Archive for June, 2011

Passing on Authority

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Thursday of 13th Week of Ordinary Time

Gen 22: 1b-19; Mt 9: 1-8

Dc. Larry Brockman

Authority, Jesus spoke with authority; and Jesus acted with authority.  The dictionary says “authority” means: “the power or right to control, judge, or prohibit the actions of others”.  The Father gave Jesus “authority” here on earth to forgive sins, heal people, and work miracles.

Now many of the protestant sponsored translations use the word “power” instead of authority in this Gospel.  But there is a difference between power and authority, as you can see from the definition. Jesus had the power alright- but the sense of the word was that Jesus also had the right to the power hence he had authority. The civil “authorities” had authority given by the emperor or some other civil leader.  But Jesus had authority by virtue of the God the Father.

Now the civil authorities couldn’t do what Jesus did- they couldn’t heal the paralytic; and they certainly couldn’t forgive sins.  That much the people realized- that’s why they accused Jesus of Blasphemy-  because they recognized that only God could forgive sins.   Jesus validates his authority to forgive sins, with all the unseen effects of such a power, by working a physical miracle, the effects of which could be seen by all.

Let me ask you a hypothetical question:  Put yourself into the shoes of the paralytic for a moment.  You have been paralyzed and unable to cope in a primitive society for as long as you can remember.  Which would make you feel more at ease, more exuberant, more joyful; and more thankful: if Jesus had told you your sins were forgiven, or if Jesus healed your paralysis?  Being the humans that we are, most of us would probably say the physical healing.  We can only visualize vaguely what a truly wonderful thing it would be to know for sure that our sins were forgiven.  But to get up and walk and to be independent of a crippled life style- ah, that is something we could all easily appreciate.  And yet, it is clear that, literal as the paralysis might have been for the person in the Gospel story, the Gospel uses paralysis as a metaphor for an even more crippling condition-  The condition that all of us wish to avoid where we would be paralyzed to reconcile our sinfulness with God.  And if we die without first reconciling with God, we would be in that sorry state.

As Catholics, we are taught over and over again that life in this world is not what life is all about. Rather, the Resurrection of the body and life everlasting in Kingdom of God are.  But life in this world, well, it’s almost as if it paralyzes us!  It occupies most of our thinking and doing and being to the extent that we are paralyzed from moving into the Kingdom of God.

Later in the Gospel, Jesus passes on his authority to forgive sins to His Apostles, and through them, to our priests of today.  The Priests exercise that authority, and it’s called the Sacrament of Penance, Reconciliation, and Confession; and it’s a sure-fire way for you and I to achieve harmony with God. It is more powerful than being cured of our earthly physical woe because it frees us from our spiritual paralysis.

What Kind of Food Are You Looking For?

Sunday, June 26th, 2011


Corpus Christi

Dt 8: 2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor 10: 16-17; Jn 6: 51-58

Dc. Larry Brockman


What kind of food are you looking for?  Are you looking for food that gives physical nourishment?  Or are you looking for spiritual food that will guarantee you everlasting life?  Today, Jesus establishes the fact that we can have it both ways!   

In the first reading we see that the Israeli’s were just looking for a way to survive physically as they travelled for 40 years through a parched desert land devoid of grain and livestock and water.  They prayed for deliverance.  What they got was manna- a food unknown beforehand.  But this manna was an interesting food.  It was nourishing and satisfying if consumed right away.   But, if it was collected and hoarded out of fear of starving, it would spoil and was useless.  It was in God’s plan for the giving of the manna that He be trusted and believed in- He wanted the Israelis to trust that He would fulfill their need for survival, even if it was always just in time.  And in that sense, this real food was spiritual food as much as physical food.  The Israelis could not live without it- for it nourished them; but they could not live without believing in it either, because only by believing in it did they fulfill the hope for the future, sustenance long enough for their entry into the real promised land of Israel.   

