Archive for April, 2010

All of Us Need a Shepherd

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 13: 14, 43-52; Rev 7: 9, 14b-7; John 10: 27-30

Dc. Larry Brockman

Easter Joy!  For 50 days after Easter, we continue to celebrate the Resurrection and the joy that the Resurrection brings.  For the first several weeks, the focus was on the Jesus appearance to the Apostles and on the reception of the Resurrection by the community at Jerusalem.  Today, the focus is on all of us- the Gentiles.  Yes, the truth of Jesus and the Resurrection was offered first to the Jews, but, as we heard in the reading from Acts, most of the Jews rejected the truth.  They did not hear the shepherd’s voice and follow it.  Rather, it was the Gentiles who heard and believed and followed as Paul and Barnabas travelled about preaching the Gospel.  And that is the key.  We have got to first believe, and then follow after Jesus to experience the joy of the Resurrection, the promise of Everlasting Life that it brings.

Now the Book of Revelation gives a vision of Heaven lest any of us doubt its existence and whether the Gentiles share in that promise.  John had a vision of “A great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue”.  Yes indeed, we are destined to join a crowd which no one can count, if we believe and follow the Good Shepherd, Jesus.

Let’s put that into focus:  First, not even all the technology of today can count the multitude.  Wow! That means lots of us are going to be saved!  Yes, everyone who wants to be saved, can be saved.  All people are welcome.   

But second, what else does it take to be saved?  Well, what does Revelation say about the folks who were saved?  It says that they survived the time of great distress.  That’s what they all had in common- not the same nation or race or people or tongue, but that they survived a time of great distress.   

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to the analogy of Jesus as the shepherd and the sheep versus people in a time of great distress.  First, I sometimes feel like one of the sheep.  Sheep are inclined to just wander aimlessly when they don’t have a shepherd.  No matter how hard I try, it is sometimes difficult to see clearly what God’s vision is for me.  So, sometimes I feel that I am wondering, like a sheep.  That’s when I realize that I need a shepherd.  Now, to be sure, I began life as an adult, plotting out my own course, my own dreams of what I wanted to be, and what I could become.  But during the course of life, things happen- sickness, financial problems, family problems, things I didn’t figure on when I planned my future.  And these unexpected things happen over and over again until one day, you look back, and wonder what happened to all your plans.  It is then that you discover that you are not in control.  You need a shepherd.  In effect, you are destined to follow the will of God, whether you like it or not because all these “things” that happen to you are acts of God.  The question is, are you just being dragged along reluctantly, fighting and kicking all the way,  maybe even looking for a way out; or, are you looking for the voice of the Shepherd along the way, whatever the route he takes you on.   

In my life, there are times when the way that God chooses for me seems distressed. It is painful and distressing to experience sickness or health problems- in my case 2 heart attacks, to discover you will not achieve your goals because others are stifling you; and to have family members hurt you.  But that is the reality of life- the environment that we were placed in.  And yet ultimately, all life follows after God’s plan.   

And so life itself is for me, and I suspect for most of you too, a great time of distress.  Not that it doesn’t, and can’t have its joys, but it certainly also has its distress.  The secret is to listen for the voice of the shepherd, and to follow his voice in whatever situation you find yourself.  Follow that voice of conscience deep inside of you, when it tells you to hang in there; bear up; or make a difficult choice that you know is right.  Why?  Because in today’s Gospel Jesus promises us not once, not twice, but three times, that no one can take you away from Eternal Life if you listen to His voice and follow Him.  That is our Easter joy fulfilled. 

We Are All Taught to Evangelize

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

Acts 8: 26-40; John 6: 44-51

Dc. Larry Brockman

“They shall all be taught by God”.  Such was Jesus’ quote from the prophets.  Such is Jesus affirmation that the prophets were right.  So, God is constantly teaching his people- all of them.  Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims;  Hindus, Taoists, and Buddhists; even Cultists, Agnostics and Atheists.  Whatever people may characterize themselves as, and whether they like it or not, God is teaching them constantly.  It’s just that they may or may not know it; and they may or may not be responding to it, and even when they are inclined to be responsive, they may not respond in the proper way. 

