Archive for June, 2012

Prayer Must Be Followed Up With Action

Thursday, June 28th, 2012


Thursday of the 12th week in Ordinary Time

St. Irenaeus

2 Kgs 24: 8-17; Mt 7: 21-29

By Deacon Larry Brockman




There are two stories about Kings of Israel this week and they both caught my eye.  The one Tuesday from 2 Kings Chapter 19 was about King Hezekiah of Israel.  When Hezekiah learned of the plan of the Assyrians to attack and plunder Jerusalem he went to the temple and prayed fervently for help from the Lord.  And the prophet Isaiah reported back to him that his prayers were heard, and Jerusalem would be spared, which it was; it was saved by the protecting arm of the Lord.   




Not too many years later, the Israelis were faced with a similar threat.  And today, we hear quite a different story and outcome.  King Jehoiacin, and his Israeli people had grown complacent.  They were seemingly oblivious to the threat of the Babylonian invasion.  The Babylonians attacked, and Jehoiacin surrenders Jerusalem to the Babylonians who carry him away, ransack the temple, and begin the famous Babylonian exile of the Jewish people.   




What a contrast.   And what is the difference?  The difference is prayer.  But not just any kind of prayer.  It has to be prayer followed by sincere action.  For as Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the Kingdom of God but only the one who does the will of my Father”.   




Our Saint of the day, St. Irenaeus is a good example.  Irenaeus lived in the 200’s, and he was a staunch defender of the faith.  He was the first to define what books should be in the New Testament, and he used those texts to defend the Church against two heresies.  His efforts were successful against both heresies and, even today, we use the Canon of the New Testament that he defined.  But ultimately, he was martyred for his Faith.   




The defense of Israel against attacks from the outside seems too far and distant to us today; and a 3rd century Bishop defending Christianity against two heresies doesn’t seem any more relevant.  So, we have problems relating to the stories I mentioned.  But are things really so different?  Our Church today is being attacked by massive forces of secularism, not the least of which is the Government’s forced HHS Mandate that tells our Church and Church Institutions what they must pay for and include in health insurance.  But these are not the only issues the Church faces today.  There is the gay marriage issue, and managed health care for the elderly, or Euthanasia, for those who care to read the tea leaves.  And then there are the rights of Catholic Businessmen to dissent from the HHS Mandate.  These and other issues are right behind the Court Decision expected today on Obamacare, 




Our leader now, Cardinal Dolan, and Faithful Catholics need to be firm in our faith and continue to defend our Faith until all of the issues are resolved.  We need to continue to pray and to follow that prayer with actions that fulfill the will of the Father.   




Which one of the Israeli peoples will we be like in this struggle?  Hezekiah and his people, who prayed and reformed, or Jehoiacim and his people who forgot the zeal and faithfulness of their forefathers  and did, or tolerated, evil in the sight of the Lord  Because if we become like the later group, we too can end up with our people carried away into the slavery of oppression and our temples destroyed by the invaders.  The choice is yours.


The Power of Prayer

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Thursday of the 11th  Week in Ordinary Time

Sir 48: 1-14; Mt 6: 7-15

Dc. Larry Brockman


The Power of Prayer is an awesome thing, because prayer brings us the spirit of God.  And when we are filled with the Spirit of God, we can do incredible things.   


Elijah and Elisha are good examples.  The spirit that Elisha had a twofold measure of was the spirit that inspired Elijah.  And that spirit was none other than the spirit of God.  Both men could do great things because the center of their lives was the Lord.  They prayed fervently, and followed the Lord in all they did, and so, the Spirit of the Lord was with them.   


The Gospel tells us about how Jesus says we should pray.  Some key things we can learn from the Lord’s Prayer come from the order and the tone of the prayer.  First and foremost, Jesus asks us to recognize that God is almighty and that we should praise Him.  Next, we should ask that God’s will be done above all.  Only after praising God and recognizing that we are all subject to His will, is it appropriate for us to ask for something.  And even then, we need to ask for forgiveness for our offenses and forgive others as we expect God to forgive us. 


I think that the tone of Jesus prayer is clear.  It is a humble attitude in which we recognize our Lord and savior first, and in a spirit of obedience, ask for the help we need to do His will, and to do it well.


