Archive for April, 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombing and Christian Hope

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 13: 14, 43-52; Rev 7: 9, 14b-17; John 10: 27-30

Dc. Larry Brockman


It’s been a week of great frustration and suffering, especially for the people of Boston.  A terrible, senseless, evil act of violence aimed specifically at indiscriminately hurting innocent people was carried out by two young, misguided, men.  The events closed down a major city for almost 2 days; and now, over a hundred people are recovering in a place just like this, a hospital, some of them wondering what life will be like without an arm or leg.  The rest of us can only stand by feeling helpless and frustrated.

I suspect that visitors to this hospital and even some of the staff feel much the same way about a loved one suffering here or a patient they are caring for- frustrated and helpless, and maybe even a little angry that God would allow such things to happen.

In the second reading, John has a vision.  It’s a vision in which he sees all of those who are saved, and it is a great multitude that no one could count.  That seems rather uplifting- that so many will be saved.  But recall these words from the reading:  “These are the ones that have survived the time of great distress.”  And so, all of those who are saved had to survive a period of great distress- all of them.  It’s critical that we keep that in mind as we go through life.  Into every life a little rain must fall.  And in some cases, a lot of rain falls, doesn’t it?

In today’s world, our technology and medical progress have seemingly made it possible for people to live comfortable and pain free lives.  But this is really just an illusion, isn’t it., Because none of us will live forever, and none of us can be comfortable for our whole life in this world no matter how rich and gifted we are.

Michael Jackson comes to mind as a talented person who could “buy” any type of happiness;  But it was all an illusion; deep inside he was hurting.  It is just unrealistic to expect our lives to be comfortable and pain free.

A person who embraces unrealistic expectations, will have to face the consequences.  It’s as simple as that.  And while the consequences for that person may be his own pain and suffering, all too often his consequences are our consequences as well, like in the Boston marathon bombings.

In the first reading, the Jews are a perfect example of what I’m talking about.  They expected a worldly messiah, someone who would rise up as an earthly king and rescue them from the oppressive Romans.  All of this talk by Paul and Barnabas about Jesus being the Messiah- a man who was crucified, the worst humiliation and suffering imaginable in his time, such talk angered them and caused them to “stir up persecution” of Paul and the Christians.  So, the consequences of their unrealistic expectations were that they alienated themselves from the saving message of Christ; and they stirred up of persecution of innocent Christians.

You and I face a real challenge in this changing world.  We must not expect too much from it.  We cannot expect to be free of all pain and suffering; and at the same time, we cannot let it paralyze us.

All of us are subject to a test- a test that purifies us and validates our faith and conviction.  And how do we survive that test?  Hope- Christian hope is the answer, in which we look forward to the future and move on. And that hope is very well summed up in the Gospel.  If we belong to Christ, then we follow him.  He has guaranteed us everlasting life- that is our hope.  And it is not a vague, uncertain hope.  Rather, it is a sure thing- for as Jesus says, those who believe in him and follow him cannot be taken out of his hands.  But like sheep, we need to trust that God’s way, Jesus’ way, is the answer.  That means we listen to the voice of the shepherd and above all, trust in Jesus like the sheep trust their shepherd.  We don’t always have to understand.  But we do need to trust.  And then, we need to cheerfully move on and project that hope.  That’s what others who are experiencing the pain need the most.  It gives them Christian hope as well, no matter how bad things get in our world; because ultimately God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Is There an Ethiopian Eunuch in Your Life?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

Acts 8: 26-40; John 6: 44-51

Dc. Larry Brockman


Easter is such an exciting time of year!  Take this Gospel for example.  Jesus says “Amen, Amen I say to you whoever believes has eternal life”.  You all believe, don’t you, so you have eternal life!  You already have it, just think about that.

And then Jesus says:” I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever”.  In just a couple of minutes, you will eat that bread come down from heaven.  And that seals your fate- everlasting life!  Jesus has said it twice in two different ways.  We are so blessed; we have so much- our faith, the Eucharist, and a guarantee of everlasting life.  And you should be excited about all that- the whole Easter event- it is life changing and exciting.

