larry Brockman

Well, it’s that time of year again, the “Holiday Season”.  Yes, our secular society has morphed our wonderful Christmas celebration into a “Holiday Season”.  And our holidays are characterized with an abundance- an abundance of good cheer, food, parties, cookies and presents.  It’s as if an abundance of pleasure is what the spirit of Christmas is all about.   

Well, believe it or not, today’s readings are all about the abundance of God’s blessings.  And that’s something we should all want- an abundance of God’s blessings.  However, our Christian concept of abundance is better matched to the real meaning of Christmas than the abundance we hear about in secular society.   

In today’s Gospel, we first hear about the working of many miracles- many of the lame, the deformed, the blind, and the mute are healed.  And then, Jesus feeds 4000 people with a few loaves and fish.  By the way, this is not the feeding of the 5000.  That incident came earlier in the Gospel.  No, this is actually a second incident of mass feeding of a crowd.  Clearly, Jesus abundantly heals, and Jesus abundantly provides food for the hungry- so much so that there were seven baskets left over; and that’s seven baskets more than they began with!  That is real abundance.   

These gifts of healing and daily bread are signs of God’s intention to bless his people with abundance.  We have only to ask sincerely, as Jesus did, and God will provide for our needs.  Because, you see, God is the ultimate Santa Claus!  God always gives to others without expecting anything in return.   

Now notice that Jesus’ actions in today’s Gospel are characterized by one common factor-  Genuine Need.  The lame and deformed and blind and sick had a genuine need; and the crowd which hadn’t eaten for three days had a genuine need as well.  It is God’s will that His people be healthy and that their basic needs be met with abundance.  God will answer our prayers for such needs- and with abundance.   

But that is not the same thing as wanting something even if we ask for it in prayer.  Because there is often a difference between something we want and something we need.  In fact, God frequently gives us what we need rather than what we want when we pray.  That can be a real problem for us- because we think we know what we need and so, that is what we ask for.  But God loves us so much that he will respond to us with abundance for what we really need.  God is the best judge of that.   

I propose we all try something a little different this year for Christmas.  Let us compose our Christmas lists a little differently.  Let us ask God for what we really need, rather than what we want.   

Perhaps a little quiet time to reflect on how you can change your life for the better next year.  Or to help develop a skill that helps others.    Perhaps you can anticipate a real need by one of your loved ones, and that can be your gift to them.  Maybe some quality time together with a neglected family member.  Or Giving up time with the game controller and interacting with your siblings instead.   

Our first reading talks about God’s ultimate gift to all of us- everlasting life in paradise.  Then, we will be provided with a rich, never ending feast that meets all of our needs and wants.  But we’re not there yet.    While we live this life, our goal should be to love others as Jesus did.  God gave the world his only son, Jesus, at Christmas.  Jesus gave abundantly of his talent and fed thousands in the miracles.  His focus was on giving abundantly to meet real needs.  His focus was on fulfilling God’s plan.  And he achieved salvation for us all by doing so.  That is ultimate happiness and self-fulfillment.   

Maybe we should try the same thing- giving of ourselves.  It might make us happier than all the wants we can think of! 

Hold Firm for a “Little While”.

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

Thursday of 6th Week of Easter
Acts 18:1-8; John 16: 16-20
Dc. Larry Brockman

“You will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” Such were the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples. They just didn’t understand what the “little while’s” meant in his words to them.

These men had been through it all with Jesus. Now that he had risen, they expected him to stay with them so that things would be the same as they had been during his earthly life and ministry. Or even better, that they would be part of some worldly conquest restoring the Jewish nation. But that wasn’t what Jesus meant to do at all. After all the breakdown of scripture he did for them, after all the time he spent with them, they still didn’t get it- that this life was not what it is all about.

Indeed, Jesus words apply to all of us today too. It will seem that Jesus is not with us, particularly when the world closes in on us with its skepticism, cynicism, doubt, and persecution of our true Faith- and especially when we get close to death. That will cause us to grieve; but our grief can be turned to joy if we hold firm to the end in our belief, our faith and follow the Gospel path in Jesus footsteps.

I visit a local hospital twice a week to help the chaplain. I visit a lot of folks there who are facing death. Some of them have been suddenly plucked from the mainstream of life and now face an uncertain future in this world- a heart attack, a stroke, a cancer diagnosis- or any of a number of other surprises. And it is clear that many of them are scared- scared of infirmity or death.

