Archive for June, 2013

Is the USA Built on a Foundation of Rock or Sand?

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Gen 16: 1-12, 15- 16; Mt 7: 21-29

Dc. Larry Brockman


My what a mess we make of things when we try to bypass the will of God and take things into our own hands by acting on conventional wisdom.  Today’s first reading is a perfect example.

Sarai makes a big mess of things.  God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  But rather than trust in God to give her a son, Sarai takes matters into her own hands and arranges for Abraham to have a son through Hagar her servant girl.  This leads to jealousy, pride, envy, abuse, and much more, especially when one considers the historical implications of it all, namely the almost constant conflict between Ishmael’s descendants and the descendants of Isaac.  What a mess.

By contrast, we have Jesus’ words in the Gospel. “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.”  And when Jesus says we are to do the will of his Father, that means we have to listen to his words and act on them.  Yes, we have to act on them, rather than just say “Lord, Lord”.  Then he talks about houses built on rock and sand.  How can we put all that into practice?  Doing the will of the Father means understanding and doing God’s will for us.  And that means understanding God’s will in general.

Our home is the United States of America.  Is it built on sand or rock? Well, let’s see.  As of yesterday, marriage is defined as the union of any two people who want to get “married”, thanks to the Supreme Court.  And only 60 % of our children live in homes with a mom and a dad.  But marriage and family are the basic institutions of society.

There are 4,000 abortions a day in the United States of America.  Contraception and in-vitro fertilization are accepted as good things.  And we are on the verge of or have legalized euthanasia in several states.  Yet, the right to life is our most important right.

We can’t say school prayer in our public schools.  Our government and public meetings begin, at best, with a moment of silence.  And as of August 1 of this year, our Catholic Institutions may all have to close or else willfully violate God’s law.  So,
our religious liberty is in jeopardy.

If you ask Catholics what the Church teaches on many topics, they either don’t know; don’t care; or don’t agree with it.  In other words, we don’t understand the will of God for us.

My dear brothers and sisters, let’s face it, our house, the USA, is built on sand.

And so, it is time for us to do what Jesus says we need to do- establish our house on rock.  25 % of the US population identify themselves as Catholic.  If we all believed and acted on it, not just said “Lord, Lord” then this country could only be built on rock.  Unfortunately, we are not all united; and we are not all engaged.

Hopefully, all of you are responding to the Bishop’s call for a Fortnight of Prayer between June 25 and July 4th.  But we need to do more than that.  We all need to become involved in restoring God’s will.  Because we, just like Sarai, have made a mess of things.

On Being a Role Model as a Father

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Sam 12: 7-10, 13; Gal 2: 16, 19-21; Luke 7: 36 – 8:3

Dc. Larry Brockman


It’s amazing how easy it is to see what’s wrong with other people, and yet, to be blind to our own sins and imperfections.  We have two excellent examples of that today and the unfortunate consequences of each.

First, there is the story about King David.  David had arranged for the death of Uriah the Hittite so he could take Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, as his own.  Nathan describes in detail what David did in a parable about a rich man and a poor man.  David becomes enraged that the rich man took advantage of the poor man, and vows to take action against him.  So in the first line of our reading Nathan courageously identifies to David that he, David, is the culprit who did it!  David could not see the evil in his own actions when he was doing them.  Rather, he was preoccupied with satisfying his own desires.  But he could see the evil with ease in the parable when it was about somebody else.

And then there is the Gospel.  Most of us assume the woman was a prostitute.  But the bible experts disagree because the woman wouldn’t have gotten into the Pharisee’s house as a prostitute.  More than likely, she was a social climber, who was not practicing the Jewish law, and everybody knew it.  But, it doesn’t matter, because the essence of her involvement was the fact that the Pharisee was blind to his own sin.  The Pharisee was self-righteous with regard to what the woman did; so much so that he couldn’t see his lack of hospitality and his sense of superiority- in other words, his rudeness.

These stories tell us that even those who are usually considered good and the most looked up to by society need to constantly be on their guard against blindness to their sins.  David, who was chosen by God to be the secular king and was favored and blessed by God and devoted to God, sinned in this way.  And the Pharisee, who was at the top of the religious segment of society, like a priest or Bishop in our time, was guilty of the same sin.  Both David and the Pharisee were public figures who were looked up to and emulated as examples for the people.

