Archive for February, 2015

A Better Way to Live Life

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

First Sunday of Lent

Gn 9: 8-15; 1 Peter 3: 18-22; Mk 1: 12-15

Deacon Larry Brockman


Did you know that Noah preached to the people of his time for 120 years before the flood?  For 120 years, Noah pleaded with the people to reform and turn to God.  And whether the 120 years is literal or not- the message is that God worked through Noah to bring people back to him for a long time.  But despite Noah’s patience and perseverance, only 8 people, his closest family members, believed and repented. 

Noah warned everyone the flood was coming as well, but that warning fell on deaf ears.  In fact, Noah was ridiculed and laughed at for building the ark.  So, virtually all the people of the time perished in the flood.  Ironically, those that were saved were saved by the same water that the others perished in!  Buoyed up by the ark, Noah and his family transcended the evil around them, and the devastation of the flood, to live.  And so, the covenant we hear about this morning was made with Noah and his descendants- those who listened to God.   

In the second reading, Peter refers to the flood waters as a prefiguring of Baptism, because the waters of the flood saved the few who were seeking God and his forgiveness.  Likewise, Peter says that Baptism “saves you now”, or immediately.  Indeed, when we were Baptized, all of our sins were washed away immediately. 

The same is true in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which was instituted so that persons who sinned after their Baptism might receive immediate forgiveness.  All we have to do is confess our sins and repent, and those sins are washed away for good.   

Peter also talks about the dead who were imprisoned by virtue of the flood.  The dead were the multitude that didn’t listen to Noah.  Peter says that Christ went “in spirit” to preach to the dead in that prison.  There’s a lot of discussion by Scripture scholars about what Peter’s words mean here.  But the majority of Scripture scholars seem to interpret that many of those lost in the flood had a last minute conversion when the flood actually came.  Christ had spoken to these lost souls through Noah for 120 years, that’s what the preaching of Christ was.  And although these people did not listen till the flood came, they remembered, and had this last minute conversion.  Some scholars quote St. Augustine who described this as a “miraculous” conversion. 

Nevertheless, those lost in the flood had to wait all that time- thousands of years from the flood till the coming of Jesus, till Christ redeemed them of their sin and released them from their prison. I don’t know about you, but this sounds very much like Purgatory to me and it sounds like a very, very sad condition.   

This reminds me very much of my experiences at a local hospital.  I go twice a week to help the Chaplain, where I visit the Catholics.  Many of the people I see have become estranged from the Church.  They either don’t attend Church, or they go to some other Church now.  Their faith is on the back burner while they live their lives.  Yet, when it comes to identifying what their religion is, they say they are Catholic.  Some of these people see their hospital stay as a wakeup call, and seek reconciliation with God through His is HChurch.  But many of them seem indifferent to God, and just want to get out of the hospital and resume business as usual.  There will always be time later to respond to God’s call and repent they think.  This sounds just like the folks caught in the flood.   

There is a different and better way for all of us- the way that Jesus shows us in this morning’s Gospel.  After his Baptism, Jesus went into the desert for 40 days and fasted and prayed and reflected on the meaning of life.  In the midst of great temptations by the devil, temptations to use the talents God gave him on his own terms; to wield power; and to satisfy himself,  Jesus rejected all that.
Rather, Jesus emerged from the desert in harmony with God’s plan.  He was resolved to change his life to do God’s will for him and so, the simple Carpenter from Nazareth became a fiery preacher, a faith healer and messenger to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God.  His Gospel is his legacy; the crucifixion is the price he paid for doing God’s will; and the Resurrection and everlasting life were his reward.  Jesus showed us the way to do the same thing.   

We are challenged in these 40 days of Lent to make a change in our lives.  Lent is our desert time of the year, if we take the opportunity.  Let go of some of the clutter in your life, whatever it is that is holding you back from entering that desert.  Maybe it’s some of your TV time; some of your internet time; some of your shopping time.  But whatever it is that holds you back- cut some of it out.  That’s what you should fast from.   