Even many of those who profess to believe are scared of death. They are in the middle of that “little while” where it seems God has abandoned them. Many can only think about what they will be missing if they die- their children, their activities, their retirement; as if these things are the whole meaning of their life. To be sure, many are concerned about leaving loved ones vulnerable, a sense of duty, as well. Indeed many of these folks are preoccupied with the world at a time when they should be getting closer to God. Some are even angry with God rather than working to get closer to Him.
Now I bring all this up because we are a people who like to be in control. We like to plan everything in our lives. We plan for our education, for employment, for marriages, for child rearing, for entertainment, and for retirement.

Well how many of us plan for our real future, everlasting life? Because after we pass on, we have this wonderful hope for the future, one that is guaranteed for those who believe and practice their faith. It is an everlasting life in heaven with God and with all of those who love him.

Have you ever thought about what that would be like? Have you planned for it? Because, you see, if you think about earthly situations where we hold grudges, don’t forgive, avoid certain kinds of people, and work for our own benefit to the exclusion of others, well, it certainly won’t and can’t be like that in heaven, can it?

So, take advantage of today’s wake-up call by Jesus. Take some time to plan for the ultimate future. It may require some changes in your daily life. Then you will be ready for the future in a little while when Jesus will be with all of us again- all of us. And our grief will turn to joy.

Perfection Through Suffering

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Holy Thursday Morning Prayer
Heb 2:9b-10
Dc. Larry Brockman

So, the leader in the work of salvation was made perfect through suffering. And if the leader, Jesus Christ, had to bear his suffering with dignity and grace; how appropriate it is that we, who follow after our leader, must also learn to bear our suffering with dignity in grace.

I think that one of the things we easily overlook is that Jesus lived a normal life for some 30 of his 33 years. It is just the last three years that the majority of the Gospels relate to us. But therein lies the story. Jesus embraced his mission from the Lord, and carried his cross all the way to the end.

All of us are given a special gift by God- the gift of life. During our lives we are blessed with periods of joy- a joyful youth; a special courtship; children and grandchildren, wonderful vacations and leisure; great athletic ability; and special talents in music or art, for example. But in between the good times, there are challenges. Those challenges generally involve suffering- suffering which we really cannot, and in many cases should not avoid.

Now, suffering isn’t something we should go after, don’t get me wrong. That is not the point. Nevertheless, no matter who we are, will have to face suffering in the course of our lives- suffering which is dealt to us by way of circumstances and/or time. The loss of a loved one, an illness or infirmity, a job dilemma, a problem child, the ravages of war, an accident, hurricanes and fires, you name it. Those are the crosses that we have to bear.

And if we are to learn anything from this reading, it is that all of us who follow the will of God need to embrace our crosses with dignity and grace; even with a sense of joy. And in so doing, we become perfect through that suffering.
That’s what Jesus example in the Gospel shows us. That through suffering, we will become better people, purified in our quest for the Kingdom of God.

Show Me the Father!

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

St. Philip and St. James, Apostles(U)
1 Cor 15: 1-8; John 14: 6-14
Dc. Larry Brockman

How often have we heard Philip’s words in our society? For Philip said “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Yes, everybody wants to be shown the Father; everybody wants proof of God’s existence! And yet, the fact is that people are blind to that proof when they see it. They are blind because the truth is ultimately incomprehensible to our limited nature.

You know, it’s hard to believe that the events that unfolded before Philip’s own eyes hadn’t been enough for him. For this man had heard Jesus personally during his three year ministry. He had eaten with him, and had been one of his closest disciples; he had heard everything first hand; and seen everything first hand. Philip had witnessed the death and Resurrection first hand; and he had heard Jesus unfold the scriptures for him after the Resurrection. Philip had seen, touched, and experienced the glorified risen Christ. One would think that such a person would know God for who God is as well as anyone possibly could. Such a person would know God in their heart. And yet Philip still says “Show me the Father”. Oh ye of little faith! What more could Philip have seen or experienced to convince him to believe!

