Archive for July, 2014

Learning to Let Go of the Past

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Thursday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Jer 18: 1-6; Mt 13: 47-53

Dc. Larry Brockman


It is pretty clear in today’s readings, that God doesn’t intend to throw us away the first time we make a mistake, or even the second or third or any other time we make a mistake.  He is relentless in His efforts to reshape us, just like the potter in the first reading.   

God is mostly interested in our Faith in Him, and our resolve to repent and to do better.  It is never too late for us to accept His guiding hand as long as we have life in us.   

Let me pause and pose this question.  Just what is God trying to fashion with your clay these days?  Perhaps you had a vision of what that was going to be some time ago; and you think you have been cooperating with God.  But somehow things have changed, and now you feel conflicted.  More likely, perhaps an old dream, an old image, just doesn’t fit the mold any more. 

Let me give a few examples.  People get married, and assume that God is shaping them to raise a family.  But divorce and death happen sometimes in these families; and then later on in life, the children are gone and you are an “empty nester”.  And then, some people pursue certain paths in life but then they find them interrupted by illnesses or overwhelming responsibilities forced on them, like caring for elderly parents or grandchildren.   When those things happen to you, are you still trying to shape yourself into that first image?  Or are you open to a newer one; the one that God is working on for you now?  I think it is important for us to ponder that because what was good for you a decade ago or even a year ago, is not necessarily good for you now.  God may be shaping you for something else.   

In the Gospel, we heard the parable of the fish.  Jesus explains that at the end of the age, angels will separate the bad from the good.  Indeed, we coexist with the evil in this world, and we always will.  And the environment we live in will be affected by that evil every now and then, causing us to adapt to the changing environment to survive.  Things like death, illnesses, and separation happen to all of us.  Some things are caused by the evil in the world; but others are just due to the passage of time.   

It can be a mistake not to respond to a call to adapt to these things.  And even though that shakes us out of a comfort zone, it may be that something more wonderful lies at the other end if we trust in God and let Him reshape us.   

Jesus says something very interesting at the end of the Gospel.  He says “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old”.  For weeks now, you have heard gospel parables on the Kingdom of God.  You have been instructed.  But you need to respond to both the new and the old.  Let the heavenly potter shape you accordingly. 

Making the Path Smooth for the Lord

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Thursday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time

Is 26: 7-9, 12, 16-19; Mt 11: 28-30

Dc. Larry Brockman


Listen to Isaiah’s message today.  First He says:  “The way of the just is smooth”.  Yes, indeed, the way of the most just God is smooth.  But it involves “the path of the just you make level”.  And there is the rub because making the path of the just level can seem difficult and painful, especially in the short term; and so prosperous societies avoid it.  They like comfort and the path of least resistance instead.  We resist making the path of the just level because it means we have to step out of our comfort zones to maintain the level path for the just.   

Perhaps an example would help.  Over and over again the Israelis became prosperous  following the Exodus. But as they did, they turned their backs on the Mosaic Law.  They became lenient with others who worshiped false Gods; they believed they had the power to make alliances for practical reasons even though that compromised their own faith; and they became obsessed with things of the world and worldly success.   Doesn’t that sound familiar?   

And so what happened to them?  Things would turn sour for them; and they would experience very difficult times.  In some cases many generations were deposed from their homes and exiled, all because a prosperous couple of generations walked away from the Lord and his commands by being complacent; by being tolerant of evil; and by not doing God’s will.   

And so, Isaiah’s later words applied:  “O Lord, oppressed by your punishment, we cried out in anguish under your chastising”.  Indeed, Isaiah is lamenting the punishment his own people were experiencing because of their failure to maintain justice and keep the laws of God.   

It could well happen to us, you know.  We have experienced many generations of prosperity in this country.  And for many of those generations, we were a society that heralded God’s justice.  We were a society that was generous, faith-filled, adhering to Judeo Christian morality, and quick to help others in need.  We were righteous in our quest to avoid and suppress evil; a society that made the path of the just level.   

But how about now, in today’s time, have we lost our way in making the path of the just straight?  Let me make it clear- I am talking about “we” or our society.  You see, our society reflects its moral values in the media and government we have today.  Our legacy is “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.  But today we see that sex outside of marriage is not only tolerated, but the people that flaunt it are accepted, even celebrated; that much of our society believes that women’s “reproductive rights” are more important than the right to life.  And we see Church attendance and participation is way down because golf, boating, and sleeping in are more comfortable.   

The answer to all of this is renewal by the people of God.  You and I can make the difference.  We can recognize that the way of the just needs to be made level.  We do that by our example; by the way we deal with our own families; by the way our parish as a whole reflects itself to the larger community.  And we can all take a stand and not support the secular values of today’s society by withholding our support of the media and by voting our convictions when we vote.   

