Archive for October, 2009

Learning Not to Fear the Future

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

 

Thursday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

Rom 8: 31b-39; Lk 13: 31-35

Dc. Larry Brockman

FDR once said: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”.  That sort of sums up Paul’s message to the Romans today.  Christians in Paul’s day were living in fear, fear of the things that Paul mentioned-  anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword because Christians faced persecutions from the state, and because the Jews experienced a severe put down from the Romans.  Yes indeed, they were experiencing fear.     

You know, this is an age where some of the things Paul mentioned all of a sudden seem to be taking on some meaning for us.  After a 60 year period of post-war prosperity, we now hear of impending dooms that instill fear, perhaps real, perhaps not.  But, there is no question that high unemployment, the massive bailout, the debate over health care- all of these things are instilling a sense of uncertainty in us- an uncertainty that could lead to fear.  Likewise, Religion is being attacked today- and that is evident in the breakdown of the family, declining public moral values, and increased crime.  This too, is something that we might experience some fear about.  And this is a fear that is new to most of us because we weren’t around during the Depression and the Great War.   And certainly, we have not lived in a society where Christian values have been under attack like they are today.   

But as Paul clearly states, fear is not something that we, as Christians, should become victim to.  Because nothing, absolutely nothing, not even fear itself, can separate us from the love of God.  Yes, we may have to suffer here in this age if our public society becomes less tolerant of our moral code and if our economy crumbles around us.  But in the midst of that suffering, we need to trust in God because all these perils count as nothing if we trust in God.  If God was willing to sacrifice his only son for us, and raise him up to everlasting life, and if we believe Jesus promise that we who believe will be raised on the last day, then we have nothing to fear.  Because God will certainly do whatever is needed to take care of us too. 

So let us take away a message of hope and joy from Paul’s message this morning- joy over the knowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Love, indeed, casts out all fear. 

Everyone is Called

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

 

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jer 31: 7-9; Heb 5: 1-6; Mk 10: 46-52

Dc. Larry Brockman

Everyone likes to think they are special.  Everybody likes to be singled out, and called upon. 

I recall an incident last weekend that shows this.  There was an opening for one of the officers on the Deacon’s Council.  The President of the Council said nobody had stepped forward to be a candidate, and so he asked for people to volunteer as a candidate.  But nobody volunteered.  Finally, after awkward moments of silence, someone was nominated and we elected that person.  Later, some of us were discussing the situation at dinner.  Several folks indicated they would have been willing to serve.  But, to a person, they all wanted to be asked to serve.  They didn’t want to volunteer to serve.  They wanted to be chosen, set apart by someone else recognizing them.  Yes, everybody likes to be called.

Today’s scriptures are all about being called.  First, we hear of the remnant of Israel, called back to the promised land after the exile.  Notice that among that number, the blind and the women with children were specially mentioned.  It seems to me that these are folks one would not normally call to a special role- pregnant women and blind people.  But the message was that everybody was being called by God, even the least capable of serving were being called.  This perception is reinforced by the words that talk about gathering folks from all over the world, not just those that were in the place of exile, Babylon.   

Likewise, all of us are being called today.  We are all swept up in the call to be part of the promised land, the Kingdom of God.  But the call is a general call, it is not one that singles us out, one where someone comes up to you and says you have been specially chosen.  And so, many don’t hear that call.   

In the Gospel, we hear about a man being called as well.  Bartimaeus is a blind man who wants to see.  He has been stuck- a victim of his blindness, his entire life.  But, he heard about Jesus, and that gave him hope.  So, he pesters Jesus by calling aloud to him, only to be rebuked by those around Jesus.  What does Jesus do?  He calls him, and cures him, and Bartimaeus follows Jesus thereafter.  In this case, Bartimaeus stepped forward, stepped out of his blindness because he had a desire- a desire to see.  He wasn’t chosen as special to begin with.  Rather, he was chosen for the special gift of sight only after he made the first step. 

Symbolically, all of us who are called, but don’t respond, are just like Bartimaeus.  We are just as stuck, parked on the sidelines of life, and blind to the call we have all received from God.  We don’t recognize the general call talked about in the first reading- that all of us, whatever our situation, whether healthy or sick, rich or poor, busy or not, pregnant or not; we are called by God to come and join his march to the Kingdom.  But we don’t go, and so we remain as we are, stuck.   