Now I could not help but notice how timely these scriptures are.  Because today our parish, our diocese, and our nation, embark on the Fortnight for Freedom- a 14 day period of intense prayer.  It is certainly fitting that all of us be reminded right at the beginning of our efforts, of exactly what kind of prayer we should adopt.  God is not looking for eloquence- long winded, rambling, and detailed prayers that call attention to the process and the ministers.  Rather, our prayers need to be humble, sincere, fervent, persistent, and directed. 

We have a wonderful opportunity to do that as a community over the next 14 days.  And the fact is that if we can do that- especially as a group of committed believers- then imagine the power of the spirit of tens, and maybe even hundreds, of Elijah’s and Elisha’s working together to call upon God for help at this time of our nation’s need to rid our country of the threats to our religious liberty. 


So come and join our Fortnight, and pray together as a people.  And together, we shall overcome. 

Be a Courageous Man!

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ez 17: 22-24; 2 Cor 5: 6-10; Mk 4: 26-34

By Deacon Larry Brockman


Courageous!  Paul advises all of us to be courageous while we are away from our heavenly home, the Kingdom of God, meaning while we are in our earthly bodies.  And so, that’s what Fathers are called to be today, especially in the secular world we live in today- courageous.  We need that courage every day to live out our role as Fathers. 


Do you remember Father Larry Richards?  He seemed to energize this Parish during his recent mission here like nobody else in recent years.  We had record attendance; and we saw such enthusiasm for his message, especially among the men.  Many of you bought his tapes and books, like the “Be A Man” Book.  And how appropriate was his message in “Be a Man” for the Fathers out there today.  Because the “Man” that Father Larry told us we were all called to is a courageous men.  Father Larry told us that we men need to stay focused on the ultimate goal, the Kingdom of God.  Because all else, everything of the world, is left behind when we die.  Rather, we need to live as a beloved son of God, and teach our children to live as beloved sons and daughters; we need to repent of our sins and frailties, to live in the Spirit of God, and to be strong yet loving.  We need to be wise in the ways of the Lord, and to do what we were created to do- God’s will for us.  We need to be holy men;  And we need to be men who change the world.  If we can be such men, then we will be men who are courageous.


As I look out at all the fathers today, I suspect that most of you are wondering right now how you can meet such a tall order.  And yet God the Father, the ultimate Father, did something to help us.  He sent us His son, Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago to show us the way.  That’s what Ezekiel means by the shoot from the uppermost branches.  The Father is the uppermost branches, and He planted His Son, Jesus amongst us so that we could all learn how to be like Him.  His Gospel and the scriptures and the Church serve to transmit how we should do that.  And just like His son, God the Father will care for us and nurture us who believe in Him and follow Him by sending His spirit to live amongst us, and by giving us the graces to be courageous.  Jesus promised all that before he left us.  The spirit and graces of God are what gives us the courage to walk by faith, not by sight.


You know, those of us who are Fathers are truly gifted.  God has given us loving spouses who bear our children; and children are Gods greatest gifts entrusted to us so we can be an example of God’s fatherhood and love.  That, after all, should be our major focus as Fathers.  And God has also given us a challenge- the challenge to be our own persons, yet at the same time provide for our families and take responsibility for the spiritual welfare of our families.  Yes, that’s why we need to be courageous, because it takes courage to follow Jesus and do all of that.  But when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ those of us who have been courageous and met that challenge will receive our heavenly reward- everlasting life with God.


Now the things I have just talked about, the qualities of a man who is courageous, are not the same as the qualities that our society teaches about being a man.  In our society, it is success in the world that gets rewarded- money and power and physical strength and good looks and education.  These are the hallmarks of a successful man.  But these things are all centered on self; and that is not the message of the Gospel.  Rather, being a courageous man means that we center our attention on God first, our family second, and everything else comes after that.   

What I want for all of us men here today to realize is the essential difference between the successful man as Father Richards has defined him, and the successful man of the world, because today we are in drastic need of real men.  As Father Larry said, these are men who change the world, and the world needs changing right here in America.