In  today’s Gospel, Jesus describes spiritual food for the New Covenant-  early in His public ministry, Jesus foretells what He would do at the last Supper, which was to institute the Eucharist, the real body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine.  Just as with manna, this food provides hope for the future, but in this case, it is a guarantee of everlasting life, not just a longer life in this World.   

Now, as the Gospel this morning testifies, Jesus made a very strong statement: He said that only those who ate His body and drank His blood would experience everlasting life!  This was a stumbling block then; it has been a stumbling block all throughout Christianity; and it is a stumbling block today.  The Jews in Jesus time were forbidden to drink the blood of an animal.  So, this would have been strictly taboo for them. But consuming the Body and Blood of Christ also sounded like cannibalism when taken literally, and turned them off.  And so, it turned many people away because of their Jewish laws and traditions.  As the Gospel says, they quarreled about the teaching, and many walked away.   

As Catholics, we recognize the ritual consecration of bread and wine at Mass as the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist because the events of the Last Super fulfilled the promise we read in this morning’s Gospel.  In Christianity, most of the 16th century reformers rejected the idea of the Real Presence as hocus-pocus and unreal.  They did so because they didn’t really believe- believe the truth of what Jesus said in this reading.  They say one cannot take this scripture literally.     

We Catholics have come to know, of course, that Jesus was serious.  The Real Presence and the claim that it nourishes those who believe has been validated for us.  Over the centuries two kinds of Eucharistic miracles have occurred that validate the Real Presence and its power.  First, the bread and the wine has changed into real flesh and blood in some isolated cases.  There are display cases in Southern Italy and videos of activities in Argentina in the last century that give examples of this.  Second, every century or so, someone lives on the nourishment provided by daily Eucharist alone.  St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Nicholas of Flue, and Blessed Alejandrina Maria da Costa are all examples. Skeptics are quick to discount these miracles as isolated incidents.  But, for those who believe, they are proof of the power of the Eucharist. 

This power can be experienced by all of us who believe in Jesus words and deeds without having to see the transformation, or to live out the fact of the exclusive nourishment.  This is precisely because Faith is believing in things unseen.  And that is what we are called to do- to have Faith. Life in this world is not what Life is all about.  Life in this world is about recognizing the existence of God, and the fact of everlasting life in the Kingdom of God for those who believe in Him.  We need food, we need nourishment, for that Heavenly kingdom.  When we believe in and consume the Eucharist with this mindset, then it nourishes us for the Kingdom of God just as literally as it provided bodily nourishment in the lives of the saints we mentioned. 

In just a few minutes, all of you will receive the Body of Christ.  I pray that all of you will recognize its power.  Because what we truly need in this life  Is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control-  the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.  These are what sustain us in our quest for the Kingdom of God.  These are part of the nourishment, the spiritual food, all of us need to succeed in this life so we can live in joy in the next.

Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands!

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Thursday of 12th Week of Ordinary Time

Gen 16: 1-12, 15-16; Mt 7: 21-29

Dc. Larry Brockman


Sarah took things into her own hands rather than trust in God.  And what a mess it made of things, too.  She reasoned that the Lord made her barren- it was His fault, and so, feeling sorry for herself and her husband, she takes matters into her own hands.  She does what almost all of us would think as unthinkable-  she sets her husband up with another woman so he would have an heir!  And that resulted in a sad chain of events characterized by pride and arrogance; and jealousy and abusiveness, to name just a few.   

In the Gospel, we hear about what it means to really know God.  As Jesus explains it, the real test about how well we know God is not how much we know about Him; neither is it how much we do in His name; rather, the real test is whether we are in tune to what the will of God is for us.  The story about Sarah teaches us the practical side of that. Because no matter how hard it is to understand, and no matter how difficult it may seem to be to do, the will of God is the best that can possibly be for us- always.  You see, the flip side of the matter; that is, taking matters into our own hands and trying to control life ourselves, will always result in a disaster because there are consequences that always happen when we run counter to God’s will.  In Sarah and Haggar and Abraham’s case, the near term consequences were described for us and they were painful.  But, if you are familiar with history, then you know that the long term consequences of this incident plague us even today in the form of relations between Judeo-Christian and Moslem peoples.   

