Archive for October, 2014

On Loving Our Neighbor- For Seniors

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ex 22: 20-26; 1 Thes 1: 5c-10; Mt 22:34-40

Dc. Larry Brockman


It’s the thing that separates our Judeo-Christian heritage from other faiths, this idea of loving our neighbor as ourselves, especially when our neighbor is broadly defined to include everyone.  Not only that, Jesus tells us this is part of the greatest commandment, second only to loving God himself, so it is very important to love our neighbor.   

Our first reading is particularly clear about who our neighbor is because the Israelites were called upon to respect the rights of visiting “aliens”, that is, everyone visiting who came from outside of Israel.   That was a real challenge for the tribal culture of the Mideast.  Everything was tied up with your own tribe- outsiders were not usually welcome.  But Jesus was simply quoting the Law of Moses.  Besides, Jesus makes it clear in the Beatitudes who our neighbor is because he speaks of the poor, the persecuted, and the marginalized there.  Yes, we need to love everyone as we love ourselves.  And that is a tall order. 

But just what does that mean- especially for those of us who are getting older?  Elsewhere in the Gospel Jesus tells us that means sharing our food with those who have none; and even giving away a spare tunic if we have a second one!  We are to visit the sick and the imprisoned;  and we are to settle arguments amongst us before we bring an offering to the altar.  In other words, we are to be concerned with things other than our own comfort,   We should not become self-absorbed.   

One of the greatest things about America has been the generosity and loving attitude of its citizens over our nation’s history.  In the days of the frontier, people would pitch in and help each other build houses, raise barns, and make it through tough times.  Families took care of their own, including their elderly.  Organizations like St. Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army, and Good Will supply the poor with much.  And America came to the aid of many nations for the sake of liberty during the first and second world wars.  Our foreign aid has been critical to the recovery of Western Europe and Japan after the war.  We were for many decades the source of missionary efforts throughout the world.  Even today, people worldwide can count on the financial aid we give to others in our special collections.  Yes, Americans have lived the definition of what it means to love our neighbors.  All of us have shared in that time of American History.  We have shared our tunics, our treasure, our food, visited and cared for the sick, and been there for the “alien” in need.  All of this shows that we have been a people concerned not just with our own interests, but we have been concerned for others as well, even “aliens”.  And we have been blessed for it.   

But things are changing now.  Years ago, families stuck together and most households had three generations of folks in them.  Now, almost all of us value our independence more than family.  And so, we live separate from our families, and don’t see them as often.  Part of that is due to our ability to live anywhere, so that families are separated by great distances.  All of this means that newer generations have been taking more and more time for themselves.  Yes, a spirit of independence pervades our younger generations.  So much so that it transcends independence and becomes self-absorption.  We are a nation that is fast becoming self-absorbed.   

Those of us who are older have much to share with the younger generations about the meaning of loving each other.  Among the things we can share are:  The value of life itself; that we’ve been there, done that (or, there is nothing new under the sun);  the salvific value of the suffering in living a life with dignity; sacrificing your own agenda to care for someone else; the wisdom of the ages versus book knowledge; and many other things that come only through the school of life experiences.  But it takes contact, lots of real contact, with our families to accomplish a mission of sharing all of that.   

I know, in many cases it is easier to just let go.  Many in our families just don’t want to be bothered with us anymore.  But the facts are, they really need you more than you need them.  Because, you see, they just don’t realize it.  Because the real meaning of life is much more apparent to those of us who have lived a while, than it is to the young and restless.  We know that there is more to life than what the world has to offer, and that we will never be satisfied until we find God.   

Yes, love your neighbor as yourself.  Begin with your family.

The Fire That Blazed the World- Has it Gone Out?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time

Eph 3: 14-21; Luke 12: 49-53

Dc. Larry Brockman


It was a fire that blazed across the civilized world- Christianity.  And it was a phenomenon which conquered the Roman Empire at heart.  The passion and enthusiasm of its followers spread quickly over the whole world.  Christians believe in the great commandment- loving God and our neighbor as ourselves.  We believe in a loving God who blessed us with the presence of his own Son.  Not only that, after his death, His son returned here in Glory and told his disciples that   The same glorious fate waits for all those who believe- everlasting life in the Kingdom of God. Yes, Christianity was different.     

