Archive for the ‘Westminster Tower’ Category

It is Christ That Unifies Us

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 58: 7-10; 1 Cor 2: 1-5; Mt 5: 13-16

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today, all three of our readings tell us that the most important thing we can do in living our lives from day-to-day is to live the message of Christianity rather than preach it in words.  And what is more, that is something that all of us can do.  We can all spread the light of Christ by our attitude and enthusiasm for our faith; and by working together in doing it.  We don’t have to be gifted in all the details of theology to do that.  Our actions speak louder than words.   

Notice that St. Paul tells the Corinthians that when he came, he did not use fancy words, or wise arguments, or clever catch words to preach Christ.  He did not package his message with slick Madison Avenue sales gimmicks.  Rather, he came with “a demonstration of spirit and power”.  In other words, Paul projected a sense of commitment and fervor in what he believed; and people could see he was the genuine article because he demanded nothing in return.   

Elsewhere in the Epistles we learn that Paul accepted no pay or hospitality but carried his own weight by working as a tentmaker.  Paul did not work mighty deeds, make bold promises, or guarantee worldly success.  Paul just lived the message he preached.  That was novel and different in the Roman World of the first century.  It as a tactic that worked.   

And then we have the words of advice from Isaiah.  Who says: “Your light shall break forth like the dawn.”  That’s similar to the message Paul expressed, isn’t it?  Because Isaiah is recommending that the people show their commitment to God by the actions that they perform.  Isaiah recommends that the people simply be kind to each other, especially to those who have less.  At the same time, Isaiah asks for harmony- that the people should “remove oppression and false accusation” from their midst.  This is a script for doing away with factions and divisions.  These factions get in the way of the real progress that man can make in living together in peace.    

That brings me to the Gospel.  Jesus had just preached his sermon on the mount to a large crowd of people.  The Beatitudes were the essence of that message and precede this reading.  The Beatitudes are all about emptying self and doing God’s will.   

But just after Jesus finished preaching the Beatitudes, he tells his disciples that they need to be the “salt of the earth”, and a “light to the world”.  He tells them that it is not good enough to just accept his message and live it quietly; rather, they have to go out and spread that message.  And they have to deliver the message with salt- because it brings the taste of the message to life.  How else could this be done unless the people lived the message with zest and commitment.   

And they are to go out and spread the message like light disperses.  It is like the image given in Isaiah: Light breaking forth like the dawn.  For indeed, light pours out of small racks and spreads everywhere; and when the sun rises, it brightens and permeates everything.  That is the nature of light.   

So, how do we do that?  How do we maintain the zest in salt and spread our faith like a bright light?  We do it by the way we treat each other and the way we project ourselves as we live our lives.  We do it by engaging in the community that we live in; not by hiding in it.  We do it by being witnesses for what we believe- by speaking up at the right time; by being there for others when they need us; by failing to embrace the secular values when they are pushed on us; by being enthusiastic about life and Jesus Christ.   

It means a whole lot of little things.  Do we all say grace before meals when we are in public?  Are we enthusiastic about the religious activities we engage in when we talk to others?  Do we praise God for the beauty of his creation?  Do we refrain from gossip and forming factions?   

And from what I know about this small group of Catholics in in isolated community.  You do all that.  You are engaging the wider community and witnessing that you are Catholic.  You are doing it with zest and it is working. 

What Does It Mean for Christ to be King?

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Christ The King

2 Sam 5: 1-3; Col 1: 12-20; Luke 23: 35-43

Deacon Larry Brockman

Christ the King!  That means Christ is not the President; not the Prime Minister; not the Emperor-  e is none of these other things.   Rather, He is a King.  You see, He is not elected by either the people, like a President, or by the leaders, like a prime minister; nor is He the leader by virtue of conquest like an Emperor.  Rather, He is chosen and anointed by God the Father.   

Now at first blush, the difference may not mean a lot to you.  But when you really think about it, well, being a King versus any of those other things is quite profound.    You see, being the King means that Christ is sovereign.  He is above all else and first and foremost as Paul says.  No one else either compares to Him nor can they ever compare to Him.  Rather, He is all of the things that Paul talks about in the letter to the Colossians. 

Christ is not King by virtue of acceptance by the people or the leaders of the people or by conquest.  That’s why David was anointed King.  But it is different with Christ.  He is the absolute King not subject to any other authority- not to the people, the leaders, or conquered slaves.   

The fact that Christ the King is above everything else implies that God’s creation is a hierarchy.  We know that there are angels and that angels are in a hierarchy.  We don’t know what else God created outside of our universe.  But the rest of creation in our Universe has levels within it; it is a hierarchy.  To drive that message home, God created hierarchies all over the place for us to see.  The animal Kingdom is a hierarchy; the plant kingdom is a hierarchy.   Even the Universe is a hierarchy of galaxies with dependent stars with planets subject to them.  So, we know the Kingdom of God to be a hierarchy as well.  

Now we are used to the phrase that “All men are created equal”.  But you know what- that is not really true if everything is a hierarchy, is it?  What is true is that God created each one of us as He saw fit.  God does not create junk; so everything He created is good, and everything he created was created for a purpose.  God uniquely “gifted” each of us with the life that we have in the times that we were born into; we are all pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle that is in God’s mind.   

We are all of equal value to God; but that doesn’t mean that we are all created with equal value in our frame of reference because God made some of us more talented than others in the eyes of our peers.   

You see, the reality of who we really are is only known to God.  We are like icebergs floating on the sea to the world.  To God, he sees all of us, including the potential we will have in the Kingdom of God; the only thing the world sees is the part that sticks above the surface.   God sees the part below the surface as well.   

Now I mention all of this because we need to be good subjects.  We need to recognize Christ as the King, like the so-called good thief in the Gospel rather than scoff at God and his ways like the bad thief did.  Good subjects submit to their King without question.  They do the will of the King at all times and they accept the role they were given without coveting something more for themselves.   

In return, like any good sovereign, the King will protect and serve His loyal subjects and provide for their common good.  But God is so much more than the best of benevolent Kings from of old, that His subjects will enjoy everlasting happiness and joy.

Life is about learning to live the life God intended for us; to be happy with the gifts and blessings that we have; learning to avoid comparing ourselves to others; and learning to share for the common good.  Life is about becoming loyal subjects of Christ the King.  If we trust Him and submit to Him; ultimate happiness will be ours our forever. 