So, just how excited are you about it?  Are you as charged up as Philip in the first reading?  It’s a fascinating story isn’t it, the story of Philip.  Charged up by the Easter events, Philip is taking to heart Jesus command to go forward and preach the Gospel to all nations.  And what does God do? He puts this foreigner in his path- a Eunuch from Ethiopia, and probably of a different race, who was not a Jew, and a servant to boot.  This guy didn’t belong to Philip’s crowd, that’s for sure. Philip could have just as easily passed this Eunuch by; but he didn’t.  He was a Judaizer, meaning a believer in Judaism, but one who is not born a Jew.  This man is confused- he doesn’t understand the prophet and he is seeking help.  Well, he ran into the right person, Philip.  Philip sees a need and doesn’t care that the Eunuch doesn’t fit in.  Filled with the spirit, Philip evangelizes the Ethiopian right then and there and Baptizes him.

A question.  Why do you suppose this story is our reading this morning?  So that we feel good about what Philip did?  Or is it a sort of precursor story that foretells the Apostles mission to move out to all nations?  Or is it something more personal?  Because, you know, all of us were called on Easter to be a witness of the Easter events, too.  Yes, indeed, all of us are called, especially during this year of evangelization, to show our joy and evangelize others.  We should be spreading the joy of Easter, especially in this secular, Godless, pluralistic, hedonistic society that we live in; one in which we, as Catholics, are beginning to feel the pinch on our ability to live the morals in the Gospel.  The time is ripe for us to share our joy.

Now I know what some of you are thinking.  Just how, how do I go about evangelizing, after all God did not send a chariot with an Ethiopian Eunuch across my path!  Oh, but he will; he has.

Yes, God exposes all of us to events in life which are just as outlandish as Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian.  Every day we come in contact with divorced, homeless, jobless, spiritually hungry; and/or morally confused people.  They are people at the hospital; at Walmart; in the grocery store, in the driver’s license agency line, all of whom are looking for answers.  We just have to recognize that God has put them there for us, calling us to make time for them and to come out of our shells to do something.

So, be on the look-out for someone who is hurting, who is thrown across your path in some unlikely way- like an Ethiopian Eunuch on a horse cart.  And then take the time from your regular routine to take the initiative.  Say something like: “Is there something I can do, my friend?”  And if you are truly joyful, because God’s spirit fills you with love, then you will be an inspiration, and you can be an evangelizer like Philip, one who shares the peace and joy of Easter  That’s what it is all about to be a Christian.

Being a Christian Witness

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter

Acts 5: 27-33; John 3: 31-36

Dc. Larry Brockman


“We are witnesses to these things”.  Those were Peter’s words to the Sanhedrin.  Indeed, we heard in the Easter Gospel that the Apostles were to go forth to all nations and be witnesses, even to the ends of the earth.  And this command is passed on to all of us who were baptized as well.  So we are called to be witnesses as well; but what does that mean, to be a witness?

Some people think it means that one testifies as a witness, meaning that when called to tell the truth, one describes the truth of what happened.  But is that what Peter was doing in the reading?  On the surface, yes indeed, that is what Peter did.  He kept telling the truth of what happened.  And it made the Sanhedrin angry, because they had ordered the Apostles “not to talk about that man”.  But being a Christian witness means more than that.  It means going forward and evangelizing.  You see, that’s really what the Apostles were doing.  They weren’t just defying the Sanhedrin by talking about Jesus when they were asked about Jesus.  No, they were out and about telling the Jesus story with conviction every day, everywhere, to anyone they could find.  And what was so convincing is that they were all in it together and they lived the message they preached.  And that’s what it means to be a true Christian Witness- it means being an evangelizer.

Now our witnessing of our commitment to Christ is done by word and deed.  We can talk about it, as Peter and the Apostles did.  And while it is good to send people out to talk about our faith to others, that is incomplete witnessing.  Because we also need to live out the word, as the Apostles did.  These men didn’t just keep it to themselves in their believing community, but they moved out and witnessed their behavior far and wide, living the message they were spreading by loving one another.  That’s why their message appealed; because they believed; because they lived the message as a community; and because they exuded a sense of joy and happiness despite their earthly trials.  That made other folks take notice and seek out “the way”.