In both cases, their sins were rooted in pride and a lack of humility.  They either didn’t want to or didn’t care to understand their own limitations; they didn’t see the value in always loving the other person- but rather, they were concerned with their own agendas.  And they didn’t see how their actions affected others or how others would view their actions; others, who looked up to them and emulated their every action.

This morning, we are celebrating Father’s Day.  It’s that day when we honor Fathers and their roles in our lives.  I can’t help but reflect on the awesome responsibility that Fatherhood carries with it especially in light of the two stories we just heard.

Children are such a vulnerable segment of society.  They pick up on everything whether we realize it or not.  Like Uriah the Hittite or the repentant woman in the Gospel, children can easily become unintended victims.  Children need to be treated with love and respect by all who have charge over them.

How can fathers who are being blind to their own sinfulness make sure that they don’t lead children astray by?  How do they avoid their children from emulating the weaknesses that they have that are emphasized by their blindness?

In the second reading, we hear how Paul lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved him and gave himself up for him.  Jesus loves all of us and gave himself up for all of us too.  When fathers recognize the need to live as St. Paul did, putting others first, particularly their families; by dying to self and taking advantage of the graces God gave them to always be sensitive to God’s will for them; then they become who they were really meant to be.  They will have a good and realistic awareness of their real self and their role in the world.  And that is true humility, a realistic awareness of one’s real self with all the limitations as well as the gifts.  That honesty of self reflects itself in how they behave.  When your child emulates that kind of behavior  you are on the right track because honesty shows in behavior of the truly humble person.

Think about your own family; your own Dad.  Think of an incident that happened when you really admired your dad.  Chances are, it was a moment when he was being his real self.  It was a tender moment of real and intense presence in your life; a moment in which his love, sincerity and honesty shone through; a time when he forgave you or asked for your forgiveness; a time when he just accepted you the way you were.

And so, for all the dads out there this morning, our children and families are our most precious gift from God.  Be your real self with your family.  Remember one of our responses in this morning’s psalm:  “Blessed the man in whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit there is no guile”.

It’s What’s In Our Hearts That Matters

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Thursday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time
St. Anthony of Padua

2 Cor 3: 158 – 4: 1, 3-6; Mt 5: 20-26
Dc. Larry Brockman

It’s what’s in our hearts that really matters, because that is where God looks; and that is what he sees; and that is the truth- the reality of who and what we are.

Jesus message today in the Gospel is that we simply have to face the reality that we cannot hide from what is in our hearts.

I worked for almost 40 years in the aerospace industry as an engineer before retiring.  The technical work was interesting and challenging most of the time   And I loved that part of the job.  But the most challenging part of the job was not the technical part of the job at all.  Rather, it was working with the people.  Most of that time I had over 100 people working for me, and it was impossible to tell what some of them were really thinking.  Despite every attempt to be honest and straightforward in my dealings with people, there were some who were difficult.  Don’t get me wrong, most of the people were honest and straightforward as well.  But I discovered from sad experience that just below the surface lurked deception, laziness, ruthless ambition, and other forms of evil in a small but important subset of the population.  Almost always their motives and behaviors were veiled with a smile and a pat on the back.  And then one day, all of a sudden the full impact of their evil came out in the open.  And it was very difficult, indeed, to deal with.  It was almost refreshing to work with people who were overtly hostile who disagreed with you because then at least you both knew where you stood with each other.

I think it’s pretty much the same way for all of us who are living and working in the world whether we are doctors or salesman or engineers or teachers or whatever.  There is no lack of cunning and guile in the world from self- serving people.  It happens because people hide their true selves from each other.  It happens as a result of a focus on selfishness; and it is all fueled by a blindness to God’s plan for us and his message of love.

The early Corinthian community that Paul is writing to in our first reading was almost entirely the result of Paul’s efforts to spread the Gospel.  After he left Corinth, Paul was faced with a small but distinct group of detractors in the Corinthian Community who emerged from the woodwork and were attempting to undermine Paul’s message.  So Paul wrote 2 Corinthians with the express purpose of trying to counter the kind of backbiting and sinister behavior from this group of detractors that I was just talking about.

Paul first talks about how the Lord spoke through Moses, but the message was veiled over the hearts of the Children of Israel.  Jesus brought the New Testament to lift that veil.  What Paul says is that he is not preaching himself, but rather, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul says that this Gospel is likewise veiled to unbelievers by the god of this age, the devil, so that they don’t see the light of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ.