Whatever happened to that fire, to that zeal, to that commitment for Christ and his message that the early Christians had?  Where is it amongst us Christians today?   

Perhaps our Christian society has gone the way of other societies, like the Romans before us.  Complacency and comfort have sidetracked us.  Our focus is on this life; not on the life God intended for us.  That’s why over 50% of Christians have something else to do on Sunday mornings than worship God.  And so our society sort of believes,   But only half of us quietly on Sundays make a commitment at all.  And the rest of the week it is business as usual.   

And yet, we now see the storm clouds building, the consequences, just as the Israelites and the Romans faced the consequences of their complacency thousands of years ago.  Yes, indeed, all the changes happening here are heralds of a coming crisis.   They are eroding the Judeo- Christian basis for our Democracy.   

Elsewhere another group is rising up with a different message- the Radical Islamists.  They are located in an area of great suffering, persecution, and turmoil.  And, as distorted as their thinking may be, they have a purity of purpose and resolve like the early Christians.   

I don’t know about you, but I prefer the Christian God, a God of love who came among us to teach us the way;  a God who advises us to treat aliens with respect, as we will hear Sunday.  I prefer that to cutting peoples’ throats who won’t convert.  That doesn’t sound like love to me.   

St. Paul tells what is required of us as Evangelizers:  On behalf of the Ephesians he asks that God “May grant you in accord with the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through his spirit in the inner self;  and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;  That you be rooted and grounded in love”.  Then he goes on to describe the magnitude of God’s love.   

There you have it.  That’s the kind of enthusiasm we need for our faith.  It’s the kind of enthusiasm that Jesus himself expressed when he said he was going to set the world on fire.

Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to set the world on fire for Christ.  Like the Christians who are losing their lives for the Faith in the Mideast today, we need to hold to our faith, practice it, and evangelize others with the fire and conviction and faith of our early Christian predecessors.  The time has come.

Rendering to God What is God’s

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Twenty Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Is 45: 1, 4-6; 1 Thes 1: 1-5b; Mt 22: 15-21

 Larry Brockman


Sounds good, doesn’t it.  “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” It just means we have to pay our taxes and obey the law of the land, right.  Or does it mean something more profound-  especially in today’s world; especially in this country?  

Let me give you an example of what concerns me.  I read in the news where the mayor of Houston has subpoenaed certain pastors demanding that they send her office copies of their sermons.  They want to determine whether Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance has been violated.  This ordinance safeguards the “rights” of gays, lesbians, and persons with gender identity problems.  It seems that these pastors, some 400 of them, are against the ordinance, which, among other things grants men the right to use the ladies room.  Yes, you heard me right, it grants men the right to use the ladies room- because what matters is who you identify with- not how God made you.  Sounds a lot like the Pharisees in the Gospel!

By the way, over 50,000 signatures have been gathered opposing the ordinance for these and other reasons, but Houston’s Mayor and City Council have turned a blind eye.   

Now in case you haven’t heard, “gender identity” is becoming a big issue country wide.  And if you think it isn’t affecting us here; think again because the same kind of thing has already happened in our Orange County Public Schools.  Last year the Orange County School Board approved Gender Identity rights in writing- I heard them vote on it.  Kids can now choose whichever bathroom they want in our Public Schools.  It’s part of our School System’s directives to all the schools.  If you don’t believe me, check it out.   

Why do I bring this up?  Because it’s time for us to render unto God the things that are God’s.  It isn’t just about paying our taxes- it’s also about the other side of the coin, pardon the pun.  It’s about living our lives in a fundamentally Christian way; it’s about maintaining a society and a system of laws which are based on Christian values and principles; and it’s about having the freedom to stand up for those values in public.  It’s about majority rule; not minority rule for political correctness.  It’s time for all of us God-fearing Christian Americans to become more proactive in defending and protecting our faith, and rendering to God what is God’s.   

