Archive for January, 2013

Carrying the Light of Christ

Thursday, January 31st, 2013


Thursday of Third Week in Ordinary Time

Heb 10: 19-25; Mark 4: 21-25

Dc. Larry Brockman


Guess what!  All of you carry the light of Christ within you.  When you were Baptized, you were given a candle which was lit from the Paschal Candle, and that Paschal candle was first lit from the Easter fire during the Easter Vigil mass.  The paschal candle symbolizes the light of Christ that resulted from His Resurrection.  That means each of you bears the light of Christ within you.

So, the question for us today is simply this:  Is your lamp hiding under the bed?  In other words, are you hiding the light of Christ within you or are you showing it for all to see, effectively evangelizing by word and deed?

There are a couple of ways that you can hide your light.  First, there are those who believe, but they think that their faith is just between them and God.  They don’t need the Church; and they don’t need others.  They just need to talk to God and affirm their belief.   We see these people chastised in our first reading.  Paul says clearly:  “We should not stay away from the assembly”.  And that’s because we really need each other.  God is by His very nature a social being.  First, He is three interrelated persons in one God.  Second, why else would He have made all of us, and then tell us we are made in His image and likeness?  And so He wants us to love and cherish each other, reinforcing our Faith, and giving Him Glory and praise in the assembly.

The second way we can hide our lamps is to keep them neatly hidden right here in the Church.  That’s why the Pope has called the year of Faith.  We have been conned by today’s “inclusive”, secular society, into keeping our faith to ourselves in the name of tolerance of everyone else’s beliefs.  We have bought into the philosophy:  “Let’s not offend others who don’t believe as we do”.

Well, I’m sorry, but we need to take the light of Christ out of this Church and spread it far and wide for all to see.  And sometimes it may offend people- it offended the Romans, who persecuted the early Christians.  It offended the Nazis and the Communists, who sent those who stood up for their faith to concentration camps and worse.  And it will likely offend today’s secular humanists who believe in gay marriage, abortion rights, atheism, and a whole range of other moral atrocities that Christianity opposes.

Now you might say, it just isn’t right for us to offend others, we should love them instead.  Two thoughts on that.  First, aren’t their beliefs and practices offensive to us?  But that doesn’t stop them from being bright beacons of their position in the public sector.  So much so that Christianity is losing ground fast.  The second thought is this.  Recently I saw a quote from Pope Benedict that made an interesting point about love.  He talked about “love in truth”.  And the long and short of it was this:   We are all being called to love, yes.  But you cannot love someone if you are not being truthful with them.  And one of the worst ways we tell an untruth is by hiding the truth, and by keeping it to ourselves.  It is called a sin of omission.  God is love; and God is truth.  And so, everything we do needs to be done with loving kindness, but we must always represent the truth.  And it is time for our Christian truth to be front and center again in our society.

And so, let us reflect today on how we can come out of this Church and bear the light of Christ in in our secular society.  It is time to get involved.

Evangelizing as a Senior Citizen

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Neh 8: 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Cor 12: 12-14, 27; Luke 1: 1-4, 4: 14-21

Dc. Larry Brockman


They were remnants; those who were left over after everyone else had gone.  That’s who the people were that Ezra and Nehemiah were speaking to in the first reading.  You see, the entire nation of Israel was exiled to Babylon.  And after many years, the King of Persia released the remnants.  Most of those that had been exiled were no longer there- they had died during the exile.  To say that they had suffered greatly would be putting it mildly.  They were repressed captives; almost slaves to their captors.  Only a few were living who remembered the good old days of freedom.  But those that did remember returned to Jerusalem.  They were a rag tag group of people, trying to reestablish themselves in their original homeland.  And they brought with them their children and grandchildren who didn’t know anything about the past, except what this remnant could hand down to them.

