Archive for June, 2008

On Being an Apostle

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

June 29, 2008

Saints Peter and Paul

Acts 12: 1-11; 2 Ti 4: 6-8, 17-18; Mt 16: 13-19


Dc. Larry Brockman


St. Ignatius of Loyola once said:  “Pray as if everything is up to God; and work as if everything is up to us”.  Today, we celebrate the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  These are two men who did precisely that, men who lived ordinary lives, even following their own agendas for a while.  But they were also men who heard the Lord’s call.  They were able to reconcile that call to put God first by praying constantly; but at the same time, these men were able to live life to the fullest by doing, by working courageously to accomplish God’s will for them. 


Most of us have a tendency to think that God has only a few favorites that he taps for service;  that God chooses a few special people to do great things for him, like Saints Peter and Paul in Apostolic times; like Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II in today’s times.  I don’t think that’s the case.  You see, I think God calls all of us to do his work.  Let’s examine Peter and Paul closely, because they are good examples of how God hopes all of us will respond to His call. 


The first, Peter, was of no special lineage, just a poor fisherman by trade.  And then, one day, He was asked by Jesus to follow him.  He was a man who denied his best friend, Jesus, at the most critical time in his life, not once, but three times, because he was afraid the Jews would do the same to him- arrest him and try him for treason.  And yet, Peter repented, believed in the Lord, and resolved to do the Lord’s will.  He then followed wherever the Lord led him.  Peter lived life fully with enthusiasm through much adversity as this morning’s Gospel story of his jail break demonstrates.  As the veiled threat at the end of the Gospel indicated, Peter was martyred for Christ, the very thing he feared that caused his three denials. 


Paul, a tentmaker, by trade, was a zealous Jew who was very learned in the Pharisaic tradition.  He persecuted the Lord relentlessly by leading the Jews in the early persecution of the Church.  But Paul heard the Lord’s call on the road to Damascus.  He went off for 3 years to pray and understand the Lord’s Gospel which was revealed privately to him; and then he became the great Missionary to the Gentiles.  Did you know that Paul was small in stature, skinny, and had a weak whining speaking voice?  And yet Paul’s weak and whiney voice has lasted over 2 millenia. 


Yes, both men were sinners.  Both men had limitations.  But God called them to just trust him, and let Him take over in their lives.  And so, despite their weaknesses and fears, these men did great things; not because of their own capabilities; but in spite of them.  Rather, they did great things because of God’s grace in them. 


All of you can do the same.  You can dedicate your lives to God by praying constantly, without becoming a monk; and yet, doing the work God intends for you by living life to the fullest.  It means that you let God’s grace work in your lives, and you trust in him.


St. Theresa of Avila expressed the effect of grace this way:  She thought of the soul as a garden, and the plants in the garden as virtues like humility, patience, faith, hope, and courage.  These virtues are seeds planted by God in each of our souls.  Our job is to water them with prayer, and to fertilize them with obedience, even if it means self sacrifice.  But it is God himself, who gives life to the seeds as He sees fit.  We can work without praying- in which case our souls become dry deserts with no grace flowing in them, no virtues blooming, and no satisfactory direction emerging.  Or, we can pray without working, and our souls become like a stagnant pond-  no outlet for the grace we receive.  But we can do both- both pray and live life fully.  God will activate the virtues we need to do the job he intends for us.  God will show us the way.  And generally, but not always, our work will be right where we are- our families, our jobs, our community. 


In this year of evangelization, and especially now as we enter the Jubilee year dedicated to St. Paul, I challenge all of you to pray as if everything is up to God; and work as if everything is up to you. 

Father’s Day

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

  June 15, 2008

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ex 19: 2-6a; Rom 5:6-11; Mt 9: 36-10:8

Dc. Larry Brockman

Way back in 1910, Mrs. John Dodd did something that affects all of us today.  You see, her dad, William Smart, was a civil war vet, who returned home to his farm in Spokane Washington only to find his wife had died in childbirth, bearing his 6th child.  Mr. Smart brought up the 6 children and ran the farm, too, all by himself.  It wasn’t until Mrs. Dodd grew up and had children of her own, that she fully appreciated the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising 6 children as a single parent.  The strength came from belief in God and from love; and the selflessness demonstrated that love put into action.  To show her appreciation, Mrs. Dodd organized the first “Father’s Day” in Spokane, Washington on June 19, 1910.- a special day to honor fathers who had given so much to their children in the selflessness that had been an inspiration for their children.  By 1924, Father’s Days were being celebrated throughout the country, but not all on the same day.  It wasn’t until 1966 that President Johnson signed a presidential proclamation that set Father’s Day as the 3rd Sunday of June each year.  Today, we celebrate Father’s Day.   

Now in today’s gospel, Jesus summons his disciples and sends them out to do God’s work.  to proclaim the Kingdom of God to everyone.  This image prefigures the role of the Church today.  The Church sends out Bishops and Priests and Deacons to proclaim the Kingdom of God and bring people together.  But this summons and the mission that follows it doesn’t just apply to priests, deacons and religious; it applies to all of you as well.  Only instead of being summoned to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the community at large, the Church; you are called to proclaim the Kingdom of God in your families, the domestic Church.  That’s what parents are called to do for their children, to live and proclaim the word of God in their families.   

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that Christ died for all of us, a good man dieing for the ungodly.  He says that “..only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person, one might even find the courage to die”.   But isn’t that what a good Father does for his children all the time?  Once a man becomes a father he is constantly called upon to makes sacrifices.  He works to feed and provide for his family.  He spends time being with and teaching his children.  In a sense, he dies a little to himself over and over, so that his children can have a better life.  His children represent his hopes, the happiness of his children gives him great joy.  And so, Fathers are willing to sacrifice their own wants for their children.   

And yet, there is more to Fatherhood than making those sacrifices.  First, children need Fathers who are motivated by love in all that they do.  Truly selfless motivation is the key that transmits the love.  Sometimes, that motivation isn’t recognized for what it is until much later, like it was for Mrs. Dodd.  But, that’s OK, the important thing is that love is the motivation.     

Second, children need to see that their dad’s actions are based on a solid foundation.  That foundation should be values firmly based on belief in, faith in, God.  Because it is that kind of Faith that will awaken God’s spirit in your children.  Ultimately, parents have the primary responsibility for passing on Faith.  Not the school, not the Church, not the grandparents; but the parents.  Children see how you perceive and relate to God in your life and that speaks louder than anything we can teach them as a Church.  In particular, the father has a special place in the family.  Because, as St. Paul has said, the father is the “Head” of the family.  Children look to the father to provide leadership.  Fathers who lead are a stabilizing and centering influence in their children’s lives.  They know what’s right; they say what they mean; and what they say and do is consistent with the values they preach.   

Third, children need to know that their fathers are human.  All people make mistakes, but good fathers admit it when they make mistakes.  That means saying “I’m sorry” when you are wrong.  That teaches forgiveness and compassion, virtues the world desperately needs today.     

As I look out on all of you today, I see all kinds of families.  There are fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers.  There are children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.  This is a good time to reflect on your Dad, living or dead, to recognize the acts of selflessness that your Dad made for you; to reflect on how you can be a better child, or a better Dad.   

During the American Revolution, a Frenchman of so-called “low parentage”   Named Pierre Beaumarchais played a key role in getting the French to help our revolution.  He was aware that others demeaned his family origins, but he had this to say:  “I can only reply that I never saw a man with whom I would exchange fathers”.  Do you feel that way about your Dad?