The sin here is not the relations between Hagar and Abraham.  That was actually an allowed custom in Abraham’s time.  Rather, it was a lack of patience and a lack of trust in God’s will.  Ironically, shortly after the Haggar incident in Genesis, the Lord appears to Abraham and guarantees that Sarah will bear him a Son.  So, patience and trust would have prevailed.

Still, this incident raises a question about discernment.  When, for example do we accept that God does not will something for us-  like having children or getting a job or having some special possession- so we can move on to something else versus continuing to wait for what we pray for in the joyful expectation that our prayer will still be answered?  Well, the advice Jesus gives us is this: build your foundation on solid rock.  In other words, focus on something that centers you and keeps you always on firm ground.  Having the right two way relationship with God means listening and waiting for His input back to you no matter how long it takes.  So being patient and trusting in God’s will is just such a foundation.   If you find yourself moving off in some other direction out of impatience or anger or frustration or any other such negative reaction, then it is probably not God’s will for you. 

You can avoid the turmoil that happened in the story about Sarah and Hagar because when the rains come and the wind blows around you in your life, the events that set the consequences in your life, so to speak, you will be safe on your foundation- trust in God’s will for you.   

It’s All About the Name!

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Trinity Sunday

Ex 34: 4b-6, 8-9; 2 Cor 13: 11-13; Jn 3: 16-18

Dc. Larry Brockman


It’s all about the name! 

Now, for a moment, consider your own names.  How did you get them and what do they mean?  First, there is the Family name.  The root of some of your names probably refers to an attribute or skill.  I have been told that my family name’s roots are in brick laying skills, for example.  Others are named after their parents- like for example Erickson- son of Eric.  The point is that each person’s name meant something- it was a way to define, to identify, who they were.  As we became more numerous- the family name wasn’t enough to identify us.  There were a whole lot of Smiths and Whites and Carpenters, for example.  And so, we added one or more other names.  These were often chosen to honor someone in our families.  We say, for example that so and so is named after their Grandfather.  Others are named after some hero or popular personality.  And so, identity and honor are two main attributes of names.  That is basically a trend that God instilled in us- because He wanted us to honor and respect His name and identity.   

Now, in the first reading, the Lord comes down out of a cloud and the first thing He does is to proclaim His own name!  He simply says- “Lord”, or in Hebrew “Yahweh”, meaning “I am who am”; the self-existent; the Eternal one.  And then He repeats that name several times for emphasis.  This name was considered so Holy and awesome by the Israelis that they wouldn’t even say it aloud.  And so, we have a hint about why God wants us to know Him by name.  God the Father wants us to know Him, honor Him, and respect Him and to recognize His identity at all times.  In fact, the first several commandments, which were about to be handed down on those stones we heard about, lay it all out for us:  I am your God; have no false Gods; and show me respect by not taking my name in vain and by honoring me on the Sabbath. 

God the Father is the one who is eternal, who existed before anything else, and who will always exist; and the one who made everything.  Indeed, He wants us to know Him for that- who He is and what He has done.  He wants us to know and accept His name!  When you think about how awesome the one and only God is, how can you possibly do otherwise?   

Now God made everything that is, and it was all made out of Love so He could share it with His creation.  Paul reminds us of that in the second reading.  There he greets the Corinthians with a fascinating reference to the Trinity when he says:  “The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”  How many times have we heard that- but do we understand it. 

We have just heard how God the Father gave emphasis to His name.  But in the Gospel, importance of the name of God comes up again.  We are told by John that unless we believe in the name of the only Son of God, we cannot be saved.  Now lots of people hang up on this statement.  Are we to take it literally?  First of all, consider what the name “Jesus” means.  This is the name the angel Gabriel told Mary that her child should be named.  And it means- Jehovah, the Lord, is Salvation.  “Christ” means the anointed one, or chosen one.  So Jesus Christ is God from whom Salvation comes; and He is the chosen person in Human form to be the Savior. 

