Archive for October, 2011

A Tale of Two Peoples!

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mal 1: 14b- 2: 2b, 8-10; 1 Thes 2: 7b-9, 13; Mt 23: 1-12

by  Dc. Larry Brockman

A tale of two peoples!

The first people, the Israeli Nation in Malachi’s time, was blessed as the chosen people and had prophets who brought the Word of the Lord to them over many centuries.  They were the people of the first covenant.  The Lord had saved them from slavery, and had blessed them with priests and prophets and kings.  The Lord had given them commandments, laying down boundaries for them on what they should do and should not do in order to give them a roadmap to living righteous lives.  But, the leaders and priests in Malachi’s time were not stepping up to their duty.  They were preoccupied with divisions amongst themselves. They were not faithfully serving the Lord’s message to the people.  And so, the Israeli people ignored the prophets, priests and commandments.  They broke faith with one another, violating the covenant of their Lord.  It’s almost like they became oblivious to their blessing-  putting it on the back burner in times of prosperity, calling on the Lord only when they were in trouble.   

The second people, the Thessalonians, had none of the advantages of the first people.  No history, no prophets, no commandments, and no covenant.  They were, however, blessed with the presence of St. Paul.  Paul worked right alongside of them, and through his zeal for the Lord Jesus, he passed on the Gospel- the good news of the New Covenant.  Paul did this with affection, and treated the Thessalonians with respect.  Paul was a servant preacher that people could relate to.  The Thessalonians responded well to his message.  And as Paul said, thanks were given to the Lord for the generous and heart felt acceptance of the Christian message by these Gentiles.  Because the Thessalonians not only accepted the message, but they acted on it with their hearts and put the message into practice in the way they lived their lives.  These Thessalonians thus became the chosen people of the New Covenant, along with all the Gentiles who accepted Christianity.   

The tale of these two peoples is one that occurs over and over again throughout history.  Right now, it is you and I who are the chosen people.  We are the people of the Covenant.  We have the Bible, the Sacraments, the Church, the Traditions, Priests, and the example of all the saints to help us.  We have a choice between embracing our faith with our hearts, as the Thessalonians did, or putting our faith into reserve, on the shelf, and out of the way,  using it as a crutch when we get in trouble, rather than living our faith in our everyday lives.  We, too, can become oblivious to the blessings we have through the traditions our parents handed down to us- our Christian faith and heritage and teachings and values.  You see, the secular world keeps right on tempting us.  It does that by claiming our time, our interest, and our attraction to things other than God.  We can feel too comfortable knowing that we have “faith” if we need it.  But are we really people of faith, acting on it?  It is our challenge to focus on what is really important ion life, our faith.   

One of the reasons that living our faith can become a problem in today’s world is the poison of hypocrisy.  I think this is what the Gospel story is all about.  Because our Churches- whether Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, or whatever, are human institutions which have sinners in them.  The fact that there is more than one Christian denomination is a sad testimony to the divisions among us, just like the divisions observed among the Israelis.  And so, we can become cynical about the imperfections of our Church hierarchies.  There are proud and haughty leaders, child abuse scandals, sex scandals, rules heaped upon rules, high handedness, and other forms of hypocrisy that are plain to see,   just like Jesus reported in the Gospel story.  And there is reluctance of the Church to take a stand sometimes when it is needed.  These signs of human weakness all point to selfishness.  And yet, the true calling of our Church is to serve us- to help us in our salvation journey.   

And so, what transcends the imperfections of our Church institutions is Jesus teaching itself.  As Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “The greatest among you must be your servant”.  That is the true test for all of us.  I cannot help but notice that Paul won over the Thessalonians in exactly that way.  Paul worked hard right alongside of them; he was their servant as well as an example to them of the Lord’s message and how to apply it.  And so, we need to embrace our Church and it’s teachings and forgive the frailties of human weakness in our Churches.  We cannot afford to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  But it is a servant mentality that we must all have- one that embraces what we can do for others, rather than what we can do for ourselves.   

In the tale of two peoples, which people do you identify with?   

Feeling Down on Your Luck?

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Thursday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time

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

by Dc. Larry Brockman

It doesn’t matter how the deck is stacked against you in today’s secular world.  It just doesn’t matter. You might have dropped the winning touchdown pass; burned the pot roast; forgotten to do your homework; or a whole host of other little things that make you feel sad.  All of us, at some time or another, feel down on our luck, and depressed that things are not going our way.  We might even say to ourselves- why me?  But, the fact is that none of these things really matters as long as you recognize that God loves you and is there for you in whatever your distress might be.