The Beatitudes As a Way of Life

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

Westminster Towers Ecumenical Service

Matthew 5: 1-12

Deacon Larry Brockman

Well, did all of you enjoy your Halloween last Friday!  Was this place full of carved pumpkins, pumpkin spice latte, spooky skeletons, and costume parties?  Did you know that Halloween is now the second largest holiday in the US?    But do you also know what Halloween is really all about? 

Well more than a thousand years ago, in the 600’s, Pope Boniface IV decided that Christians needed a day to honor the dead saints.  He called it “All Hallows Day” and it began the night before on “All Hallows Eve.”  That morphed into Halloween.    In the 900’s, the date was moved from May 13 to November 1st by Pope Gregory III.  That’s because the Europeans were used to honoring the dead at the beginning of the Winter period.  Originally, the people were encouraged to dress up to look like the different saints in the church.  These were the original Halloween costumes.   

But there were still a lot of pagans around and it seems they also honored their dead around the same time.  On or about that time of the year, they believed that the ghosts of the dead arose and they could walk about amongst us.   

So society has unfortunately merged what was a wonderful tribute to the saints with some of these old pagan customs including dressing up like witches and ghosts and heaven knows what all!   

Today, I want to talk to you about the saints, not all the hype about Halloween.  Because that’s what all All Saints Day is really about and that’s what all of us are interested in, right.  Like the famous song, “When the Saints Go Marching In”, says: “I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in” \ and I’m sure all of you do too.   

It happens that when our different churches celebrate All Saints Day on November 1,they all pretty much use the same bible readings.  Our Gospel reading today is one of them, the Beatitudes.  But one of the other readings is from Revelation 7,which describes the gathering of all of the saints in heaven in these words:  “After this I had a vision of a great multitude which no-one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb’”. 

Yes, all the saints are gathered around God and his throne in heaven.  And I am sure all of us want to be in that number when we die.   

But let me ask this.  Just what is a saint?  We have Saints like Joseph and Peter and Paul and all the Apostles.  They were all called to a very special life directly. And we have Saints like Francis, Ignatius of Loyola, Dominic, and Anthony of the desert; and Saints like Theresa of Calcutta and Theresa of Lisieux and Catherine of Sienna.  They heard God’s call; gave up everything, and I mean everything, and dedicated the rest of their lives to God.  And we have Saints like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Jerome who did wonderful things in preaching and teaching and putting the bible together.  The Church recognizes all these people for their special holiness and they were all honored by being named saints.   

But is that what it means to be a saint?  Is that what we have to do to be in that number, something truly exceptional?  Do we all have to give up everything and dedicate our lives to prayer and the Lord.   

Now I know that all of us here are making an honest effort to seek and live by God’s will, but that’s not what I mean.  I mean do we have to be people who separate from society like the people mentioned above did, giving up family and everything else, in order to be saints.    And then consider this.  Do any of us feel a little uneasy or guilty when you read about some of these saints because you have not done something exceptional?  Especially all of us here who are a little older and most of our life has happened?     

Well, you should know that a saint is any person who lives a holy and righteous life.  All those in heaven are saints, not just those our churches honor with the special title.  Saints hear the will of God for themselves and live their lives accordingly.  Most saints are regular folks just like you and me.   

In fact, I think it is important to recognize that man’s primary calling on earth comes from Genesis.  It was given right after man was created and right after the first man was blessed.  In Genesis 1:28, God said “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.”  That’s what almost all of us are called to do.  We are called to married life, to have children, and to be fruitful.   

Most of us don’t have any problem at all with the multiply part, do we?  But what does it really mean to be fruitful?  Well, fruitful is the means by which we “subdue the earth”.  We are fisherman, farmers, soldiers, policeman, engineers, teachers, nurses, caretakers, musicians, artists, whatever.  We are what makes the world go around and provide for food, water, shelter, entertainment and the well-being of our brothers and sisters.  The world cannot exist without us; neither can God’s will be accomplished.  We are responding to the specific talents and gifts and interests and environment we were born into.  That’s what most of us were called to do.   

Sometimes we feel inspired to pursue things of interest to us, and we do;  God fills our lives with circumstances that we must deal with; and we do  But most of us have not heard a special call like the ones the named saints above heard.  And that is OK.   

You see, God doesn’t make junk.  God lovingly formed each and every one of us.  It was his will to place us in this time and place, and with the people we were placed with.  And God showed no favorites in his creative mode.  He gives each of us our unique talents, and judges each of us one-on-one based on what we have done with them.  We are not compared with anyone else.   

And that brings us to our Gospel today.  You see, just like there will be a great crowd gathered around the throne in heaven as in the description in Revelation; there was a great crowd gathered around Jesus in our Gospel reading.  Jesus gave all of those folks in the crowd, the ordinary people, the saints in the making, their marching orders.  We know those marching orders as the Beatitudes.  They instruct us on what we should do rather than should not do, which the Mosaic law emphasized.  Let’s look at each one carefully.  

Let us recognize that the words blessed and happy are both used, depending on the translation.  So, when one is blessed, they are truly righteous with God, and at the same time, they are happy.   

First, we hear, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  Now it is easy to focus on the word “poor” here.  But it is “poor in spirit”, not financially poor Jesus is talking about.  All kinds of commentary has been written about this.  And the general sense is that Jesus is referring to people who defer in spirit.  The poor in spirit are those who recognize their own limitations. Their focus is not on letting their own spirit dominate them as if they were a god unto themselves.  Rather, we must all come to recognize that our life force is a free gift from God.  And so we need to defer our spirit and our inclinations to the will of God to fully experience that gift.  We will be happier if we defer to God’s spirit because we will not lust after the things of this world.  They cannot bring us ultimate happiness; only God can do that.  For those who are poor in spirit, the kingdom of God is theirs.  And that is the happiness we all ultimately seek.   

Next, “Blessed are they who mourn”.  This seems strange at first but think of it this way.  Virtually all of us strive for the right thing, but somehow fall short.  That is something to mourn about.  It is a recognition of our own humanity; our own limitations.  Try as we might, we fail in some ways of weakness over and over.  But it is important that we recognize that, and so mourn over it.  Jesus is telling us that if we are sincere in our mourning, we will be comforted.  It’s the same as our relationship with children, isn’t it?  No matter how many times they mess up, we are there to comfort them and tell them it will be OK.   