Now it was God who said “Let light shine out of the darkness”.  Yes, light means truth and honesty and sincerity need to shine out of the darkness.  We need to always act in a way that reveals the sincerity of our hearts.  And the motivation in our hearts should be to seek the Kingdom of God by doing the will of the Father not seeking after our own secular goals.  Jesus is challenging us to get to know what is in our hearts because that is what God sees, and that is how we will be judged.

Spontaneous Compassion

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 17: 17-24; Gal 1: 11-19; Luke 7: 11-17

Dc. Larry Brockman

My wife watched a movie about a widow the other day.  It was set in modern day India.  It seems a Hindu girl was married at just 8 years old to a much older man.  But her husband suddenly died, and she was forced to live in a home for widows for the rest of her life- for the rest of her life!  She was in a hopeless situation, caught up in the cultural limitations of Indian society.  There was no way out for her!  It is something we cannot even conceive of, how a person can be imprisoned for life at just 8 years old through no fault of their own.  Imagine the hopelessness of such a person.

The movie was very timely because two of our readings today are about widows.  And just like the very harsh treatment of this modern day 8 year old widow, many widows in biblical times were faced with a similar hopeless situation.  You see, women in biblical times needed to be represented by a man in all matters.  It could be her Father, her brother if the Father was deceased; her husband if she had one; or her son if her husband was deceased.  But without this male representative, a woman was helpless, as helpless as this modern day Indian girl was.  She couldn’t inherit property; she couldn’t conduct business; she couldn’t hold a job.  And back then, there was no Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security- nothing at all to fall back on.  So, a widowed woman who lost a son was in very dire straits, indeed.  It is understandable then, how biblical widows without a son could be pitied.

Indeed, both Jesus and Elijah were moved by deep compassion for the widows in our two bible stories.  It was this personal emotion that drove both men to action, compassion for the plight of widows who lost their only sons.

By contrast, in most of the Gospel stories about healings or people who had died someone always approached Jesus and asked for help, and when he acted, Jesus always said that it was their faith that saved them.  But in the Gospel today, Jesus was moved by compassion; nobody asked him for help, and there was no faith involved.

Likewise, in the story from the Old Testament, the widow doesn’t ask for help either.  Rather, she complains that Elijah’s presence may have somehow caused her problem; guilt by association, so to speak.  Elijah responds out of compassion as his prayer to the Lord implies.

Now in both of these cases, the people who are helped are strangers and not from the mainstream.  Elijah has travelled into a foreign country- so this woman who gave him hospitality was not part of Elijah’s people.  Likewise, the widow Jesus encountered in the funeral procession was not part of his group of followers; he was passing by a small town in Galilee, not at all the center of Jewish society.

Also, both of our bible stories today have an element of spontaneity to them.  Jesus and Elijah are going about their business and the events unfold before them in a flash.  These events are up front and personal to them, and it is their immediate reaction that is recorded.    And so these two miracles carry a different message than the ones where God responds to faith.  Rather, the message of these two miracles is that we need to show compassion for the suffering because God’s mercy and goodness are meant for all people not just the people who follow him and are faithful.  The miracles are worked by God because Jesus and Elijah are both moved to compassion for people who are marginalized by society- such as widows; and people who are not close to them.

Elijah and Jesus are acting as role models for us.  We are called to the same kind of spontaneous compassion for the marginalized and strangers of our society.  Not only that, but extraordinary action might even be called for.  In both of these stories, someone was raised from the dead, and that’s about as extraordinary as it gets.

What about our spontaneous compassion?  Can we, and do we show immediate compassion like Jesus and Elijah did, personal compassion for strangers and the marginalized right in our midst, like someone that just had an accident; the victim of a home fire; the homeless person in the street; the tourist we encounter that is in some kind of trouble; or even the stranger we meet in some unexpected manner that for whatever reason shares a tragedy with us?    Yes, each of us is faced with unexpected encounters like this with total strangers.  They happen so fast that we often times don’t think about them   But they are God incidents; they are opportunities rather than burdens, just as they were opportunities for Jesus and Elijah.

The next time you have such an experience, remember how Jesus and Elijah responded.  Remember their compassion.  Remember Elijah’s sincere prayer.  Be open to help out; and let God work through you to do the rest.