Bartimaeus recognized his blindness, and so he called out to the Lord.  It was then that he was able to hear the voice of Jesus who told him to come, and enjoy a special gift from the Lord- the gift of sight.  And In exchange for opening his eyes, Jesus asks the man to follow him.  He will do the same for you and I if we respond.  The key to our admission into the Kingdom is to have our eyes opened into what is really important, to what we have been called to do in our lives and to follow the example of Jesus Christ by living it.  For most, it is probably right in front of us, but we are blind to it.  Rather, we are looking for something that isn’t for us- fancy things, fantasy relationships, special accomplishments- whatever it is that we do see, rather than the simple things that are right in front of us that we just don’t see calling to us- our children, someone who needs our help, or some thankless job that needs to be done, something that we just pass right over without seeing- like someone stuck on the side of the road as we drive by. 

So, my challenge to you is to pray that your eyes may be opened to the reality that God wants for you, the one right in front of you that you cannot see.  Open your eyes, and take it in and follow Jesus along the way. 

Setting the World on Fire

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

 

Thursday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time

Rom 6: 19-23; Lk 12: 49-53

Dc. Larry Brockman

Sounds more like a politician than Jesus- dividing brothers and sisters and separating dads and moms from their children.  Is that what Christianity is all about, setting the world on fire and causing divisions in families?  How can that be? 

Well, I think Jesus emphasis is on something other than dividing people. He is talking about the excitement he is feeling over his knowledge of the impending fulfillment of His mission on earth- his death and resurrection.  He is excited because his sacrifice will bring with it our redemption and our salvation with the reward of eternal life.   He is excited, because knows all of us can be saved; but not without the consequences.  And the consequences are the divisions among families and discord because the Kingdom of God and the secular world are at battle with each other.  Nowhere is this clearer than in our first reading.  Because we want to be comfortable; to feel good, and to be free of pain,.we cater to our bodies, to the flesh.  Paul advises us to put aside the flesh, because ultimately it leads to death.  Rather, we are to become slaves to Christ, and that leads to sanctification and eternal life. 

So, let us join with Jesus in his joy, the joy he feels over the success of his mission.  We have been saved through the saving work of Jesus.  And if we commit to a life that puts God first, rather than satisfying our bodily passions, even though that may alienate us from some of our families, we can rejoice in the knowledge that we have sealed our ultimate happiness. 

And if we take the message seriously, we can yet set the world on fire with our efforts to evangelize in fulfillment of Jesus desire.

Dealing With the Wicked

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

 

Thursday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

Mal 3: 13-20b; Lk 11: 5-13

Dc. Larry Brockman

Indeed, things haven’t changed have they?  The wicked in the days of the Old Testament just decide to ignore the Lord and do as they please, seemingly reaping the benefits of dishonesty and cunning evil.  It’s easy for us to get discouraged like the folks 3,000 years ago as we look around us and see people prospering, yet who are lying, cheating, and backbiting their way through life just to get ahead, people who seem fearless of the wrath of God.  Nothing seems to stop them; nothing seems to get in their way.  We ask ourselves, “where is God”?  Why doesn’t he reward those who are honest?  Why does he let these people who ignore his laws get ahead? 

And yet, Malachi tells us the time is coming when all the proud will be made stubble.  So there is this message of hope, hope for the coming of the Kingdom when all evil will find its true reward, and those who are honest and faithful to God are rewarded. 

Two things came to mind as I pondered these readings.  First, we must be firm in our resolve to be honest  and do what is right no matter how dishonest the people of the world are around us.  God will reward us in his way and in his own time. 

Recently, I went to a tire dealer to get a flat tire repaired.  I can think of few tire businesses where one can count on honesty.  But I found one a few years ago.  On my way, I passed a few shops that were nearly empty.  But I went to a particular shop because I trusted them.  Because I knew this shop would fix the tire right for a fair price, and they would tell me I needed a new tire, but only if I really needed one  They wouldn’t try to con me into buying new tires when I didn’t need them.  I had to wait quite a while, because the place was packed.  Now as I looked around, while I waited, I couldn’t help but be struck by the tremendous volume of business compared to the two places just down the street.  You see, people eventually find out who is honest and who isn’t.  And this man’s business was a living testimony to that.  In essence, he was receiving his reward, even in this world.  I know it wasn’t always that way for him, because I have been going there for many years, and they weren’t always so busy.  Sometimes it takes patience and resolve, but it can and does happen. 

