Archive for March, 2014

Awakening from Sleep

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Lent

1 Sam 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41

Dc. Larry Brockman


There are all kinds of ways for a person to “see”.  And todays readings talk about many of them.   

First, Samuel had his vision about what to look for in a King.  He was looking for the tall, powerful, self-confident commanding type; the kind you think about when you imagine a King.  But God was looking for a man after His own heart.  So, the two did not “see” eye to eye on what the best attributes of a King were.  Their perspectives were different.  Indeed, we see differently according to what we are looking for.  Perspective can blind us to discovering the truth and God’s will.   

Then there is Paul’s description of the deeds of men.  Basically, Paul points out that we see the same thing differently when it is bright and illuminated than we do when it is shrouded in darkness and shadows.  What is hidden from others to see may be terribly flawed when viewed in brightness and light.  Indeed, one can hide the truth from people using darkness and obscurity; but that doesn’t change the truth.  So, we can be deceived by what we don’t see in the full picture of things; or worse yet, attracted to the dark side of something that is bad for us.     

And then there is the blind man in the Gospel.  He cannot see with his eyes; and so he has learned to “see” with his other senses.   Jesus gives him his physical sight; but his ability to “see” with his other senses has served him well because he recognized God in Jesus.   This great faith in God served him well in standing up to the Pharisees and in moving life.  This man, even though he gained his physical sight and could then function in his world, followed after Jesus and sought the kingdom of God.    

Lastly, there were the Pharisees.  They saw only the letter of the law; not its spirit.  They deceived themselves into thinking that they were complying with the law by following the mechanics of the law.  They became quite good at that- literal compliance.  Anyone who came along and challenged their sense of contentment was attacked.  They were so consumed with the detail tat they couldn’t see the forest from the trees.   

And so, there are all kinds of blindness:  blindness of perspective; blindness to deceit and evil; physical blindness; and blindness of the heart.  All of us are human and flawed; and all of us possess one or more of these kinds of blindness to some degree.   

Consider how these kinds of blindness effect our relations with God.  We can foster our own perspective, not God’s; we sometimes overlook evil when there is a perceived good in it for ourselves; we can’t see things at all when we are preoccupied with ourselves; quite often we don’t want to open our hearts, especially to change; and we can hang on to details when the essence is right there before us.  In other words, we can’t see our sinfulness for what it is.   

So, what is the solution?  Well, we are in the middle of Lent.  Lent is a time of the year when we should pause from the humdrum of everyday life and open our eyes and hearts to God.  We need to “see” things as they really are about ourselves, where we are going in life, and how our relationship with God is going.   

We still have a couple of weeks to do this reflecting.  Perhaps the best way to open our eyes is to go somewhere where it is quiet and listen to God and what he has to say.  Like the blind man, our physical limitations are not holding us back from our ultimate goal.  Rather, it is our inability to see ourselves as we really are.  It is our sinfulness.  We need to seek out how to illuminate the truth.   

In some respects, it is like we are asleep.   How fitting are St. Paul’s words today:  “Awake O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Listen to the Prophets!

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

Jer 7: 23-26; Luke 11: 14-23

Dc. Larry Brockman


Isn’t it frustrating?  Whenever we look at History, we see the same mistakes made over and over again.  Governments arise with power hungry tyrant leaders.  They suppress the people, sometimes killing those who don’t agree with them.  They cause war and suffering for Millions of people.  Ultimately, they are defeated and some order is reestablished.  But then the pattern starts all over again.  If it’s not Nazis, it’s Communists; and If it’s not Communists, it’s Islamic Jihad.  Mankind just doesn‘t seem to learn from our past mistakes.  How frustrating!

The Israeli nation was like that as well.  They had prophets for over a thousand years, prophets like Elijah and Elias and Isaiah and Ezekiel and Jeremiah, who foretold of the doom that was to befall them if they didn’t repent and change their ways.  And yet, as Jeremiah tells us in the first reading, they didn’t listen to the prophets, and so, they suffered the humiliation of the exile.   

It was no different in Jesus time.  Here was a person who preached a new Gospel, or “The Good News”, a new way of living life to please God, a way to attain the kingdom of heaven that transcended the nit-picking laws of the Torah, all 651 of them.  He even worked mighty miracles for them, like casting out demons.  But, the leaders of the time didn’t want to listen to Jesus any more than they wanted to listen to the prophets.  Jesus message was not a political solution to the troubles at the time; it was a spiritual message- how to get in touch with God’s will.  But the leaders of Jesus time only wanted to hear of political salvation, salvation from the harsh Roman rule.  They were not focused on spiritual salvation.  So, they spoke harshly of Him, accusing him of casting out devils by Beelzebul, the prince of devils. They said and did anything, even the illogical, to discredit Him and get him out of the way.   