Yes, it is a leap of faith to believe in the Gospel story. We don’t have the first-hand knowledge and experiences that Philip had. And yet, we are called upon to believe, to accept what seems unlikely, and what can’t be proven by human reason. We are called to accept it precisely because we simply must surrender our wills in the salvation process. We must recognize that we are not in control- God is and always will be in control. If we don’t accept that, we simply can’t be happy with him in the Kingdom of God because no matter how you slice it, we can never ever understand and match the mind of God. Something will always be a mystery to us- some things we must accept on faith.

Our Faith is worth any residual doubt because of the revelations Jesus made to us about God and his nature and laws. These revelations were not made by some transcendent distant unapproachable God; but rather by God made man who lived amongst us. His is a unique story in creation; the story of a God who loved us so much he manifested himself as one of us. And Jesus left us the legacy of that story- more than 500 eye witnesses and the Gospels themselves that record all those events. The Gospels also give us the roadmap for living life in harmony with God’s will.

Now many people cannot believe in their hearts what the Gospel relates. So Jesus comes right out and says that if you cannot believe because it touches your heart; then believe because of the great works that were done- the many miracles Jesus performed.
St. Paul summarizes what the rewards are for those who believe and follow Jesus’ teachings in this way. We have all been saved and will share in the glorified life of Jesus. Yes, Jesus is the answer, because no one can come to the Father except through belief in God and the Word of God- that is, they cannot come to God except through Jesus because Jesus is the Word of God.

Every day we wake up is a miracle. Every moment of our life is a miracle. Every flower, life form, and star in the sky is an awesome miracle. The scientists unravel some details about these miracles and think we are in control. These details are like the peels of an onion; no sooner does one layer get explained when another layer appears.. What scientists find is incredible simplicity and incredible complexity intertwined in all things. There simply has to be some architect of all that; it cannot happen by accident. That should be proof enough; because again, we cannot hope to understand all that God knows. But it isn’t. People want to know absolutely.

Well God didn’t send Jesus’ generation the “sign” they were hoping for so they could know absolutely. And the Father did not show himself to Philip with any more clarity than Jesus revelation. God doesn’t reveal himself with any more clarity because we are incapable of understanding. What we are capable of understanding is what God has revealed to us; that was the reason for Jesus Christ. There is no need for the Father to show us any more proof than that.

“Whoever is Not With Me is Against Me”

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Thursday of the Third Week in Lent
Jer 7: 23-28; Luke 11: 14-23
Dc. Larry Brockman

Make no mistake about it, evil exists and is real. One of our greatest challenges as a Faith Community is to recognize evil in our world and hold firm against it.
This morning, we hear Jeremiah speaking to the Jewish people after over 1000 years of history following the Exodus event. In just these few words, Jeremiah summarizes all of that history.

Moses had acted as a Priest to set up a covenant between the people and the Lord God at the foot of Mt. Sanai when he delivered the Ten Commandments. These were the people the Lord had rescued from slavery and planned to deliver to the promised land, his own special people. God would assure that his people would flourish if they kept His commandments and loved their God with their hearts and minds and souls. That covenant was sealed by the blood of a sacrifice that Moses offered, a blood covenant. Moses warned them of consequences if they agreed to the covenant and then broke it. And so, Moses asked the people three times if they would abide by it. They all responded “yes”.

But despite a long and consistent history of prophets sent by God to his special people, prophets who constantly reminded the people of that covenant and warned about the consequences of breaking it, the people were not abiding by the blood covenant that God made with them. Why? Because of the evil that creeps into men’s hearts and takes possession of them.

That evil is characterized by three things- a failure to pass on the covenant to their children- either by laziness or indifference; preoccupation with things of the world, especially in times of prosperity- life is just too good; and selfishness, the tendency to put their individual interests ahead of the spirit and intent of the law.

And so, over the course of that thousand plus years of history, the Israelis did not obey the law of the Covenant, and fell victim to idolatry and grievous sin. The Old Testament shows cycles of up and down adherence to the covenant over the course of this history and speaks over and over of the Kings who “did evil in the sight of the Lord”. Over time divisions arose amongst the people, the tribes separated from each other, and that caused the Israelis to lose their national identity. Finally, the kings were powerless and were overrun by stronger and more resolute adversaries. Evil had undermined the Israeli nation.

