Archive for September, 2013

Focusing on the Right Thing

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 6: 1a, 4-7; 1 Tim 6: 11-16; Luke 16: 19-31

Dc. Larry Brockman


Sometimes we are focused on the wrong thing.  For most of us, we focus on avoiding things.  For example, we avoid things that we think are sinful.  After all, the commandments say thou shalt not kill or lie or steal or covet or a lot of other things.  And so, we try to avoid doing those things that might lead to temptation or sin.  But that sometimes means we avoid action altogether, reasoning that if I just don’t do anything, perhaps I won’t get in trouble.  We think “everything will be OK if I just don’t do something stupid.”  And so we settle into a comfortable impasse in our lives especially when we get a little older and begin to slow down.  I think the Church is trying to tell us today that we need to be careful of that.  We are always called to be proactive in some way.

Take the first reading for example.  There, the people of Israel are basking in relative comfort.  Their prophets are warning them of dangers to come, but they just don’t listen- they are comfortable, they don’t want to be bothered.  And what happens to them?  Well, in a thunder of activity they are invaded and forced into exile.  They lose everything.  They could have prepared themselves, but they didn’t.

We have a similar scene in the Gospel.  The rich man enjoys the comforts of life.  Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s say he has worked hard for what he has; and so, he is now basking in the fruits of his labor in the relative comfort of retirement.  It is not so much that he was mean to Lazarus as it was that he just ignored Lazarus.  It was inaction, complacency, a reluctance to get involved, a preoccupation with self, perhaps even, he just never got around to it- helping Lazarus.  But when he dies, he learns that there is another life beyond our earthly life, and our comfort in that next life is determined by a different criteria than just looking out for ourselves in this life and avoiding doing things that can get us in trouble.  Rather, Abraham makes it clear that there is such a thing as a sin of omission.  We all required to share the gifts that God has given us in this world.  If we don’t do that, then we are guilty of the sin of omission.

But you know something.  Most of us cannot see ourselves in the rich man’s shoes.  Certainly, none of us here are in that category, are we.  Many of us feel like Lazarus, we are the folks suffering in the background.  So, is there a message here for us?  What gifts are we called upon to share?

I heard an interesting story that helped me understand what we may have to offer.  It seems there was a young girl, I will call her Marcella, who decided to dedicate her life to Christ.  And so she became a full time lay missionary.  But not long after embarking on this mission they discovered that she had Multiple Sclerosis, or MS.  Here she was, willing to devote her whole life to serving others, and she was hampered by a painful, debilitating disease that required painful shots for treatment, and which was slowly sapping all the life out of her so that others had to care for her.  She was angry with God because there was no reason for it.  She could not do for others as she had dreamed of doing.  She had no “gifts” or wealth to share with others.  The only “gift” she had, it seemed, was the gift of suffering.  That was what her life was all about.

In her anger, she prayed to God for an explanation; a reason; why is this happening to me?  And what purpose or good could come out of such suffering?  And then it came to her, a message from God.  Just as Jesus suffered and died for us, so she could offer her suffering up for others.  And so, she did just that.  She would observe how someone else was troubled or suffering- someone struggling with a vocation; someone dying of cancer; someone who had turned away from God.  Then she would offer up her suffering to God on behalf of that other person.

All of us, no matter what our station in life young or old, rich or poor, handicapped or healthy, has something special to offer, to share with others.  Even someone whose life is full of misery has something to offer.  What is important is that we are focused on God’s Kingdom.  It is a Kingdom of many, not just of our own internal making.  Even if all we have is time or prayer; we can offer that up to Christ for someone else.

Witnessing of Faith Builds the Church

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Hag 1: 1-8; Lk 9: 7-9

Dc. Larry Brockman

Have you got your priorities straight?

The people of Haggai’s time did not.  They had promised to build the Lord a House; but they kept saying that the time was not quite right.  They all had other priorities- their own paneled houses and rich food.  Haggai is trying to rouse them- to get them off of their duff and into action.  He plays on their guilt, tries to shame them into action.  And what makes it worse- it is a collective effort that is called for building the temple requires cooperation from many of them.

