Archive for October, 2013

True Prayer Takes Humility

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sir 35: 12-14; 2 Tim 4: 6-8, 16-18: Luke 18: 9-14

Dc. Larry Brockman


Recently, someone sent me one of those internet jokes about prayer.  It seems a Grizzly bear was chasing a man, and got very close to him.  The Man was an atheist, but as the bear got closer and closer, the man called out “God, help me”.  All of a sudden, time froze, a light shown down from the heavens.  And then a voice from the heavens said:  “After denying that I exist all these years and teaching others the same, all of a sudden you call out my name and ask me for my help.”  So, do you believe in me now?”  The atheist looked directly into the light and said:  “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now.  But perhaps you could make the bear a Christian?”  “Very well,” said the voice.  The light went out; the bear dropped his right arm, brought both paws together, bowed his head and spoke:  “Lord, bless this food, which I am about to receive. Amen”

All kidding aside, the atheist in our story still has a problem, doesn’t he?  It was very subtle, but he was still arrogant.  There was no humility in him; just a sense of personal pride and control which he held on to even when he was in dire straits, and even when God hit him over the head with a lightning bolt and gave him the chance of a lifetime.

Few of us are blessed with such a direct message from God.  But all of us are faced with the same dilemma.  We find ourselves in a fix and pray to God for help and wonder why our prayer is not answered the way we want it to be answered.  But the question really is this: what is the attitude in our hearts when we pray?  Do we really have Faith in the God we are praying to?  Are we willing to accept what He has to say to us?  And are we humble, like the tax collector in the Gospel story, understanding that we owe everything we have to God, yes, we owe absolutely everything to God and God alone.  Or are we like the Pharisee, the self-made man who has been successful with God’s talents.  He even tries, and succeeds, at following all the rules, too and does all the “right” things.

Speaking for myself, I think it is extremely tough to be truly humble in the way the Lord is asking especially, the better off we are in this world.  Because we come to believe that we have somehow earned our comfort and sense of control with hard work and success.  But the thing is, we are never ever done being stewards of the Lord’s gifts.  You see, most of the downtrodden have a different view when they pray.  They know who they are, just an average sinner who stands before God with all his limitations and faults.  They aren’t worried about maintaining their own fortunes; and they aren’t deceiving themselves by thinking they are in control.  They know better- God is in control.  And so, as Sirach so accurately says:  “The one who serves God willingly is heard”, and  “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds”.  Because the lowly are open to God’s will, justice, mercy, and providence on God’s terms whereas those who are blessed in this world think they are under control, and so, they have an agenda.

In today’s times, this might be the Pharisee’s prayer by today’s folks:  “Lord, I go to Mass each week,  always put an envelope in the basket; I don’t cheat the Government on my taxes, I worked all my life for a living; I saw to it my kids were taught about God; and I even changed my grandchildren’s diapers.  I’m not like that lady over there on the EBT stamps, or all those people who never go to Church at all.  But now, Lord, I am suffering and I need your help.  And so please, cure me of the back pain or cancer or loneliness, or whatever else it is that ails me so I can enjoy life now after having obeyed your commands all these years”.  The problem is that such a person is fixed on themselves, and not God in such a prayer.

You know, God always answers our prayers.  But we may not always hear His answer if we are preoccupied with the answer we want rather than the answer He has in mind for us.  God is always teaching us new things; it is never too late to learn from Him.  And so, learn to let go a little by putting aside your expectations and wants.  Rather, listen, feel, and sense God’s answer to you.  It will be yes, no, or not now.  But always know, that whatever it is, as our Psalm says:  “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and those who are crushed in spirit He saves.  The Lord redeems the Lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in Him.”

The Battle Within Us

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time

Rom 6: 19-23: Luke 12: 49-53

Dc. Larry Brockman


It’s a never ending battle- the battle between our earthly bodies and the call of God and His spirit within us,  the battle between comfort and pleasure in this world; and the nagging feeling that there must be something more to life, and the desire to know what that is; the battle between self –absorption and unconditional love.

All of us are born into that dilemma.  But the world cries out to us with its many attractions at first.  And so, we kind of settle into a way of life, living our lives as the world dictates them to us.  Because the voices of this world are loud and ever present; while the voice of God and the spirit within in us that nags us with “wait a minute” constantly, those other voices are subdued and vague.   Paul calls this inability to hear the true voice “the weakness of your nature”.

Now here is some of what our nature does with what the loud voices say: we need to eat to sustain life- but we can become totally consumed with the pleasures of food and abuse our bodies; we are attracted to each other physically- but for some that becomes a never ending obsession in life; we need money to buy the necessities of life- but for some, money is the only focus of life; there are challenging and interesting things to do in the world like sports, science, the arts, music, you name it- but we can become so consumed in them that they derail any attempts to consider God and his plan.