Second, we must be persistent in asking God for what we need, especially when we are faced with injustice.  Jesus makes this point very clear in the Gospel.  That God will hear those who are persistent.  So, when you feel downtrodden, be a pest to God in your zeal for what you ask.   

The key thing is that we must trust in the Lord always,  Because he has only the best intentions for those of us who love Him. 

Respect Life

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gen 2: 18-24; Heb 2: 9-11; Mk 10: 2-16

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

“Because of the hardness of your hearts, he wrote this command”.  Such was Jesus comment to the Pharisees about Moses as they tried to justify divorce.  Jesus then defined the Christian understanding of marriage, quoting from Genesis, the same part of Genesis as our First Reading.  The words are very clear.  One man and one woman marry and become one, and what God joins together, no man should separate.  And yet, even after his clear words to the Pharisees, the apostles called Jesus aside and questioned him.  And so Jesus adds that to divorce and marry another is adultery- pretty strong words.  They are a direct and explicit moral teaching on marriage. 

Indeed, this Gospel confirms for us that there are moral absolutes.  They are absolutes because God said so, and that God’s word is really not negotiable.  Let me elaborate.  

Recall that during the description of the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis, just after the part we read today, Adam and Eve were told that “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” was off limits.  But they ate the fruit because they wanted to be like God, and know good and evil.  But man is not permitted to define good and evil.  That charter, defining good and evil, is God’s charter.  Rather, man must follow the natural law and the moral law that God has defined to us because we are not Gods, and do not have God’s wisdom. So, we cannot discern good and evil.  We live this life in an imperfect world until we learn to follow God’s will and keep his commandments accordingly.

 

Now God handed down the law to us in various ways:  It’s in the ten commandments, It’s in the Mosaic law, and it’s in the moral teachings in the Gospels and the Christian letters that form the New Testament.  God also defines His law in the workings of nature- that is called natural law.  In its wisdom, the Church has accumulated and made sense of God’s law for us.  That’s what the Catechism of the Church summarizes: a definition of what we believe and what God has defined as right and wrong.

 

Today is Right to Life Sunday.  It is essential that practicing Catholics understand the above principle on God’s role in matters of faith and morals as background to the Right to Life.  Otherwise, we will be confused by man’s wisdom, and man’s law that follows from it.  Because man’s wisdom sometimes attempts to define good and evil apart from God, and that is the sin of Adam and Eve.  And so, man’s law can be flawed. 

Now we Catholics have a solemn obligation to follow the Church’s teachings on Right to Life Issues rather than accept man made wisdom and laws.  The Right to Life is one of the most important areas covered by the Catechism, and so we should know what the Church teaches and follow it. 

Right to Life includes many hot button issues that are being discussed and debated in the public domain:  Abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic research, war, and capital punishment are a few of these areas.  But life itself is integrally connected with quality of life.  And so the Right to Life includes one’s access to food, water, and shelter as well.  Simply stated, the poor and the marginalized have a right to life, just like those who hold a more fortunate position in society.  And that is why the Right to Life is such an important issue.  Because it is pervasive; it touches everything that society and government struggle with to provide for people.

 

So, what are some of the teachings of the Church on Right to Life straight out of the Catechism?  Well, that life begins at Conception (Jer 1:5); that abortion is wrong and that it is wrong to kill infants (Did 2:2);  that it is wrong, by an act of omission or commission, to cause a sick and diminished person to die, that’s called Euthanasia; that it is wrong to take one’s own life; and that everyone is entitled to basic needs- food, clothing, housing, etc. 

It is not enough, however, to know these things, and believe them personally, and then be silent about them when these basic rights are violated in society around us.  We have an obligation to get involved, and to do what we can to assure that our government guarantees these rights.  We do that by voting for the right candidates, speaking out against government officials and policies when they infringe on the Right to Life, and by our own personal example in living our daily lives at work, in school and as a homemaker.

 

In the last couple of months, the Respect Life Organization has been extremely pleased with your response to all three of our recent appeals.   3,000 post cards were sent to our Senators and representatives opposing the Freedom of Choice Act.  Over $10,000 was collected in the baby bottle appeal.  On both counts, this is more than any other parish in the Diocese.  Over 1700 of you signed up for spiritual adoption of an unborn baby.  These were absolutely outstanding responses from our Parish.  Congratulations to all of you for your support and help.