Sitting and Chatting With Jesus

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Corpus Christi

Gen 14: 18-20; 1 Cor 11: 23-26; Luke 9: 11b-17

Dc. Larry Brockman


When you come right down to it all of us are pretty needy, aren’t we?  All of us are hurting in some way and looking for something to take that hurt away.  If it isn’t the pressures of life- like our job, our marriages, our health, and our finances; then it’s concern over others- our parents, our kids, our friends.  And the fact that all of us are meeting here at the hospital this morning is a testimony to the reality of those needs.  We are hungry for a healing miracle in mind, body, or spirit; whether it comes to us as burst of inspiration or a special break or physical healing.  We are all looking for relief from whatever it is that is troubling us.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are not so different from the people that lived 2000 years ago in that respect.  Thousands of folks were following after Jesus.  All of them were looking for something.  Clearly, many of them were looking for a physical healing as the story tells.  And, since they followed Jesus all day, they were hungry as well.  A literal reading of the Gospel tells us that Jesus cured “those who needed to be cured” and fed five thousand men and their families.  But there is more to it than that- something for us to take away as well as we contemplate our special needs and the role that God plays in our lives.

First of all, notice that Jesus is God.  So, it is God who was meeting the needs of those thousands of people in the Gospel.  Second, God, in the person of Jesus, was ever so close to all those people.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Almighty God would come down here today and sit right beside each one of us in this chapel, give us his full, undivided, and loving attention; and while having a meal with us, discuss our needs with us, vand heal us of our pain?  Well, that’s precisely what Jesus had in mind, and you will have that experience in just a few minutes.

Let me explain.  In the letter to the Corinthians, we hear about how the Eucharist was instituted at the last Supper.  This was the earliest scripture account of this event, and arguably the most accurate.  In it we hear how Jesus gave us His body and blood in the Eucharist as a gift.  He told us to remember that whenever we offered the bread and wine through the priest, and consecrated it, then it became His body and blood; and that we should do that in memory of Him.  That is such a special gift, one which we are called to ponder this morning on this feast of Corpus Christi, because it guarantees that we all have the same closeness, the same intimacy, with Jesus as those thousands who shared a meal with Jesus two thousand years ago.

Yes, when we receive the Eucharist, as we all will in just a few minutes, then God will be very close to us, ready and willing to help us just as he was ready and willing to help the thousands in the Gospel story.  It will be as if Jesus were sitting here beside you sharing a meal with you, and listening to your concerns with a mind towards giving you the help that you need and relieving your pain.

There is, however a catch.  We all have to put something into that meeting with Jesus during the Eucharist.  Notice that thousands of folks followed Jesus in his day; but there were many more that did not.  The people that were there believed in him, and were willing to follow after him all day long into a deserted place presumably without food and water.  Their persistence and forbearance are symbolic of faith.  So first off all, we have to believe in Jesus and have faith that he can help us.

But additionally, we have to believe in the reality of the Eucharist- that it really is Jesus that we will eat.  Now I can talk to you about the real presence scientifically- pointing to the hundred odd Eucharistic Miracles that have been validated over the centuries, and about the scientific testing that has been done that shows that the bread and wine really did become flesh and blood in these incidents.

But what is important is that we believe it with our hearts more than our minds.  What it boils down to is this:  You can’t expect God to help you when you receive the Eucharist if you don’t believe that He is actually there.

Also, the whole Eucharistic process involves a sacrifice- the offering of the bread and wine by the priest at Mass.  Symbolically, we are called upon to participate in that sacrifice.  I think that is the point of our first reading.  Notice that after the offering of the bread and wine by Melchizedek; and after the blessing, Abram tithes a tenth of everything he owns.  That was a substantial sacrifice for Abram.  Recall that this story occurs well before Moses and the Mosaic law.  So Abram is not following the law; he is offering this sacrifice of his own free will.    Likewise, we are called upon to participate in a sacrifice.  Perhaps we need to give up something in our lives that is hurting us or those around us. Perhaps we need to give more of our time, talent or treasure to God and his plan for us; or perhaps we need to just give our worries over something to God- turning it over to God.  But, we have an obligation to participate.

Lastly, we are called upon to trust.  We need to trust that whatever it is that God gives us as a result of our sincere Communion with Him in the Eucharist, that it is for our own good.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.  It is the Eucharist, and it is a tremendous gift.  If we receive the Eucharist with faith, believe that Jesus is really there, and do our part, then God, who is so close to us in the Eucharist, will answer our prayer to take care of our deepest needs.  You can trust in that.