Archive for August, 2009

Looking Inside Your Heart

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

  August 30, 2009

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dt 4: 1-2, 6-8; James 1: 17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mk 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Dc. Larry Brockman

Have you looked inside your heart recently?  What do you see there?  Do you see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?   These qualities are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.  They are the virtues that all of us need  to live life as Jesus intended for us to live it.  They are the virtues that we should see in the people that we look up to.  People who live their lives with these virtues should be our role models.  They are the people, as St. James put it, who are “doers of the word not just hearers of it”.

Now in the Gospel, Jesus confronts the Pharisees with some pretty harsh language.  And yet, the Pharisees were considered the cream of the crop at that time.  They knew God’s law better than anyone else.  That’s why they were called Pharisees, because they studied the scriptures and knew “by heart” the wonderful and just set of laws that Moses speaks of in the first reading.  Not only that, they were renowned for keeping those laws.  And indeed, these Pharisees did as they preached for the most part.  Otherwise they would have had no following.  For example, they observed the laws of cleanliness mentioned in the Gospel  down to the last dot on the “i” and cross on the “t”.  So, why chastise them so soundly.  

I think it is for two reasons:  First, because you cannot depend on external appearances to tell what is really going on in someone’s heart.  And so, for that matter, others cannot really tell by your external appearance, what is going on in your heart.  We hear news stories frequently that demonstrate this.  Someone is caught for a terrible crime, like the Kansas serial killer, who appeared to be a pillar of the community and his church; but that is clearly not what was in his heart.  So, judging others by appearances can be deceptive.  And what is so wrong about this judging of others is that it is a means of deflecting attention from the responsibility we have for ourselves.  That’s where our attention ought to be.   

Second, he chastised the Pharisees because God’s law had become too literal, too rigid,  too much a matter of meeting the letter of the requirement and not the spirit of it.  Following the law became a matter of black and white rather than a motivation in the heart to be a doer of the word.  And so, they had lost sight of what it is to live in the spirit of the God who they worshiped.  Going through the motions was more important than the God.   

Indeed, the Gospel tells how the Pharisees did something that shows both of these flaws.  First, they judged the Apostles on the basis of external appearances; violations of details of the dietary laws that they, the Pharisees, appeared to follow carefully.  In this way, the Pharisees deflected attention from the responsibility they had for their sins by focusing attention on the sins of someone else.  Second, the Pharisees had made these dietary laws the issue, not the intent of the dietary laws.  And so, Jesus reacted in anger at their hypocrisy.  Jesus could see inside of these people and, though they appeared to be pious,   he tells them they were paying lip service to the law because they were not motivated from within.   

Now the things that Jesus says produce evil from within are:  Evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, blasphemy, envy, arrogance, and folly.  These are just the opposite of the fruits of the spirit.  For, whereas the fruits lead us to denial of self out of love, the bad qualities that Jesus mentions motivate based on love of self.   

This message is not limited to the Pharisees.  It applies just as well to us here today.  People go faithfully to Church and these kinds of services; they take Communion each time; they put their children into religious education, and they participate in some Parish Groups.  They appear to be Catholics in good standing.  And all of that is good, in the same sense that the Pharisees were good and most of the Pharisees were good.  But, has your devotion to your faith become something you do out of habit, so that obeying the rules is what it is about instead living the intent of the rules?  Are you looking over your shoulders at your neighbors who don’t do all these things you do and justifying your piety on the basis of the lack of observed piety of your neighbor just like the Pharisees did?  You see, that deflects your attention from what is really important for you.  And what is it that is really important for you?  First, that the motivation from within your heart is based on the fruits of the Holy Spirit; that you take on the loving spirit of God, as much as you can, and practice virtues like peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in your relations with others; second, that you participate in the Church and in services because it is a way to nurture and grow in your Faith.  It is a way for you to grow into the Kingdom of God.   

Look into your heart today.  Purge yourselves of any of those evil inclinations and awaken the fruits of the Spirit.  Be a doer, and not just a hearer of the Word! 

Be Prepared

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

 

August 27, 2009

Thursday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time

1 Thes 3: 7-13; Mt 24: 42-51

Dc. Larry Brockman

Years ago my two boys were in Boy Scouts.  Now as most of you know, the Boy Scout motto is “Be prepared!”  And it can’t be a more appropriate motto.  For example, my wife and I went once with our two boys on an overnight scout canoe trip.  We were serving as chaperons assisting the Scoutmaster.  When we got finished with the first day’s rowing and were setting up camp, we discovered that some of the scouts had forgotten a few things.  One little guy forgot spare underware; another forgot a flashlight; but a third scout forgot his food.  “Be prepared” was the retort from the scoutmaster, followed by “You are responsible for yourself”.  Jane and I were a bit shocked at the apparent lack of compassion as the Scoutmaster insisted the young man suffer the consequences of forgetting to bring food.  Later, he told us quietly that this lesson would insure that it would never happen again. 