And then, use that time to get with God.  Try the adoration chapel; or a quiet space in your home.  Pray for God’s help to identify and recognize your weaknesses and your sinfulness.   For example, reflect on whether you have a tendency toward any of the seven deadly sins-  Pride, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Laziness, Anger, or Envy.  If you are honest with yourself, you will probably find something there that rings a bell.  And then resolve to do it, to change it.  Change is the key to success .  

There’s a saying used in 12 step addiction programs   That gives some insight into why change is necessary:  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results”.  I think most of us are guilty of that.  We live our lives in a fixed pattern, and we’d like to change things, but we still keep going the same way.  And so, the results are no different.   

The people of Noah’s time did not change.  They never learned the lesson  They squandered more than a lifetime of God’s urging and patience.  Don’t repeat their mistake. 

How Does Our Secular Culture Influence Us?

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Thursday After Ash Wednesday

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

Deacon Larry Brockman


Do you any idea just how much influence our current culture has on you?

Listen again to the words in our Psalm this morning:  “Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.”   

You know what.  Every day we are exposed to the “counsel of the wicked” and we “sit in the company of scoffers” and we watch closely sinners going our way.  You say how is that?  When we listen to the radio and watch our TVs;  when we check out the Internet; and when we read secular magazines and other publications.  Much of what we see and hear in these venues has “subliminal” effects on us in the sense that we may not even be aware of the effects.  At other times, we see or hear the same thing often enough that it becomes second nature to us.  It seems like it is acceptable to us, even if we are just passive about it, especially when our passive behavior is around others, like our children.   

Perhaps a few examples would help.  How about the acceptability of the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Calendar?  And then there those nightly TV shows and magazines that tell us what’s going on with the darlings of “pop culture”- how this starlet just had a baby with her “boyfriend”; or how long so and so have been living together.   

But then there’s this:  The other day, I heard an item on the news where a single person could join an internet service that would send to themselves love notes and other messages from a fictitious lover.  Why? So that friends and family would think that they had a lover and they would stop pressuring them.  I found it appalling; but how many others found it amusing to put one over on Mom and Dad, or that office acquaintance that never lets up.     

Actually, we are being given the same choice that the people in Moses time were being given.  We have laid out before us life and prosperity or death and doom.  We can choose to embrace God’s commandments and live; or we can face the doom that comes from ignoring God’s commandments.   

The Old Testament cycle of God’s people following Him and abandoning Him is being repeated today.  And the abandonment is always accompanied by apathy and lack of commitment to God’s commandments.  We are inundated in the media with morally unacceptable behavior in such a way that it seems mainline in our culture.  Then we become complacent, and even passively accepting of it.  That complacency and lack of conviction is noticed by our children, because our actions, or inactions as the case may be, allows the culture to speak loudly in the absence of our voices.  We effectively lead others to a choice by default.   

The Gospel today summarizes what life is all about.  We are challenged to take up our cross and follow after Jesus.  Our crosses are not like Jesus’ wooden cross, nor are they the martyr’s cross of those Christians in Iraq and Libya who were martyred this week by ISIS.  Those crosses are easy to identify- terrible adversity.  Our crosses are maintaining a life that conforms to God’s will in the midst of so much freedom, freedom that showers us with conflicting values, self-serving pleasures, and subtle slippery slopes.  But we still have an obligation to carry our crosses.; to stand up and be counted when we see evil.   

We have just started Lent.  Lent is a great time to reflect on our lives and make a change.  That is what the word repentance means.  So, take some time this week to reflect on the influences the media has on you and your family.  Identify the “ways of the sinners”, the “counsel of the wicked” and the “scoffers” who ridicule God’s law and the truth.   

And then make a choice.  Choose life and prosperity and not death and doom; that will be cross enough to carry.

Why Ash Wednesday and Lent?

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Ash Wednesday Service

Joel 2: 12-18

Dc. Larry Brockman


Why Ash Wednesday?  Why Lent?  And just what are we supposed to do?