I am sure that all of you have heard those multiple reports in the press about groups lobbying to remove the Ten Commandments from public buildings in lots of places country-wide.  Do you suppose that our founding fathers, and their equivalents in all the states, listed the Ten Commandments on the walls of their courthouses because they wanted to establish a “state religion”?  Certainly not!  The Ten Commandments are held in such high regard because they are the basis for our entire system of laws.  We cannot and ought not separate our Judeo-Christian heritage from our Government.   

I like to think of it this way.  The Founding Fathers of this country represented numerous religious persuasions, many of which, including Catholics, Presbyterians, Quakers, Jews, and Methodists, had been persecuted for their beliefs in one way or another in the “old Country”.  They came to North America to get away from all of that.  And so, they collectively worked to establish a secular state; one in which they could live in peace according to their own Faith.  But they did it by using what they believed in common to formulate our government and laws.  The three branches of government may just be patterned after the Trinity; and our basic law draws from the foundation laid by the ten commandments.     

Our first reading describes Cyrus, the great Persian King, as the liberator of the Jews held captive in the great Israeli exile.  Isaiah says Cyrus was the anointed one; even though he did not know God as such.  That means he was a man chosen by God.  Indeed, Cyrus was a man who God moved through his heart to do the right thing.  And Cyrus responded to that prompting by God’s spirit- with a little help from Daniel.   

In the same way, God moved our Founding Fathers collectively, and what resulted was a system of government that has withstood the test of time.  It is a government that established secular laws and methods of government based on Judeo Christian values, values that recognize everyone’s rights to practice their own Faith.  And they guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.   

Now this whole issue of balancing allegiance to Caesar and God becomes increasingly more important when one considers the latest threat to Christianity- namely, Radical Islam.  You see, the Islamist Radicals have every intention of going back in time.  They reject the whole American experiment with a secular state.  They want to establish a world-wide Theocracy based on Islam; that’s what a Caliphate state is intended to do.  Then they intend to force everyone, believers or not, to abide by Sharia Law.  Sharia Law is the literal “law” prescribed in their scriptures, the Koran, and associated writings.  Wherever Islamic radicals get a foothold- like Iran, Yemen, Somalia, and now ISIS- that’s what they do; and that’s what they advocate.   

We can no longer choose to be “tolerant” of radical ideas and methods like that.  Because being tolerant doesn’t render to God what is God’s.  What we need are people like Paul describes in his letter to the Thessalonians.  We need to become a people where “the gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and with much conviction.”  Most of us are in that category when we defend our heritage and our values by living our faith prayerfully.   

And so, let us say this one more time because the antiphon sums it all up:  “Give the Lord glory and honor”. 

Listen to Modern Day Prophets

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Eph 1: 1-10; Luke 11: 47-54

Dc. Larry Brockman


Some say it is human nature.  Others say it is hindsight.  But how often do we castigate the prophets and visionaries of our recent times only to have them venerated for their great insight in the very near future.  Dr. Martin Luther King is a great example.  He was controversial in his own day, as was the civil disobedience he practiced.  But those same folks who fought him years ago help build monuments to him today.   

Yes indeed, things have not changed in thousands of years.  The world is full of people who don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want to change.  They are comfortable with the status quo; and uncomfortable with sobering words on evils that need to be set right.  So, they suppress and even persecute the prophet in his own time but then join the crowd later in praising them!   

Of course, not all soothsayers are on the up and up.  But there is a singular quality of the real message- the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  God’s truth!   

Today, we are deluged with modern day prophets.  Some warn of stock market crashes; global warming; threats to the environment; and major natural disasters like volcanos, tsunamis, epidemics, and earthquakes.  Others warn us of moral decay; degradation of the family as a social unit; and an assault on the sanctity of human life.  These latter prophets point to God’s teaching and call us to return to the basics.  It is them in particular we need to listen to.   

Will we be like the generations upon generations of the past who turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the prophets of their own time?  Or will we listen to God’s prophets, repent, and heed God’s word?   

