Archive for September, 2011

The Sin of Pride and Satan

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael

Rev 12: 7-12ab; Jn 1: 47-51

Dc. Larry Brockman


The accuser of our brothers was cast out!  Have you ever really thought about that- about the accuser being the Devil, and being cast out?  And according to this account, it was because of the accusations that he was cast out.  Now to be sure, all of us humans can be accused of sin.  And Satan, a creature of God at the beginning, was highly regarded until this incident, when the accuser of man was cast out along with his minions of angels.  Why?


Imagine for a moment that you are an angel created as a much more sophisticated being than mankind.  Then God creates these human creatures so much below you in intelligence and understanding and power and capability.  Not only that, they are limited in their existence to a single planet in a primitive physical world in a small galaxy in a huge universe.  And yet, even after their fall from the Garden of Eden, God plans to grant them access to heaven- the same as you.  So Satan, endowed with such superior powers, maybe only second to God before his fall, sees all man’s shortcomings, reports them to God and accuses them of these shortcomings.  You are Satan the great accuser.  Now the name Satan means adversary.  So Satan not only accuses, but becomes our adversary.   


And that is what was wrong with Satan.  Satan was proud- he committed the sin of pride.  His pride made him an adversary of God’s creation rather than an honest reporter.  That’s why Satan was cast out of heaven.  Simply put, Satan had a holier than thou attitude; he resented the imperfections of others; and it led him to a consuming attitude of superiority mixed with despise for mankind.  But God in His goodness had other “sheep” in his flock besides angels; sheep that were not as capable as angels.  And God chose to love these other, less capable creatures too.  It was, and is, after all, God’s business who He loves.   


The question for us is this.  Does Satan’s sin sound familiar?  Have you ever felt the way Satan feels about others.  Surely, there are people out there less capable, less fortunate, and less devoted to God than you; but we cannot have Satan’s attitude about such people- an attitude of self-righteousness and despise for others.  Rather, we need to put on Christ’s attitude- an attitude of acceptance of His fellow man no matter their station in life, color, intelligence, or looks; and for that matter, no matter their pattern of behavior.  Jesus, who is God, did not choose to be self-righteous and to despise mankind, but rather, to love us.  Certainly, we do not copy or support behavior that our conscience tells us is wrong.  When Jesus encountered sinners, he certainly did not support their sinful behavior, but He did not condemn them either.  Rather, he converted their hearts to repent and to follow His pattern of behavior.   


The Gospel story is all about Jesus choosing an ordinary man, Nathanael, from amongst a host of possible people.  Nathanael was chosen because Jesus saw his heart, not his appearance.  Jesus saw his heart, not his talents.  And Jesus saw his heart, not his weaknesses.  That’s why He said of Nathanael- “There is no duplicity in him.”   

God Wants a Conversion of Our Hearts

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ez 18: 25-28; Phil 2: 1-5; Mt 21: 28-32

Dc. Larry Brockman


God is looking for a conversion of the heart!  That’s what it is all about to God- what is really in our hearts.  And one thing about a conversion of the heart that is so important is this: it needs to be constant; it needs to go on as long as we live.


First, we have Ezekiel’s example.  The Lord justifies one who, late in life, turns from his sins and begins to do what is right and just.  Why-  because he had a conversion of heart.  On the other hand, imagine someone who walks through life mostly doing good, but then, late in life, he wanders off in the wrong direction. Can it be that such a person was not committed all along?  He might be someone who goes through the motions in the ordinary things of life, but then, when the going gets tough, when the real test of his or her faith comes, this person abandons his faith, and falls into sin.  Now you might say, Does that really happen?  Are righteous people who make one final mistake abandoned by God?  But I think that it is the opposite that is the case.  There are those who associate with, but don’t really embrace righteousness.  And when they are tested, really tested about their commitment to the right thing, they walk away from it.  Let’s face it, we are tested all the time- it is a constant test that God gives us.  


Jesus gives an excellent example in the Gospel parable.  One son said no to his Father, but then had a change of heart.  Deep down, he knew what the right thing was to do- to obey the father.  His own desires were those of the flesh- laziness, his own agenda, pre-occupation with other things, and so he originally said no.  But his heart won the day, what God had written in his heart as the right thing to do, his conscience.  And so he did as the father bid.  Indeed, he spent that one day working in the father’s vineyard- but you know, I am sure that it was actually one of many.  The other son knew all the right things to say and do.  He had knowledge; he had opportunity; and he projected well.  But when the chips were down, he followed his own agenda and not what was written in his heart.  And you can be sure that it was not the only time he did not do what he said he would do.   