All of this leads us to our own times.  We, like our predecessors, are a stiff necked people as well.  These cycles of secular destruction have continued even in our own day.  There are modern day prophets prophesying secular doom.  But the root problem is not really the budget deficit or the mess created by the health care bill or massive unemployment.  The root problem is a lack of our attention to the Word of God and the Law that God has written in our hearts.  That law demands that we love one another and seek first the Kingdom of God.    Only when we become a nation and a world that puts God-centered values first, will the harmony that God intends for all of us be established.

So, are you listening to the Word of the Lord?  Are you focused on a spiritual journey to the Kingdom of God; or are you part of the secular world that seeks only self-gratification.    Remember this-, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” 

The Woman at the Well- A Confession

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Third Sunday of Lent

Ex 17: 3-7; Rom 5: 1-2, 5-8; John 4: 5-42

Dc. Larry Brockman


As you sit here in this pew this today, listening to all these words about water, spirit, and everlasting life, let me ask this question:  Just what is it that you are here for today?  Are you thirsting for something special?  Or are you here for a refreshing drink of water, so to speak, a respite from the humdrum of life?   

I noticed something very interesting about the Gospel, that when the woman went to the well she was not thirsting for something special, the answer to questions about the meaning of life.  Nothing like that was on her mind.  She was just looking for water; she was looking to just get by for that day, to quench her normal thirst.   

I think that is probably true for most of us here as well.  We didn’t come here this morning expecting something special.  But you know what, just like the woman at the well, God has other plans for us if we are willing to listen to Him.   

I am in a Bible Study session this Lent that breaks down the readings each week.  The other night, we did the session for this week’s readings.  There was an interesting pictorial in the lesson.  Picture this in your mind:  Jesus is sitting on the edge of the well holding a cup, with the woman kneeling next to him with her water jar and rope.  Jesus is looking at the woman as one who is instructing.   She is looking at Jesus with intense concentration and a great sense of peace.  The area around them is otherwise deserted so this was clearly a private and open discussion.   

The thought came to my mind that it was as if Jesus was hearing this woman’s confession.  And you know what?  That is kind of what happened to her, wasn’t it?  Only Jesus tells her what’s wrong with her life; she doesn’t have to bring it up.  Here she is, just coming to the well to get water, and all of a sudden, she is confronted with the essence of what bothers her in life.  She didn’t expect it, it just happened.  But what happened next, her conversion, happened because she opened up and listened to Jesus.  She recognized that she was thirsting for something more in life, and that Jesus had hit upon it. 

Her life-long search for fulfillment had resulted in 5 failed marriages and now she was involved with a sixth man, not her husband.  But none of those 6 relationships had quenched her inner thirst.  Jesus awakened in her the thirst for meaning in life.  And then Jesus was there to fill the void with the promise to provide “living water”, something that would quench her thirst for all time- a way to realize everlasting life.   

It would be hard to summarize the meaning of Lent more succinctly than the story of the woman at the well does.   Each and every one of us, deep down, has a thirst, an inner voice of unrest that cannot be quenched.  This voice tells us there must be something more to life than what we are experiencing.  Most of the time we suppress that thirst and just get on with life as we know it.  And we become blinded to what it is that is holding us back.  Lent is the perfect time to change all that. 

Just like the woman at the well, we came here today with good intentions, but not necessarily for a conversion of heart.  Just like her, we can be blind to what is holding us back until Jesus opens our eyes.  When Jesus spoke to her, and she listened, that all changed.  Just so, we are called to listen for God’s plan for us- to seek out the living water, the spirit of God, especially during the season of Lent.   

One of the roadblocks to conversion of the heart is our attitude.  The Old Testament reading talks about the Israelis grumbling against God and the reality of the harsh, dry, desert they found themselves in.  God does not like grumbling, no more than we like a whining child. But many of us feel like grumbling as well.  The economy and job situation is still a problem; we read of dangerously volatile conditions in places like the Ukraine and Syria that could escalate into major wars; and our moral code as Christians continues to be under attack by our own Government  with issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and other areas.  And all of that and much more can cause us to be angry and grumble.    