Then, “Blessed are the meek”.  Those who are meek quietly submit to the will of the Lord.  When God points them in a direction, they go that way- like the person who must care for a sick child or an elderly parent.  Such people may be besieged by lots of influences and temptations along the way, but they quietly hold fast to their calling.  They will inherit the land,  This is as if to say that even though some of the things of the world seemed to pass them by   while they held firm to their purpose, ultimately they will inherit “the land”, a place with the Lord.  And that is what is really important.   

Now true Christians not only follow their instincts on what the Lord is calling them to do, but they also seek God, they are proactive.  So “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied”.  Indeed, those who seek God spiritually in prayer will be rewarded.  And this also applies to hungering and thirsting for justice.  So, we cannot be complacent in a largely secular world.  We have to be meek; but we also have to hold firm and seek justice for ourselves and others.  Jesus is telling us we will be rewarded for our efforts if we do.   

I am pleased that after the many years of right-to-life activity here in Orlando the proactive pressure worked, because the Planned Parenthood clinic on Tampa Avenue closed.  This was Justice for the most vulnerable members of society- the unborn.   

And in the midst of all of the trials of life, each of us has been hurt- hurt by family members, employers, neighbors and friends.  Just as we expect God to be merciful to us in the face of our failings, so also we need to be merciful to those who offend and hurt us.  Hence, “Blessed are the merciful”.  In a sense, those who are merciful achieve a special level of happiness.  Because they let go, rather than hang on to anger and hurt.  Holding on to anger and hurt never makes one happy.  Jesus says that merciful people will receive mercy.  Indeed, God is merciful to those who show mercy to others.   

Next we have “Blessed are the clean of heart”.  Ah, yes, the heart.  Where your heart is, so also is your treasure.  The heart is how we really feel about things.  It’s where our real relationship with God is.  We cannot hide or deceive God, who knows what is in our hearts.  And things that derail the purity of our hearts are lusts for things of this world like power, money, relationships, things.  If these are the focus of our hearts, rather than our relationship with God, then God knows it.  Also, people would be uncomfortable looking into the eyes of an all good God in the face of their own impurity.  But those who are pure of heart are ready to see God.  

 “Blessed are the peacemakers”.  That’s a really tough role, isn’t it, being a peacemaker.  We all tend to want our side; understanding how to defer to another is hard.  And for those things that go on around us, well, it’s prudent to just stand by and let other people deal with a situation.  Why get involved?  Well, because we are called to be peacemakers- in our families, in our jobs, in our community.    When people know you are the real thing; if they know that you are pure of heart and not biased, then they will honor you when you fill the role of peacemaker.  

Those who are peacemakers are truly the children of God, they are a reflection of God himself, projecting love and a true spirit of kindness., just like their Father.   

And lastly, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness” or “for my sake”.  Indeed, a real Christian cannot go through life without being attacked by the devil and his minions.  It’s a multi-pronged attack of ridicule, insult, avoidance, pain, suffering, and all kinds of evil.  Because when you are doing the right thing, you are an obstruction to the plans of those who run the world.     

But the reality of life is that all of us will suffer.  Jesus Christ suffered a horrible passion and death for the sake of his Father and for the sake of righteousness.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called and destined to experience the same.  But this life is only a stepping-stone to eternity.  And those who hold firm will be rewarded with the Kingdom of God.   

Earlier this week I visited a man in the hospital who had a horrible disease.  He was a man of great faith.  He was covered with festering sores all over his body and was in constant pain- pain that no medication could control.  This condition has lasted now for 2 years.  He knows he will not survive; but he is having a problem dealing with the pain and the effect on his family.  I could do nothing but pray for him, this modern-day Job.   But then I suggested he offer it up to God and told him he would constantly be in my prayers.   

In one way or another, all of us have to deal with pain and suffering.  It is part of life; and its duration can be indeterminate.  God tests those he loves; and sometimes we cannot know why.  But the Kingdom of God is there for all who endure this suffering with dignity and grace.  And that Kingdom will be ours for ever and ever.   

And so, the Beatitudes are a script for those of us who live normal lives.  Se are all called by God to do his will and to live life to the fullest.  God loves each of us.  None of us has been favored by God when he created us.  Rather, we were all created in his image and likeness, and each one for our own special life with our own talents and limitations.  Some people are called by God for special tasks.  But the overwhelming majority of us are called to “Be fruitful and multiply.”   

When Jesus Christ looked out over the massive crowd in Galilee, some 5000 families, He preached to them how they should live their lives.  He preached the Beatitudes to them.  It is Jesus’ script for how they could be happy and achieve everlasting life with him.  And it is just as applicable to us today. 

The Crown of Righteousness!

Sunday, October 27th, 2019

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sir 35: 12-14, 16-18; 2 Tim 4: 6-8, 16-18; Lk 18: 9-14

Deacon Larry Brockman

Righteousness!  It is one of those things we hear about often but fail to understand fully.  Just what does it mean to be righteous?  

The Hebrew roots of the word righteousness relate to the justice that God gives those people who conform to his covenant with Him.  So, the Jews of Jesus time would have understood that the righteous are those who deserve justice because they conform to the law.   

In the New Testament, Paul talks often about righteousness.  There, the word means those who live in conformity to God’s will.  They are “right” with God.  There is a subtle difference, and that is emphasized in our readings today.  

 First of all, righteousness calls for personal humility.  I am talking about true humility.  A truly humble person knows who they are.  That is what we hear from St. Paul this morning.  We hear about who he really was.  Paul was dedicated to the conversion of the Gentiles.  He was knocked off his horse, blinded by God, and told to change his ways.  He was told not to persecute the believers of Jesus Christ, but rather, to preach Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.  Paul, who was an important Rabbi in the Pharisaic Jewish Movement, dropped everything and dedicated the rest of his life to preaching Christ.  Paul knew who he was, a servant of Christ, called to do his bidding as a travelling preacher.  In today’s second reading, we find him in chains in a Roman prison at the end of his life. 

While it may seem that Paul is anything but humble about his righteousness, these circumstances and the life of Paul shed a different light.  Paul is simply recognizing who he was.  Paul knew that age and his commitment to the Lord had taken its toll.  He sensed that life in this world was almost over for him.  Paul was not comparing himself to others; just recognizing who he really was called to be.   