In today’s world, there are a lot of folks who fall victim to this second son’s way of thinking.  They make a commitment to do something, something that is the right thing to do that involves a sacrifice of their own time or agenda.  They might make that commitment to get off the hook, to relieve the pressure, because someone is pressuring them or some circumstance is nagging them; whatever.  It is a convenient at the moment to say yes.  But then, when the time actually comes to deliver, they don’t follow through.  These are the folks who have not had a conversion of the heart.  They are working their own agenda deep inside.  Oh, they have excuses for their behavior.  I forgot; something came up; I didn’t think you really needed me; and the like.  But deep down, it is a lack of commitment of the heart that holds them back.   


What is the solution?  Paul’s advice today seems right on the money.  We should all be of one mind- “with the same love, united in heart, thinking the one thing”.  And what is that one thing?  Doing the will of the Father.  Now the will of the Father takes some discernment.  But that discernment is not just what we think with our heads, but what we feel is in our hearts.


You know, as I get older, I tend to get just a little lazy.  My body tells me that I am too tired to do this or that, or too busy to interrupt my routine.  I might tell myself that my days for taking on the world have passed, it is time to take it easy.  I kind of felt that way yesterday when I was working in the yard.  I had all kinds of good things planned, but I got tired after four hours and had to quit. But really, I’m not talking about that kind of tired.  Rather, I am talking about things of the Spirit- something we feel deep down we need to do for someone else, or for us to grow spiritually.  And you know, we are never too old to grow spiritually.  So, sometimes my heart is nagging me when my body tells me that I would rather not- like the men’s Bible group I belong to that meets at 7 AM on Thursday.  It means I have to get up by 5:30 AM to get there in time and that’s in the middle of the night for me!  But this small group of men depends on each other to build their spirituality- to be of one mind and heart.  And so, they depend on me to be there.  And so, it is important to listen to my heart, and not my body,  because God is looking for a lasting conversion of the heart   

The Evils of Procrastination

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Hag 1: 1-8; Lk 9: 7-9

Dc. Larry Brockman


There are lots of Procrastinators out there!  People that put off doing things.  They may even mean well; but even with the best of intentions, they just never seem to get around to it.  And so, they procrastinate.   


The people of Haggai’s time were procrastinators.  They had promised to build the Lord a House; but they kept saying that the time was not quite right.  Haggai is trying to rouse them- to get them off of their duff and into action.  He plays on their guilt, tries to shame them into action.  And what makes it worse- it is a collective effort that is being held up.  Building the temple requires cooperation from many of them.  But all of them were procrastinating.   


You know, it is easy for us to get into such a rut too.  We tell ourselves we need to plan properly; or we need just a few more assets; or we need a better time when other things are not pressing.  And so, we do not act as individuals.  And before you know it, days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years go by, and whatever it is that we had the best intentions of doing, remains undone.  Maybe it is reconciling with a loved one; or making a basic change in our lives to get out of a rut; or even going on a diet.   


Today, let us reflect on our spiritual life in particular.  Are we putting something off there, something we know we should do, but just haven’t gotten around to?  Maybe it’s a nagging feeling that we should join a ministry; or sign up for adoration; or a discussion group; maybe even join a group that is involved in social action.  Maybe it’s a retreat, like Emmaus or Cursillo, that we feel called to do, but keep putting off.  And maybe it’s something really basic, like just making the effort to do morning and evening prayer consistently.  But whatever it is, this first reading really calls us to reflect on our tendency to procrastinate- and get beyond it.


And there is something more, too.  Because collectively, if we were all individually motivated and involved just a bit more, what a difference we could make.  Like the people of Haggai’s time, we could build a temple for the Lord,  Maybe not a physical temple, but we could do something that makes a difference in society that would give glory to God.  Let me give you an example:   


Last year, Holy Family’s Respect Life Organization made a collective effort to sponsor Pro-Life billboards in the Orlando Area.  It took the efforts of a group of people just like you and I- an organizer, someone to do research, a fundraiser, and some people who generously responded.  But it was a handful of people who just decided they were going to make it happen.  As a result, six pro-life billboards were sponsored around the Orlando Area.  Lots of people noticed- our Bishop was one of them.  So, we really can do something that makes a difference if we do not procrastinate.   


I can’t help thinking of what a difference it would have made, if Herod in today’s Gospel story  really had made an effort to see and listen to Jesus. 