You know, it is easy for us to get into the same mode, the mode off putting the Lord on the back burner.  We hear the pulpit call for help with CCD, for example, or an announcement about bible studies or other programs at the Church.  We hear about years of evangelization and faith.  And we tell ourselves then and there that maybe we should get involved.  But then after we leave the Church doors, the reality of our lives takes over.  We have commitments with our job, with our spouses, with our kids, and with our friends.  So we tell ourselves we can’t make it, not right now.  And before you know it, time goes by, even years go by, and whatever it is that we had the best intentions of getting involved in, just never comes to fruition.

You know, this year has been designated the year of Faith.  And Popes Benedict and Francis have emphasized Faith this year.  That’s what Pope Francis’ new Encyclical “Lumen Fidei”, the Light of Faith, is all about.  Let me challenge you with this question:  How much do you know about your Faith?  If a Baptist or an Evangelical or a Mormon or a Muslim challenge you about a point of Faith, can you meet that challenge?  Can you meet it with confidence and conviction?  If you hear the Government or Planned Parenthood make statements about abortion or birth control or sex education for children do you know what the church teaches and why?  What does the Church teach about the Family and Family Life matters and why?   How do you integrate your Faith into your stance on political action?  What kind of a witness are you to your faith, because that’s what it takes to build the Church- witnesses.

Chances are you are like the majority of Catholics.  Your education in things of your Faith ended after you made your Confirmation.  And you know what?  That’s not good enough in today’s world, especially in this country, where so many people have a college education and are trained to think critically.  Our critical thinking, rationalistic society is eating us alive because we don’t stand up for our Faith.  We don’t know how to.

You see, we are the people of God today.  And just like the people of God in Haggai’s time, the Lord is waiting for us to build his Church up because it is crumbling around us.  People are leaving; and those who are left are not defending it.  So you see, if we don’t know our Faith, and practice it with conviction, we are letting the Lord down.  And so Haggai’s words from the Lord apply to us.  It is time to get out of our complacency and put some priority into building up the Church for the Lord so He can be glorified.  And it takes strong Faith to do that.
What’s this, my phone is ringing?  Just a minute.  Oh, it’s Pope Francis with his daily message.  Let me read it to you:  “The security of faith does not make us motionless or close us off, but sends us forth to bear witness and to dialogue with all people”.

Appearances Can be Deceiving

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Thursday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

1 Tim 4: 12-16; Luke 7: 36-50

Dc. Larry Brockman


Things are not always what they appear.  And so, we should be very careful before we make judgments based on appearance.  Both of our readings make this point.

In the first reading, Timothy, who is a young disciple of St. Paul, writes this letter because some of the folks he evangelized have been influenced by older and self-proclaimed “wiser” teachers.  But these older teachers were Judaizers, meaning they were trying to convince the Gentiles that Christians must also follow all of the Mosaic dietary laws.  The problem with that, as St. Paul taught and passed on to the younger Timothy, was that it diluted the meaning of Christianity, a movement of the heart towards God.  The Judaizers preached mandatory compliance with the burdensome requirements of the traditional Mosaic Law above everything, thereby placing the emphasis on the completely wrong place, simply behaving so that you did not cross the line rather than moving your heart towards God.  These Judaizers tried to undermine Timothy by harping on his youth.  But things were not at all what they seemed.  Timothy, not the Judaizers, had it right.

There is a similar message in the Gospel.  The Pharisees, Simon in today’s Gospel story included, held themselves above the rest of mankind because they were experts in keeping the letter of the Mosaic Law.  But they didn’t understand what real conversion was.  They didn’t recognize that real conversion was not the ever increasing ability to conform in external behavior; but rather converting in internal attitude, a conversion of the heart.  And that conversion of the heart resulted in conformance with the spirit of the teachings of Jesus.  The sinful woman repented of her sinfulness by faith in what she heard Jesus preach.  She was so uplifted by that feeling in her heart that she was brimming full of love.  And as a consequence of her conversion of the heart, her belief in Jesus, and her resolve to sin no more, she was moved to show that love in the public display we hear about today.  This means she had already been forgiven by God before she performed this act of love and Faith!  When we look at it this way, it is easier to see how her Faith saved her.  So again, things were not what they seemed- the sinful woman had it right and the experts, the Pharisees, had it wrong.