Perhaps the problem is how we see the whole thing.  Truly, Jesus tells his own generation of collective Jewish leaders that the blood of the prophets is on their hands.  It’s not on the individual’s hands; but rather on their collective hands.  And that’s because they are collectively the product of generations of individual behavior  that ignored the Lord’s prophets and lived selfish lives.  But make no mistake about it, Jesus generation was responsible for their own society.   

So, there is cause for optimism for us.  All of us here are among the believers.  We wouldn’t be here at daily Mass if we were not.  I am sure most of you can identify with my words.  We can still do something about our sins being on the blood of our children by listening to the prophets of today, and doing something now- in the way we vote; in how we instill values in our children and grandchildren; in how we stand firm for the Lord in this politically correct, yet morally askew society that is slowly walking away from our Judeo Christian values.   

There is a reason the Ten Commandments are posted on the walls of so many court houses in this country.  It isn’t because the folks that put them there were trying to establish a state religion; rather, it is because those ten commandments are the basis for all of our Western Law.  If we walk away from the posted ten commandments, then we are walking away from the basis for our system of laws.  I

It’s time for us to live and practice our faith regardless of what the Government says.  It’s time for us to project our values in the way we live whether it is politically correct or not.  Not just some of us, but all of us.  Otherwise, the mess that this country will experience will be on the blood of us and our own children.   

How Great is God’s Love

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Gal 3: 1-5; Luke 11: 5-13

Dc. Larry Brockman


Think of someone in your family who showed their love for you very much when you were growing up- your Mom or Dad; a Grandparent; or an Uncle or Aunt.  Did you ever think how that person reflected the Love of God?  They loved you unconditionally; it didn’t matter what you did, they still loved you.  They were always there for you when you fell short or were in need.   

My brother visited with me the last couple of days,  And we expressed those feelings to each other about our Dad, who passed away almost 15 years ago.  Dad’s whole life was dedicated to providing for our Mom and my brother and I.  My brother was, and still is, kind of a Maverick.  And so Dad lavished lots of attention on helping Bob  through the many consequences of his wild behavior.  And while he would admonish my brother, it was always done in a spirit of understanding and acceptance.  My brother knew that he was loved no matter what he did.  I was a little more stable, not so many wild oats to sew; but you know, I didn’t feel slighted by the extra attention that my brother got.  Dad had a way of projecting that he cared equally for both of us.   

And yet, as great as Dad’s love was for us; and as great as the love of your most cherished loved one was or is, for you, it doesn’t compare with the love that God has for.  Yes, God loves you so much more right now than the greatest human love you have ever experienced.  That’s the message of the Gospel in a nutshell- that God intensely loves and cares for each of us, and wants to be there to help us no matter how dim things seem; and no matter how inconvenient it seems.   

The big question is not whether God loves us and is ready to help us; the big question is whether we are going to open up to His help.  Are we going to listen to and trust his saving plan for us?  That takes faith, real faith, to let go and trust in God by listening to that wee voice in the back of our heads.  It is hard to do because we have to have a relationship with God first.  That favorite and most loving relative you thought about.  You needed a relationship with them first.  God can’t help you any more than you favorite relation can help you unless you have a relationship with them.  Only when you have that relationship with God will you recognize that wee voice in the back of your mind for what it is- God’s voice of truth through His Spirit.     

Second, the message we get from God is sometimes hard to trust- because it seems counter intuitive.  But remember- “God’s ways are not our ways.”  Again, if you have a relationship with God, then you will be more inclined to trust His voice even if it seems counter intuitive.    St. Paul gives some pretty heavy advice this morning to the Galatians.  But it bears on the topic I am discussing when you really think about it.  You see, the Galatians were tempted to trust in their own devices- their own secular law, rather than the Faith they had acquired when they embraced Christianity through the teachings of the Apostle Paul.  We are tempted to reject what our Faith tells our hearts when we face every day trials and events because we think we have to embrace the norms of our current society.  It’s the same thing, really, that Paul was talking about.   

And so, we cave in to political correctness, including the acceptance of today’s lax moral code, pro-choice and gay marriage “rights”, and other pressures from society, even though God is trying to speak to us through our consciences.    And so, I challenge each of you this morning to accept the tremendous love that God has for you.  How?  In the words of our antiphon this morning:  Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.