Our Easter joy comes because we not only hear God calling us, but we believe and are seeking out the Word of God.  That’s why Jesus tells the disciples that:  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him up on the last day”. 

I think the Ethiopian Eunuch is a great example of how this works.  Here is a man who travels far from home, and is praying sincerely to the Hebrew God, even reading and studying the scripture.  He has heard God calling him, he wants to believe, and he is seeking God’s word and its meaning.  And how does God answer Him?  Does God talk directly to him? Not as far as we can see.  Rather, He sends a man- Philip, to unravel the scripture for him, and convert him to Christianity. 

How does all this apply to us?  Well, you and I are being sent out on a Mission too, just like Phillip.  Now that we have experienced the Easter joy, the Risen Christ, and the promise of everlasting life, we need to share our faith with others.   We may not have an angel of the Lord tell us where to go or what to do like Philip did, but we do have a God that puts us in the exact place he wants us at the just the right time for somebody, sometime, and somehow. so that the Word of God will come alive for that somebody.   It could be in the grocery store- someone who strikes up a conversation and needs help; it could be at work or at school; it might even be just something we do that others see even when we are unaware of it.  That’s how God works.  And that’s how we can evangelize.

On Sacrificing Principles

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

 

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter

Acts 35: 27-33; John 3: 31-36

Dc. Larry Brockman

Obedience!  Obedience to what we hear and feel God wants us to do.  Obedience to the truth, no matter what the wisdom of the world says.  That’s the common thread in today’s two readings.   

Just a few nights ago,  Jane and I watched the film “Judgment in Nuremburg”.  Neither of us had seen the film all the way through before.  The film depicted 5 Nazi judges being tried before a tribunal of American Judges for going along with the Nazi agenda in their judgments,  rather than ruling on the basis of universal justice that comes from above.  Four of the judges were truly corrupt in one way or another.  They were either motivated by greed or power or politics or weakness.  But one of the judges had been a paragon of virtue prior to the Nazi takeover.  He was staunchly supported by the German people.  His defense was based on his belief that it was better to compromise some of your principles, so that you can still have some influence, to do what you can to soften the blow, rather than stand on principle and be removed.  In the end, all 5 judges were convicted because the tribunal felt that as soon as one begins to compromise the truth, then that is a slippery slope to disaster.  The dire consequences of the compromise judgments of the Nazi judges clearly established that.

The Apostles could have been quiet because the Jewish leaders told them to shut up or face the consequences.  They could have looked for opportunities to speak up when it was prudent, and kept quiet when it was threatening.  But they were not silent; they spoke up boldly because Jesus had told them to proclaim his message everywhere.     

Whether we like it or not, each of us is placed in the same position as these Nazi judges and the Apostles every day of our life.  We are given the opportunity to speak up when something isn’t right.

For example, what do we do when we see the way some people treat their co-workers or fellow students; or we hear unchallenged “pro choice” words of a neighbor or work associate; or we hear someone criticizing or defaming our religion or church.  What do we do?  Do we speak up; or are we silent? 

The Divine Mercy Gift

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

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

Dc. Larry Brockman

Imagine the joy the Apostles experienced as they actually saw and talked to the Risen Jesus Christ!  They had eaten and drank with Jesus at the Last Supper, and listened to his prophesy in confusion.  They had seen the trial and Crucifixion in horror; they had fled for cover into the upper room in fear; they had seen the empty tomb and were in awe; they had heard the story of the two men from Emmaus; but they had not yet understood the prophesies that Jesus had foretold and they had not seen the Risen Lord.  And so, they were confused and conflicted; not believing in what was implied- the Resurrection, but rather, wondering what it all meant. 

And then it happened.  Jesus stood before them in the Risen State.  He was real flesh and blood too- with the wounds still in his side and hands.  And he even ate with them proving He was not just some apparition.  Wow, that was surely something else!  Imagine the joy they felt. 

