Archive for January, 2009

Taking a Stand Against FOCA

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

 

January 25, 2009

Conversion of St. Paul

Acts 9: 1-22: 1 Cor 7: 29-31 ;Mk 16:15-18

Dc. Larry Brockman

As Pope John Paul II said: “Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!”.  This is the challenge left to us as we close out this special year that was dedicated to St. Paul- to pass our faith on, and so, to strengthen it in ourselves.   

Now, we just heard Paul’s conversion story.  Here was a man who hated Christians, and voraciously persecuted them.   Even as he headed towards Damascus and was struck down, he was on a Mission to destroy the Christians there.  But, Jesus turned Paul around, and Paul became the great evangelizer of the Gentiles.  This proves that if, if you listen to the voice of God in your life, you can be converted to do His will.  All of us get those calls-  the catalyst may be a wake-up call from God like Paul had, or in the inspiration of someone in our lives, a relative or caretaker, or the messages we hear from the Church at the Liturgies.  But all of us are called to evangelize, just like Paul.  The Gospel makes that very clear:  “Go into the whole World and proclaim the Gospel to all creatures”.   

There are two related messages in today’s scripture I’d like to pursue.  First, it is never too late to convert someone, no matter how hard hearted; no matter how stubborn.  You and I can do it.  You can, with God’s help convert the most stubborn of souls.  You do it by sticking up for our faith with conviction and consistency, and through prayer- fervent prayer, even in the face of what seems like insurmountable obstacles.  There are many examples.  Take St, Augustine for example.  Augustine was a sinner who was a womanizer.  But his mother St. Monica prayed constantly for his conversion.  He was converted, as was Paul, in a moment of enlightenment sparked by a child on the seashore.  And he went on to become a great Doctor of the Church, proving that nothing is impossible for God for those who believe.     

Second, everyone is called to evangelize, and because God isn’t just kidding about everyone’s call, it is God’s intent that everyone’s work will have an effect.  Jesus words in the Gospel are not just directed to the Apostles.  They are directed towards all of you.  The example set by the early Christians- the martyrs who died for their faith; and the great early Christians who showed their love, converted Western civilization to Christianity.  So, everyone can, and does have an effect.   

Now there’s a specific mission that our Bishops are calling us all to take on this weekend.  This mission is a great example of how these two messages can be applied with good effect.  As you may have already heard, the US Bishops are conducting a postcard campaign this weekend   To fight efforts to pass the Freedom of Choice Act, or FOCA.  This act, disguised as an effort to add to our freedoms, would actually hurt freedom by any reasonable measure.  Here is what FOCA would do:  FOCA would greatly extend the reaches of Roe v. Wade in both its legislative scope and its promotion of abortion rights.  FOCA would invalidate existing laws which protect a woman from unsafe abortion clinics and require that they be given adequate information about the risks of abortive surgery.  FOCA would require federal funds to pay for abortions- your taxpayer money.  FOCA, because it would be federal legislation, would force the states to allow “partial-birth” and other late-term abortions even if there were state laws against them.  FOCA would require states to offer abortions by non-physicians.  FOCA would bar laws that protect the right of conscientious objection to abortion by a medical provider.   FOCA would deny parents an opportunity to be involved or informed about their daughter’s decision to have an abortion, even when under age. 

The new Congress has many more pro-choice advocates than before.  And so, our Bishops are rightfully concerned that abortion advocates will push for FOCA.  Yet, polls continue to show that most Americans oppose abortion.  It is a national disgrace that 4,000 babies are aborted every day in this country,  Especially since only 5% of these have been shown to be the infamous “exceptions” that we hear so much fuss about.  Exceptions like rape and incest and the health of the mother are just an excuse for the other 95% of the abortions.  So we, the majority, need to stand up and be counted.   

In addition, President Obama has vowed, yes that is vowed, to sign FOCA if it passes Congress.  Mr. Obama has said publicly that it is beyond his pay grade to determine when life begins, and has opposed measures to safeguard surviving near full term fetuses plucked out of the womb by an abortionist.  President Obama has the worst pro-life voting record in the senate.   

So, I propose a twofold mission that is a direct application of the two messages in today’s scriptures.  First, we all need to stand up for what is right, and evangelize in deed.  That you can all do, and see the effects of your actions, by participating in the Bishops postcard campaign against FOCA.  I will tell you how in just a few moments.     

Second, we need to convert Mr. Obama to a right to life advocate!  Hard as that may seem, we can do it by our prayer, and dedication to the principles of life.  We can hope, and pray, that the example set by millions of Catholics in the postcard campaign, and the efforts of many of our Evangelical and other Christian brethren who oppose this bad law, will prevail, and that Mr. Obama will see, as we firmly believe, that Life begins at conception.  But let’s not forget the power of our collective prayer.  

 When we finish this communion service today,  I have postcards for you.  These postcards are already addressed to your two senators, Martinez and Nelson and your Congressman, Alan Grayson.  All of you who are registered voters can help.  Just take one of the post card card sets and pen.  Sign these cards in the three places designated, and add your contact information in three places- address and telephone number.  Then leave the cards with me.  I will add them to our Parish’s postcards.  Our parish goal is 3000 postcard sets, by the way.  Imagine, with thousands of parishes throughout the USA, what an impact that we can all have- millions of postcards testifying to our faith and our commitment to Pro-Life.  Indeed, “Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!”- your faith as well. 