Now in the scene described in our first reading, this rag tag remnant is experiencing a new found joy because they had finally reached their homeland; they had started reconstruction; and could finally see the effects.  They were overjoyed at truly being free of their oppressors.  Ezra, their prophet, reads the law to them- the law that they had hung on to despite many trials over the years of exile in hopes of this day.  And that is why they were so emotional; that is why the people cried as the historic words of the law were read.

I don’t know about you, but I can identify with these people.  I look back over the 70 or so years of my life, and remember many toils and trials with some great memories sprinkled in between.  But I see a majority of my family gone.  Three of the four parent figures between my wife and I are gone; and all of our aunts and uncles are gone.  It was like I woke up one day and suddenly realized that most of the roots in my family were gone.  We are a rag tag remnant of believers that is left.  We are the elders now; all the young people look to us for the roots of their faith.  And we find ourselves gathered together with others in a similar situation, celebrating our liturgy each week in hope of the joy of an eternal Kingdom, wary of the drudgery of physical life here that gets more taxing with every passing year.  The mind is not as quick; the body is not as nimble; and we are easier victims to illnesses and infirmities.  But there is hope, because the words of our faith still resonate each week as we hear them read, and deep down, we know that we are truly free of the grip of the world, because we have overcome decades of real trials and still have our faith.

And so, just as the Israelis cried with joy when they heard their precious law, we too, can be joyful when we hear our faith proclaimed, and so we say “Amen” to it.  And the essence of our faith is that we are waiting in joyful hope of everlasting life in the kingdom of God, something that our faith and our lives have convinced us is real.

In the second reading, we come to see that all of us together, yes even the rag tag remnant that we are, constitute the real Church- we have our faith that unites us in the Body of Christ.  And that is a strength that we share as a group.  But we still have a mission.  And that mission is to pass on the real faith to our own.  You see, most of the people living today are focused on life in this world, not life in the kingdom of God.  That being the case, they really need us.  Because they need to be focused on what life is really all about.  Those of us who are older and not as nimble, not as quick, and prone to infirmities-  we have the experience that breeds wisdom, the wisdom to know what life is really not all about.  Ultimately it is not all about fame and wealth and pleasure because all of these pass.  Rather, it is about Faith and God and the promise of everlasting life.

And so, we still have a mission to evangelize others- our families and loved ones in particular.  It’s ironic that the Gospel today shows Jesus launching his career.  For 30 years- some 90% of his life, Jesus was just like any one of us- and in fact, was just a carpenter’s apprentice and then a carpenter.  But he basically returns to Nazareth after his Baptism, and announces to the world that he is off on his mission- his mission as the Messiah.

Indeed, it is never too late for us to evangelize even if it is 90% or more into our lives.  We do it with the prayer life and commitment to our faith that others see; we do it by the dignity of our acceptance of God’s will for us, and we do it when we project our hope for Everlasting life in the world to come.  So let us all keep doing it.

Establishing a Relationship with Jesus Our Priest

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

St. Francis de Sales

Heb 7: 25b – 8:6; Mark 3: 7-12

Dc. Larry Brockman

It is something that we just don’t understand.  We just can’t relate to it- this business of sacrificing animals to God.  But in the Old Testament days, that is how people approached their God.  The Lord of the Old Testament seemed so distant, so overwhelming, so impersonal, and even fearful.  And so, the people would take their gifts to a Priest, who had to be from the Levite Tribe, and hope that, following the precise methodology handed down through Moses, and through the intercession of that Priest, their appeal to God might be answered.

Now these sacrifices started as offerings from the heart.  They were animals that really meant something to those who offered them, because livestock was at a premium and was critical to the society.  These people were nomadic herders and farmers, not city dwellers with 9 to 5 jobs.  And unlike today, meat was not commonly eaten- it was the exception and a treat.  And so the hope was that really giving something up that meant something to you, would save you from your sins, and restore you to God’s favor.  But over time, these sacrifices became more mechanical and scripted.  So that they lost significance in terms of sincerity.  Following the formula became a culturally necessary thing to do, and not necessarily an offering from the heart.