All of us need to do as Jesus says in today’s Gospel.  “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest”.  That may seem more difficult in the short term- making more time for God; trusting is His will for us; and taking a stand against today’s secular norms, but we have Jesus word that it is the truly easy way. 

Are You Really Trusting God?

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Thursday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time

Hos 11: 1-4, 8e-9; Mt 10: 7-15

Dc. Larry Brockman


It’s all about Trusting God.  That’s what Jesus told his disciples this morning as he sent them out two by two.  They were to trust Him and depend on Him alone, not in themselves, and not in the reserves they have built up for themselves.  He tells them that “The laborer deserves his keep”, implying that they need only do the mission they were sent to do and God will do the rest.  They will get what they deserve to keep them going.

To make that point even clearer we have the first reading from Hosea.  God, it seems, is lamenting over some of his people; people whom he has nurtured, yet they didn’t realize it; people whom He has spoken to, yet they have not listened.  And even so, He vows not to destroy them in their disobedience and errant ways but to continue to speak to them and nurture them.   

How does all of that apply to us?  Surely all of us here are listening to God’s voice, and have a feel, as the disciples did for their call in the world.  Surely all of us trust in God to provide for us.   

And yet, realistically, do we really trust in God?  I think many of us constantly worry about things rather than trust in God.  We spend much of our time, perhaps the majority of our time, building our security rather than doing the work that God has in mind for us.  We need the money belts, second tunics, and the walking sticks.  We call them big bank accounts, lots of clothes and possessions, and second cars and toys.  And aren’t  we trusting our Financial Advisors more than we trust God?  

Now don’t get me wrong.  We have all got to be responsible.  We need to embrace our calling and do it with enthusiasm and commitment.  We all need to earn our keep.  After all, Jesus says “The laborer deserves his keep”.  But there is a difference between doing that, and being consumed by self-preservation.   

That, I think is the point.  All of us need to recognize where God is pointing us to go and make that a priority, trusting that God will bless our labors and keep us going, rather than the other way around; putting most of our efforts into our own plans and then fitting God’s work in when it is convenient.   

I don’t know about you, but I have heard many stories about people who work hard for the Lord, but are pressed with worldly problems.  They suffer losses and setbacks, but have an inherent trust that God will come through for them.  They never lose their Faith; they pray with conviction.  And they somehow prevail- almost miraculously- in the face of their trials. That certainly was Mother Theresa’s story.  But the same is true close to home.  I know of one group in particular that has been down to their last dollar, yet miraculously, their organization recovered and they are thriving today because they trusted in God.   

I hope that all of you will give it a try.  Like the disciples in today’s story, listen for God’s voice and mission.  And then give it some priority, even if it means making a sacrifice in your own plans; even if you don’t have all the money and things you feel you need in this life.  Do it anyway.  Trust in God instead.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Zech 9: 9-10; Romans 8: 9, 11-13; Mt 11: 25-30

Dc. Larry Brockman


“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”!  How many of you remember that late 80’s song by Bobby McFerrin.  Don’t Worry, Be Happy, I am not going to sing it for you! It has had 26 million views on You Tube, for those of you who are interested. 

The first time I heard that song, I reacted to it with cynicism.  How can we just let unsettling things happen all around us, and still go away not worrying and being happy?  The lyrics of the song, for example, speak of a man whose bed was stolen and whose landlord was evicting him.  And yet he sings: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” over and over.   

But you know what, that is exactly what Jesus is asking us to do in today’s Gospel.  The Gospel can be summed up: Don’t worry, be happy as long as you trust in me, and live life accordingly.”   

Perhaps a little bit of background on the context of today’s Gospel, would help.  Jesus had just been rejected by the learned Pharisees of Jewish Society.  He had been talking about knowing God; experiencing God through His forgiveness and Love; and having a relationship with God.  The Pharisees had been talking about knowing about God and His rules, the law of Moses.  The Pharisees rejected Jesus teaching because he didn’t preach about the law; but rather about knowing God.  But the Pharisees didn’t really know God because they had not experienced Him.  They were trying to get to God by keeping all the rules.  They were seeking God with their heads not their hearts.  And so, they were missing experiences and relationships and communion with God.   

Jesus message was only heard by those who were seeking God with their hearts.  These were people who were not so hung up with the details of the law; rather they took the time to experience life and listen for God’s voice.  They were people who didn’t think so much about God as they felt for Him and His presence in their lives.  Children are like that; and that’s why Jesus said that we need the heart of a child to recognize Him.     