Then, in the Gospel we hear about a second aspect of true humility.  The parable that Jesus tells makes it very clear that we need to concentrate on our own faults rather than compare ourselves to others.  It may actually have been true that the Pharisee kept the law literally.  He may not have sinned the way he attacks others in his statement.  He probably didn’t commit adultery; he probably wasn’t dishonest; and he probably wasn’t greedy.  But that isn’t what would make him righteous.  This would have shocked the crowd; because the essence of Judaism at the time was literal compliance with the law.  

What would make him righteous is whether he responded to God’s calls to him.  Did this man hear that little voice inside his heart that prompted him in every day life?  Did he find out who God really wanted him to be, and then follow that plan?  From Jesus’ description, this man was focused on the law, and judged what others did rather than what he was called to do.  He wasn’t motivated to dig deep down in his heart and recognize his failings like the Tax Collector was.   

Sirach talks this morning about God and Old Testament Justice.  His opening statement is very important.  He says: “God knows no favorites”.  It just simply has to be that way with God.  God created each person out of love.  God loves each and every one of the people he creates the same.  Just like we love our children equally.  God has designed each of us the way he intended for us to be.  Unfortunately, not all of God’s children learn to know and serve God; just like not all of our children respond to the best efforts of their parents.   

Our relationship with God is ultimately one on one; it is not relative to others.  Only God is aware of all of the gifts and incumbrances that each person He created is dealing with.  God will justify each of us on the basis of the gifts he gave us.  God’s judgment is based on the one on one relationship we have with Him.  And in your relationship with God, He only cares about how you are responding to him, not how you are doing relative to others.  That certainly comes across in the parable in the Gospel.   

Not only that, but God is only interested in what happens going forward.  His mercy is unlimited; He forgives us for everything and anything as long as we confess, believe in him, and vow to repent. 

The good news is that all of us are called to righteousness with God.  From the beginning God sent us all out into the world to “be fruitful and multiply”.  That’s what most of us were called to do.  To go out into the world, raise our own in the image and likeness of God, and be fruitful.  That means providing for our families and using the talents and gifts God gave us.   

And at any time during our life, we can reconcile ourselves with God.  All of us are called to the personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  All of us are called to be like the Tax Collector.  The Tax Collector was one of the most hated persons in first century Jewish society. a person thought to be complicit with the Romans, inherently dishonest, greedy, and far from the law.  All of us are sinners like the Tax Collector in our own way.  But if we truly know who we are and were called to be, we recognize the things we have done wrong and are willing to change going forward, then all of us can become righteous with God.

At the end of life, if we have that personal relationship with Christ, and we maintain our true humility.  then just like Paul, all of us can expect the crown of righteousness. 

Points of No Return

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19: 16b, 19-21; Gal 5: 1, 13-18; Lk 9: 51-62

Deacon Larry Brockman

A point of no return.  That’s what Jesus is talking about.   

We saw it demonstrated in our first reading about Elijah and Elisha.  Elisha was chosen by the Lord to replace Elijah.  He had a choice- to follow or not.  But if he followed, he would pass beyond a point of no return.  Because once we find God’s will for us, there is no going back and forth from our calling to our former way of life.  God wants us to make a commitment and follow his will for us without reservation.   

Each of us goes through an initial stage in life when life is all about us.  It is natural and a consequence of our human nature.  And during our lives, we go through transitions that lead us to a more and more mature state.  First, we are infants, then toddlers, then children, then young adults.  And at each stage in our development, we learn to move beyond the earlier stage and not look back.  Each such stage in life transitions us to less preoccupation with ourselves, and more interaction with either the world around us or the people around us or both.   

Then, most of us fall in love and marry someone special- someone that we accept just the way they are.  We are willing to sacrifice ourselves at the expense of our loved one.  We are in love with them.   

And because we are made in the image and likeness of God, that love propagates itself in the children we bear which is like the Spirit of God that reaches out and extends beyond God to touch others.  

And so, we transition to yet another stage- the parenting stage in which our love extends not just to our parents and spouse but now to children and eventually grandchildren.  And as we transition, there is no looking back. We are on a continual progression of growth that moves us beyond.   We cannot afford to look back; we need to move forward.   

Well in parallel with these human growth stages, we also experience spiritual growth as well.  Initially our experiences are limited to this world.  But God touches each of us continually with His Spirit.  We become more and more aware of the beauty that has been forged by our creator.  And we consider the limits of worldly existence.  All of us come to the conclusion that we will die some day.  All of our ancestors have, and we are no different.   

And so, we seek the ultimate purpose in life.  Is there an author to life?  What is my relationship with Him?  Will I live beyond this life, and in what way?  Many of us seek more and more knowledge about God.  Hopefully, we progress beyond knowledge about God and begin to feel God’s presence in our lives.   

As we develop that relationship with our creator, we are moved by His Spirit.  And that Spirit moves us to seek and find God’s will for us.  Most of us discover that we are already in the middle of God’s plan for us because we have been blessed with our spouse; with certain talents, with certain limitations, and with certain desires.  These things are all well and good.    But then, and at varying times in our lives, we sense that God has something special in mind for us.  We are called by him for something out of the ordinary for us.  We are called to put aside the goals that we have for ourselves, and endeavor to help others.  For most of is, it is not a life changing call; for others it is.   

But whenever we follow that call- to be there for a friend in need; to care for a sick loved one; to teach Sunday School; to volunteer in some capacity; to visit the sick or the interned; or to do something truly extraordinary as Mother Theresa was called to do, we cannot look back.  We need to look forward and focus on God’s nudge lest we derail ourselves. 

That’s what Elijah did; whereas the man in the Gospel is holding back just a little.  We cannot hold back because life is full of points of no return.   

The ultimate point of no return is our death in this world.  For those who have not looked back; there will be a guaranteed place in the kingdom of God for them. 

What Is Heaven Like?

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

6th Sunday of Easter

Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29; Re 21: 10-14, 22-23; John 14: 23-29

Deacon Larry Brockman

Just what is heaven like?  Well, the Book of Revelation tells us something about that.  Amongst all the unfamiliar symbolism that John uses a good portion of the book of Revelation describes the indescribable transcendental state of heaven in the only words that John could muster that somehow did it justice.  Part of that description is in our second reading.   