In our first reading today there are some very detailed theological concepts discussed about priests and how Jesus relate to priesthood.  But the basic point is that Jesus changed everything.  Jesus sacrifice was necessary and sufficient to achieve salvation.  We can’t justify or atone for our offenses by offering up animals, and it is not burnt offerings and animals that appease our God.  Jesus sacrifice did the atonement.  So Old Testament style priesthood is no longer applicable.  That means it is our relationship with Jesus that matters now because he is our high priest and can intercede for us.  And like anyone else that we have a relationship with, it needs to be built on faith and trust in each other.

In our Gospel today, we hear that so many people believed in Jesus’ power, that they were coming from far and wide, and from outside the area.  And they were pressing so hard on him that he was concerned about being crushed.  And we hear that many of these people were cured. Now when we hear stories of specific people being cured elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus is always quoted as saying that “Your Faith has saved you”.  And we can surmise that this was the case for those who were cured in this large crowd as well.

So, we need Faith, real faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, not sacrifices of animals.  And we need a corresponding commitment to Jesus and his way of life.  That’s how we develop a relationship with Jesus.  When we have such a relationship with him, then when we pray, he can and will intercede to the Father for us.

Change We Can Believe In

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Is 62: 1-5; 1 Cor 12: 4-11; John 2: 1-11

Dc. Larry Brockman


My how things have changed in the last 40 years!  I can remember when hand held audio and video communications were just a “Dick Tracy” fantasy.  But there were still school prayers and opening prayers at our public meetings.  Recently I went to an Orange County School Board Meeting that was opened with a “moment of silence”!  Most of us lived in a conventional family.  Our Dad’s worked, but Mom stayed home, and everybody sat down together to a home cooked meal each night.  A college education was the exception not the rule.  Gay marriage was unheard of; and abortion was illegal.  America was a very giving and Christian oriented country, with many people housing an older relative in their family.  And we donated Millions- sending financial aid around the world.  We were a net supplier of missionary priests and nuns.

Today, we have become the World’s technology leader and the richest country in the world.  We have cell phones and I Pads and all kinds of technology that allow us to do things in the palm of our hands that a whole building full of electronics were needed to do in 1973.  A college education is considered a must.  More often than not, both Mom and Dad work, and everybody in the family has their own car.

But despite all our technology and material advances, something dreadfully wrong with our society today, because school prayer and opening prayers are a thing of the past.  We have to import priests from Africa and Asia.  Over half of our families are families with a divorce.  Only two thirds of our children live in a home with two parents; only a third of us eat together as a family, older people find themselves abandoned in institutions, and there are Government panels limiting their medical services.  Gay marriage is fast becoming accepted, and one third of all pregnancies end up in abortion in this country every year- one third of them.  Yes, that’s 1.2 Million abortions a year in this country alone, and some 56 million abortions since Roe v Wade exactly 40 years ago Tuesday.

What is happening to our country and our World?  Why don’t we publicly recognize God in our society?  What happened to the sanctity of marriage and the family?  Where is our sense of Christian self-sacrifice?  Where is the value of human life in our society, especially for the very young and old?

Now I could go on and on talking about the problems with where we are today compared to where we were as a society 40 years ago- about how the broken families of today, especially those without a father, produce children with drastically higher tendencies to have behavior disorders; much higher runaway and school dropout rates; and even have a much greater tendency to pathological anger, leading to murder and rape.  We have all seen incidents of that recently, haven’t we.

And I could go on and on about how this breakdown of the family has led to a lack of vocations in the church, to single parent families living in poverty, and to a lack of morals and self-absorption in a significant portion of the younger generation.  And how that has led to a tremendous increase in unwed mothers, by a factor of greater than 2 to one in the last 40 years.  And how all this contributes to the abortion rate, euthanasia, and all the rest; and how it is an endless spiral downward.  But I would be preaching to the choir, because this is the bedrock of Christian living, our parishes.  These problems just don’t happen here.