But as awesome as all that was, it was not the source of their lasting joy, because their joy was about to become much deeper than that.  You see Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of it all.  Jesus explains that all that happened to Him was done to complete God’s overall plan for salvation for all people, that everything Jesus experienced fulfilled the prophesies of the prophets just the way the Father had planned it, and that through His suffering and death, he, Jesus had brought redemption to all of us.  Jesus explained how he had to do God’s will, not his own, as hard and as painful as that was, and that the reward for His obedience to God the Father, as humbling as it was for God-made-man, was everlasting Life in a Resurrected body,  For as it says in Revelations:  “Once I was dead, but now I am alive for ever and ever”.

This was the source of lasting joy- as the Apostles came to understand that they, too, would be resurrected after death for everlasting life if they lived out their lives in the way Jesus showed them.  And not only that, but the Apostles and their successors were commissioned by Jesus to spread this Good News.  Jesus says: “As the Father sends me, so also I send you”.  And so, the apostles were being sent out to preach the good news of the Gospel to all men- about His obedience to the Father, and the suffering and death and Resurrection that was a consequence.  He told them to preach that all mankind is called to repent and follow His example. That’s why Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive or retain sins, because there is more to our Salvation than just believing in the Resurrection and the potential for everlasting life.  We have to seek forgiveness of our sins, and then repent, that is, change our way of life, to bring it in harmony with God’s plan for us.   

That message has been preached by the Church down through the centuries,   We have just heard that message during our Lenten experience.  Indeed, living the life God has given us, God’s will for us, is the challenge we all now face even if it means we have to suffer for a while- a physical disability, a terrible disease, a limitation; or the need to sacrifice our ambitions to serve others; or any of a number of other constraints on our agenda to assure that God’s agenda is met.  That’s what it means to live God’s will for us.  That’s what it means to be a Christian.  But the reward is our salvation, and the everlasting life with God that comes with it.   

Now part of the joy of Easter is that it lasts for 50 days.  But that 50 days is a meant to be a process, not just a celebration   And so, our Easter experience comes in stages.  First, on Easter Sunday, there is the joyful realization that Jesus rose from the dead, that God so loved us that he sent His only son to live among us as a man, to bring Salvation for all of us through his suffering and death.  That is our Faith- that we believe in Jesus and the Resurrection. 

But then comes the next stage, the realization that to benefit from the Resurrection, we need God’s mercy to repent from our former ways, and change our lives.  We need to live the life that God calls us to, whatever that is, and to bear with the suffering and joys of all that that involves. 

Today, we celebrate a great feast- Divine Mercy Sunday.  Jesus promised St. Faustina back in the 1930’s, that today would be a special day in our yearly Church calendar.   Today, the Sunday in the Octave of the Easter, is the day each year that Jesus calls on us to seek God’s mercy, to seek forgiveness and to resolve to repent.  Jesus revealed that if we confess our sins and receive the Body and Blood of Christ on Divine Mercy Sunday, then our sins will be forgiven, and so will the punishment due us for those sins, this is how immeasurably vast God’s mercy is on this special day. 

Many of us have already gone to Confession this Easter in the wonderful Penance service held here the Monday before Easter.   But, all of us still have time to complete our Easter Duty by asking for forgiveness for our sins here today, and then completing the process by going to Confession before Pentecost.  And so, when we receive Communion today, we can all be assured we will receive the second tremendous gift of the Easter Season- the mercy that is the essence of The Divine Mercy promise.   

And then there is the third stage of our Easter experience, the reception of the Holy Spirit.  It is through the gifts that come with the Holy Spirit that all of are given the strength to follow Jesus’ footsteps. 

Truly, we have an awesome God.  A God who Loves us; who shows us mercy and forgiveness for whatever we have done, and one who gives us strength to do incredible things in God’s name.   