This lesson is something all of us need to learn in today’s world because all of us are prone to be deceived by appearances.  Just what is it that we admire, what is it that we copy, and what is it we emulate?  Is it football, basketball and baseball athletes, “Dancing with the Stars” and “America’s Got Talent” entrants, celebrities and movie stars, and the Donald Trumps and Bill Gateses of the world?  Or is it the Mother Theresas, Padre Pios, and John Paul IIs?

We can ask a similar question a little closer to home.  Where is it that appearances may be deceiving us about the role models we should be following in our lives?  Chances are person may not display all of the glitter and charism of the popular people in our lives, but they may have it right, where the people we idolize don’t.  It may be an Aunt or a Grandparent or a Parent or a friend’s relative.

And so, I challenge all of you this morning to think about it.  Who is it that you know that you want to be like?  Don’t let appearances deceive you, but rather, look for someone who follows Jesus in their heart.

A Pushover for Christ

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Thursday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

Col 3: 12-17; Luke 6: 27-38

Dc. Larry Brockman


So, are we all to become pushovers?  Is that what Jesus is asking us to be?  Because it would seem that there are plenty of folks in this world who are poised to just take and take and take from us until we are left with nothing at all ourselves.  Just what is it that Jesus is asking of us?

First, let us recognize that Jesus spoke many times in hyperbole, meaning, in an exaggerated way.  He did that to make a point.  And Jesus point this morning resonates well with Paul’s message.  They are both making the same point, that “as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do”.

You see, we all hope to be forgiven by God of whatever sins we have committed.  And we all hope to be treated by God with love and generosity so that we may be happy forever with Him in the next life.  Our trials in life are there so that we can learn to be like God in whose image and likeness we were created.  If everything went perfectly in this life- no trials, no suffering, no challenge, what kind of fortitude and strength would that develop in us?  Not much.

But as it is, because sin entered the world, each of us is subjected to trials and tests; and suffering and temptations.  God sent His only son Jesus to live and dwell among us to show us the way, so that we can emulate the master, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And what did he do?  He sought out God’s will for him and trusted in it by being obedient.  It meant he didn’t have much by the world’s standards.  Ultimately, he endured persecution, suffering, and death.  But he exhibited a loving and forgiving attitude the whole time, accepting His cross with dignity and resolve.

We need to treat others the same way Jesus treated them.  That means we need to treat others the way we would like to be treated.  That doesn’t mean we have to roll over and be pushovers.  But it does mean we have to prioritize things in our lives like Jesus did.  We have to stand up for what is right, uncompromisingly.  That’s not being a pushover.  We need to be generous and sharing of what we have.  But it is not always money and goods- it can include time, affection, attention, knowledge, and our talents.  And we have to be willing to suffer with dignity when it is the will of God- in sickness or physical disability, or mental trials, or whatever the clocks of time dictate.  And finally, we need to be patient and enduring when others push us- like people cutting in on us in traffic, or nagging and persistent contacts we have with people.  It’s all part of being human and learning what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.

Think about the way you hope to be treated by God.  Well, that’s the way we need to treat others because “If we love one another, then God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us”.  And that is where we should all be trying to get in this world.

Filling Your Vessel with Honey or Vinegar

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Wis 9: 13-18b; Phil 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14: 25-33

Dc. Larry Brockman


In one of his sermons St. Augustine of Hippo said this:  “Consider that God wants to fill you up with honey, but if you are already full of vinegar where will you put the honey?”  I think that this summarizes the essence of today’s Gospel.

You see, when we begin life, we are empty vessels.  We are filled with neither honey nor vinegar.  Life happens, and the experiences of life fill us with a combination of honey and vinegar.  One of the experiences we have that fills our vessels the most is the influence of our families- mothers, dads, spouse and siblings.  Let’s face it, nobody is perfect; so we inherit both honey and the vinegar from our families.  When we first embrace our Faith, we embrace it with enthusiasm and resolve.  But the facts are that most of us are vessels that are partially filled by that time.  And the problem is this- the vinegar can block our way from the objective to follow Jesus, because we need a full vessel of honey to make the whole journey, it is either all or nothing with God.  And so, we must dump the vinegar.

