Archive for September, 2014

Recognizing Who We Really Are

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Cor 15: 1-11; Luke 7: 36-50

Dc. Larry Brockman


So, who do you identify with in the Gospel story this morning?  I’ll bet that few of you can identify with the Pharisee, especially after Jesus’ clear and unmistakable retribution of the Pharisee.  And I’ll bet that even fewer of you would identify with the Woman.  So, what are we then, just outside observers who are not involved in the story?  Let’s take a closer look at both of the main characters in the story- the Pharisee and the woman.   

I’ll start with the Pharisee.  Here’s a stable and good man by all of society’s standards at the time- religious, well respected, popular, a man of means, even generous as the host of the dinner party.  But despite these appearances, the Pharisee has problems.  He is just focused on himself.  Jesus makes that abundantly clear to the Pharisee.  For even though he is the host, he has not served his main guest very well; rather, he has concerned himself with making judgments about others.   

Second, we have the woman.  She is described as a great sinner, and apparently is a well-known sinner at that.  All of us probably have a mental image of her “sins”.  To be sure, our image is probably the worst of images as well, the kind of evil that immediately comes to mind when we see “woman” and “sinner” in the same sentence.  There is no explanation for how such an undesirable person got in to the party, either.  So yes indeed, this is a brazen, no good, woman who has lost respect from the community at large.  Certainly, nobody here wants to identify with such a person.  We all consider ourselves better than that!   

And yet, this woman is totally focused on serving Jesus!  She exhibits humility, kindness, generosity, and love in the way her behavior is described.   

The truth is that all of us want to identify with the good parts of the Pharisee and the good parts of the woman.  We all want to be regarded as stable, well regarded, religious persons who are well liked.  And we want to be seen as humble, kind, and generous to those around us.   

But the sad truth is actually this.  We all share in the worst parts of the woman and the Pharisee because all of us are sinners, and a great deal of the time our primary focus is on ourselves,  not serving others; and by following the allegory, not serving God either.   

And so this story is about us, each and every one of us.  It’s a story about who we really are- the Pharisee who hides his sin; and it is a story about who we are invited to be- a sinner who repents and turns to the Lord.   

Today, all of us are attending a banquet- the supper of the Lord, the Mass.  Rather than focus on all the other evil people of the world who need to repent, in all humility, we need to focus on the evil parts of ourselves that need change,   

As Paul points out in our first reading,  We need to recognize that whatever we do that is good and beneficial is done by the grace of God that is within us.  When we come to that realization, then we will come to God with humility, tears, and generosity as the woman did in the Gospel. 

Could You Do What God Does?

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty Third Week in Ordinary Time

1 Cor 6: 1b-7, 11-13; Luke 6: 27-38

Dc. Larry Brockman


What a difficult message!    Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and to bless those who curse you.  If someone steals your cloak, you are to give them the rest of your clothes; and if he strikes you, you are to turn the other cheek.  He says to stop judging other people and their actions; and rather, forgive them everything.   

Saint Paul says something even more radical.  If someone sees you doing something that is OK for you; but because of their scruples, they are tempted to sin by you doing it; then don’t do it; because you are leading them to sin.  He uses the example of meat sacrificed to idols.  In today’s world, perhaps a better example would be this.  If you know someone is on a diet, and they badly need to lose weight, and you order a hot fudge sundae and eat it in right front of them, you are tempting them to sin, and shouldn’t do it.  Pretty heavy stuff, all of it!  Is all of that to be taken literally?   

Now there is such a thing as hyperbole.  It means making a point by exaggeration; but we are not to take it literally.  I think the truth is somewhere in between because much of this advice is meant to be taken seriously.   

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be God?  There have been a number of takes on that over the years in the movies.  I think the most recent was a Jim Cary Movie called “Bruce Almighty” in which God takes a holiday and assigns Bruce Almighty his powers.  And it is pretty clear from that movie that God has a tough, tough, job.  All of us, all the time are asking for things; miracles, money, relationships, physical abilities, and all kinds of other help.  Likewise, all of us are complaining about the wrong others are doing to us, hoping that God will intervene and act in our favor.  The movie demonstrated how complicated it would be if God did not act in the most expeditious and prudent manner on all of that  You see, Bruce Almighty didn’t act expeditiously, and he messed things up big time.   

Being a parent over a household of children is a good lesson in what it must be like being God as well.  But it is infinitely more complicated and difficult than that as the movie demonstrated.   

The fact is that all of us are sinners.  All of us have bad habits, make enemies, forget to do something important, mess up someone else; and all of us think primarily of ourselves at times and sin big time as a result.  We are all like children in the huge household of the world with God as our Father.  We want, and even expect God to forgive us.   We say we are sorry, but things happen again and again.  Yet when it comes to our brothers and sisters, we become much less tolerant of their similar behavior.  Yes, God has a tough job.  He treats all of us with the same mercy and justice- He treats all of us the way we would like to be treated by others.   

And so, it really comes down to this.  If we try to love each other the way God loves us, then we will forgive each other, be generous with each other, and be merciful to each other.  We won’t judge them harshly lest we be judged.   