We are living in a country where the divorce rate is phenomenally high; where the family unit and where the father as the spiritual leader of the family are under constant attack from our secular society, a society that pushes same-sex marriages and other alternate life styles that are contrary to God’s natural Law; and a Government that is trying to force our Church to sanction things that our Church and our hearts tell us are wrong.  Gentlemen, our roles as Fathers are under attack.  What God needs now are courageous men to turn this society around. 


How do we do that?  We start with our own families by the example we set; because our children are watching and become what we teach them.  Are we putting our wives and our families first, rather than our own self interests?  What are you doing to reflect the family values and the Church’s teaching in your own families?  And then there is the larger problem of erosion of family values in our society.  Are you involved?  There are plenty of ways to be involved- Respect Life, St. Vincent de Paul, and volunteering your talents in some other way, just to name a few.  Now some people will say, “What can I do that will make a difference”?  Those folks miss the point of today’s Gospel on the Kingdom of God.  Because the fruit of few good men, the smallest of seeds, can result in great things, just like the mustard bush in the Gospel.  That’s what the Kingdom of God is like, and all of you men can help make it happen together. 


Earlier, I mentioned the attack on the Church.  One way to get involved right now is to lead your family in support of the Bishop’s call to action in the Fortnight for Freedom that will be held from Thursday, June 21 through Wednesday, July 4.  This parish plans to conduct an evening prayer service each and every day with education sessions that address what is wrong and how you can help. 


All of us are busy with the things of the world.  But, our Religious Freedom is important, very important.  I challenge each and every Dad to be courageous and lead your family by example.  Get involved in the Fortnight for Freedom.  Find the time, lead your family, and be a men who together change the World! 

On Righteousness

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Thursday of 10th Week of Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 18:41-46; Mt 5: 20-26

By Deacon Larry Brockman


Righteousness!  Does your righteousness surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees?  What is righteousness, anyway, because unless we know what righteousness means, we are liable to miss the whole point of the Gospel?   


In our society, we usually think of righteousness as meaning “uprightness”   In the sense of “adherence to or conformity to an established norm.”  But that isn’t what it meant in Jesus time and in Jewish culture.  According to the Hollman Bible Dictionary, righteousness is “the fulfillment of the terms of a covenant between God and humanity or between humans in the full range of human relationships”.   


Now this is fascinating because the whole emphasis of a Pharisee was strict compliance with the Mosaic Law.  And yet Jesus is telling the people that they must be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees.  And so, is there any hope for us?  Most of us do not devote our lives to the study of the scriptures and strict compliance to the laws of God as the scribes and Pharisees did.  How can we be more righteous than that?   


In the First reading, we hear a story about Elijah and King Ahab.  This incident happened just after Ahab had done away with the prophets of the false God Baal, and had accepted the Lord back into his life.  Ahab had begun to reform- and not only that, after a long draught, he climbs the mountain as Elijah bids him and celebrates his conversion with food and drink, trusting in the word of the Prophet Elijah, because Elijah told him his worries were over.  The great draught would end with bountiful rain.  Against all odds, Elijah prays on the mountain for rain; prays over a dry, parched land with a clear blue sky; and commissions his servant to keep watch for the rain that he is sure will come. 


Why did God answer Elijah’s prayer?  Because Elijah was a righteous man.  Elijah believed; Elijah trusted; and Elijah acted in the name of and on behalf of the Lord- always.  Elijah had even patched things up with his enemy Ahab who had been after him relentlessly.  Elijah kept his part of the Jewish Covenant with the Lord, and that’s what righteousness means.   


Sometimes life throws us serious curves and difficulties.  And we pray, and we pray, and we pray.  But do we have righteousness in our hearts.  It is not so much a matter of keeping the commandments, although that helps.  It is more a matter of always believing in God; always trusting in God; and always acting on God’s behalf- that is, doing His will for us.  It is a covenant relationship that we have with God; and it is a covenant that involves our hearts, not just our minds as it was with the Pharisees. 


Notice that Jesus talks about settling with our brothers before we come to the altar.  That’s the other part of righteousness in the definition- being in a right relationship in our dealings with others.  And so when we are in a right relationship with God and our neighbor., then when we pray, we will be praying with a sense of righteousness.  And like Elijah, we can be confident of great things from the Lord.