In fact, the Israelis were so angry and distraught that Moses feared for his life.  Notice, though, that Moses appeals to God for help- he didn’t ask for water.  It was God who answered the prayer with a promise to give the people water- water, an absolutely essential commodity to sustain life as we know it.   

So perhaps some of you are here because you are angry about something- something not going well in your life. Rather than grumble, put your anger aside and really listen to God.  His message may not be what we expect; because God is mostly concerned about what is in our hearts- that’s what we take forward with us into the Kingdom of God.   

Consider your encounter with Jesus today after Communion like a session with Jesus in the confessional.  Let him tell you what is wrong with your life.  Listen, and joyfully respond with your hearts.  Remember our Psalm: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” 

Finding the Lazaruses in Your Life

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Thursday of Second Week of Lent

Jer 17: 5-10; Luke 16: 19-31

Dc. Larry Brockman


Doesn’t he get under your skin and irk you, this prophet Jeremiah?   

Listen again to that first sentence:  “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks strength in the flesh”.  “Cursed” he says- pretty strong language.  And as you listened to that, didn’t you bristle just a little bit because all of us, no matter who we are, listen to human beings and seek strength in the flesh?.  We listen to doctors and lawyers and all kinds of worldly experts; and we surround ourselves with trusted family members and friends.  And don’t we seek strength in the flesh?  How many of us work out or watch carefully over our diets?  And don’t we look up to certain people in this world who either physically look good or have some special talent or personality trait which attract us?  We all trust people and seek strength in the flesh.  In fact most of life is interaction with people and this world.  And so Jeremiah’s words make us uncomfortable, just as they did the Jewish people long ago.   

But notice that Jeremiah adds the phrase:  “Whose heart turns away from the Lord”.  And that is the key point.  We all depend on each other and we quite naturally seek certain people out.  There are people we want in our lives and others we don’t.  And we all, quite naturally avoid things and people that we don’t like and that make us uncomfortable.  It’s just we have to do that kind of living in this world without turning our hearts from the Lord.  It’s a matter of focus and emphasis and balance.   

The Rich man in the Gospel is an example of the kind of person Jeremiah is talking about.  He doesn’t have the proper focus, the right emphasis, nor balance in his life.  For whatever reason, God blessed the Rich man and his family of 5 brothers in this world.  We don’t know exactly what that blessing was- talent, charm, inheritance, luck, or whatever.  But the upshot of it is that he is rich and comfortable.  And based on this Gospel vignette about Lazarus, the Rich man appears to be clueless on the plight of Lazarus.  He recognizes him alright, or else he wouldn’t have asked for Lazarus to bring him a drop of water.  But that is all; he apparently ignored Lazarus in his lifetime.  Lazarus was an annoyance to be looked beyond.   

The Rich man lived life comfortably because that’s just the way it was for him, comfortable.  He didn’t have to think about the suffering of others; he didn’t think about his own salvation.  He didn’t focus on the reality of what life was all about and where he fit in.  He didn’t emphasize the right things as he lived life; and he didn’t balance his own wants and needs with those of others.  It isn’t that he was a bad man; he was just clueless.   

Jesus and Jeremiah are both warning us of the same thing:  Life is about more than comfort and meeting our own daily wants and needs.  Each of us needs to focus on more than that.  We need to listen for God constantly and what he tells us in the depths of our hearts.  And then trust God in our lives.  That is harder to do when things are going well for us, as they were for the Rich man.  And so, we have to make it happen.   

Lent is the perfect time of year to do that, to put aside some time to find the Lazaruses in our lives that we look beyond.  Who or what is it that God has put into our lives that needs our attention; and yet, we keep looking beyond like they it wasn’t there?  It will be something that is inconvenient for us and interrupts our comfort zone.  But God is calling us to refocus our lives; pay attention to that call; and focus on somebody or something else.   

The trust part is very important.  Because when we trust the Lord, then even these uncomfortable situations, the Lazaruses in our lives, can be managed because our roots will reach out to the stream, the inspiration of the Spirit of God.    It’s important for us all to find Lazarus in our lives because God rewards us according to our ways.  He finds what’s in our hearts. 

Learn How to Pray From Esther

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Thursday of First Week of Lent

Esth C: 12, 14-16, 23-25; Mt 7: 7-12

Dc. Larry Brockman


It seemed like a hopeless situation.  The entire exiled Jewish nation was doomed by a decree of the Persian King Cyrus, Esther’s husband, after he had been tricked into signing that decree by an unscrupulous leader.  But Esther had Faith and her prayers were answered, as you will find if you read the rest of the book of Esther.   

