Archive for January, 2012

Hearing God’s Call.

Sunday, January 15th, 2012


Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

1     Sam 3: 3b-10, 19; 1 Cor 6: 13c-15a, 17-20; John 1: 35-42

Deacon Larry Brockman

Noise, noise, and more noise!  Busy, busy, all the day long!  Our lives are cluttered with noise and lots of activity.  Cell phones with ear buds; boom boxes; TV and radio; Pandora; U-tube; Facebook; twitter- you name it.  After school activities, club meetings, social groups, sports, and all kinds of go, go, go.  We are a generation of fast and furious; noise and activity.  And sometimes we don’t even have to get up and move around to find it.  But where is it all leading?  Do we really know; and do we even care?  And yet deep down we know- we know that we need meaning and purpose in our lives.  Not only that, we sense that the meaning and purpose must be deeper than just going through the motions of life.  But what is it? What is our meaning and purpose?     

The first thing we have to do to understand the meaning and purpose of our lives  Is to recognize that God is trying to communicate with us about just that.  In the first reading, we see young Samuel learning this lesson.  Samuel is dreaming about someone calling to him- but he doesn’t recognize who it is.  Not once, not twice, but three times he has the same dream.   And only with the help of Eli does Samuel recognize it for what it truly is- God calling him and asking him to listen to him in a dream.   

Now let’s hold on to that thought for a moment and talk about it because some of you are probably thinking- “Is God trying to talk to me in my dreams”?  Maybe, and maybe not, but you see, that isn’t the point.  The point is that whether it is a dream; a funny feeling or fleeting impression when we are awake; something we read; something we see; or something we experience; whatever it might be- God is trying to talk to us all the time.  But we need to be open to it; we need to listen to him.   

The other day, my wife and I watched the film “About Schmidt”.  The main character in the film, Warren Schmidt, was ably played  by Jack Nicholson.  Warren saw a TV add called “Child Reach”, calling for folks to sponsor a poor child in the third World for $22 a month.  Moved by compassion, Warren sponsors a child named Ndugu.  Now Warren is a man who holds it all in,  and doesn’t have anyone to share his anger or frustration with.  He retires after having devoted his life to his job at the expense of spending time with his family.  Then he discovers he wasn’t appreciated by his company; loses his wife; and finds himself frustrated by his daughter’s choice of a mate.   And so, throughout the film, we hear Warren venting his anger in letters to his foster-child Ndugu.  At the end of the film, Warren is feeling very, very discouraged and despondent.  He doesn’t see the value in his life.  And then, all of a sudden, he gets a letter from Ndugu’s teacher who talks about how much Warren’s sponsorship has meant and how much Ndugu loves him.  Ndugu has also sent a crayon drawing.  It shows a smiling Ndugu linked hand in hand with Warren, and a great big bright sun shining in the background.  And Warren cries, because he can see that he has made a difference after all.

It is just a story, yes; but the point is clear.  God nudges, cajoles, and whispers to us all the time.  And some of the time, we are not even conscious that we have responded.  But the little voice inside has made its mark, and we do things responding to our call by God.  These things are part of God’s plan, and they can make a big difference.  How much more dramatic it would be if we actually listened to God all the time and made that our focus because God is talking to us like that all the time.  How, you say; I don’t hear anything?   

Well, it happens when you are watching a key football game and someone calls and asks you for help; it happens when you plan a getaway weekend, but your 3 year comes down with the flu and it also happens when you face a decision, and feel that little voice inside tell you to do the right thing rather than the easy thing or the popular thing.  Then again, it can be when you are in the Adoration Chapel quietly praying and reflecting; or when you are here at Mass.  And yes, it can even happen when you analyze one of your dreams.  But the point is that it is happening all the time.  God is calling you to do his thing for you.   