And so, what happens to us?  We try to become what we think people want us to be, or what we think will make us popular; or what will gain us the most comfort or attention or fame rather than becoming the person God is calling us to be.  We are too busy for God.  Oh, we tell ourselves once and a while we will listen.  But the things of this world can essentially take up all our energy and efforts.  We become of two minds- but one of them has control of us, the world; and the other mind is left in the background.

And yet, at some time during our lives, we realize that life as we know it in this world simply won’t last forever, and especially not at the pace and level of the prime of life.  Either we get sick, old, pushed down by others, or just fail to meet our own expectations.  Then we begin to wonder just what is life all about and if is there something more.

Jesus knew there was something more right from the start.  So, he went into the desert and came to grips with God and his purpose in life; and he was eager and ready to get on with it.  He says as much in today’s Gospel.  Why does he make such strong statements in today’s Gospel about dividing people?  Because he needed to get our attention and because he wanted all of us to see the path he had taken.  He wanted all of us to realize, as he had come to realize, what life was really all about- namely loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves as God loves us and following God’s plan for us until we leave this world and join God in the everlasting Kingdom of Heaven.

The reality is that he knew  tat when he accomplished his mission, it would bring controversy, not peace to earth.  It would, and still does, separate families from each other.  Jesus knew it would.  There will be those who follow him, those who seek something above what the world offers; and there will be those who don’t follow him, but rather, are self-absorbed and belong to the world.    St. Paul tells us about the fate of both contingents.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

Believing in our Hearts

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ex 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3: 14 – 4:2; Luke 18: 1-8

Dc. Larry Brockman


Faith!  Faith is what all of us need to survive as Christians.  Faith is what will sustain us in times of trouble.  This morning, our readings are all about Faith.    Now some people confuse Faith with knowing all about what we are supposed to believe about God.  Indeed, we speak of our “Faith” as Christians and Catholics in terms of what we believe.  But the real essence of Faith is something that is a lot deeper than that.  Faith in God, first of all, is really all about our ability to believe what we cannot prove about God.  Things like the certainty of the existence of God; the truth of the Trinity; the incarnation, or God becoming man in the person of Jesus; the mystery of how Christ being Crucified could ransom us from our sins; the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead; and Eternal Life in the Kingdom of God.  We need to know all about these things, and we learn them from scripture and the Church, but we need to believe in them despite the fact that they can’t be proven using human reasoning.  That is the first part of real Faith.

And then secondly, we need to show that we really do believe in them.  That means more than just accepting them with a nod.  It means living our life according to the pattern that Jesus set for us in the Gospel because that’s how he promised us a ticket to everlasting life.  It does no good to give assent to something with our lips, but not with our hearts and minds and bodies.  If we really have Faith, then we will be engaged in showing it.

Listen again to what Paul tells Timothy in the second reading:  He says: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ . . . to proclaim the word, be persistent, whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching”.  That’s what it means to live your Faith.  To proclaim God’s word whenever and wherever it is needed, whether it is convenient or inconvenient; and to minister to others by convincing them, reprimanding them, and encouraging them.

When you were Baptized, you were welcomed into the Church.  And at that time, you made a Baptismal promise.  For most of us, that promise was made on our behalf by our Parents and Godparents.  Basically, that promise consisted of learning your Faith and living it out by evangelizing to others in word and deed; by spreading your zeal and commitment to the Faith.  Yes, all of us were called in Baptism to go forth and teach all nations in our Faith so that all could share in everlasting life in Heaven.

When you are confirmed, you are confirming your commitment to the promise that was made on your behalf at Baptism.  So, you see, your life as a Christian just begins with Confirmation; it doesn’t end with Confirmation.  Your commitment means you will continue to grow in knowledge of your faith and in your ability to live that Faith with resolve and conviction.

Now in today’s first reading, we have a very interesting story about real Faith.  Moses believes that he has been given special powers by God through his staff.  And so, he believes that if he can hold that staff up during battle for all to see- that staff, which is a symbol of Faith in Israel- then no matter how bad the situation is with the enemy Amelek, his people will be saved.   But when his resolve and that of his helpers Aaron and Hur, waivers just a little bit, and the staff somehow gets lowered, then Amelek begins to prevail over the Israelis.  So, Moses, Aaron and Hur redouble their efforts to keep that staff held high no matter how tired they get.