I invite you to reflect for a moment without distraction on what we just heard.  First, John sees the holy city of Jerusalem, which descends down from heaven.  Later on John says that God will make his dwelling place with us, so the holy city of Jerusalem is our heaven.    Next, John says that the city gleams with the splendor of God.  He describes the splendor of that gleaming in terms of the reflection we see from a precious stone, like jasper; and he says that it is clear as crystal.  The glory of God is dazzling, sparkling, clear as crystal, and bright.  It will be captivating!   

Then, John describes four walls.  The walls are sturdy, built on stone foundations; and they are tall.  This means that heaven is protected; that it is isolated from darkness and outside influences; that it is impregnable.  There is no devil; there is no war or bickering; there is no pain, no deception, no misery in heaven; only peace, joy, and the glory of God.    

But the walls also mean that entry to heaven is limited.  One has to enter through one of the 12 gates guarded by angels, with 3 gates on each of the four sides.  John identifies the twelve tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles with each of the gates, signifying that both the chosen people, Israel, and the converts of the New Testament may enter.  One has to be a believer and must have survived a period of trial and judgment.   

Next we find out there is no temple in this city, no church within it.  There is no need for a temple, because God himself is there.  And there is no need for the light of the moon or the sun or the stars because the glory of God illuminates the place.   

How do we get there, to heaven?  Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that “Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him”.  That is how we get to heaven- by loving God and keeping His word.  For then God will come to us, like the holy city Jerusalem descending from heaven.

Jesus then goes on to offer us the help of the Holy Spirit in our crusade.  He calls the Holy Spirit the “Advocate”.  He says the Spirit will teach us everything we need to know.  Indeed, those who love God and sincerely desire to follow him will be moved by God’s advocate, the Spirit.  He will inspire us to know and serve God.   

Then Jesus offers us peace.  But it is not the peace of this world.  Rather, it is peace in the heart.  It is the kind of peace one has when they are totally reconciled with God- satisfied that they are doing the right thing, satisfied that they have resisted the temptations of self-gratification when they are called to serve; feeling in harmony with God’s will for them no matter what might be going on around them in a tumultuous world.  That is the kind of peace that Jesus wishes on us.  It is the kind of peace that circumstances and time cannot take away from us.   

Easter is still upon us.  We first experience the Easter joy of knowing that the resurrection is real; and that we have the opportunity to be resurrected just like Jesus.  In its wisdom, the Church uses the later part of the Easter season to describe the coming joy in the Kingdom of God.

We have all experienced just a little bit of that today   

Real Peace

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Divine Mercy Sunday

Acts 5: 12-16; Rev 1: 9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20: 19-31

Deacon Larry Brockman

“Peace be with you”.  Those were the first words of Jesus to his Apostles in his post-Resurrection appearance to them.   

Think about that for just a minute.  Jesus had been arrested, tried, tortured, and executed by an angry mob of Jews who had been whipped into a frenzy by the Jewish leaders.  The disciples were in fear that they would be pursued as well because the body of Jesus was missing from the tomb and they were the likely suspects!  They were terrified that the authorities would come after them.  And so, they were huddled together hiding from the authorities in the upper room.   

Jesus packs a big message in those first simple words to the disciples.  He is telling them to relax, and not to worry; to be at peace even with all that was going on.  Why? Because here he is, alive and well in the resurrected state.  Such a thing had never happened in the history of the world, and it will never happen again.  But by seeing and believing in the power of that resurrection miracle, a power that transcends any earthly power, Jesus is telling his Apostles to trust in him because no matter what, they will be given peace, real peace.  It was essentially a call to courage   

Then in his next words, Jesus sends the Apostles forward on their historical mission to be his witnesses and to convert the world because Jesus vests them with the power to forgive sins or not forgive them. This power also transcends any earthly power, because it is the gate by which one transcends this life to everlasting life or death; heaven or hell.  And so, Jesus is commanding his Apostles to go forth and exercise that power; to preach the Gospel.  This was going to take some courage, real courage.   

The first reading tells us that the Apostles were up to that challenge!  They were gathered in the Solomon’s Portico in clear view of the authorities.  Acts tells us very plainly that “None of the other’s dared join them”.  Indeed, the Apostles had been changed by Jesus visit and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were fired up; ready to go; they believed with all their hearts; they had real Faith; they were courageous.  But the others were still afraid.  You can’t really blame them, after all, the Romans and the Jews were incredibly brutal to Jesus. 

They were afraid because of a lack of Faith.  They are like us- we have not seen; we are called to believe without seeing.   

And so, we have the story of Thomas.  Thomas actually put his fingers into Jesus’ wound.  After that Thomas says “My Lord and my God”.  Can you just imagine as a human being realizing that you are standing in front of God himself!  That realization flipped Thomas to a firm believer, a man of Faith.  But Jesus words to Thomas echo across thousands of years: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed”.  And that is what all of us are called to do.  We are all called to believe in the whole story of Christianity without having been there; without having seen first-hand. We are called to faith.  And not only that, we are called to have courage and to be at peace no matter what is going on around us.  That’s the essence of Jesus command “Peace be with you”.   

So, when you are attacked for your Faith; when someone ridicules you for following the Gospel by keeping the commandments and faithfully worshipping God; and when you suffer the consequences of your own personal “crosses to bear”- like illnesses, losses, infirmities, loneliness, and every other painful state we find ourselves in-that it is all worth it, because if you believe, really believe, then the Peace of God rests on you.  And that peace of God rests in his promise to save all those who believe in him, such that they will all inherit the Kingdom. 

We Are a Little of Both Sons in the Prodigal Son Story

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

4th Sunday of Lent

Josh 5:9a, 10-12; 2 Cor 5: 17-21; Lk 15: 1-3, 11-32

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today Paul tells us “The old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”    Yes, Christ brought with him a new way; a new approach.  Gone are the days of a strict accounting according to the letter of the Law; gone are the days of atonement for sin with animal sacrifices and cereal offerings; gone are the days when we believed that we were right with God by virtue of our own works, as if these earthly offerings, symbolic of the work of our hands, could atone to almighty God for our misuse of his gifts to us.   

This old way has been replaced by the ministry of reconciliation that Christ lived on our behalf.  What matters now is not atonement with external sacrifices.  What matters is our belief that God sent his only son to suffer and die for our offenses; and that this is the only acceptable sacrifice in God’s eyes.  What matters is acceptance of God’s message of repentance in our hearts, and a spirit of humble contrition for our past offenses.  What matters to God is that we have turned away from all of our previous selfishness and independence.  What matters most to God is that we live in his Love and obedience from this moment on and stick to that.  And that is what the parable of the prodigal son is all about.  