We are called upon to do the same.  The life that we live with our families and community gives witness.  It gives witness to our belief and values.  In the Gospel we hear: “The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.   But the one who comes from heaven (is above all)”.  Every day of our lives, we “speak” by what we do, not just by what we say.  For as St. Francis said- “Preach the Gospel, use words if you have to”.

So, what kind of a Christian witness are you?  Is your witness to earthly things?  Or are you above all that?

Divine Mercy- Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Divine Mercy Sunday

Acts 5: 12-16; Rev 1: 9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20: 19-31

Dc. Larry Brockman


Lord Have Mercy!  We say that during every Mass.  But what does it really mean to us, the Mercy of God?

During Lent, we concentrated on the need to reflect on our lives; and to recognize our sinfulness.  That was intended to lead us to the sacrament of Penance, where we confess our sins and reconcile ourselves to God so that we could celebrate Easter in the fullness of the joy that the Resurrection brought.  You see, all of us who believe and repent, and then follow after our Savior Jesus by living the pattern of life in the Gospels, are guaranteed to follow in Jesus footsteps when we die- the resurrection of our bodies in the eternal Kingdom of God.  When we went to Confession, we experienced God’s mercy- the forgiveness of all of our sins and reconciliation between God and ourselves.  That is what God’s Mercy is.  But sadly, not everyone went through that process.

And so today, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.  Divine Mercy Sunday is God’s way of giving us all a second chance to reconcile ourselves with Him.

First, let me give some background about Divine Mercy Sunday.  Back in the 1930’s, a Polish lady named Helen Kowalska, who became a nun and took the name Sister Faustina, had visions of the Risen Christ.  The primary vision she had is depicted on the stained glass window in our Tabernacle area.  It shows Jesus with red and blue rays flowing from His heart.  The red symbolizes the blood Jesus shed for our sins as He redeemed us;   And the blue, the water that gushed when the soldier pierced his heart, symbolizes cleansing and mercy.  Jesus encouraged Sister Faustina to draw what she saw, and said that it represented His Divine Mercy.  And so this window is a permanent reminder to us of God’s Divine Mercy.

And what does Divine Mercy mean?  It means Jesus is giving us another opportunity to be cleansed by the water and blood of Christ this weekend, and so, be forgiven for all of our sins, no matter what they are.  Yes, no matter what they are.  Indeed, Jesus spoke of his infinite mercy to Sister Faustina multiple times.  He is quoted as having said in one vision:  “I want to grant complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of my Mercy”!  And also in another vision: “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion will receive complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.”  In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Sister Faustina,aAnd designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday- the Feast of His Mercy.  The Pope recognized that Jesus wanted the Feast of Divine Mercy celebrated annually, that was Jesus’ desire.

So, why did Jesus want the Feast of Divine Mercy?  Well, Jesus told St. Faustina that it pained Him that so many souls had not listened to Him.  They had not sought forgiveness for their sins, even with 6 weeks of reflection and purification available during Lent.  Jesus was pained because these souls were in danger of being lost.  The time for obtaining mercy is limited.  Indeed, time is limited for all of us- we could die at any time.  But during our lifetime, we must take that critical step, and seek forgiveness of our sins- after death it is too late.  Jesus is offering infinite mercy right now for whatever we have done- that’s the point.  But, we have to respond to him.  And the summary of Jesus message through St. Faustina, now sanctioned by the Church, is that we must do three essential things to receive His Divine Mercy and all the benefits of it:  Go to Confession; Receive Communion; and show mercy to others.  I will touch on all three of these briefly.

First, the Confession part.  You must go to a priest to go to Confession.  Asking God for forgiveness privately doesn’t fulfill the need to Confess.  In today’s Gospel, you heard Jesus commission His Apostles with these words:  ““Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained””.  Jesus said this to His Apostles for a reason.  This is how Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance.  And so, Confession is the specific way, the guaranteed way, to assure that your sins are forgiven.  Besides, in the visions to St. Faustina, Jesus made it clear that He wanted us to go to Confession, as the two quotes show.

So if you are holding back for any reason, Confession is the critical first step you need to take.  Whatever it is that you might have done- even violence or abuse or separation from the Church or other kinds of very serious sin, know that Jesus’ Divine Mercy appeal is especially for you.