Today’s parable ought to instill the same lesson in all of us.  You are responsible for your own relationship with God.  You cannot afford to forget; you have got to be prepared at all times,  and nobody else can come to your rescue.  Jesus makes an additional point as well.  You can’t deceive him.  Whatever you do while He is away will be discovered, you can be sure of that.  It will, indeed, be as if He returns at the worst possible moment, when you are off guard. 

It doesn’t have to be that way.  For example, St. Paul told the Thessalonians that:   “We have been reassured about you, brothers and sisters, in our every distress and affliction, through your faith”   So, even though Paul was away from them, the word to him was that they were holding firm, were acting as faithful stewards in his absence.  And although there were some deficiencies mentioned, the main point is that they were trying,  They were giving it an honest effort.  And that’s what we need to do too.  We need to always keep our eye on the goal and to “Be Prepared”. 

Correcting Foolish relationships With God

Friday, August 21st, 2009

 

August 20, 2009

Thursday of 21st Week in Ordinary Time

Feast of St. Barnard

Jgs 11: 29-39; Mt 22: 1-14

Dc. Larry Brockman

How foolish we can sometimes be in our relationship with God?  Take the stories in the two readings for example. 

First, in the Old Testament reading, Jephthah makes a foolish vow to God, one that ends up costing him dearly- the sacrifice of his only daughter.  Sounds pretty far fetched, doesn’t it.  But the fact is, people today make foolish promises to God all the time.  People will say, “if only you do this for me God, then I promise to never do such and such again”.  Does that sound familiar?  But, we cannot bargain with God.  We can pray to God, and ask sincerely that what we pray for be granted.  But bargaining with God is out of the question, and the story of Jephthah demonstrates how foolish it is.   

And then there is the guest in the Gospel who shows up at the wedding without the proper clothes.  What a foolish thing that would be for us to do- to show up at gates of the Kingdom of God unprepared.  And yet, for most of us, our daily lives consume our time, so much so that thinking about being prepared for our ultimate meeting with Christ just isn’t a priority with us.  We think that it can always wait- being prepared before God.  But, the fact is that we have an obligation to be prepared at all times.  We have an obligation to know God and to know what He expects of us; sort of like the guest knowing what the proper preparation for a wedding would be.  And we have an obligation to live the life God gives us in the way He intended it to be lived- that is putting on the mantle of what it means to be a Christian, just like the guest had an obligation to put on the right wedding clothes. 

Indeed, these two stories remind us that our prayers to God must be sincere; and that our commitment to God must always be met if we are to enter into His Kingdom. 

On Forgiving 77 Times

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

 

August 13, 2009

Thursday of 20th Week in Ordinary Time

Jos 3: 7-10a, 11, 13-17; Mt 18: 21- 19: 1

Dc. Larry Brockman

Forgiveness!  Specifically, forgiving our neighbor 77 times!  This is a tough one for just about all of us.  And yet, the Gospel parable makes it very clear that God will forgive us if we forgive our neighbor. 

Now we can all relate to the hypocrisy displayed by the servant to the king.  We can see the injustice in the parable.  And so, after hearing this story today, hopefully we will all go out of here motivated to forgive the guy that cuts us off in traffic; or the strangers who make too much noise at the next table while we are dining; or any of the minor things that happen each day between our neighbors and ourselves.  We can forgive those things that happen because people are imperfect, and just human beings, and we can forgive the things they do selfishly when they put themselves first on a case by case basis- at least for a while. 

But what about the big things that demand forgiveness, can you forgive those?  How about a rift between you and one of your children that has gone on for months, or even years; or the spouse who cheated on you; or the neighbor next door who deliberately did something that damaged your property; or any of those things that cause anger and resentment that last.  How about the anger that lasts in such a way that every time you see or think of the offending party, the anger comes back anew, maybe even 77 times!. 

And yet, for each one of the offenses that you hold on to of this type, consider this:  You have done something like that to another, and you have asked God’s forgiveness for it.  In fact, you expect God’s forgiveness for it.  That’s what Confession is all about for you. 

It is tough, but you have to forgive others even in these difficult cases.  When all of us die, we want to see the impenetrable waters of the Jordan lifted, so each of us can cross the dry land and enter Paradise. 

It is so very true, that Mercy triumphs over Justice.  But it is hard.