If we are honest, there is a some of both of the sons in this story in each of us.  Which of us can say that we have never walked away from God’s law, and in the process, walked away from his protection as well?  Which of us can deny that we have tried to have it our way, tried to call all the shots in our lives?  It happens to almost all of us in the prime of life when everything seems to be going our way.  Prosperity and independence of means foster that kind of self-centeredness.  When we feel we are on the top of the world, comfortable, making lots of money, enjoying success, and in control; well, it is then that we mostly just pay lip service to God.  It’s as if we don’t need Him.  

The younger son wanted to be in control; he wanted to do things his way; he didn’t think he needed the Father.  And so, he had it his way.  But it didn’t last long, did it?  His assets and resources were limited; and he squandered them because he lacked wisdom.  So, then came the reality of life; the consequences for living according to his own will.  For the younger son, this meant utter poverty and hunger.  Fortunately, he came to his senses and went back to the Father with humility and contrition.   

Something always goes wrong for us too- the loss of our job, some great financial loss, a personal betrayal, an illness.  And all of a sudden, we are reminded that we really are out of control.  And in fact, we recognize that we never ever were in control.    Just like the prodigal son, the sensible ones amongst us come crawling back to God, recognizing that all that we are and all that we have were gifts from God.  And in all humility, we ask Him for forgiveness and another chance just as the prodigal son did with his Father.   

God loves all of us so much, that he is constantly waiting for our return to him.  He is waiting there with an offer of sonship- signified by the ring the Father places on the son’s finger; with a robe that signifies his willingness to offer us protection against future temptation; and with a special food, the Eucharist, which is the best God can give us- a bit of himself, just like the fatted calf was the best the Father had to offer his son in a feast.   

But there is also a little bit of the older son in each of us too.  Through it all, we often view that we have been faithful compared to others.  We neither have compassion for the failings of others; nor do we feel joy when they repent.  Rather, we are comparing our righteousness to their sinfulness, and we can be upset over the prospect that someone else with their great sin might be rewarded by God more than us.  How quickly do we forget how perilous our own relationship with God is.  Rather, we should recognize that the only thing that should matter to us is whether we are in a right relationship with God. 

Lent is our opportunity to change ourselves for the better.  It is a time to recognize that the old ways must pass away, and the new ways must be embraced.  Lent is a time for us to focus on ourselves and our relationship with God.  Lent is a time for us to be the best of who we can be no matter what our neighbor is doing. 

What is Lent All About

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Wednesday Ecumenical Service

Luke 4: 1-19

Deacon Larry Brockman

Lent!  It’s that time of year 40 days before Easter when some people give up chocolate or beer or any one of a number of things.  Why?  What’s it really all about?   

Well this Gospel talks very clearly about it.  You see, Jesus lived the very first Lent.  After his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, our Gospel today tells us that, filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus went into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, and that he ate nothing in those days.  That means that Jesus fasted for 40 days.  And why did he go into the desert?  To pray and reflect on his life.  Jesus felt the need to go into the Wilderness and reflect on his life!   

At the end of the reading today, we see that Jesus’ entire life changed after those 40 days.  Rather than being a humble neighborhood Carpenter in the sleepy village of Nazareth in the Hill Country, as Jesus had been for some 20 years of his life- 20 years, Jesus emerged as a teacher of a new way of life.  He visited all the Synagogues in the area and preached a message of repentance and renewing one’s relationship with God.  And all who heard him were moved by his message.   

Then in his home town, he made his mission abundantly clear.  For in Nazareth, Jesus read words from the scroll of Isaiah.  Those words described his mission., the mission of the one and only Messiah- the Christ.  And Jesus boldly told his own people that he was that Messiah; that he was fulfilling the prophecy in their own hearing.  Jesus life had indeed changed forever.  

So, Jesus emerged changed from his 40-day Lenten retreat, for that 40 days prepared him for what God wanted him to do.  Jesus emerged with the understanding that he was the Son of God; and Jesus emerged with knowledge of God’s will for him as a human person.  Jesus was ready for the mission to preach, suffer, die, and be resurrected; all to bring each one of us who follow him everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.   

Lent is simply that time in the Church Calendar when each of us is called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  We are called to prepare ourselves for the resurrection and everlasting life.  We are called to spend time “in the desert” fasting, praying, and resolving to find our mission, God’s will for us.  We are called to look forward; not backwards.  We are called to leave our sin and imperfections behind, and to be transformed by that desert experience.     

By the year 300, Lent had emerged in the Christian Church as a time of penance and reflection for the 40 days leading to Easter.  There were very strict fasting rules imposed by the early Church.  In fact, the original fast rules only allowed one meal a day at Noon, and no meat was allowed at that meal.  These rules have been greatly relaxed in virtually all the congregations that still practice Lent formally.  But the need for Lent still exists.     

Oh, before I forget it, let me mention why Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.  Some of you can and probably have done the math.  If Lent is 6 weeks and 4 days long, that’s actually 46 days.  But because Sunday was always considered a day of celebration in commemoration of the Resurrection , the Church exempted the six Sundays of Lent from the Lenten fast.  Also, the word Lent is rooted in an Anglo-Saxon word that means “Spring”.  This is because Spring is the emergence of new life, a new beginning.  That is what our Lenten experience should do for us.  It should help us to leave old sinful ways behind and emerge refreshed in spirit for a new beginning.  While this is the root of the English term we use for the Season of Lent, the fact is that in most other languages, the word used for Lent is a derivative of the word 40; the emphasis is that the renewal is spread over 40 days.     

So, Lent has been part of the Church calendar since the very first centuries of the Church.  Let’s take a closer look at what happened in the Gospel this morning, and perhaps that will give us a few clues about how to spend our Lenten season.   

First, let me describe a few historical things about why Jesus did what he did.  Some of you may be familiar with the book of Jonah.  Almost everybody knows about Jonah and the whale.  But there’s more to the story than that.   

