Archive for January, 2014

Healing Divisions

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Is 8:23 – 9:3; Math 4: 12-23

Dc. Larry Brockman


Divisions!  That’s what St. Paul experienced after he founded the Church in Corinth, people who held on tight to some details of what they believed and gravitated to one or another principal advocate rather than focusing on belief in their hearts in Jesus message.  Yes, Divisions occurred right from the very beginning.   

Isn’t it sad that there are so many Christians today, and yet, we are all divided into different denominations?  And rather than build on what we believe in common, some of those denominations tear the others down.  The Catholics seem to be on the receiving end of that quite a bit.  How many times do you hear some of our Protestant brothers telling the whole world that unless you accept Jesus as your personal savior, you cannot be saved.  And then in the next breath, they attack the Catholics who they say put more faith in tradition than in the Bible.  Many of them say we are damned.   

And yet, when these people sit down and talk with us, they find much common ground.  For example, there are things that are basics that we all agree on- these are our Christian foundations.  Some of these things are the belief in one God, the Trinity, and the other elements of the Creed.  And most Christians denominations respect and believe in the sanctity of the word of God- the Bible; they also believe we need to honor God’s natural law, that is, respect the sanctity of all life from womb to tomb.   

Yet even within our parishes, there are divisions.  People feel passionately about Emmaus or Cursillo or the Carmelites or this prayer group or that prayer group; and seem be put off and even hostile to people who are passionate about one of these other movements.  They sing praises for the Knights of Columbus and are ambivalent about the Men’s Club or vice versa.  Some say the only answer is meditative prayer; others concentrate on loving as Jesus taught by living in the world so that they use their God given talents; still others believe we need to love our neighbors as ourselves through social justice- that that should be the key to everything we do.   

The truth is that we need all of these Christian expressions, and even more.   We need to build each other up and not tear each other down.  Rather than harp on the differences between us; we need to emphasize the common ground, and we need to rejoice in the diversity of ways that we serve and praise God, not emphasize one over the other.   

There are plenty of ways for us to do that.  First, with respect to our Protestant brothers, we need to build on these common beliefs by working together.  I am encouraged, for example, by the Chaplain at Westminster Towers who invited me as a Catholic to come into their Presbyterian run institution and conduct  Communion services and Rosary Services there for the Catholic Residents.  And now, several times a year, I am invited to preach at their ecumenical service.  After preaching there, the Protestants have told me how much they appreciated my message, and that they didn’t know Catholics believed all that!  Such services are a great way to build bridges, not build divisions.  All of you know and interact with many other Christians.  Don’t shy away from discussions with them; rather, encourage dialog with a kind and knowing heart.  The Bible and the Catechism are our best ways to be informed and relevant in such dialog.     

Similarly, try to engage in joint activities with people of other faiths, perhaps by inviting people here for some of our events.  For example, we arranged a field trip to bring people from Westminster Towers to see the Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit.  Some of the Protestants who came told me they will never forget that experience.  In the last several years, our Parish has been proactive at inviting our fellow Christians to The Fall Festival, our Lenten Fish Fries, and our Music Concerts.  I have shared the fish fry meals with Presbyterians, Methodists, and others from neighboring Churches; and I think the dialog has been productive and healthy.  Other examples include our 40 days for Life; the St. Augustine March for Life, where we arranged for a bus; and the Life Chain along Apopka Vineland- all of these open to anyone.   

These are modest first steps in our challenge to be evangelical and ecumenical as Christians so that we can reestablish unity amongst Christians.  In this day and age, when mainline Faiths like Christianity are under attack from secular society to eliminate school prayer; eliminate the use of the bible, and secularize Chaplaincies, we need much more efforts like these to unify us.   

But we also need to be more active inside our walls, glorifying and appreciating the wonderful diversity of ministries that folks can participate in here.  We can do that by knowing the wealth and breadth of the ministries available; and by more participation ourselves.   

You know, it is common wisdom that 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  If we are going to make a difference, we need to change that.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus taps a few good common men on the shoulder, and tells them to follow him.  If these few could make such a tremendous difference; think what all of us can do together.  If we all work together, and that means all of us, not just some of us, we can make a tremendous difference.   

We can eliminate Divisions, and convert the world by our example of knowing, loving, and working for Jesus;  But not just some of us, all of us. 

Overcoming Jealousy

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

1 Sam 18: 6-9, 19: 1-7; Mk 3: 7-12

Dc. Larry Brockman


Jealousy!  It is one of the seven deadly sins.  This morning we hear how Saul had become jealous of David, so much so that he considered killing him and all because the Lord had gifted Saul and the Israelites with David and his miraculous success in combatting a seemingly invincible foe, Goliath.  For a while, David had been an answer to a prayer for Saul because he was so successful.   But when the people of the time recognized it by singing David’s praises relative to him, Saul was infuriated, and plotted danger against David.   

It’s a human reaction that we all share, isn’t it- jealousy over someone else’s success.  It seems particularly hard for people to accept someone else’s success after they been successful themselves.  In Saul’s case, he had been the center of attention.  And even though he and his army won the battle, it was David who got all the attention.  And so, Saul just became consumed with jealousy and envy. 