As the psalm says:  If we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us.

Fighting Evil in Today’s World

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ez 33: 7-9; Rom 13: 8-10; Matt 18: 15-20

Dc. Larry Brockman


There’s certainly no lack of evil in today’s world, is there?   

While on a beach vacation, my wife’s bike was stolen from the rental property even though the place had a locked gate.  A few nights later, we watched an internet video of a lady dismantling a beach canopy.  Gone just a few minutes to get a cold drink, the owner walked up with his I-phone recording the scene and asked her what she was doing.  “Taking down my canopy” was her response.  This takes place in broad daylight, in full view of everyone on the beach.  The woman and her friend start cussing and threatening the owner, and even attacked him, knocking the i-phone out of his hand.  Everybody else just stood by and watched.   

And then there is society as a whole.  All you have to do is listen to the news for just one day, and you’ll get a belly full of it- pornographic photos of starlets stolen and posted on the internet; evidence of Government lies and cover-ups in multiple areas; scam schemes to defraud thousands of Home Depot Customers.  Yes, and all of that in just a few days.   

What can and should we do about such evil and the wicked?   

Our society has changed significantly over the last 100 years- and a lot of it is for the better.  But when it comes to holding people accountable for evil, I’m not so sure.  There was a time when we could all expect that our neighbors had roughly the same moral values that we did.  We were, after all, a Nation founded on Judeo-Christian Values.  But political correctness of today preaches “tolerance” of alternate traditions such as Moslems, Buddhists, American Indian Spirituality, and other religions.   And this also forces us to “tolerate” the values of people who claim to be Wickens, Atheists, and Devil Worshippers. 

And to make matters worse, modern society has embraced “Relativism”.  Relativists say evil is not absolute, but rather, relative to the situation.    But that is not what the Church Teaches.  Several times a year we hear the Gospel story about building houses on rock rather than sand.  The rock we are advised to build on is absolute- God’s law.  God’s law is not relative- it is absolute.  Things are either morally right or wrong; culpability may vary with circumstances, but not the rightness or wrongness of an action. 

Lastly, our affluent society seems perfectly content without God.  Church attendance in the US is under 50 %; in Europe it is 8 %.  Is there any wonder than that the youth of today don’t know right from wrong- who is there to teach them? 

This tolerance and relativism and apathy towards God has caused the loss of a common set of values.  And so we cannot be sure our neighbors see things as we do.  In fact, more than likely they do not.  That’s why there are people next to us on the beach who see nothing wrong with stealing beach canopies and bikes.     

The question for us this morning is this.  After listening to Ezekiel’s words in the first reading; and after hearing Jesus’ words in the Gospel, just what is our responsibility to our brothers and sisters with regard to calling attention and doing something about evil?  In a society where we are discouraged, even prohibited, from imposing our set of values so that we “tolerate” the diversity of other values, just what is our responsibility?  How do we apply what we hear in this Church on the outside.   

First, let me quote you something from paragraph 450 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:  “From the beginning of Christian History, the assertion of Christ’s lordship over the world and over history has implicitly recognized that man should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.  So, that means that we have an obligation to obey God’s Law first, before we obey the Government.   

What we are hearing this morning is that if we see evil going on around us- evil caused by our human brothers and sisters- we have an obligation to call them on it.  We have an obligation to call them on it whether their actions are legal according to the Government or not; and we have an obligation to call them on it if it is going on around us but doesn’t affect us personally because evil is evil; and because, as Ezekiel clearly says, we will be held responsible for our brother’s actions if we do not warn them.  Yes, brothers and sisters, God may hold us accountable for the sins of others if we don’t make an attempt to correct them.   

Granted, our efforts to call out the wicked and their wickedness need to be done properly.  For individuals, that means that we go to them quietly first; and if that fails, then we go to them with one or two witnesses; and if that fails, we have the Church or the authorities take up the matter.   

But what about society as a whole?  What can we, and should we, do about eroding moral values in our society as a whole?  There are lots of areas where we see our values being eroded- basic honesty, respect for property, the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and respect for life are examples. 

St. Paul recommends love in our second reading because love does no evil.  But he expands on battling evil in Ephesians 7:11, when he says:   “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil”.  Then he defines that armor: Truth, Righteousness, Faith, the Hope of Salvation, and the Word of God.   

But in order for these things to be armor, we have to put them into practice.  Father Rex has talked about being a disciple the last couple of weeks.  And that is what I am saying too- “Be a disciple of Christ”.  We have to proclaim the word, have faith and trust in God, hold to the truth no matter what, and live a righteous life.  That’s the way to defeat evil.  It’s called involvement; it’s called being a dynamic Catholic.  To be a dynamic Catholic you have to know your Faith; believe in what you know; and practice what you believe.  Sometimes that means speaking up; writing letters, calling someone out in public, and refusing to comply with an unjust law- it means all of those things and more.  

Imagine how things would change  If all 6,000 families in this parish were dynamic Catholics!