Archive for May, 2014

The Reason for Your Hope

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3: 15-18; John 14: 15-21

Dc. Larry Brockman


Are you ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope?  Because, Peter advises us all to be ready.   

First, of course, we have to agree that there is hope!  Now all of you gathered here today have lived a good, long life.  I am sure that they are lives filled with the richest of experiences and blessings.   

But hope points to the future, not to the past.  And realistically, as we get older, our ability to hope for the great things of this world diminishes.  I doubt if any of us will be able to make the Olympics; none of us is going to be a dashing movie star; and mountain climbing, sky diving, and all those thrills don’t seem in the cards for us.  None of us will become renowned world scholars either; and making lots of money or coming up with a fantastic invention are out of the question as well.  So, just what is our hope?   

Let me give you a hint:  We are in the Easter season and Easter reminds us of the hope we have for resurrection of the body in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus promised that all of us who believe in him and keep his commandments would be welcomed into his Kingdom.    And you know what?  The older and more experienced you become, the better able are you to project that kind of hope.  Because you know- you know that everything this world has to offer like good looks, money, athletic ability, fame, rich food and even sex is going to pass us by, and we will need something else to hope for.   

That’s the way God planned it.  He planned for all of us who reach maturity to have the ability to reflect on the real meaning of life so that we could find hope for the future that life brings.  As a Christian, we learn from the lessons of living in the world that God’s Kingdom is the ultimate goal and reality; and that it is our hope.   

Now Jesus promises some things in today’s Gospel:  He promises us that if we love him and keep his commandments then he will give us the spirit of truth, who will guide us through thick and thin.  And that if we keep the Faith, then he will be with us always, and he will find a place for us in the Kingdom of God.  That, then, is our Christian hope.  And it is our hope precisely because our experiences all tell us “It was great, but it doesn’t last, and it isn’t what life is all about”.  We are all so much more capable of understanding that than those riding high in the prime of life.   

And so, we need to live our senior years with dignity and grace by being cheerful and hopeful for the future; by showing everyone love because we realize it is the thing that lasts and lasts forever; and by patiently enduring the trials and tribulations of this world because we hope for, and we know with certainty, that the Kingdom of God is ours.   

When we live like that we are living the reason for our hope.  And all those immersed in the prime of life can’t help but see just exactly what Christian hope is all about.  And they will begin to understand that there is something better for them as well.

On Uniting Christians

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Acts 15: 7-21; John 15: 9-11

Dc. Larry Brockman


Today, we hear how the Gentile converts were accepted into the Church by the Apostles at the Jerusalem Council in the first decades of the Church.  The Apostles, of course were all Jewish.  They had modified their belief to accept Jesus as the Messiah, but they were still practicing all of the rules of their original Faith. 

Peter (Simeon) acknowledged that it was Jesus’ will that the Faith be spread to all mankind, including the Gentiles.  And Paul and Barnabas talked about how successful they had been in converting the Gentiles.  Finally James, the leader in Jerusalem, pleaded to accept the Gentiles who had converted to the Faith.  And so, the Gentiles, people like us, were welcomed into the Church and not forced to comply with all the old rules.   

Recently Pope Francis addressed a gathering of Evangelical Preachers via a taped video message.  His talk was introduced by Tony Palmer, a Bishop in his protestant congregation.  Palmer’s preface to the introduction was fascinating, because he said that the Protest is over that spawned Protestantism because in 1999, the Catholics and Lutherans signed a joint agreement that resolved the original issue behind Protestantism and so, there is nothing more to protest! 

Bishop Palmer stood up in front of all those Evangelicals and declared that the protest was over   And said “we are all Catholic now”- because we solved the issue!  He went on to say that “diversity of belief is divine, but division is diabolic”.  And thereby recognized that we may all be unified, or “catholic” by believing the essence of Christian Faith in our hearts; and yet, we still have significant diversity within our beliefs.  Division is what is dangerous, not diversity.   

Then came Pope Francis’ address.  The Pope greeted the assembled as Brothers in Christ, and even extended that greeting to his “brother bishop”.  The main part of the address was one of hope for unity.  What really struck me was the Pope’s acknowledgement that God had started this ecumenical outreach- the signed statement by the Lutherans and Catholics, for example- and that he never knew God to start something that he wouldn’t finish well!   

I think that is a great message for today’s world for Christians- a message of hope for the unity of all Christians because more than anything today, we need to be united as Christians.

There are serious divisions between the people of the World that are transcending the diversity of practice among us Christians.  We would do well to unite as Christians despite our diversity to counter the divisions caused by secularism, communism, jihadist Islam, and hedonism.  Moreover it is time for us to be proactive at it, just as Pope Francis has been.   

All of us live with and interact with other Christians.  But when it comes to addressing our unity of belief in the heart, we just don’t seem to do that with them.  It’s almost as if we erect a wall between us that prevents discussion of what unifies us because we want to avoid arguing over our diversity.   