I am sure that all of us can think of a time when someone stole the spotlight from us.  And rather than rejoice in the other person’s success, we were envious or jealous.  Maybe when you were a child, you did something and were praised for it.  And just when you were basking in the attention and the joy that went with it, a brother or sister did something and seemed to steal the attention right out from under you.  Later on, maybe you did a really great job on a work project, and all of a sudden someone else steals the show.   

What should we do when we feel that emotion of jealousy and envy, and even anger in situations like this?  First of all, recognize that life is just like that.  God’s gifts are given to everyone; everyone has a share of the limelight.  So, we should be happy when someone else succeeds.  After all, we all want them to be happy for us when we succeed.   

But more than that, gifts are not balanced.  Whenever my wife baked a pie, she always used to have one of our kids cut the pie.  And whoever cut the pie was the person who received the last piece.  Everybody learned a key lesson from that.  No matter how hard you would try, it is just very hard to cut that pie so that everyone gets the same size piece.  And it is that way in life as well.  You might get the larger piece of the pie today, but someone else is going to get the larger piece of pie tomorrow.  That’s life.   

Second, these deadly sins, like jealousy and envy, are the devil’s best chance to derail us from our real goals in life.  They draw attention to ourselves and our wants rather than God’s will for us.  And if we become consumed with jealousy and envy, we lose sight of what our lives are really all about-  the mission and goals that God has in mind for us.  That’s exactly where the devil wants us- consumed in ourselves.   

On the other hand, sharing the limelight is a lesson in humility that all of us need to learn.  Because when you come right down to it, we are all really the same in God’s eyes even though we are as different as night and day in gifts, talents, and limitations.  It is God’s attention and praise we should be seeking; not the world’s.   

Today’s Gospel echoes the same lesson.  All those people closing in on Jesus were not doing it because they loved God or Jesus; but because they wanted something from him- something worldly.  They were into themselves.  And so Jesus arranged for an escape from the pressure.   

The next time you start to feel jealous or envious of someone else.  Think about how the devil is working on you.  Let it go, and seek after God’s praise first. 

Modern Day Liars

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

St. Basil the Great

John 2: 22-28; John 1: 19-28

Dc. Larry Brockman

“Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ” is a liar.  Pretty strong words.  Some context is helpful, I think.   

You see, this Epistle was written at a time when there was much discussion amongst the first Christians and converts about just who Jesus was.  John believed that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine.  But there were many who just couldn’t believe that this person that they knew personally- one who ate and drank with them; who was a simple carpenter; who lived a relatively straightforward life from the age of 12 to the beginning of his public ministry at age 30- they couldn’t really accept the fact that Jesus was THE Christ, the one and only savior for all time, the Messiah.  They couldn’t bring themselves to accept him as God even after many of them personally witnessing the Resurrection.  John is calling these people “liars” because they used worldly arguments to undermine the legacy that Jesus left and that was handed on by the Apostles to them.  The “lie” consists of the pollution and dilution of the real word of God by these people.  And like all lies, it has consequences, because it leads people astray from the truth.  You see, once you reject a critical part of the truth; what is to prevent erosion of the rest of the truth?   

But John points out the anecdote- that these early Christians have been Baptized and anointed; so they have heard the truth; and they have been armed with the grace that comes from the Holy Spirit.  It is a grace that can and should sustain them to keep the faith, and live their lives accordingly.  It is a call to live faithfully according to the Gospel legacy that Jesus left, so that when Christ comes the second time at the Last Judgment, they can stand tall with confidence that they have lived a life pleasing to God.   

Today is the feast of St. Basil the Great.  In the 4th Century St. Basil fought valiantly against just such a heresy as John refers to.  He fought against people who didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus.   

It is no different today, you know.  We have many liars in our presence; people who deny the divinity of Jesus.  The liars of today are those who read the word of God and hear the teachings of the Church but they try to dilute and pollute these teachings with the “wisdom of the world” or some other persons teaching.  They say: “I know what the scriptures say, but God wouldn’t just come to the Jews; oh no; He has revealed himself to the Hindus and the Buddhists and the Moslems and the Mormons and all the other peoples of the World in one way or another”.  They say that Christianity is just one of the ways God has revealed himself to mankind.  And so, these folks say that we should “look beyond” the parochialism of our own Faith and embrace the ultimate truth that integrates all these teachings together.   

But the simple fact is that God did chose to reveal the fullness of himself through His word, Jesus Christ, who became man, and lived as one of us.  He showed us through the Gospel legacy, how to live a life that pleases God by obedience to the will of the Father.  He suffered, died, and rose from the dead, appearing to his Apostles; and promised us everlasting life if we follow him.  And he left us a more refined glimpse of his true nature- the Trinity.  None of these other world religions offer all of that.  They may have a glimmer of the truth; but they are not the fullness of God’s revelation to us.  The pluralistic argument is the “Big Lie” that the devil hopes we will all accept because it leads people away from the truth.   

Today, we are called to defend our Faith by recognizing and ignoring the Big Lie; we are called to be Christians in Faith, Word, and Deed no matter what.