   

But these are troubled times for Right to Life in America.  There was a change in government this year that brought a sweeping change in philosophy with it.  The philosophy confuses rights with wants.  Pro-choice, for example, confuses the wants of a mother, with the rights of an unborn child; and gay marriage confuses the wants of two gay people, with the right of a man and a woman to procreate. 

Not only that, we have become a victim to a mantra of “judge not, lest you be judged”  As an excuse for allowing and even sanctioning people’s so-called right to do what is morally wrong by Christian Standards.  But as we have shown earlier, there are moral absolutes:  Abortion and Euthanasia are wrong; marriage is for a man and a woman.  These are moral absolutes.  We are not judging people- that is up to God.  We are judging the morality of certain acts by the standards we are supposed to believe in, the standards in our Catechism; and we don’t want society to legislate morality that is counter to those standards. 

    

Now many of our current leaders, including so-called Catholics, are outspoken opponents of the Right to Life.  Several of them I can think of have publicly denied the teaching of the Church, claiming that they are following their consciences.  This is another argument one hears often-  that our consciences prevail over church laws and statutes.  After all, following God’s law is something that needs to come from the heart, and that’s what our consciences determine.  Indeed, the Catechism does advise us that we must be allowed to act in conformity with our conscience.  But there is an important catch, because the Catechism also says that our consciences must be informed and enlightened in moral judgment.  If one chooses to ignore or reject God’s law, than they have not properly formed their conscience.

What is most alarming about Catholic public officials opposing the Church’s teaching on Right to Life is the bad example it sets for other Catholics, and the impression it gives to greater society that the matter is open for debate in the Church.  In Church Canon Law, that is called causing scandal. That is why it is important for those of us who are committed Catholics to be heard, to make a correct moral judgment, and to speak out and validate the position of the Church. 

  

There are many ways that you can help.  Respect life is conducting a membership campaign- sign up and get involved.  They have access to many resources that can help you to get involved- for example, by writing your elected officials; by participating in programs that help people struggling with a decision on abortion; and by helping the marginalized and elderly.

Last but not least, there is a very easy way for you all to demonstrate your commitment to the Right to Life today.  Because from 1:30 PM to 3 PM today, we will be forming the Life Chain out on Apopka Vineland in front of the Church.  You are invited to be there.  Make it a memorable event, a massive demonstration for the Right to Life.  Fr. Ennis will be there, and so will I.  See you then. 

How Do You React to the Word of God?

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Thursday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time

St. Theresa of the Child Jesus

Neh 8: 1-4a, 5-6, 7b-12; Lk 10: 1-12

Dc. Larry Brockman

Imagine for a moment that one of the 72 new disciples comes to you,  all fired up with the zeal of the Lord,  commissioned by Jesus, the Lord himself, just as we just heard in today’s Gospel.  This emissary knocks on your door, kind of like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormon’s come knocking at our doors today, preaching repentance, salvation, and the coming of the Kingdom.  For some, it might be uncomfortable.  But for others, searching for the truth,  wouldn’t that be something- hearing the message of the Kingdom of God  proclaimed by someone who had direct contact with Jesus!  That would be really special. 

Now just suppose that you look at this Gospel in a new light,  Suppose you imagined that the person proclaiming the message, the Word of God, every time you hear it at Mass,  was one of these 72 disciples?  You see, the fact is that we are all so very blessed.  Because we all hear the good news of the Kingdom of God proclaimed to us each time we come to Mass.  It is as if one of these 72 disciples is knocking on our door fired up and commissioned to tell the good news of the Kingdom to you.  The Priest, the Deacon, and the Lector all fulfill this role. 

Only, we have to make a choice.  We can choose to reject the message, whether it’s by not paying attention; deciding that we’ve heard it all before;  or because we aren’t searching for the relevance.    Or do we open the door of our hearts to the scripture message-  eager to listen and take it to heart; yearning to find meaning in every word; and searching for the relevance in our lives?   

All scripture has meaning and relevance.  That is our challenge- to find it, to seek that which brings us to the Kingdom of God.  Lest, we hear it said to us  that “It will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day,  than for that town”.