Rather than the problems, it is time for us to focus on solutions.  Even if most of us still believe and are faithful to the Church’s teaching and our Christian values, we need to do something about all those others out there who have the problems.  Because the problems affect our brothers and sisters, whom we are all called to love as much as ourselves no matter what they have done, especially in this year of Faith when we are called to evangelize.

I’d like to point out three things about today’s scriptures that help us respond to this call.    First, it truly is time, with all these problems in our society, for us to stand up and do something about them.  You see, Isaiah’s words are as true to us today as they were for people three thousands of years ago:  “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.”  You and I are being called not to be silent, not to be quiet; to respect life; to put God back in our society; to restore the sanctity of a Christian family to our society; and to instill in our children and grandchildren a spirit of self-sacrifice and commitment to God in their lives

Second, we have the ideal example- the Gospel of Jesus.  You see, up until today’s bible story, Jesus led a quiet life as a Carpenter’s son and apprentice for 90 percent of his life- the first 30 years.  But after he was baptized, he went into the desert, discerned God’s will for him, and then he went into public ministry doing his Father’s will.  That’s the message today- a coming out for Jesus.

How about you and I?  What is our “coming out” incident where we recognize that there are higher purposes to our lives and we get involved?

And the third message today is that we all have been given the tools.  God has given all of us unique talents.  In Corinthians, Paul tells us:  “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.  To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”  Then he names some of them: Wisdom; Knowledge, Faith, Mighty Deeds; Prophecy; Discernment, Languages, and so on.  Yes, one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.  But they are to be used for the common good, the building of the Kingdom of God.  They are not to be used just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all of God’s people.  And this is the right time for all of us to pool our resources together and work for that benefit.

We live at a time in which, in the name of tolerance, society has been conned into accepting marriage by gay people.  And many think a woman’s right to “choose” trumps an unborn child’s right to life.  Society has given up the majority’s right to pray in public and as a group in deference to a small, vocal minority.  States are actually passing laws allowing assisted suicide.  And most Catholics are standing by and watching the Government take away our religious liberties by forcing businesses and individuals to pay for and support immoral elective procedures and capabilities.  Yes, it is happening today.  These things are wrong and we need to stand up, take a position, get involved, and change it all.  It would be change we can all believe in!

Yes, there are folks involved already.  But you know something- it’s the same people involved in everything- a small percentage of you.  Where are all the others?

So, the question is how, how can a fire be lighted under more of our believers to make a difference?  We’re not talking about dropping a few bucks in the collection- although that helps.  We are talking about getting involved.

A good first step is prayer- like making a commitment to Perpetual Adoration, or just signing up for spiritual adoption which we will do in just a few minutes.  Both of these require a simple commitment to regular prayer.  But that’s a good start, because it begins a change in heart.  And there are plenty of other ways to get involved in the parish-  Respect Life, St. Vincent de Paul, Ministry to the Sick, Faithful Citizenship, Knights of Columbus, and Helping Hands to name a few.  There are social action programs and groups associated with the Diocese.  And volunteer organizations like the JMJ Center and Coalition for the Homeless.  If none of that appeals to you, follow your own passion to make a difference.  But make a commitment to get involved.    This is the year of Faith.  Let’s show we’ve got faith by living it.

Don’t Ever Lose Hope!

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Heb 3: 7-14; Mark 1: 40-45

Dc. Larry Brockman


So, what does St. Paul and the Psalmist mean when they say “Harden not your Hearts”?

Well, sometimes we can be so steeped in our every-day problems that our hearts just are not any longer motivated by our Faith and Hope in the Lord.  It is then that our hearts are effectively hardened.

Such was the case with the Israelis in the desert.  They were parched, as was the land they were travelling through.  Water was at a premium.  And even though the Lord had rescued them from Pharaoh and the Egyptians and cared for them for 40 years they didn’t trust the Lord’s promise to care for them going forward.  They were wholly and totally focused on their immediate needs, and not on Faith and Hope in the Lord.  Their Faith was so weak that their hearts were numb, even hardened, to the big picture of the promised land that would come to those who trusted and followed the Lord’s commands.  And so Paul quotes this famous Psalm and warns the Christian community of the same trap- a trap in which one forsakes the living God.  When you fall into such a trap, you despair of hope, and abandon your Faith.