Which Society Do You Belong To?

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

  January 4, 2009

Epiphany

Is 60: 1-6; Eph 3: 2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2: 1-12

Dc. Larry Brockman

Rejoice! Today is your feast, because today the gentiles experienced salvation.  You are all members of the Kingdom of God.  Or are you?   Before you answer, consider this quote from St. Augustine:

 “What we see, then, is that two societies have issued from two kinds of love.   Worldly society has flowered from a selfish love which dared to despise even God; whereas the communion of saints is rooted in a love of God that is ready to trample on self.    In a word, this latter relies on the Lord; whereas the other boasts that it can get along by itself.   The city of man seeks the praise of men; whereas the height of glory for the other is to hear God in the witness of conscience [City of God XIV.28]”.   

So, perhaps a better question is this:  Which of the two societies do you belong to, the city of Man, or the City of God?  

The Gospel story today talks about the contrast between people in these two societies at the time of Christ’s birth.  The Magi dedicated time, effort, and their treasure to finding Christ and paying Him homage.  They were educated men, probably from ancient Babylon- scientists, who followed the signs, not knowing where they would take them, but determined to find the newborn King of the Jews.   When the going got rough, and they lost sight of the Star, they kept their cool, they kept their faith, and they kept sight of their goal.   They were humble men, not thinking of themselves.  So, they asked for help, and were sent to Bethlehem, only to discover the return of the star, validating their action.  When they saw the Christ Child, they paid him homage, and they left precious gifts.  These men then returned, anxious to share their joy with their own countrymen and decided not to report back to Herod.  The Magi were not Jews- they were Gentiles.  They fulfilled the promise and the prophesy in the First Reading, a promise that the salvation brought by Christ would be shared with all people.

Contrast the Magi with Herod and the leaders in Jerusalem.  When apprised of the Magi’s mission, Herod checked with the authorities to find out where the Messiah would be born.  He was told in Bethlehem, and passed that on.  But Herod was not happy with the idea of a new King.  He was trembling with fear.  Herod, and his cohorts, were in control.  They didn’t want a King; they didn’t want a Messiah.  They were capable of getting along themselves.  And so, Herod cunningly tried to get the Magi to help him.  He wanted the Magi to report back if they found the child so he could destroy his competition.  The proof of this is the slaughter of the Holy Innocents ordered by Herod.  Herod and the leaders were part of the worldly society, not the city of God.   

The contrast between these two- Herod and the Magi, is stark.  For us, the contrast is less so.  But, to answer the question- which society do we belong to, we need to probe a bit and be honest with ourselves.   

There are three areas where you might hold back on accepting Christ.  First, perhaps it’s your goals in life.    Maybe you are primarily thinking that great achievements will give meaning to your life.  They won’t – only Christ will.  The only achievement that will last is that of fulfilling his will, following his example and his teachings.  Feeling a need to achieve is good, but it can’t be something that consumes you.  So today, let’s lay those achievements, those gold medals you covet so much,  at the feet of the baby Jesus, just like the Magi offered the gift of gold.   

Maybe it’s the affections of your heart that are your diversion.   Maybe you still think that the perfect relationship will give meaning to your life- your spouse, friends, or a boss; or possibly it is things that make you comfortable or happy that are your diversion- a car, a TV, or clothes.  Relationships and things, in themselves, won’t bring you the joy of Christmas.  There is no such thing as the perfect relationship – at least, not without Christ, because all of us are imperfect, and so we need to bear with the imperfections of others.  In fact, Christ is the one who gives every relationship its lasting beauty and joy because of the loving example he set in relationships.  And perfect happiness is not found in having things.  So, strive to please him first, and then he will make your relationships pleasing beyond your wildest dreams, and you will be content with what gifts you have.  Today, let’s lay the affections of the heart at his feet,   just as the Magi offered our Lord the sweet smell of their frankincense.   

Lastly, maybe it’s your sufferings that are a diversion.  Maybe you are angry at God for the hurt you have experienced in life.  But if God has permitted it, it’s only because he knows he can transform you through that suffering.  All people, and especially Jesus, are subject to suffering.  Let’s stop rebelling against our King and loving Lord and lay our sufferings at his feet – just as the Magi offered him their myrrh, the spicy ointment used to embalm bodies for burial.   

Lastly, the Magi demonstrated an additional virtue that is a key in determining which society we belong to.  The Magi lived their faith and demonstrated it to others.  If you separate your faith from your Mission in the World, then you have not been truly born as a Christian.

There’s a story about Alexander the great that makes this point.  One night during a campaign, he couldn’t sleep and left his tent to walk around the camp.   He came across a soldier asleep on guard duty – a serious offense.  The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was often instant death.  The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him.   Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life.   “Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier.  “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded in a quivering voice.  “Soldier, what’s your name?” demanded Alexander the Great.  “Alexander, sir.”  Alexander the Great repeated: “What is your name?”  “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated.  A third time and more loudly Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?”  A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.”  Alexander the Great then looked the soldier straight in the eye.   “Soldier,” he said with intensity, “either change your name or change your conduct.”  Likewise, you will know you are a Christian by your conduct!