Obedience Through Suffering

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Our Lady of Sorrows

Heb 5: 7-9; Lk 2: 33-35

Dc. Larry Brockman


Suppose that at the Baptism of your Child or Grandchild, the priest or deacon had said:  “Your child is destined for the rise and fall of many in this country.  He will stand for a cause that will be contradicted, and you will feel like a sword has pierced your heart.”.  Wow! That would be a pretty heavy prophecy; and pretty hard on you.  Well, that’s what Mary and Joseph heard when Jesus was presented to the temple.  Both of them had been visited by the angel Gabriel and told how Mary would have a child and then Gabriel had promised great things- the birth of the Son of God- the savior, the anointed one, the Christ.  But now this- a prophecy that had to make Jesus’ parents very sad. 


And then there is our first reading.  We hear how Jesus, the Son of God, prayed to His Father, and although He was heard, even so Jesus had to suffer.  Paul says that it was through that suffering that Jesus learned obedience. 


Now we know that Mary, and certainly Jesus, led ideal lives in the eyes of God the Father.  And yet, these most perfect of humans suffered- both of them.  And that suffering was a combination of both mental and physical suffering.  In both cases, they learned to be obedient even in the face of suffering.  It was not a self-inflicted suffering; but rather, it was the suffering that results from being obedient to the will of God.


It seems to me that all of us need to learn the same lesson.  All of us are born with a cross to bear- something that it is an integral part of our journey to salvation, something that we suffer with through no fault of our own.  Some of us have limitations- handicaps of some kind;  some of us are not gifted athletes; some of us are not the best looking; some of us are as not brilliant; and the list goes on and on.  But each of us is unique and that means that along with whatever limitations we have that are uncomfortable to us, and indeed, cause us suffering,  we have some kind of special gift or gifts- a talent, a feature, maybe even just a gift of time, that others may not have, because God loves each of us equally, and has chosen those gifts for us.  


This summer I met a man who was an avid skydiver.  He also didn’t believe in God.  He told me that 8 years ago, he had a dreadful motorcycle accident and broke his back in multiple places.  He was in the hospital for a year.  He had devoted his life since to physical rehabilitation so that he could ride that motorcycle again and go skydiving.  He was quite proud of himself because he succeeded and is now doing both.  But I wonder.  God gave him another chance- a wake-up call, if you will, a chance to learn from his suffering to be aware of God’s presence in his life so he could be obedient to the will of God.  And yet, this man has devoted his life to things of this world, determined to “beat the rap” and do what he wanted in this world.  And he is even blind to the role God plays in his life. 


Today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, let us resolve not to be blind to our suffering;  but rather, to learn from it to be obedient to the will of God. 

God is With Us

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Romans 8: 28-30; Mt 1: 18-23

Dc. Larry Brockman


Yes, indeed- God is with us!  And what should be so very special to us is what that means.  You see, the incarnation- the fact that Jesus, consubstantial with the Father for all time, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and became man, is unique to Christianity, and offers us all tremendous hope.  God literally sent Himself, through His son, to be with us- that’s what Jesus’ name means, God is with us.  And so, we have the first hand example of how we should behave so that we are pleasing to God- we need just behave as Jesus did.  Because we can be sure that Jesus, true God and true man, is the ideal role model.


Now we also know that it is possible to be righteous in God’s eyes because Jesus’ mother Mary did not sin.  That is why God chose her to bear His son Jesus.  So, if Mary can live a virtuous life, then theoretically, so could all of us.


You know, I have 4 children and 9 Grandchildren.  And I think sometimes about how much influence I have had as a parent, and continue to have as a Grandparent on my Children and Grandchildren.  It is a very sobering thought.  Because when we become Parents and Grandparents, we are directly responsible for the way our innocent Children and Grandchildren first learn about life.  They absorb everything we say and do; and they emulate what we say and do.  Our presence is essential for their well-being and their learning. 


Jesus’ mother, whose birth we celebrate today, had that kind of influence on Jesus.  She taught Him everything about how to live as a human- all the same things that we have to teach our children.  Clearly, Mary’s role in the life of Jesus was critical in that sense.  But even more to the point, think of the awesome responsibility that was.  Well, it is the same way for all of us- an awesome responsibility.  


And yet the life of Jesus and the Gospel that tells His story should give us all hope.  And that hope is summarized in today’s first reading.  If we can, as St. Paul puts it, love God as Jesus shows us in the Gospel and do His will, that is, live according to His purpose as Jesus did; then we are foreknown and predestined to be in the image of His son.  Our hope is that we have heard His call and responded to it.  We are called to a career, to a relationship; and to use certain talents; but in addition, for many of us- indeed most of us, we are called to raise a family.   Our hope is that by living our calls to do God’s will according to the Gospel, we can know that we have been justified by Jesus.  So that when we die, we will be Glorified in the Kingdom of God.