Now consider the people following after Jesus in this morning’s Gospel.  We are talking about adults who have lived in their culture of the day and who have sour experiences and sweet experiences that have filled their vessels.  And yet at this particular moment in their lives, they are brimming with enthusiasm about Jesus.  They are following Jesus and hanging on every word.  They want to follow after him on the road to the Kingdom of God that he promises them.

But Jesus shakes them all up with reality- the fact that their enthusiasm may not match their ability.  Most scholars agree that the word “hate” here is not to be taken literally.  That’s why I like the honey and vinegar concept.  We cannot be totally dedicated to our families if we are to follow Jesus because some of the influence and commitment which members of our families require of us is the vinegar in our vessels.  Which of us hasn’t heard the comment: “If you love me, you will….”  That baggage may be filled with vinegar.  And yet, if we follow Jesus, we can’t embrace the vinegar that our families demand of us.

I’m not talking about pain, but “vinegar”, or sin because all of us need to bear a certain amount of sacrificial pain on behalf of our families to show real love.  But that is different than an expectation that we will support someone or do something for someone that is clearly wrong and keeps us from following Jesus.

The two parables today are interesting messages that support this argument.  Take the tower for example.  Unless we are committed to following Jesus, we will be like the guy who doesn’t have the resources to complete the tower.  You see we might get most of the way there in building the tower before we realize we can’t complete the task   Because our hearts are still tied to something of this world- a person, place, or thing- that we are just not willing to give up.  Others, looking from the outside, might find this attachment, this impediment, laughable.  But we may be blind to it, and frustrated by an inability to complete our task.

Likewise, the story about the king and the army resources can have a similar meaning.  We might decide we aren’t able to go the whole 9 yards to follow Jesus because we don’t have courage to go all the way.  That means the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  So what do we do?  We try to bargain our way into a settlement.  But sadly, we cannot bargain that way with God.  What we end up doing is bargaining with the devil instead.  We draw a line in the sand to hold on to something, and think we can still follow Jesus at the same time.  Unfortunately, this Gospel is telling us it is either all or nothing with God.

And so, Jesus is telling the crowd to wake up to the reality of what committing to follow him is all about.  It means we have to make a choice when we are confronted with a real test in life- a choice to give up whatever is necessary to follow Jesus.

Our second reading is a great example of the whole process of such a test.  You see, Onesimus was a runaway “indentured” slave from Philomen’s household.  Nowadays, we can’t relate to slavery; but it was ingrained in Roman society.  Not only that, such property, as Onesimus was considered, was quite valuable.  But the Christian teachings that Paul spread called for people to be converted in heart and set aside evil.  Paul is asking Philomen to forgive the runaway slave, make no further claim to him, and accept him as a brother instead.  Wow! What a choice.

Well, that’s the kind of choice each and every one of us will face at some point in our lives- maybe even more than once.  We will be challenged to put aside the things of this world that hold us back, and make a choice to follow Jesus.  What will you do?

The Culture of Life Versus the Culture of Death

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Respect Life Leadership Conference

Keynote Address

Dc. Larry Brockman

The Culture of Life and opposition to the Culture of Death- that’s what our efforts in Respect Life are all about.  And all of us in this room are committed to life.  We feel passionate about life and we have demonstrated that over and over again in the activities in our parishes.

For example, we at Holy Family have been blessed for many, many years with devoted leadership in Respect Life.  Our leadership has been at the forefront in promoting 40 days for life; Orlando Area Billboards that are pro-life; the Spiritual Adoption Program; JMJ Baby Bottle campaigns; Postcards Campaigns to our Congress; Pro Life Auctions; Life Chain participation; White Crosses during the Roe v Wade Anniversary; strong Pro-Life homilies from the pulpit, and many other things.  And our parishioners have been wonderfully responsive as well.  They have been generous in their giving; applauded our homilies enthusiastically; and have participated in our events on a large scale.  For example, we had 3000 sets of postcards submitted in the postcard campaign; and almost as many participants in Spiritual Adoption each year we have done it.  I am sure many of you can say the same great things about your own programs and parishes.  And the point of all that is this: we have been very successful!