Jesus says this in today’s Gospel:  “If you keep my commandments you will remain in His love; just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.”  That, it seems to me, is what is most important.  That is the key to advancing unity between us, rather than solving the diversity of expression. 

For my part, I am satisfied that the Catholic Church has the fullest benefit of God’s revelation to mankind.  If I am secure in that; then I don’t need to be defensive and react to someone who criticizes how our Church worships. Rather, we need to build on the unity that jointly keeping the commandments implies:  like Respect Life; honesty in our dealings; recognizing God and giving him honor and respect through worship and prayer;  not taking His name in vain; understanding that there are absolute moral; truths; respecting and honoring marriage between a man and a woman.  These are things we all have in common as Christians!  And how much more wonderful the world would be if we jointly pursued these goals together. 

Are You a Person of Faith?

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 6: 1-7; 1 Peter 2: 4-9; John 12: 1-12

Dc. Larry Brockman


There are two kinds of people in this world- those with Faith and those without Faith.  Our second reading makes that abundantly clear.  Which group do you belong to?   

For those with faith, the rewards are said to be very great, for they will never experience shame according to Jesus.  Rather, they will experience God’s Kingdom forever and ever.  But for those without faith, then all of what our faith calls for, obedience to God and his will for them, can be a stumbling block and hindrance because that conflicts with their personal agenda in this world.  This, from Peter’s words for us today as he quotes scripture.  And how absolutely true Peter’s words are, especially in today’s world.   

We are in the middle of the Easter Season.  Easter is about Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead and his passage into everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.  We are rejoicing because we have been promised the same resurrection of the body and everlasting life and so, the message seems so positive.  Rejoice, the Lord is risen!   Yes, and you have been saved. Can’t you feel the joy!  We sing Allelulia and other joyful songs, dress up in our best clothes, and celebrate with feasts. Amen.   

But wait a minute.  God calls us not only to believe, but to practice our belief, to put into practice the Faith that we have in Him by living out the word of God.  That means not only believing, but picking up our own crosses, and following after Him.  And that is the rub, isn’t it.  Life as a Christian isn’t just about singing alleluia and praising Jesus for dying for us and rising to everlasting life.  We have to accept our own crosses and follow Jesus’ example by standing firm for our Faith.  That’s what life as a Christian is all about.   

And we can see that when we look at the lives of the saints.  People like the Apostles, all of whom except John were martyred.  And even the lives of modern day saints, people like Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II, St. Padre Pio, and Blessed Mother Theresa.   These people lived their faith- they put it into action.   

When you were Baptized, you were figuratively plunged into the waters of Baptism   You did that because you assented to your faith; you agreed to believe all that the Church teaches.  And so, when you rose out of the waters of Baptism, you were declared a new person- free from any and all sin; forgiven for any and all sin; and you emerged committed to spread your faith to others so that they could be saved as well.  That was the essence of your Baptismal promise.   

But to retain your Baptismal purity, you need to live out that Baptismal promise, to be what you promised to be, a person of Faith who keeps the commandments, and so, to be a witness to your faith.   

Now I realize that most of you were Baptized as infants.  But consider this:  On Easter Sunday, all of you renewed your Baptismal promises.  That means it was as if you were plunged into the waters of Baptism on this past Easter and you are starting over just as if you were Baptized as an infant.  Jesus confirms for us this spiritual rebirth by the emphasis he has placed on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday after Easter.  He has guaranteed all of us mercy for whatever we have done by participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and Communion at Easter and by reciting a simple 9 day novena prayer.   

This morning, we are blessed with those who are participating in our RCIA program.  As we began Mass, you heard us begin the right of acceptance with them.  These wonderful people have chosen our Faith which they accept today.  But now, we challenge then to live out that Faith. 

Likewise, all of us Baptized Christians have a chance to start anew each Easter, to accept our call to be Christians by putting our past behind us- that is by repentance for our sins; and then practicing what we believe going forward- that is promising to live our lives differently going forward.  That is what it means to have Faith.  That is the kind of Faith that helps build the body of Christ, to build on to the cornerstone that Christ symbolizes.  All of us have an opportunity to show that Faith by living our lives as a Christian and making the Church stronger going forward by not just affirming our Faith with our lips but by living it out in our actions.   

How do we do that? We do that by living our Faith where we are planted: by defending Life; by showing good example to our Children; by being honest in our business dealings; by accepting our infirmities and illnesses with dignity and humility; by finding time to give honor and respect to God; by supporting our Church financially; by taking care of our aging relatives; by being there for friends and family when they are in need; and by voting according to our Christian values.   All of us know people in our lives who have done these things with dignity and grace.  They are Dynamic Catholics, the truly extraordinary Christians of our times.   

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says this:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these”.  There are two kinds of people in the world- those with Faith; and those without Faith.  Which group do you belong to?

On Betrayal of God

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Acts 13: 13-25; John 13: 16-20

Dc. Larry Brockman


“The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me”.  This really struck me this morning because the betrayal by Judas was just such a complete surprise; and Jesus prediction of it just strikes me.   