Second, the message God has for you is personal, much more personal than you might think.  Samuel’s message was certainly in that category; and so was the message to the Apostles in the Gospel.  When we read how God called people in the Bible, or when we hear stories about great saints who have responded to God’s call like St. Paul or Mother Theresa or Saint Francis, it was personal; it was directed to them, and the specifics of that call weren’t for us.   Our calls are personal as well.  And likely they are right there unfolding for us- right in front of us- like helping the friend in the middle of the key football game; or tending to our sick child instead of the weekend getaway, or not going along with the crowd when we know it’s wrong.

The fact that God is calling us to something right in front of us is both a relief and a challenge.  It is a relief because more often than not, we are not being asked to make a drastic change in our lives.  Rather, we are just being asked to be a little more sensitive; a little more giving in our own situations.  But it is a challenge, because it means making a sacrifice, the kind of sacrifice that involves putting our personal goals on the back burner.   


Our gospel today demonstrates this so well.  These men that became Apostles were called quietly one by one.  And they left to follow Jesus.  It all started out slowly, but ended up changing their lives forever in the long run.   


As you begin your new year, now is the perfect time for you to listen carefully for God’s voice in your lives.  If you can stop the train you are on, and go to the Chapel to reflect- that would be great.  But God is still calling you in the noise and clutter of life.  So, listen for it; be ready for it.  Put aside the cell phone or TV or other forms of self-absorption when the call comes.  Make a sacrifice; say “Speak your servant is listening”.  And God will say to you:  “Come and see”. 

Someone Knows You Better Than Yourself

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

2nd Thursday of Christmas

1John 3: 11-21; John 1: 43-51

Dc. Larry Brockman


You know what?  There is someone out there who knows you better than you know yourself.


I’m not talking about your Mom or Dad; I’m not talking about your spouse; and I’m not talking about your best friend.  Although those who are close to you often times do seem to know you better than you know yourself.  That’s because it is always easier for a person to be more objective about what someone else does than it is for them to be objective about their own actions.  We let ourselves be deceived about things that we do; this happens gradually, almost silently.  And so, we can become attracted to something or wander off into a pattern of behavior and we try to suppress how damaging it is to us.  That’s how we become addicted to eating too much food or the wrong foods or alcohol or TV or gossiping or a host of other things.  We can be blind to our weaknesses, or look the other way. But others, especially those close to us, can see it.  We can even become angry when someone rightly points to our deficiencies.  Because we see all of their faults as clearly as they see ours! 


But still, I am not talking about those who are close to us. Rather, I’m talking about God.  Because it is God who knows us better than we know ourselves and God doesn’t have any of those faults.   


John says something very profound in the first reading.  He says: “This is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.”  Yes, God knows everything.  He knows that we have these human frailties, and He knows that we have secrets that those who are close to us do not know.  He knows how we struggle with our own imperfections deep down.  He knows we are truly sorry for them, but being the weak humans that we are we keep doing some of these things, and sometimes we give up and even condemn ourselves.  But, God also sees the whole person that we are.  God is on our side- offering us His grace and counsel should we ask for them.  The last thing he wants is for us to give up on ourselves and condemn ourselves.  We need to feel the guilt; yes, but resolve to always do better. 


Fortunately for us, we will be judged by God and not others.  God will judge us based on the totality of who we are.  Because He sees the good things we do as well, and sometimes we are harder on ourselves than anyone else.   


I have always been puzzled by today’s Gospel until I saw the connection with this first reading.  Nathanael makes a sarcastic remark when told about of Jesus:  “Can anything good come from Nazareth”?  I’m sure you and I can relate to a person like Nathanael- always the caustic remark; the sharp tongue.   And yet, Jesus, through the eyes of God, saw something special in Nathanael.  Jesus saw deeper than the external façade that Nathanael displayed to people.  And so Jesus said of Nathanael:  “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.”  Yes, God knew Nathanael better than Nathanael.  He knows us better too; and He doesn’t give up on us.  Neither should we give up on ourselves. 

The World Will Never Be The Same

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Solemnity of Mary

Num 6: 22-27; Gal 4: 4-7; Luke 2: 16-21

Deacon Larry Brockman



The World will never be the same.  And the World can never be the same because the birth of Jesus changed things forever.   