You see, Jonah tried to run away from God because he didn’t want to follow God’s orders to him to prophesy to the people of Nineveh.  Jonah had been told to march through the huge city of Nineveh and to preach a call for repentance by the people because the people of Nineveh had sinned greatly.  Jonah was afraid to march through Nineveh and make that proclamation; and what’s more, he detested the people of Nineveh over the great evil that came from within it.  So, he fled on a ship; but was thrown overboard by the crew when he revealed his secret.  You see, the crew blamed Jonah for the terrible storm that hit the ship because he had angered the Lord.  It was then that Jonah was swallowed by the whale.  From within the belly of the whale, Jonah makes a fervent cry for mercy to the Lord, and a promise to do God’s will.  After 3 days and three nights, Jonah was spat forth on dry land by the whale.   

Then Jonah did, in fact, march through the city and preach repentance.  He told the people that they had just 40 days before Nineveh would be destroyed.   But alas, what did the people do?  According to the book of Jonah, the people put on sackcloth and fasted; and the King of Nineveh arose from his throne, put on sackcloth, and urged the people to repent.  He issued a decree that all the citizens should repent of their evil fast.  And the people did precisely that. 

Meanwhile, Jonah climbed a hill overlooking the city, and awaited the destruction of Nineveh.  It never came because the people had repented; they had changed their lives and had shown humility and contrition for their offenses.   

Now I am sure the symbolism in this story hasn’t escaped you.  The people had just 40 days to repent.  They put on sackcloth, an itchy, horrible irritating self-mortifying way to walk around.  And they fasted, a common practice associated with penance.    Jonah was in the whale for 3 days and three nights.

Later in Jewish history, these elements were copied by many Jewish people who were looking to reflect on their lives.  They would dress in sackcloth, fast, and go into the wilderness for 40 days to reflect.  In fact, that is precisely what John the Baptist did before he emerged for his Baptismal ministry.  And by the way, those who were planning to enter the early Church, the Catechumenates, were required to put on sackcloth and fast beginning Ash Wednesday!  They maintained that practice during all of Lent.  

And so, it is not surprising that Jesus, who was a devout Jew, would do the same thing- go into the desert for 40 days and wear sackcloth and fast while he reflected on his life.   

Notice that the Gospel this morning mentions Jesus’ fast explicitly.  It says He ate nothing.  Why is fasting considered a requirement and what value does it have?  Well, many mystics have commented on how much fasting helps one to concentrate, to put one in the right mode for reflection.  I am sure most of you experience that mid-afternoon slumber that comes after a fine lunch.  It does make it hard to concentrate without a nap first!  Indeed, there is validity to the Mystics assertion to be sure.   

But there are symbolic reasons for fasting as well.  Consider this- Adam and Eve were asked to do a partial fast.  They were not to eat of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Sin came into the world as a result of the fact that Adam and Eve broke this partial fast.  And so, when we fast, we display a measure of self-discipline that is in the spirit of God’s desire for our first parents.  We are demonstrating that we will self-sacrifice something in our life as a symbol of our intent to comply with God’s will, not our own.   

Now today, I think that it is appropriate to talk about other kinds of fasting rather than just fasting from food because the reason that most of us can’t find the time to reflect on our lives during the season of Lent  Is that we are just too hung up on activities in our lives.  We get stuck in a routine that eats up all our time.  Reading fiction, surfing the internet, Facebook, checking e-mails, watching TV, playing cards, various clubs, and on and on.  These activities can sap our time so that we don’t have the time, and in some cases, we don’t have the energy to reflect and repent of our ways.  So, if you decide to make a Lenten Fast resolution, consider fasting from something that robs you of the time you really need for prayer and reflection.   

Notice that the Gospel this morning is silent on how Jesus prayed and reflected.  Only this do we know for sure:  that Jesus did his 40 days in the Wilderness or Desert; that he went there to pray; and that he was tempted by the devil.   

Now going into the wilderness is an extremely valuable tidbit of information.  You see, that means Jesus needed to go to a place where there would be no distractions.  Our desert can be the sanctity and solitude of our own homes or rooms.  But of course, that means we turn the ringers off on our phones and cell phones; we turn the radio or TV off, and truly make an effort to reflect in silence and without distractions, because distractions are a perfect way for the devil to derail us, you can be sure.  And it is best to get into a prayer routine.  Pick a time and place every day for your prayer so that you get into a routine.  

I recently conducted 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.  So, that means we have to listen to God initiate prayer.   

You know, 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, 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 ways.  But God does speak to us through the scriptures, the word of God.  When we read scriptures, something usually leaps out at us.  That is often God’s way of asking us to reflect more on it.   

And God speaks to us in those nagging feelings you have that something is wrong in your life.  They are God calling you to reflect and change something.  Take advantage of the time and solitude you make available in Lent to ponder God’s messages for you, and then get focused for the future, focus on making your life better in God’s eyes.   

When you are done with your reflecting and prayer, hopefully you will emerge with a new Spirit of enthusiasm for life and a determination to act on God’s will for you.  In a sense, this call to action is akin to “Almsgiving”.    Any material favor done to assist the needy, and prompted by charity, is “almsgiving”.  But what is important is that we give of ourselves out of charity, whether it is time, talent, or treasure that we give.  To be sure, a generous contribution of money really helps the poor.  But our Lenten renewal is about more than that; it means giving of yourself, especially in areas that you have the time to help in; or the talent to do something that really helps someone else.  As an example, in a place like this, there can be many lonely or new people.  Extending ourselves to these people is a legitimate form of almsgiving.   

That brings us to the majority of today’s reading- the three temptations of Jesus.  Jesus’ Lenten experience was certainly not unique in that respect.  You can be sure that the devil is going to try to derail whatever progress you make in your prayer life, especially if you are resolving to make a change and improve your life.   

Notice that Jesus three temptations are at the end of the 40 days, not at the beginning or in the middle.  The devil will do or say anything to keep us from performing the will of the Father.  He wants us to focus on our own comfort and the satisfaction of our own desires above everything else.  And so, the devil attacked Jesus after he was ready to return from his Lenten experience and do his Father’s will.   

Let’s take a look at each temptation and see if they apply to us as well.  First, Jesus is prompted to turn stone into loaves of bread.  Now Jesus fast is over; the 40 days are done.  He is going to get something to eat.  But the devil is trying to test Jesus vision of what has the highest priority to him.  He is urging him to satisfy his hunger immediately by foolishly performing a miracle, as if he must have bread immediately to live.  Jesus response is clear- we do not live by earthly food alone.  This is a recognition of the fact that even before our need for food and water there is a life force that sustains us.  We need always to recognize the God given life force above our bodily needs.  We need to be in harmony with God, the provider of our life force.  That comes before any desires of the flesh- food, water, companionship, and pleasure.    