Today’s Gospel story is something all of us who might think we are down on our luck, should take to heart.  Some Pharisees come to Jesus to tell him that Herod is after Him.  “You better leave”, they say.  Jesus had travelled through Palestine preaching and teaching the people.  He talked about a new Kingdom- the Kingdom of God.   People like Herod wanted it to stop;  Palestine was his Kingdom- there wasn’t going to be another Kingdom if he had anything to say about it.  Jesus talked about sins and the need for asking forgiveness of sins.  He talked about believing with your heart, and not just following the Mosaic Law.  This threatened the Pharisees and the Jewish establishment.  For weeks now we have seen how the establishment was trying to trick Jesus in the Gospel stories so they could bring charges against him.  Jesus felt the pressure, felt the heat.  Jesus, whose message was one of love and hope for the future, was being rejected by the establishment despite His best efforts.  Jesus was feeling down on his luck, and unsuccessful in His mission.  And the establishment was right there with worldly advice- “if you know what’s good for you, get out while the getting is good- Escape!”  But Jesus resolved to do the will of His Father.  He knew He was there for Him.

Doesn’t this whole scenario sound familiar?  Because one of the most frequent responses we have to being down on our luck is escape.  But life is not about escape.  Living life is about facing our dragons, whatever they are, not running away from them.  We ought not to escape when the going gets tough, but rather embrace the problem- try harder.  Cook another pot roast; try harder in the next football game; renew your efforts to do your homework because you know that God is there for you.  The love of God is something that no power on earth can stop.  And you know what?  If we learn this lesson in little things, then when the big problems come along, when you lose your job; or find you have some terrible illness; or you lose a loved one; then even when these things happen, you won’t try to escape, to run away.  Rather, you will trust in the Lord.

Why?  Because “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor present things nor future things, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”. 

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Thursday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

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

Dc. Larry Brockman


Appearances can be deceiving.   


Take, for example our first reading.  People who are Godless; lie and cheat; and even appear to be proud of their evil ways seem to be prospering in Malachi’s time; whereas the God fearing, law abiding, prayerful disciples of the Lord, who are victimized by these evil doers,  just seem to suffer more and more because they are not following the ways of the world.  But all of this is just appearances.  Malachi goes on to give voice to God’s intent.  He says those who trust in the Lord will be vindicated  “On the day the Lord takes action”.  And the key here is trust- trust that the Lord will respond to our prayers and honest attempts to be righteous in His sight   


The Gospel is telling us the same thing.  One can read the Gospel parable too literally, and miss the main point.  The parable of the persistent neighbor can be viewed as a lesson by comparison.  We can draw that conclusion by comparing the response of the home owner to persistent attempts by his neighbor versus a less persistent approach by the neighbor.  And certainly that message applies.  The home owner will respond better to the persistent neighbor by comparison.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease!   


But the main message of the parable is one of contrast, not comparison- the contrast between a human person who hears an appeal and an all loving God who hears an appeal.  You see, we can relate to the role of the home owner.  We don’t want to be bothered; we don’t want our families disturbed during the middle of the night; and we are sleepy and want to go back to sleep.  But God is not sleepy, and He loves all of His children equally.  He hears our appeals and acts on them- persistence helps, but God really only has to hear our prayers once.  We can be certain of that if we believe in God.  So, there is a tremendous contrast between us, as humans, and God.  How silly it is for us to think of God hearing our appeals for help in the same way we view a neighbor hearing our appeal.   


So then, why doesn’t God seem to respond to us when we ask Him for something?  Well, because appearances can be deceiving.  Let me turn Jesus’ words around a bit.  Could it be that we are asking for a snake rather than a fish?  Ask yourselves this.  Have you ever asked for something from God, not received it, and then found out later that it was better that you did not get what you asked for.  Maybe you didn’t get one job offer, but then the next one was even better.  Or has something happened that seemed like a disaster at the time; and then later you found out that it was actually a stroke of luck- like the passenger that missed an airplane, only to discover that the plane crashed.  These are easy to see, but God always sees the whole picture, even in the subtle little things we cannot ever hope to see.   


God loves all of us, but, yes, indeed, appearances can be deceiving.