Notice a couple of things about Esther’s prayer.  First, she is humble.  Esther prostrates herself and her entire court and she begins with a humble plea to the God of her ancestors.  Second, she talks about how God always listens to those who abide by the law.  Esther’s obedience was well established earlier in the book.  Next, her pray is not so much for herself, but rather for her people.  In other words it is for a very worthy cause.  And lastly, she was praying for God’s help to inspire her in what to do, rather than an outright miracle.  She was willing to do her part, whatever was required as long as it was God’s will.   

Jesus tells us in the Gospel that God will always hear our prayers and give us what we truly need.  But we need to ask Him in the proper way.  In that regard, we would do well to pray as Esther did: with a humble and contrite heart; while in a state of grace from our obedience to God’s commandments and will; asking for something that we truly need rather than just want; and prepared to play an active role in making the answer to the prayer happen.   

Then, after we pray, we need to trust that God will answer our prayer.  We need to recognize that what He gave us was a fish, not a snake.  Sometimes that can seem hard because our prayers are not always answered the way we want them.  But consider that if this is the summary of the law and the prophets:  “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you”.  Then certainly God will do for us what is right for us. 

How to Choose Jesus

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Dt 30: 15-20; Luke 9: 22-25

Dc. Larry Brockman


Will you choose to go after Jesus?  Because if you do, you need to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus.  That is the choice- to follow him or not to follow him.  It’s really our only choice.   

It was like the choice that Moses passed on to the Israelis thousands of years earlier.  They could choose life and prosperity; or death and gloom. Life and prosperity meant loving and obeying God, by following His commandments, statutes, and decrees.  The other choice was automatically made if they abandoned the one true God, because it meant following after false gods.  And Moses words were quite sobering on the consequences of that: namely, that they most certainly would perish.   

Many of us can’t relate to the idea of following false gods.  It just seems like something the uneducated ancients did- worshiping some golden calf or superstitious force in nature.  But I beg to differ; it is not all that different today in our educated society because we have a whole set of false gods in our society.  And many people choose these false gods by default.  Sex, money, facebook, video games, work, football, gossip, alcohol, drugs, following and emulating pop culture and secular fads, and a host of other things that we can become addicted to are the false gods in our society today.   When people spend their time totally consumed in these things, they have chosen the false gods by default.  Why? Because their preoccupation is on self, the ultimate false God.  We heard that point over and over when Father Gallagher gave his mission here last month.   

And it is easy to see if we are headed in that direction.  Because when God asks for our time,  As He is doing during this season of Lent,  Then if all the other things in your life are too important; and you just can’t find any time for God,  It is then that you know that there’s a false god or two in your life.   

Jesus’ message today was particularly pointed, wasn’t it?  First, he tells the story of what the consequences will be when he follows the will of God.  It will mean suffering, ridicule, and death on a cross.  Those were really heavy and sobering words.  And then he tells us that if we want to go after him, we will have to deny ourselves.  Yes, deny ourselves, deny ourselves the preoccupation with the other things of life that are too important; and rather, take up our cross instead.   

But just what is your cross?  Maybe it is that nagging thing in the back of your mind that you know you should be doing when you are spending all your time on yourself.  It could be the right thing to do that is harder than just following after the popular thing in society.  It could also be that thing that needs to be said or done, but you don’t want to buck everybody else.  In other words, it is loving and obeying God by following God’s commandments rather than following the ways of the world.  It is avoiding evil and sin.   

God has something wonderful in mind for each and every one of us.  But we put roadblocks in the way of His will for us.  We don’t give God the time and attention He needs. Jesus was different.  He made the time to examine his life and get it in harmony with the Father’s plan for him.  He went into the desert for 40 days, and found out who he was and what God’s mission was for him.  After he sorted it all out, then this Gospel passage presents the result in a nutshell.    We have 40 days to do the same.  To deny ourselves, find our cross, take it up, and go after Jesus. 

Returning to the Lord

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Ash Wednesday Service

Joel 2: 12-18

Dc. Larry Brockman


“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart”.  Yes indeed, it is never too late to turn back to the Lord.   

Today is an especially good day to begin that process because we will all receive ashes on our foreheads,  And as we receive them, we will hear the statement:  “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” to remind ourselves that life in this world is not what life is all about. It’s a somber reminder, but one that most of us in this hospital can understand.  Because many of us see life as we know it end here for a patient or a loved one. 