In Jesus’ time, evil was symbolized in several different ways. But today, our Gospel talks about evil through a man possessed by an evil spirit. We can see the division in the people within this Gospel. Some feel that casting such a demon out of a person could only be done by someone close to God. But cynical observers accuse Jesus of casting devils out by the prince of devils, Beelzebul. These self-serving folks didn’t want to acknowledge that someone who they didn’t want to listen to could be right; so they tried to turn his good deed into an evil one. Boy, does that sound familiar in today’s world! But Jesus makes it very clear that “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. He shows that even Satan must keep his followers focused on that.

And so, the lesson for all of us today is clear. Evil exists, and we need to work together to recognize it and to counter it. We must be unified in our faith and then practice our faith to recognize evil and counter it.

Evil today feeds off divisions caused by things like moral relativism, pro-choice attitudes on life issues, and mistaking inaction for tolerance. Evil also feeds off of self-righteous clicks, greed, and over reactions. We can heal these divisions by all of us agreeing with the core beliefs of our faith.

These core beliefs are well represented in the teachings of the Church in the Catechism. The catechism guides us in what we believe and in how we should respond. But we have to believe in all of it. Yes, it’s the whole enchilada, or nothing.

Second, we need to cast out the modern demons in our world. We don’t cast these demons out by tolerating them. We have got to be proactive; stand up for our faith; and do whatever it takes to change the system. That includes voting, running for office, standing up before civil authorities and school officials when needed, and other forms of witnessing of our faith. It even means speaking up in discussions amongst our peers when they say things that are offensive to us.

Remember these words from today’s Gospel. They pretty well sum up Jesus’ attitude towards evil: “Whoever is not with me is against me”.

The Remarkable Power of Prayer

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Thursday of First Week of Lent (U)
Esth C: 12, 14-16, 23-25; Mt 7: 7-12
Dc. Larry Brockman

Prayer. It’s one of the three pillars of our Lenten observance. And it is the topic of both readings today. In fact, both readings are about asking for something in prayer. And both give us key advice about what kind of prayer works.

The story of Esther is fascinating. I recommend that all of you read the book of Esther- it is short. But let me just put today’s reading in context.

Esther is a beautiful Jewish maiden living in exile in Persia with the Jews. The King is smitten by her and makes her his Queen, not knowing that she is Jewish. Her Father gets on the wrong side of the King’s right hand man, a ruthless, arrogant, hateful person This man tricks the King into signing a decree that would put all the Jews to the sword. And that is where we join Esther this morning- as she prays for deliverance of her people.

Although Esther is the Queen, the King has a concubine and doesn’t see Esther all that often. She cannot approach him; he must approach her. Hence, her dilemma.
Notice several things about Esther’s prayer. First, Esther is giving her whole attention to her prayer. All distractions and everything else have been put aside. Second, she is humble before the Lord, prostrating herself and her entourage. Then she blesses the Lord and recognizes Him as the Lord of her ancestors. Only after all that does she ask for something. Lastly, she is not asking for a miracle- she is only asking for inspiration. She says ”Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart”. So Esther recognizes the need for her to act. She is asking God to enable her, not for God to work miracles. And we get the impression that she trusts that God will help her.

Esther’s prayer is answered, as you will find if you read the book. But the events that unfold are truly unexpected. There is no way anyone could have foreseen these events. God’s solution solves all Esther’s problems, and makes things better than she could have expected. And this makes a very important point. When we ask for God’s help, our expectations can get in the way. God will answer our prayer, but will not necessarily meet our expectations. God knows what is best for us and that is what he will give us. In the long run, we are better off with God’s solution and not our expectations.

Now the Gospel comes after Jesus presentation of the Lord’s Prayer. He explains the Lord’s prayer after presenting it. Then in this chapter Jesus goes into detail about when we ask for something. He tells us to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find.” But what will be given to us is what we need, not necessarily what we want. We are, after all, God’s children. We often respond to a child’s request with what they need, not what they want; And it is no different with God and his children.

It may seem to you that some specific expectation is the thing that is best for you- a home or place, a job, a promotion, a relationship with someone, a skill, and any number of other things. But when you pray for such things, keep an open mind. God may have a better place, a better job, another person, or a different skill for you. And in the long run, God’s way will be better.

God is big on trust. We tell our children the same thing- trust us. But sometimes that can be hard. Because, just like our children, we are disappointed that things don’t go our way even after prayer. But consider this: When Jesus says the law and the prophets is “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you”, then be assured of this. God will always do right for you, because He is beyond the law and the prophets.