Why is it, then, that I have such a nagging feeling inside that something is terribly wrong?  Because I do; I sense that things are getting worse, not better.  I know that, despite the support we have from the parish, some people are leaving the parish because they don’t like our aggressive pro-life stance.  I know that the government is forcing the HHS mandate on us; I know that gender identity, gay marriage, in-vitro-fertilization, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, and assisted suicide are being accepted by American Society and are happening much more often.  And that all gives me that queasy feeling that things are getting worse.  It gives me a gut feeling that the forces of evil are out in front of us and that we are playing catch up; we are not being effective enough.  It reminds me about something my Father-In-Law used to say over and over, that ”The devil travels around the world twice before the truth gets its shoes on”.  So, the question is, what can we do about it?  What can we do to reverse this downward trend?

A couple of months ago, our Parish was fortunate to have a visit from Brother Andres Gutierrez, a transitional Deacon of the Lumen Dei Order.  Brother Andres was on his way to Latin America with the specific mission to set up crisis centers there to counter Planned Parenthood’s international movement.  Brother Andres spoke to our Respect Life Committee about the Vatican and current teachings on Life Issues.  His message to us was truly eye opening.  I am going to summarize that message for you as best I can.

First, Brother Andres said we need to recognize that the forces of evil are focused.  They recognize that life and the family are the main issues that need to be attacked in the fight to take God out of society.  It’s almost as if they have structured a program to attack Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on Humana Vitae point by point.  And so, their attack on life is more fundamental than being Pro-Choice, or for Assisted Suicide and the other things we are fighting against.  Rather, their message is that Man, not God, is in control of life and can define family accordingly.  Let me make sure you all heard that.  The forces of evil are trying to convince society that Man, not God, is in control of life and what family is.  The key to control of life is therefore Bioethics.

Bioethics is defined as the study of the ethical and moral implications of new biological discoveries and biomedical advances, as in the fields of genetic engineering and drug research.  In 2010, Pope Benedict realized this critical link.  At that time he said:  “The recognition of human dignity, in fact, as an inalienable right first finds its basis in that law not written by human hand, but inscribed by God the Creator in the hearts of men”.  He was talking about the “Natural Law” of God.  But by 2010 much had already been written by secular society on Bioethics.  So, Bioethics is something our Church has been playing catch up on with secular society.

The foundation of Bioethics in the Culture of Life is this: that God wills life to each person; it is a gift from God, and that each person is unique and is loved by God.  And so, the dignity of each life that God creates must be respected.  That is what is ethical because it is consistent with the Natural Law of God written in our hearts.  From this flows that life begins at conception; and Catholic Teachings on morality on the bioethics of cloning and in-vitro fertilization.

The foundation of bioethics in the culture of death, on the other hand, is the idea of “self” and the collection of “self” or human society.  Dignity is preservation of self and society’s self-interests.  So, life can and should be controlled and “selected” by humanity to serve those interests.  That is there spin on Bioethics.  From that flow abortion, infanticide, cloning, and euthanasia; because whatever it takes to benefit society as they see it is what is ethical.

Let me use an example to demonstrate just how cohesive and pervasive the culture of death’s position has become.  In our evolving society, the forces of evil are pushing gender identity, gay marriage, and the goodness of in-vitro fertilization and cloning.  How does all that work together?  Gender identity encourages people to “pick” which sex they want to be when they reach the age of reason, and that legitimizes homosexuality.  Similarly, Gay marriage makes it possible for two same sex people to be joined together in “marriage” as a family.  Now when we object that the purpose of marriage is procreation, and that gay couples can’t procreate, their answer is that this is no longer so.  You see a sperm bank, egg donors, in-vitro fertilization, cloning and a host “mother” are all that is needed to create human life.  And not only that, these things can be controlled by Man to produce exactly the desired result- the right sex; the right intelligence; the right looks, etc.  They would say that we don’t need God for life any more

Brother Andres talked about another reason why gay marriage is so important to the forces of evil.  It is because gay marriage breaks down the intended basic unit of life- the conventional family unit.  Our church teaches us that a primary purpose of humanity is marriage and the command to be fruitful and multiply.  A Husband loves his wife and gives totally of himself to her.  A wife loves the Husband, and gives herself back totally to the husband.  The fruits of mutual love between the Husband and Wife in marriage are the children.  In that sense the family unit echoes God, because it echoes the Trinity itself.  The Father gives everything to the Son; the Son gives everything back to the Father; and the fruit of the Father and Son relationship in the Trinity is the Holy Spirit.