Does it ever happen to us?  Well, our Faith and hopes were passed to many of us when we were young.  We came to believe; we resolved to dedicate our lives to doing God’s will, and our hope was in a future in God’s Kingdom.  But then life happened.  And in the midst of the turmoil of life, we find ourselves, in a figurative sense, having spent 40 years in a desert wandering around in what seems like an aimless pursuit.  Sometimes we have a tendency to give up hope when the latest trial arrives our way, the straw that breaks the camel’s back so to speak.  It could be an illness, a financial problem, or a relationship problem.  But instead of trusting and hoping in the Lord, we look to our own devices, and forget about hope and faith.

The leper in Biblical times was a forsaken person.  He was shunned by society because it was an infectious and incurable disease.  It would be easy to despair in such a case, to abandon all hope, and lose Faith.  But the leper in the Gospel had Faith and Hope in Jesus.  And he was rewarded for it.

That is a lesson all of us need to remember.  No matter how bad things get, we must never lose hope and Faith in God.  Rather, when the going gets tough, open your hearts to the Lord.

Unconditional Love

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Love, unconditional love, that’s what today’s scriptures are all about.

Elsewhere John writes that “God is Love”.  There are four words in Greek that mean love.  They mean a mother’s love, passionate love; friendship; and unconditional love respectively.  But the kind of love that John is talking about is unconditional love or agape.

When you think about it, God’s loved has to be like that.  Because everything He created, by definition, is imperfect compared to God.  And so, God has to accept it as He created it, unconditionally, otherwise, if God rejected it, it would be eliminated, gone.  Here John is telling us we need to love God the same way as He loves us.

Now on first thought, that sounds easy enough.  God created me, I know that, I appreciate that He created me, so I love God unconditionally.  But John is saying, “Wait a minute; it is not that easy”.  First, he tells us that if we don’t love our brother, who we can see; then we cannot be loving God correctly.  So the first question is- do we love our brothers- all of them?  Then John says, the way you will know that you love God is if you keep His commandments.  And His commandment is that we love our brothers- all of them- with unconditional love, agape love.

Now our brothers include our family, our friends, our coworkers, and our classmates.  But they also include pedophiles, illegal aliens, homosexuals, politicians in the other party, and just to make it real, real, clear, the Alabama Football team are our brothers!  Wow, what a tall order is that.

I think we have to understand that there is a difference between loving someone and liking what they do.  We are asked to love as God does.  So, we need to unconditionally love sinners, just like God does.  We should always thank God that he loves us that way- because we are all sinners and each of us wants to be loved by God and be with Him forever in eternity.  So does everyone else- including the Alabama football team and all people in those other groups I mentioned.

The secret to the apparent dilemma is twofold.  First, God is the judge, and will administer eternal justice; and so we should leave the condemnation up to God.  And if you listen carefully, that’s what the psalm is all about this morning.

And second, the way we can be sure that we project God’s attitude of love is to let God’s spirit do it for us.  That is what the Gospel this morning is all about.  It says very clearly that Jesus claims the scripture was fulfilled in the assembly’s hearing:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to…”.  To do all those things he mentioned.  Yes, indeed, that is what Jesus did to fulfill God’s will for Him, to love unconditionally even love those who caused him incredible suffering and death.  Jesus called on and let the Spirit of God work through Him.  Jesus didn’t react to those who confronted and persecuted him with his human emotions- with anger, judgment, scorn, sarcasm, and the like.  Rather, He let the Spirit of God, who is love, guide His way.

We are all being called upon to do the same  To let the Spirit of God dominate over our human emotions when dealing with the difficult people and situations in our lives and to love others as God loves us.