Once, we were a people of darkness.  We knew about God; He even communicated through the prophets with us.  But, for almost all of His people, God was a distant and vague, yet overpowering and foreboding presence.  And God even seemed angry and unapproachable to His chosen people.  He was even more distant and tentative to the Gentiles.  Yes, we were a people in the dark.  But the birth of the Christ Child changed all of that.   


Mary saw that- and that is why she pondered all these things in her heart.  First, there was the message the angel Gabriel gave her; and then came the similar message her husband Joseph had received from the same angel.  Mary had found favor by God and was to bear the Son of God.  And now this- the birth of her son, Jesus- in less than favorable circumstances, yet attended by choirs of angels.  Just imagine a throng of Angels singing!  What an awesome sight that must have been.  Yes, Mary saw that she was part of something that would change the World forever.  And so, she took her son after 8 days and did exactly what the angel had asked her to do- dedicate Him in the temple and give Him his name, Jesus, which means “God’s savior”, because she knew and believed that the prophecy was coming true!   


The shepherds saw the significance of Jesus birth also.  And that is simply amazing.  You might ask- why was it so amazing?  Well, these shepherds, were relatively simple people very much of the World.  They had to be practical, pragmatic, hard working men. They weren’t students of the scripture or theology, but rather, folks who were just regular people,  And so, what happened?  First, they saw a large number of angels that told them about the birth of the Christ, the Messiah; and so they went in haste to see what happened.  Once they had seen that everything that was predicted by the angels had happened, they “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them”.  Because they were convinced, excited, and joyful over the coming of the Messiah.  Do you suppose they would have returned glorifying God if they hadn’t been visited by the angels?  Something significant happened to them- this visit from a large group of angels who predicted an unlikely event and yet, it happened just as the angels predicted.   


Now if that kind of thing happened to you or I today, just imagine how you would feel.  You would be blown away!  You would think to yourself:  “Nothing will ever be the same!”  You might at first have doubts “was this real or not”.  So that is why a group was visited, not just one shepherd.  Because it would all have seemed so unreal- a hallucination if it happened to you alone.  But it wasn’t a hallucination; it was real, and the whole group experienced it.  And so, this long awaited arrival of the Christ, the Messiah, that all of the rabbi teachers and scribes and people of stature talked about, had actually come about.  And not only that, it came about on your watch.  Wow! How you would be blown away.   


And so, we can see how the shepherds were caught up in the true meaning, the real truth about Christmas- that God had sent His only son to dwell amongst us to live as one of us and to save us.  God was no longer a distant, vague, overpowering, foreboding presence, but was manifest as one of us.  And yet, God was manifest as a tiny, helpless baby.  He was destined to become a shining example to all of humanity about how to behave as a human being, and yet be in total harmony with God.  And not only that, Jesus would reconcile us with God.  Just so that we wouldn’t forget about Him, he instituted the Church, and entrusted to the Church the ability to bring Him back: He gave us the Eucharist, his own body and blood, which all of us are privileged to share together as part of the Mass.   


Indeed, our God is close to us, not distant; He is loving and kind like His son Jesus; not foreboding and overpowering.  Yes, he is still so far above us in intelligence and power that we cannot conceive of the mind and power of God.  But we have been privileged to experience his love for us.  The love of His only begotten son, and not only that, Jesus is available to us always in the Eucharist.  What a contrast with other religions.  They haven’t recognized the significance and reality of the fullness of God’s gift to man- the Son of God become man and the spirit of God that dwells in each of us who believe.   


Today, as we look forward to the New Year is a good time for us to count our blessings.  And one of the blessings that all of us share is our faith as Christians.  Even though the Hebrews didn’t recognize it, that’s what God’s famous blessing for Aaron in our first reading was all about.  Listen to it again:  “The LORD bless you and keep you!”  That is God the Father; “The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!”  That is the Son of God, Jesus, whose face we see.  And then finally: “The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!”  The peace is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. 


And so, let us all rejoice today  Because we have all been truly blessed.  For with the birth of Jesus, God has shed his face upon us, and will send his Spirit upon us.