Gay marriages simply can’t and don’t reflect this Trinitarian meaning.  There is no fruit in a gay marriage.  The clinical manipulation of eggs, sperm, surrogate wombs, and the like, is not the fruit of the love in a gay union.  It is an abomination of all that God intended.  If the heterosexual family unit is abandoned by society, so is the reflection of God in the Trinity.  And the result of those relationships will be alternate life styles and man’s idea of society.  God and the will of God will be abandoned with it.

That is the aim of the forces of evil- and it is all based on pride, the ego, and individualistic thinking.  Where did all of that come from?   It can be traced to the ideas promulgated in the age of Reason as ushered in by the Enlightenment.  At its extreme, the Enlightenment teaches that Reason, Science, and critical thinking are tools that provide mankind with all we need to know.  God is not needed.   Let’s face it, our human society is being conditioned by the forces of evil to define that Man, not the Natural Law of God, decides when life starts, what it is, and whether or not it is worth living.

Brother Andres then talked about why the Pope chose the year of Faith.  It seems that Pope Benedict shared with the latest synod of Bishops the idea that Reasoning needs to be purified by Faith because Faith is God’s Revelation of the ultimate truths.  These ultimate truths cannot be arrived at by man’s rules of Reasoning.  God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the heavenly Kingdom, the Natural Law, and many other things have been revealed to us and cannot be reasoned first.  Faith purifies, centers, provides a foundation for reasoning.  And so, we must be a people of Faith first, and then use science and reasoning to understand the world that God has gifted us with based on the foundation of the truths of faith; a foundation built on solid rock, not sand.

And so, brothers and sisters, if we are going to be more effective against the emerging culture of death, we have got to expand our horizons by changing society to embrace Faith first.  How can we do that, by encouraging all of our Catholics to become people of Faith?  That means getting all of our people to pray, to reflect, and to learn about their Faith.  Our parish is concentrating on bible studies, Catechism classes, Why Catholic, Perpetual Adoration, and adult education programs.  That is a start, but the education in the ways of secular society is so pervasive in everything we do- the news, at work, our TV shows and movies,  that most Catholics don’t understand that they are losing their foundation of Faith.  And I believe that all of us are just as guilty as our brothers and sisters in the pew of not knowing and internalizing our Faith.  Why is that important; because everyone else looks to us as leaders, and will be drawn by our example?

Secondly, we need to define Bioethics so that it is consistent with the Natural Law of God.  Yes, Pro-Life needs to deal with Bioethics and all its tentacles, because that is why we have been losing the battle.  We have been focused on some of the symptoms; not on the root causes.  If we really knew our Faith that would become crystal clear.  At any rate, Pro-Life initiatives need to include a clear and focused position on the definition of humanity and life, one that defines life as a gift from God- it is not under humanity’s control.  Male and female he made them- he didn’t give us the option to choose what we want to be later in life.  The gift of new life comes from the uniting of a man and a woman only- because that is the only way the fruit of the love in marriage is given by God- the children.  And children need to grow up in a family unit consisting of a mom, a dad, and the children- because that family unit is a reflection of the image and likeness of God- the Trinity.

That means no gender identity, no gay marriage, no pre-selection through cloning, no in-vitro fertilization, no contraception, no infanticide, and no euthanasia can be embraced  in a Christian, or even in a Judeo-Christian-Islamic definition of Bioethics.

So, what does all of this mean we should do in the future as Pro-Life leaders?  Well, first of all, we need to realize the Pro-Life fight is bigger than we thought.  It should be centered on Bioethics as a whole.   Certainly we have been blind-sided by the effects of gay marriage, gender identity, and other seemingly unrelated social issues on the culture of life.  So, it will take some reflection and doing by all of us to correct for that.