First, just imagine how Jesus and the other Apostles must have felt.  Jesus had chosen 12 men to be around him- twelve men that he could trust and share intimately with.  For three years, these 13 people were constantly together.  They shared their lodging and their food and their souls with each other.  Jesus had sent them all out on a mission, including Judas.  They all seemed to jell well together and so, none of them suspected a thing.  And then this happens- and we hear about it at the Last Supper.  Judas betrays Jesus by handing him over to his enemies.   He does it for money- a betrayal of not only Jesus but his 11 other closest friends as well.  How absolutely depressing!   

All of us have experienced the same thing at one time or another in our lives.  Somebody betrays us and it is a real surprise.  Somebody promises to keep something you tell them a secret; but they reveal it instead.  Somebody uses information you shared in confidence for their benefit; somebody turns on you in business or in a group you belong to.  We have all experienced betrayals in our most trusted circles, even in our own families.  Betrayal is one of the most difficult things to bear as a human being.     

But what struck me was this.  Why does Jesus bring it up in this context?  He has just washed everyone’s feet- an act of service and tells them they need to do the same.  Then He tells them that this unimaginable thing is going to happen   And he is telling them about it so that they will believe, so that they will believe that “I am who am”; meaning that He is God.   

Notice that Jesus also talks about how no slave is greater than his master.  Many of the commentaries speculate about Judas’ motivation for the betrayal.  Rather than the money itself, many of them imply that Judas was impatient with Jesus.  He was expecting Jesus to do something “big” in the way of becoming the Messiah.  But by “big”, Judas meant something spectacular in a secular way.  Judas, these bible scholars say, was trying to force Jesus’ hand.  So Judas betrayed Jesus out of a sense of superiority.  He thought he was smarter than his own Lord and could bring about the restoration of Israel quicker his way, by setting up the circumstances so Jesus would have to do something spectacular.   

But Judas was not smarter than His Lord.  Judas sin, then, was one of pride and self-absorption.  Judas wanted things his way and he wanted them now.   

And so, the message for us is simply this.  Jesus is “I am who am”, God, and we should never question God’s wisdom.  When we think that our way is better than God’s, we are betraying our God because we are putting ourselves first.  Just as those who betray us are putting themselves above us. 

This Gospel is truly about learning to be humble.  We see two examples and where they lead:  the humble God-made man who acts as a servant to all; and by contrast, the disciple who thinks he knows better than his Lord, and so, is just serving himself. 

We Are All Taught By God

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

Acts 8: 26-40; John 6: 44-51

Dc. Larry Brockman


So, “They shall all be taught by God”.  That’s the scripture that Jesus quotes today.  That means that God is teaching you and I and everybody else all the time!  Yes, it is God who is our primary teacher because God loves and cares for all of us.   

And you know what?  There are many ways that God teaches us constantly: through His creation; through the people He places in our lives; through inspiration when we pray; through the scriptures and the catechism; through wonderful experiences in our families and lives; in books and other media; through the lessons we learn in life; and even, and I would say especially, through the mistakes we make.  The question is not whether God is teaching us all the time, but whether we are hearing His teaching and responding to Him.   

What does it take to listen and respond to the Lord?  First, we need to hunger for the teaching.  We can’t just expect to absorb God’s lessons for us by going about our lives in an ordinary way committed to the duties and activities of the world; oblivious to the cues God is placing in our lives.  Rather, we need to be constantly searching for God and his will for us as we live our lives. 

Second, we have to be open to change when we hear the message.  Sometimes we hear a message, and begin to think about it, but then we get caught up in the humdrum of our world, and our opportunity to change and respond to God is lost.   

The story of Philip and the Eunuch is a great example of how someone listened to God and responded.  The Eunuch, a foreigner who was a Jewish sympathizer, was reading Isaiah while riding his chariot.  This man was going about his business, important business for the Empress Candace of Ethiopia.  But he was also seeking God as he went along, that’s why he was reading Isaiah.  Second, he was open to change.  After having heard Philip explain how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s scripture, the Eunuch doesn’t just thank him and continue on with his business.  Rather, he stops his chariot, and asks Philip to baptize him.   

The Eunuch is a symbol for all of the Gentiles.  The Jews were the first to be offered Salvation by Jesus.  Most of them rejected it at the time because they weren’t listening or didn’t believe.  But this foreigner hungered for God, so much so that he was feeding off the scriptures as he went about his business.  And so, God opened the way through Philip for him to learn what the word was really all about.  Then, rather than pass by his opportunity to change; he stopped in his tracks and asked to be Baptized right then and there.
  Jesus goes on to talk about how each of us can be nourished with the bread of life.  Yes, the Eucharist gives us access to the Lord and His graces, so that we are in the right frame of mind for God’s lessons.  The Eucharist is a great way to hunger for God’s teaching and be ready for it.   

So believe, receive the Eucharist, and hunger for God’s teaching, however it comes and whenever it comes for to you.