Archive for February, 2014

On Being Salted by Fire

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

James 5: 1-6; Mark 9: 41-50

Dc. Larry Brockman


The message is pretty strong today, isn’t it? First, James comes down pretty hard on those who are preoccupied with themselves. Then, Jesus comes down hard on those who lead others astray. Both of these readings should give us pause.

Are we preoccupied with ourselves, and are we leading others astray?

Then Jesus ends today’s Gospel with some interesting statements: First, he says “Everyone will be salted with fire”, and then he says: “Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another”. Just what does all of that mean?

 First, consider that fire is a method of purification.  So perhaps he is saying that all of us will be purified from our tendency to sin.  We can wait for God to purify us with fire or we can purify ourselves.  And certainly, we have been given tools for such self-purification.  We will be entering the season of Lent in less than a week.  Lent involves three classical devices for purification- Prayer, Almsgiving, and Fasting.  Much can be said about each of them; but the emphasis in Fasting is on self-mortification, meaning discipline of self to avoid preoccupation with self-absorption.  Almsgiving means going out of our way to do something for others, and it isn’t just money either, but other forms of self-sacrifice for the sake of others. These devices sound very much like an anecdote for the preoccupation with self that James talks about. And Prayer is a way for us to reflect on our lives and talk to God about what we should change to avoid sin in the future.  Such a change completes the purification process.

 A self-imposed 40 day period of Lenten purification involving Prayer, Almsgiving, and Fasting seems so much more desirable than the literal purification by fire implied in the Gospel.  But that literal “salting by fire” is something Jesus says will happen to all of us.  And indeed, suffering is a part of life for all of us- none of us is exempt.  But some of the suffering is consequences of our actions.  And so, if we have an opportunity to avoid adverse consequences by repenting and changing our lives as we do during Lent, why not take advantage of it?

 That brings us to the second interesting statement.  “Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another”.  Salt has classically been considered a preservative.

So, we should purify ourselves first, and then do what is required to preserve our newfound state of Grace, and so, this means maintaining our purified state is important.  We can do that by availing ourselves of the Sacraments- Confession and Communion, and by living up to the changes we commit to in our lives.

Let us all make a commitment to purify and salt ourselves this Lent.  Then we will live in peace with one another.


Who Are You?

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

James 2: 1-9; Mark 8: 27-33

Dc. Larry Brockman


Just who are you?  Are you who you appear to be?  Or are you are wearing a mask and a disguise?  The real “you” is probably someone other than the image you try to project for yourself.  The real you is who God wants you to be; and that is usually not the person you want to be.  And so, we all wear disguises that show us in the light that we want to be shown rather than who we really are.   

This morning’s First reading speaks to how we see others rather than how we see ourselves.  But the masks and disguises we all wear complicate the matter.  Because not only do we hide who we are; we also help others to hide themselves.  We find it easier to welcome people who wear a mask that fits them into the world’s accepted categories than it is to encourage people who are God centered.   

James hits the nail on the head.  He says that the rich are the ones who oppress us!  And yet these are the same people we honor over the folks who are just being themselves, living God’s will for them and not putting on airs.  How ironic, and foolish that is.   

And you know what, things haven’t changed.  Today’s most popular masks are worn by sports figures, entertainment personalities, and politicians.  We give them top billing; and we seem to honor them above the common folk.  But you know what? These roles they play are not who they really are.  For, as gifted as they may be as athletes or politicians or actors;  God’s view of who they really should be is probably very different.  Drugs and suicide demonstrate just how unhappy these people can be when they mask who they really are.

Jesus shows us just how different God’s plan for who we are really is from the worldly image of who we want to be.  Jesus was the Messiah.  In the world’s view, the Messiah would be popular, having great power; but he would also be rich, well dressed, and the image of the top of Society.  That’s what the Jews were looking for – a worldly “leader” with wealth, power, and a dazzling image.   

But Jesus was poor, a simple carpenter, dressed as a peasant.  He had no power in the worldly sense; and his popularity waned quickly when the authorities arrested him.  Not only that, he suffered greatly and was put to a humiliating death.  Yet Jesus knew who he was because he knew God’s mission for him.  That was who he really was- a slave to the will of God, dedicated to spreading a way of life based on living God’s way in our hearts.  The Gospel shows us just how that life should be led- loving people, putting others first, and keeping the commandments.     

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples exactly what that means in worldly terms for him.  It is something they didn’t want to hear, as Peter demonstrates.  But Jesus was telling the truth; he was being real.  All of us face the same challenge.  God is calling us for something; but we are disguised as something else.   We are just a few weeks away from Lent.  Do yourself a favor.  Take off your mask.  And take the time this Lent to find out who you really are. 

Who Should We Listen to?

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 2: 1-4, 10-12; Mark 6: 7-13

Dc. Larry Brockman


Just who should we listen to these days?  Seriously, this is the age of information.  Information and Pundits are prolific in our society.  All of us have access to hundreds of TV and Radio Stations;  an infinite resource of information sources over the Internet; and more books, periodicals, and other written sources than one can imagine.  And lots of the information we hear conflicts.  Weight saving diets conflict with each other; political commentators conflict on root causes of problems; and there are many pluralistic views on religion, all of which vie for our time and claim to have the truth, the answer to what life is all about.  Just who should we listen to?  

If you believe in Jesus, than he answers the question quite well for us today.    First, he sends people out whom he gave authority.  Yes, the people Jesus chose were given authority.  The root meaning of authority in this sense of the word is simply this: they were given power by Jesus, the power to represent His message.  They didn’t assume this power; they were given this power by Jesus.  So, the message was not their message; it was God’s message.   

Second, they went out two-by-two.  This means they didn’t go out alone- they were paired with another person who had been given the same authority.  Why? So that they validated the truth of the message for each other, and so that those who heard the message could not bear false witness against them.   

Next, they were told not to take anything extra.  In other words, they had no vested interest with them.  They weren’t bringing something of material value; and they weren’t asking for anything of material value.  They were neutral; they had nothing personal to gain.  They were messengers who were simply following God’s will for them.  They had the simplest and most pure motivation, their enthusiasm for the message of Jesus. 

Lastly, they had faith, great faith- the kind of faith that David speaks about in his parting words on his deathbed.  David told Solomon to always, always obey the Lord in all things, never questioning the law.  That takes tremendous faith.  

And because they had these simple characteristics- faith, authority, validation, and purity of purpose-  they were able to work wonders as they moved through the people, driving away unclean spirits, curing the lame, and healing the sick.     

In this day of information saturation, who should we listen to- our politicians; Wikipedia; the latest silver tongued “feel-good” preacher; the brilliant scientists with strings of initials after their names who dazzle us with “facts”;  the winners in the World?  Or do we listen to people who are like the Apostles that Jesus sent out two by two.  The choice is yours.  As for me, I’ll stay with the Church.