Second, it means we have to recognize that evil is way ahead of us on the larger issue.  I think that should motivate us to work closer together, as a cohesive group.  One of the things we are trying to do with this conference is to focus on ways that we can all select a subset of the things we are doing as parishes and work cooperatively on them as groups of parishes to be more effective.  It could be 40 Days for Life; it could be a meaningfully large life chain;  or it could be a push against gender identity while this issue is still in the formative stage.  It could be a lot of things, and you will all have the opportunity to discuss them and decide on something here today.  But let me be clear:  We can have a larger effect if we focus on a couple or three things together than if we each go our own way.  And we need a larger effect; one that will get attention from the media and politicians.

Lastly, we need to be united in prayer and Faith.  Together, and with resolve, God will not abandon us.  But true Faith is believing in all the Church teaches, not cherry-picking what we like and don’t like.  True Faith is humble acceptance of the things we cannot understand that God has revealed to us.

Our agenda is quite full today.  And today’s meeting is just one of a series of such meetings.  But from this meeting, this beginning, let us resolve that we can and will make a difference.

Brothers and Sisters: let us pray that God will bless us and our efforts.  That He will recognize our sincerity, our Faith, our zeal, and our commitment to defend Him as the author of all life and to stand firm against everyone that assumes through pride and selfishness that man alone has the answer.  We ask these things through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

On Wakeup Calls

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Thursday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

Blessed Theresa of Calcutta

Col 1: 9-14; Luke 5: 1-11

Dc. Larry Brockman


An “aha” experience!  That’s what happened to the Apostles in this morning’s Gospel.

Picture the scene again in your mind.  You wake up early in the morning to go to work, just like any other day.  You work hard as a Fisherman most of the early morning hours,but catch absolutely nothing.  And then, this stranger asks you to pull your boat out again.  You are weary- but decide to be nice and comply.  So out you go.  This stranger uses your boat to preach to a crowd.  You listen, but you are a fisherman; you’re not looking for something new.  When he finishes, he asks you to lower your nets.  Now you are cynical, thinking- “Like yeah, I’ve fished all night and nothing; and now this preacher wants me to try again.”  Only before you know it, the nets are heavy with fish.  This is something special; this is extraordinary!  This man must be special and maybe I should listen to him.  You have had an “aha” experience.  And your life will never be the same.

You see, God called these simple fishermen to a different life.  Granted, it was a loud, unmistakable call rather than a quiet, soft nudge.  But they left everything right there, and followed Jesus.  They didn’t have to, you know.  They could have reveled in the wealth of fish they had just caught, and said, “Thank you sir, but we’ve got to get these fish to market.”  That would have meant they were into doing their own.   They didn’t do that though; they dropped everything and followed Jesus.

Fast forward 2000 years now to another incident.  It is another kind of calling, but an “aha” experience none the less.  A nun is travelling on a train in India in 1946.  More than a decade earlier she had devoted her life to teaching as a nun.  But a quiet little voice inside tells her that she should drop everything and go out into the streets and minister to the poor.  She could have gone on with life as well.  After all, she was already living a life of service.  But, she regarded the message of the little voice as an order, not a request.  We know her as Mother Theresa.  And Blessed Mother Theresa’s feast day is today.

During the course of our lives, we will hear loud voices and soft voices and everything in between calling us, begging for our attention.  They could be the voice of God.  They could be our “aha” experience.

The darnedest thing about these aha experiences is that they will come at the most inconvenient times.   They come when we are busy and just can’t afford to listen; they come when we have finally just gotten the opportunity to relax; and they even come via people we would rather not have anything to do with.  That’s the way God works because he wants us to stretch for him, to drop everything and follow.  They come at various stages of life because we are always being called to grow, no matter how much growth we have already had!

And so, be on the lookout for these calls.  They aren’t necessarily life changing experiences like they were for the Apostles and Mother Theresa.  Most of them are less dramatic than that.  They are nudges toward God’s will for us- an inclination to help a stranger in need; a sudden impulse to do something special- like attend an Emmaus retreat or visit the Perpetual Adoration Chapel.  But they are rich opportunities to get to know the Lord.  And they are sources of pure joy for those who respond to them.

If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.