We know that believing in the Name means a couple of things:  It means believing in the identity of the name; and it means respecting the name and giving it honor.   And so it is essential for everyone to believe that the one true God is the Salvation of the World and to respect Him, as symbolized by respecting His name.  Those who do these things believe in His name.  Those who believe in His name will be saved.   

Now we hear that Paul also hopes that the grace of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be with us.  These are the things that God the Father gave us out of love.  The Grace of Jesus Christ is captured by the life of Jesus Christ- the Gospel.  We need to live the example of that Gospel to be in that grace.  And the Holy Spirit works within us to bring us out of ourselves and to love each other; and share our Christian Joy with others.   

It occurs to me that this is what our families are all about.  Moms and dads share the Love of God and the Grace of Jesus Christ; and through the Spirit dwelling in them, they pass on the name of God and the message of the Gospel to their Children.  The family is the living expression of the Trinity.  And so what better way for us to celebrate Father’s Day than to celebrate the Trinity. 

Our fathers play the role of God the Father in our family.  They are the initiators of new life; they are responsible for loving their spouse and their family; and they act as role models by showing the grace of Jesus Christ as they interact with their Children and the outside world  through the inspiration of the Spirit.   

And so, my wish to fathers out there today this Father’s day is simply this:  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you Dad’s out there today. 

Forgiveness Out of Love

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Thursday of 11th Week in Ordinary Time

2 Cor 11: 1-11; Mt 6: 7-15

Dc. Larry Brockman


Forgiveness!  This morning, Jesus puts unmistakable emphasis on Forgiveness.  First he teaches us how to pray:  Keep it simple- say what you mean; and don’t babble.  Give praise and Glory to God; and recognize that God’s will is best for us.  That is followed by the forgiveness part:  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.  And finally, “deliver us from evil”.   

But notice that after the prayer, Jesus is very explicit that we will not be forgiven unless we forgive. Wow!  And that is the hard part, isn’t it, at least speaking for myself.  Yes, it is hard for me to forgive people who continually hurt me.  And it seems as if there are some people out there who are determined, even dedicated, to be contrary over and over again.  And no matter how many times I tell myself to forgive them, something will come up again, and yet again.  I saw a movie yesterday that illustrates what I mean.  There was a person who played the violin each night just because he knew it irritated his neighbor.  When the neighbor died; this man stopped playing the violin!  In fact, he became depressed because he had derived such pleasure from tormenting his neighbor,  that he didn’t know what to do with himself when the neighbor was gone.     

I bet that all of you out there have this kind of problem with someone.  As a parent, we hear our kids complain about their brothers and sisters teasing them or hitting them or something;  And nagging parents or spouses or siblings fit this bill; so do many bosses or clients or teachers.  And then there are the politicians!     

But you know, we are often blind to our own weaknesses, and so, it is fair to say that we are all probably a thorn of this kind in someone else’s side too- all of course, except me!  I never do anything to irritate anyone else!    And that brings me to Jesus’ main point- humility.  Forgiveness and humility go hand in hand.  All of us need to forgive everything everybody else does to us no matter how often it is done or how sinister it is, because all of us are sinners and are guilty of the same thing.  When, in all humility, we recognize the fact of our sinfulness, even though we may be blind to the depth and details of that sinfulness, then we can make a true confession and expect to be forgiven by God.  But, that humility demands that we forgive others as we would hope to be forgiven, otherwise,we are not being honest in our own relationship with God.   

In our first reading, Paul demonstrates the kind of forgiveness I have been talking about.  Paul has put himself out for the Corinthians.  And yet, they have challenged his authority; they have listened to others preach behind his back.  And yet Paul forgives them- he writes them and asks for a return to harmony.  At the end of that reading, Paul says something very profound.  He tells us why we must forgive others.  We need to forgive for the same reason that Jesus forgives- out of Love. 

What is Real Unity?

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Thursday of 7th Week of Easter

Acts 22: 30, 23: 6-11; John 17: 20-26

Dc. Larry Brockman


Unity! Christian Unity is the theme of today’s Gospel.  Jesus is praying that all people- those of His time and those who hear about him from His disciples- that all such people, might be one- ONE. 