Now I suspect that there are some out there who are skeptical that the Easter experience can be that profound, that it can fundamentally transform our lives.  So let me give you an example of a man who fully experienced Easter.  Look at Peter.  Just two days before the Resurrection, Peter denied Jesus three times, an incredible sin of abandonment to a best friend.  And now, just 10 or so days later, Peter has confessed, experienced God’s infinite mercy, and has received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Now, we see a vibrant, confident, fearless, faith-filled Peter.  One who heals in the name of Jesus, just by casting his shadow.  Indeed, Peter has learned his Easter experience well.  Let us pray that all of us can make the same kind of transformation.   

Fulfilling Our Easter Promise to Evangelize

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

 

Thursday in the Octave of Easter

Acts 3: 11-26; Luke 24: 35-48

Dc. Larry Brockman

A message of repentance!  Even during the Octave of Easter, our readings tell us to repent?  I quote:  “Repent and be converted”.  These are Peter’s words to the people.  And they echo down through the ages to us.  Yes, Jesus suffered, died, and was buried, and then rose from the dead and appeared to the Apostles.  And yes, the joy of the resurrection and life everlasting belongs to all of us.  But, we must first repent, be converted, and show that we believe.  This is the essence of Peter’s message.

He gives the example of Jewish History, about how God’s word was available throughout Jewish history through the prophets.  But people did not listen, they did not really believe, and as evidence of their disbelief, they weren’t following the Word of God as proclaimed by the prophets.  They just didn’t get it; they didn’t understand. 

The story in the Gospel echoes a similar theme.  The two Emmaus brothers are telling an incredible story to the other Apostles, some of whom, namely Peter and John, saw that the Lord was not in the tomb.  But despite their first hand exposure to Jesus, and all the words he used to describe how he would fulfill the prophesies, they didn’t get it; they didn’t understand what the empty tomb meant.  They were probably asking- what does it all mean?  Then Jesus appeared to them in the Risen state, and explained it bit by bit, abd sent them off to convert the world. 

About this time in our Easter experience, the joy of the Resurrection has taken hold  But that joy should be followed by the same kind of sobering question.  Yes, Jesus rose, but what does it all really mean?  It means that we, too, have got to really believe, even though we didn’t see it happen, and we have to follow that belief by a commitment to spread the joy of the Resurrection throughout our world by converting our fellow man. 

And who is it that needs conversion?  It’s our neighbors and friends who pay lip service to Easter and it’s meaning; and it’s our business associates and schoolmates who do the same.  Why is it important?  Because God wants us to help him bring all people into his heavenly Kingdom,by preaching forgiveness through repentance of sins and by spreading the good news, the Gospel.  And how do we do it?  By accepting our responsibility to repent- by changing our ways; by the way we live our lives- our example to others as a witness to our faith; and by our enthusiasm for our faith- by living out our Easter joy despite the trials of life. 

Perfection through Suffering

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

 

Holy Thursday Reflection

2010

All of us are going to taste death, just as Jesus tasted death.  But after death, all of us have the potential to be crowned in glory, just as Jesus was crowned in glory.  Jesus showed us the way.  And what was the way that Jesus showed us?  It was simply to do the will of his Father as we discern it. 

When we hear the passion read, we hear the story of Jesus’ agony in the garden as a prelude.  Yes, Jesus experienced intense agony over his perception of God’s will for him- the horrible suffering and death on the cross.  But Jesus understood that the work of salvation would be made perfect by his subjugating His will to that of His Father.  And so, he bore the suffering as a human that was allotted to him, even though he was God himself. 

That’s a hard road for all of us to follow- to endure the suffering that is ours in life-  the crippling or painful physical or mental state that comes with age; the limiting and constraining circumstances that we find ourselves living in; the imperfect people and relationships that are the center of our specific world.  These, and many more things bring us suffering that we cannot avoid, and in some cases, must not avoid, if we are to fulfill God’s will for us.  But, as we agonize over the suffering that is ours, remember this.  Remember the Glory that awaits us as sons of God as we are made perfect through suffering.