Just a month ago, my own Mom lay here just down the hall, a woman of 91 years, who had lived a full and vibrant life.  But it was clear that her life here was ending.  Was that all there was to life for her?  Was life ending, or was there something else just beginning?     

For those of us who are Christians, we know that there is more to life than life in this world.  But we have to be ready for it.  We have to recognize that God wants to be part of our lives, and that he has something special in mind for us in this life, something that will prepare us for the next life.  That’s what Lent is all about.  And that is what the Church is trying to do for the next 40 days, to get us all ready for the Resurrection and the promise of everlasting life that comes to us with Easter.   

Joel says it well.  “Proclaim a fast, gather an assembly, gather the people”.  And then:  “And say, spare, O Lord your people”.  Joel is asking the people to listen up, repent, and mend their ways.  And as the last sentence of the reading implies, the Lord was stirred to concern for His people.   

All of us are corrupted by the world.  It’s a fast moving lane that most of us live in.  We have many things to do and precious little time to stop and listen for God’s voice among the noise and clutter.  But we have to do it.  The season of Lent is the perfect time of year to do it. 

How?  Well, first fast from things of this world that clutter your mind and keep you from responding to God.  TV; the many obligations we book in our lives; and addictions to a person, a food, or an activity; be sensitive and respond to others in need- in other words, almsgiving.  Find some time to pray and also to just listen to God.  In other words:  “Take the time, and return to the Lord with your whole heart.” 

God Will Never Abandon You

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 49: 14-15; 1 Cor 4: 1-5; Mt 6: 24-34

Dc. Larry Brockman


Sometimes we feel absolutely alone in life!  Like when we lose a parent, a spouse , a child, or a friend; or when somebody turns their back on us and walks out of our lives; or when all of these things happen in the passage of time.  Sometimes we can even feel that God has left us alone.  But there is one thing that is absolutely certain.  And that is that God will never, ever forget us or abandon us.   

If ever we needed any evidence of that, than our first reading for today proves it; for the Lord basically says:  “I will never forget you”.  And Isaiah makes the point in the analogy he uses.  For indeed, just as a mother does not forget her infant; so also God does not forget any of his creation, especially those whom he created in his own image and likeness.  And that applies to all of mankind.   

I think that is very easy for all of us to see that- just imagine that you were the creator and you fashioned man in your image and likeness.  A special kind of energy; a special kind of concern went onto that creation because you put a bit of yourself in that creative act.  How could you forget; how could you abandon part of yourself?  You couldn’t; you wouldn’t.  You would, indeed, be like a mother to her infant- physically and emotionally attached to the infant.  It’s a strong bond of intimacy, love, and physical closeness.  It’s the same way with God and each one of us.  We are loved that much, each and every one of us.  We are God’s infants, all of us.   

So, how is it that we can feel abandoned by God?  Well, just like a mother and an infant our relationship with God changes with time.  The infant grows up!  And that self-growth interferes with the relationship between the infant and the mother.  Instead of complete dependence on our mothers, we become independent.  So also in our relations with God- we think that we become independent and self-sufficient as we experience life.  But the reality is that we are never independent of God.   

There are two related arguments provided in our readings that show what really happens as we grow.  First, as St. Paul points out, we are not independent beings, with special gifts and talents that belong to us.  Rather, we are stewards of everything that God gives us.  We owe everything to God.   And so, we need to be trustworthy stewards, using our gifts and talents as God intended them to be used in appreciation for what God has given us.   

Second, as the Gospel says, we cannot serve two masters.  We cannot have it our way by being our own master; and satisfy God’s will for us at the same time.  There will always be a conflict when we try to be our own masters.  But to serve God, we need to trust him, and that means yielding control to God even when it seems threatening to us.   

These two things, being trustworthy stewards and trusting that God will lead us in the right direction are hard.  Because it does means giving up control to God.  None of us likes uncertainty.  And yet, there is really only one thing that is certain- the love that God has for us, and the fact that he will not abandon us any more than a good mother would abandon her infant.   

Jesus assures us in the Gospel that when we seek first the Kingdom of God and the righteousness that is required to achieve it, then all things will be given to us.  Life can seem to be drudgery to us when we feel abandoned.  But God has not and will not abandon us. 

When we return to our original dependence and love of God; when our focus is on God and the Kingdom of God, then we can recognize what it is that gives us real happiness.  Our psalmist says it best:   “Rest in God alone my soul.”