And what does He mean by being one?  Well, Jesus says:  “So that they may all be one, as you Father are in me, and I in you.”  Just exactly how can we do our part to fulfill that prayer?  How can you and I be so unified with each other that God the Father dwells in us in the same way that He dwells in Jesus, and such that we are all one harmonious entity- the Body of Christ?  I think that Jesus was praying that not only would His disciples believe in common what He had taught them without their being contentions between them, but that they would put that belief into practice by each of them complementing each other  In going forth and Baptizing all nations.  Jesus is advocating the kind of teamwork one sees in a well- coached sports team.  There, as an ideal, each person works selflessly and tirelessly for the common goal with all the other teammates.     

Now in our first reading, we have a perfect example of the lack of such unity among “believers” in this World as Paul uses a clever ruse to escape his captors.  He pits the Sadducees (who don’t believe in the Resurrection) and the Pharisees (who do believe in it) against each other.  But the Jews, whether Pharisees or Sadducees, had so much more in common with each other than they had differences; especially when comparing the differences between themselves  and the Romans or the Egyptians or the Greeks.  That’s what makes the example in this reading so fascinating when it is paired with the Gospel call for unity.  Because these two factions within the Jews were anything but unified- they were ready to tear each other apart.   

It is no different today with us, is it- Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc. all share so much of the same Faith, and yet, we are hardly unified?  But before we can deal with the interdenominational unity problem, we must look within, because, indeed, our unity must begin “at home”- right here in our Parish.  Some of us are not joiners- our Faith is expressed as an individual thing.  Other folks are involved in one or more ways in Parish Groups.  We have prayer groups, men’s groups, ladies groups, social action groups, and all kinds of educational groups.  While each individual and each of these groups may be doing great work, the question remains- are we all working together as the unified body of Christ?   And can we do that better- develop our unity?  There are several things we need to get to the kind of unity Jesus is talking about.  First, we need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit- and that is coming shortly at Pentecost.  Second, we need an attitude that accepts that “I don’t have the answer; but rather, we have the answer”, because no matter how directed and fruitful we are as individuals or groups, God needs all of us to build the body of Christ.  Lastly, we need Love, a real love expressed towards each other.  Indeed Jesus ends his prayer this way, as he says:  “That the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.”   

Learning to Wait a “Little While”

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011


Thursday of the 6th Week of Easter

Acts 18: 1-8; John 16: 16-20

Dc. Larry Brockman


A period of turmoil! That’s what our life on earth is, a period of turmoil.  The reading from Acts describes some of the turmoil of the birth of the Church.  People are persecuted by the authorities; some reject the message of the Apostles; while doing his evangelical mission, people like Paul must continue to work at their trade, and that means Paul lives basically mouth-to-mouth in his mission of evangelization as he travels around the area.  It is a chaotic time, the birth of the Church.  Jesus Gospel message all but says that the Apostles should expect this; that they will feel like they have been abandoned- Jesus will be gone for an uncertain “little while”, they will be left on their own without the physical presence of Jesus to guide them day by day as they had become accustomed to, to give them constant inspiration and guidance.  And yet, Jesus is telling them to hold up, stand tall, be firm, endure, because their weeping and mourning will turn to joy. 

This message apples equally well to us today.  In the course of our lives, our mission, we will miss the presence of our Lord and savior.  It will seem like he is gone to us.  True, we never saw and talked to and felt the physical presence of the Lord as the Apostles did.  But we have the Scriptures that remind us of His life and presence among us, and the Resurrection and everlasting life, and the Spirit who will descend on us at Pentecost.  Even more importantly, we have the Eucharist, which is His real presence whenever we want it. 

But still, there will be times when we will feel abandoned.  Times when we are depressed over our sinfulness; or when we are faced with the difficulties and problems of life; or we lose a loved one or something very dear to us.  In these times, we may feel abandoned.  It is then that we need to recall these words of Jesus to his faithful:  “But your grief will become joy”!