There’s a very subtle distinction to be made here.  You see, it isn’t the staff itself that was so important.  The staff was just a symbol of the power of God.  Rather, it was their belief that the power of God was with them.  And they had to continuously demonstrate their Faith in the power of God in order for their Faith to sustain them.

It’s the same way with us.  Our Faith needs to be strong and continuous.  We can have all the knowledge of our Faith down pat, so much so that we can recall it at any time.  But if we set it down and to the side by saying to ourselves “Well let’s get on with life, and when I need God, I will recall what I have been taught”,. meaning, let me pursue my own agenda for life without regard to how my partnership with God is affected, then we cannot expect our faith to sustain us.  If we really believe it, we will live our Faith to the fullest, always holding it in our hearts and consulting God about everything we do in life.  Because it is then that our Faith will always sustain us.

The message in the Gospel confirms this about our Faith.  The persistent Widow is just that relentless and persistent in appealing to the judge.  And as corrupt as the judge was, he responded to that commitment and tenaciousness.  Our ever-loving God will certainly do as much and more.  And so, that’s how our Faith can sustain us- through an absolute commitment to it.  Through a persistent and consistent never ending partnership with God, continuous prayer and demonstration of our Faith, we can and will be shown the way even when the going gets tough.  It may not be the way we would like, but the way will be shown to us, God’s way.  But it takes real Faith, the Faith of a Confirmed Christian to guarantee our success.

The Key to Knowledge

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Thursday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Rom 3: 21-30; Luke 11: 47-54

Dc. Larry Brockman

So, Jesus tells the Scribes “You have taken away the key of knowledge”- the key of knowledge.  Pretty firm words to the religious leaders of the time.  What does it mean?

Well, some say that the key to knowledge is Faith, Faith in the Lord and in the Covenant He had made with His people in the scriptures that had been passed down to them.  The Scribes and Pharisees had tried to replace faith in the word of God with faith in their own interpretation of scripture.  And their interpretation emphasized the externals- complying with the letter of the Mosaic Law rather than understanding and complying with the Spirit of the Mosaic Law.  For example, it was more important to wash your hands on the Sabbath than to feed the poor on the Sabbath.  Thus, they had taken away the key to knowledge, faith in the Lord that was in the heart.

Others say that Jesus was referring to himself as the key to knowledge.  Indeed, the Scribes and Pharisees fought Jesus and his message with a vengeance.  And they were plotting to “take away” Jesus from the people at this very critical time when Jesus was preaching and converting the people.  Jesus message was all about believing in the heart, and knowing what was written in the heart, a message of love of God and neighbor above all else.

What does all this have to do with us?  Has someone taken away the key to knowledge from us, and replaced it with a morality which emphasizes literal compliance with the law rather than compliance to the message of God written in our hearts?

One way to recognize whether we have fallen into that trap is to understand how we act in our daily lives.  Do we think that all we have to do is just behave nicely and salvation is ours?  Maybe we come to Mass each week, receive Communion, don’t overtly lie, steal, or fight and just stay safely in our current environments while poverty, corruption, fraud, deception and violence are going on all around us.  In other words, are we being “good” according to the interpretations of the law we have all learned and leaving the rest to someone else?  Because, you see, isn’t that the same as believing that we can save ourselves by doing strictly what the law requires of us, and nothing more?

Now Paul says today, “We are justified by faith, and not just works of the law”.  And by Faith, he means not just believing but living our Faith.  And the Faith that we are to live is one that is written in our hearts; it calls us to love and care for one another, so much so that we cannot ignore what is going on around us.  Jesus didn’t eat and socialize just with his disciples.  Rather, he ate and socialized with people outside his circle of disciples; he talked to and cared for the outcasts of the society of his day including lepers, sick people, possessed people, tax collectors, widows, Samaritans, publicans, prostitutes, and foreigners.

Much has been said about Pope Francis in the media recently.  He is calling for the Church to go outward, outside the walls rather than always emphasizing the law.  It isn’t that we shouldn’t know the law and do what it says.  But rather, we should get beyond that and go out and bring others, those who are separated from us, back into the fold.   How?  Not by preaching the law over and over to them, but by our example, an example of love.

Can you and I do it?  You bet we can.  We are in the middle of 40 days for life.  Some of our parishioners are out there every day praying in front of Planned Parenthood’s Tampa Avenue Facility.  No one person is out there all the time, they all take shifts.  And all they do is pray.    And you know what?  People notice.  They drive by and honk their horns in approval.  And it’s been going on now for several weeks.  So people even stop, and they tell our folks that they are impressed by the goodness, honesty, and sincerity of what they are doing.  Indeed, these prayerful folks have not lost the keys.  They are people of Faith filled with the message of Christ.  We can do it.