The second temptation is one of power.  The devil offers all the Kingdoms of the world- fame, power, control- all that would be given to Jesus if he would worship the devil.  Jesus response is ever so clear- “You shall worship the Lord your God; Him alone shall you serve.”    Basically, the heart of this temptation is a desire to be totally independent.  It says that we don’t need God.  Indeed, the lust for power, money, and control all indicate the desire to be self-sufficient, for security on our terms.  Our world is plagued by many people who don’t trust in the Lord; they want to be in control.  And they foolishly seek money and power and all those things the devil offered to Jesus, as a means to security.  But all these things can pass away!  

In fact, anything that serves to consume us in this way is like an idol.  It can control our lives; but it cannot give us everlasting happiness and the Kingdom of God.  But we are tempted, because we like to be in control.  

In the third temptation, Jesus is taken to the high place in the temple and is tempted to throw himself down from the heights.  The devil asserts that if Jesus is the Son of God, then the angels will come to his aid and he will not be hurt.  Jesus response is that “You shall not put the Lord your God to the Test”.   

This temptation encourages us to presume too much.  We can presume that no matter what we do, God always loves us and will save us.  We presume too much when we don’t take our sins seriously by simply saying that we believe.  Not so; for that is putting the Lord God to a test.  God gave us life, talents, and a set of rules to live life by.  He sent his son to die for us and to offer us a path to share in everlasting life.  We cannot presume that his mercy will be given to us.  It is our obligation to live our lives in such a way that we are always prepared for the day of judgment.  For after all, Faith without works is dead.   

Then, our Gospel tells us that the devil left Jesus “for a while”.   Indeed, our battle with the devil is ongoing; but it comes in increments.  It comes especially during times of weakness, like Jesus in this story.  Jesus was weak from 40 days of fasting- and weary from the harsh wilderness experience.  It is then the devil attacked him; and it is in our moments of weakness that the devil will attack us- when we are not feeling well; when we are distraught; when our defenses are down from alcohol or drugs.  In any of these or like situations, the devil will be there.  

And so, Lent is that season of the Church year in which we have the chance to follow in Jesus own footsteps in order to get ready for the Resurrection of the Lord and the Everlasting life that he offers us.  It is a time for us to practice self-discipline and self-control.  It is a time for us to break away and reflect on the meaning of our life.  It is a time for us to make a change for the better.   

We can best prepare for Easter by a regimen of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  But expect to be hounded by the devil, who is relentless in his efforts to get us to focus on self and not the Lord.   Lent can and should be a joyful experience for those who love God.  Whatever it takes to get closer to the Lord should make us joyful.  And that is what Lent is really about- a new beginning, no matter what has happened in the past.

Removing the Splinter in Our Eye

Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sirach 27: 4-7; 1 Cor 15:54-58; Luke 6: 39-45

Deacon Larry Brockman

So, how many of you have a splinter in your eye?  I don’t see anyone here that suffers from that problem.   

Of course, if I did, I would be guilty of exactly what Jesus is talking about- I would be guilty of concerning myself with the faults of my brothers and sisters rather than being concerned with my own actions and getting rid of my faults.   

You know, it is comforting to compare oneself with others who we perceive have greater faults, isn’t it?  It makes us feel better about ourselves.  It gives us an excuse for staying just the way we are rather than working to make ourselves the best possible person in God’s eyes.  

 I think that’s why scandal and gossip are so attractive to some folks.  It takes the heat off of them; they can consume themselves with judging and ridiculing others and divert attention from themselves.  And so, the world is quick to judge someone who is caught cheating on their spouse; stealing from the cookie jar; or acting irresponsibly in some situation.  And while everyone is busy echoing their outrage at this other person, our own faults get a free ride!  But God is not concerned with who we are relative to others. God is only concerned with who we are in relation to his will for us.   

Now, the irony is that all of us really do need to make judgments, only our judgments should not be condemnations; rather, they need to be discernments about the things that affect our own actions.   

Permit me to explain: Notice Sirach’s words of wisdom: ”When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks”.  You see it is the influence that the evil people in the world have when they speak out of authority that engenders real evil.  So, we do need to judge; particularly what people say.  We need to put their words and thoughts through a sieve to determine their real intention; to see their real effect; to assure that they don’t lead us astray.   

That’s what Jesus means when He says: “A good person out of the goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil.”  Perhaps an example would help.   

There’s a carefully crafted movement in our society that uses the term “Pro-choice”.  These people make their arguments from a positive perspective- a woman has the right to choose whether she has a baby or not.  Who can be against that- a woman’s right to choose?    But when you put that argument through the sieve, the truth surfaces very quickly.  First, a couple already has the right to choose making the baby or not.  So, they already made the choice.  Second, the sieve exposes the fact that other people’s rights are at stake- the baby’s rights.   

Now I use this example because it is just so clear.  And almost anyone can see how this evil is degrading society- making us more selfish; undermining the family and dulling our sense of guilt for murder.  The events in New York State and Virginia recently are dramatic evidence of all of that.     

But there are so many other subtle evils.  How do we assure we can discern them?   

Well, that’s why Jesus talks about the blind leading the blind.  In fact, consider these evils- euthanasia, pornography, drugs, and gangs.   Many people who sell such evils are blind; they have been seduced by evil and don’t even see it.  And some of most basic needs- food, clothing, and entertainment- are tainted by economic evils like chemical preservatives, slave labor, and cheap thrills.  Yet society buys their products because it is expedient.  And so in fact the blind are leading the blind because most people are not properly equipped to discern, to put their words through a sieve.   

And so what does Jesus say?  He says that “But when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.”  And that is the secret.    We must be fully trained as disciples of Christ; trained by those we can trust.   The Church has handed down the Gospels and Scriptures as well as the traditional teachings of the great Church Doctors.  That is something we can trust; that’s how we can be prepared to make proper judgments about what we hear.   

If all there is to our lives is the world and what it has to offer, then the selfish standards of the secular world would make sense.  But that is simply not true.    As Paul says in our second reading: “When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility…”,  “…then the word that is written shall come about.”  And the word that is written is everlasting life.   

Jesus leaves us with this thought: “For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.  So then be strong, fully devoted to the work of the Lord.”  And be able to discern what comes from a righteous heart.