Now Zechariah predicts the coming of the Messiah in the first reading.  Notice that the savior is described as meek; and riding on an ass.  Royalty commonly travelled on an ass or a colt or the foal of an ass.  Zechariah describes his royal savior as meek.  In other words, the savior is humble.  And indeed, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy, riding into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass.  But Jesus was also meek and humble of heart, as he describes himself this morning.  Knowing that he was the Son of God, he nevertheless humbled himself by seeking and then doing God’s will for him.  Jesus had taken the time, had gone out into the desert, and had listened to God.  And so, when he returned, he took up his yoke, meaning the mission His Father had for him, and bore it with love.  Nothing else mattered in the clutter of his world.  It wasn’t an easy mission because it involved sacrifice and pain.  But it was easy in the sense that He always knew He was in harmony with the Father and His will.   

Jesus is advising us to do the same this morning.  Jesus says that all who are weary of heavy burdens should come to him, for he will give you rest; and that they should take on his yoke, because “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light”.  Jesus was referring to the onerous burden that the 565 + rules of the Mosaic Law, particularly as amplified and taught by the Pharisees, placed on the Jewish people.   

Now I ask you, is it any different today?  What a heavy burden society place on us today.  We work, we are taxed, we have mortgages, cars, boats, activities, social obligations, family obligations, sports, and on and on;  And most of it has to do with “doing the right thing by our families”.  On top of that, we try to observe all the rules and regulations of our Faith.  Our burdens are heavy.  But just like the Pharisees and those who accepted their burden, we don’t really get to know God in all of that.   

And So, Jesus words apply to us today as well.  First, we need to be meek and humble of heart.  That will eliminate a lot of the burdens.  We don’t have to compete with the Joneses.  We don’t have to match society’s expectations of the perfect family.  But, with true humility and meekness, we do need to hear God’s voice amongst all the thunder.  God’s voice begins with his Word and the scriptures; but it doesn’t end there.  Rather, God’s voice is where the scriptures lead us, and God’s voice tells us who we really are and what is really important. 

First and foremost, a relationship with Jesus is important and then, relationships with our loved ones.  Love itself is important.   

When Jesus says the yoke is easy, he means it is easy mentally more than anything else because if we are at peace with God and ourselves, then it will be easy to accept and we will be happy.  And when he says the burden will be light, he doesn’t necessarily mean literally.  Rather, He means light in the sense of whether it is bearable.  Even the heaviest of burdens are bearable if we are happy that they are the right thing for us to do.   

And so we come to understand that as Christians, we really can sing:  “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. 

We Are All In This Together

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

St. Thomas

Eph 2: 19-22; John 20: 24-29

Dc. Larry Brockman


So, we are all in this together.  Paul tells us that we are:  “Fellow citizens with the holy ones and the members of the household of God”.  And also,   “You are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the spirit.”  Yes, we are all in this together.  Pretty heavy stuff!  But are we living up to that expectation by St. Paul?   

The key, of course, is the common bond of Faith that we have; Faith that can transcend all that the world throws at us.  Because, if we have Faith, real faith, then we can work together under God’s direction to defeat any worldly influence or enemy and to solve humanity’s problems.   

Maybe that’s the point of today’s Gospel.  Thomas’ Faith was shown to be weak.  He did not see, and so, he would not believe.  And yet, Thomas profession of Faith after he saw was truly awe inspiring and moving!  He says “My Lord and my God”.  And you know what?  We hear that so often the words don’t have the proper impact on us.  Close your eyes and imagine for a moment what it must have been like for Thomas.  There, right in front of you, you see the risen Jesus, wounds and all.  And you admit that he is God.  God!  The same God that created everything; that knows everything.  It’s a mind boggling thought.  It is an expression of tremendous Faith.   

We are all like Thomas in the sense that we are challenged to believe even though we have not seen.  But if we can have the Faith that Thomas professed, then no matter what our diverse backgrounds are,  no matter how different our talents and interests, no matter what comes our way; whether it be Communism; Fanatic Islam; Secularism; Pluralism- you name it, we can and will prevail.  Because with that kind of Faith, and with that kind of Faith, meaning trust, in God, all of us will be moved by God to win this earthly battle, each in his own way, but all of us together as a united front, the body of Christ.   

Let me give you one example.  Experts have studied the number of Catholics who are eligible to vote in this country.  If every one of the Catholics would vote according to the teachings of the church, then there is no way we can lose our religious liberty.  We are too powerful.  We could come together to defeat abortion; to enable school prayer; to provide meaningful health care; to solve the immigration issue- you name it, we could do it because there are that many of us Catholics.  The problem is simply that we are not united enough in our Faith.  And so, we are not acting as one unified body of Christ.

The good news here is that we don’t have to worry about anyone else.  All we have to do is to have Faith ourselves.  Because God will do the rest, work through us to accomplish his objectives in His way.  Truly, all we have to do as individuals, is to “Go out into the world and tell the good news”!