Second, we need to receive Holy Communion in a state of grace.  And it is Confession that guarantees that we are in the state of grace because we are reconciled with God.  The Eucharist is the body, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.  When Jesus comes into our very being, we experience a closeness, an intimacy, with God.  We are in Communion with Him and with the rest of the assembly.  Through that intimacy, we are given graces to sustain our relationship with God.  And we need those graces to stay the course.

Lastly, we need to show mercy.  In Math 5:7, Jesus says: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain Mercy”; and in James 12:13, we hear that “Judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment”.  It’s really very simple.  How can we expect God’s infinite mercy if we continue to withhold mercy ourselves?  It is a humble and contrite heart that we need- and mercy to others shows that we have a humble and contrite heart.  So, if you have an estranged family relationship; if you have a feud with your neighbor; or if you feel that someone has done you tremendous harm, now is the time for you to show mercy yourself.

Now Jesus has given us several special gifts through St. Faustina, to help us on our way.  First, prayer- we are to pray for ourselves and for others.  And He has even suggested some prayers and devotions- The Divine Mercy Chaplet and Divine Mercy Novena prayers specifically.  We are giving away Chaplet and Novena pamphlets in Rosary packets this weekend at all the Masses.  Second, saying these prayers, and complying with the three conditions I mentioned earlier brings us plenary indulgences.  That means that not only are our sins forgiven, but God will absolve us of the temporal punishment for our sins.

And there is something else, too.  We all have a special opportunity to show mercy this year.  In this year of Evangelization, you can be a catalyst, an instrument, a special motivator for one or more of your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Tell them about Divine Mercy.  Give them a Divine Mercy Packet.  Start them on their way by saying the chaplet with them.  Remember, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain Mercy”.  What can be more merciful than bringing a lost brother or sister to Christ?

Believing in Our Resurrected Bodies

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Easter Thursday

Acts 3: 11-26; Luke 24: 35-48

Dc. Larry Brockman


There are some things we just find hard to accept, things which seem so hard to believe and impossible to picture that we shake our heads in bewilderment.  The resurrection of the body is one of those things.

First, there is the whole idea of life after death.  Death seems so final, doesn’t it?  Especially when we watch a person lowered into the ground.  What could life after death possibly be like?  Much has been written recently by people who clinically die and then come back to life.  These people claim to have experienced “life after death”.  And while their experiences are similar, there are definite differences- important differences; not to mention that these experiences are difficult for even the most articulate person to describe- they are basically indescribable, they are not of this world.  And so, reasoning people doubt these experiences as well.

And second, how can we rise with our physical bodies?  Our bodies are corruptible.  They decay and are gone in a matter of years or decades.  Now there are some saints whose bodies have not decayed- we have many stories of that.  Certain popes and St. Francis for example.  But still, what about all the rest of us?  And what function would these physical bodies have in the Kingdom of God?   The Resurrection is something that we learn in Religion.  But when it comes to living in the real world, our science and reason driven secular society leaves us doubting the Resurrection of our bodies to Everlasting Life.

But wait a minute: What about Easter, and the joy of Easter?  You see, we can really begin to understand true Christian joy if we put ourselves in the position of the Apostles on Easter Morning.  Because they had just lost the Lord to a terrible death and doubt reigned supreme in their minds.  After all, they had all the same natural inclinations that we do to doubt the Resurrection.  But in their case, they had gone out on a limb.  They had believed Jesus was the Messiah.  But rather than conquer the Romans, Jesus had been brutally victimized by the Romans and was dead.  How depressing; how final it all seemed.

And then, walla, Jesus Christ is raised from the dead and he is seen by them- in His physical body.  Not only that, he eats and drinks with them.  He explains the scriptures to them, that all of what happened to him was prophesied so that they could see, once and for all, that everything God had promised had come true.  And now- here He was, Resurrected.

Life after death is real, and all who believe, and follow God’s will are heirs to the same Resurrected life in the Kingdom of God.  That is the Christian hope for those who believe, I mean really believe.  Imagine their joy, and why it lasted for 8 weeks while Jesus was with them.  I can understand that kind of joy.

All of us are called upon to believe and to live in Christian hope.  We are not eye witnesses like the Apostles were.  But the bodies and souls of those of us who believe will rise on the last day.  And inherit everlasting life- just believe it.