Well, in the early Christian Church, folks prayed, fasted, and renewed themselves spiritually as they prepared for Baptism into the Church on Easter.  After most people converted to Christianity, the Church recognized the need for the people to renew themselves spiritually each year as they prepared for Easter because the converts lost some of the enthusiasm for their faith and needed to be reminded of what it was all about.   

And so, way back in the fourth Century,  the Church instituted the season of Lent for fasting and penance to prepare spiritually for Easter.  What was earlier observed as a week-long fast was expanded to 40 days, because Jesus, after his Baptism by John, went away for 40 days in the desert and fasted and reflected on what God’s mission was for him.   

He emerged resolved to change his life from that of a carpenter to a preacher.  And that’s pretty much what we should do- reflect on how we should live the life God wants for us.  But how should we do it?   

There’s a saying used in 12 step addiction programs that I think gives us a big clue:  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results”.  I think most of us are guilty of that.  We live our lives in a fixed pattern.  A change is hard for us.   

In a few minutes, you will receive ashes.  These ashes remind you that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  Yes, indeed, as far as this life, you started out without the life force as “dust”, and some day you, as with all of us, will return to dust.   

But we all have the opportunity, shown to us through Jesus’ death and Resurrection at Easter, to live forever in the Kingdom of God.  And Jesus Gospel message was this- repent, believe, and follow me.  To make sure we are on the right course let’s all repent- which means ‘make a change’.     

The Church advises us to use fasting, prayer, and almsgiving during Lent as the tools for making a change.  First, let’s talk about fasting.  Rather than giving up chocolate or beer, ask yourself this question:  “What is it in my life that is interfering with my ability to use my time better?”  And then cut some of the time you spend on this. That should lead to some spare time for prayer. 

Now, the reason prayer is so important,  Is that it gives us the quiet time with God to reflect on what needs to change.  It is the key to identifying how we can expect different results.  So, use the time freed up by your “fasting”  to pray, maybe first thing in the morning; or last thing at night.  But in any event, find a half hour, or surely even just 10 minutes a day.  Go somewhere quiet, and reflect on your weaknesses.   

Reflect on the 7 deadly sins- Pride, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Laziness, Anger, and Envy.  Almost all of us are guilty of one of these.  Ask God to forgive you, and help you to make a change.  And then change your life to eliminate the bad habit or tendency   

Lastly, almsgiving.  Rather than dropping a few extra bucks in the collection box, think of almsgiving as a way to use the extra time and energy that you receive after you change one of those bad habits for doing something positive for someone else.   Do something that hurts a little bit, because it’s a stretch.   

Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving.  Not only is it good for Lent, but it’s a way of life for continuous improvement!  It’s why we have Lent. 

Life Is About What God Wants

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Gen 2: 18-25; Mark 7: 24-30

Deacon Larry Brockman


“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”  That’s what we just heard God say in the book of Genesis.  And so God is the architect of marriage.  God made man; God made woman to be a suitable partner for man; and God willed that they should cling together as one as husband and wife.  Nowadays our society is trying to redefine marriage without taking into account what God said about it.  And that is a problem, a big problem for all of us.  But it is only a sign of the times.  Permit me to explain.   

You see, life is not all about living and let living; life is not all about just getting along; and life is not all about our rights as individuals because all three of these philosophies of life are all about us- what we want.  Life, rather, is all about what God wants.  God’s plan was that man and woman be joined in marriage.  Yes, his plan was for man and woman, and any other arrangement is not a marriage.

There are lots of other ways that our society is redefining the goals of society, and doing it in such a way that God’s input is missing .  Now we need to understand that when society doesn’t live according to God’s plan, then there will be consequences of that.  The entire Old Testament is a cycle of events that show what happens when people first listen to God; and then don’t listen to God.  Societies thrive when they put God first; and then crumble when they take control for themselves and ignore God’s will.  Our society will be no different.   

Our American government was framed by the country’s founders on the basis of Judeo-Christian values.  To be explicit- the ten commandments and the teachings of the Bible.  That’s why the ten commandments are copied on to the walls of our courthouses and state houses.  They are not posted there to endorse a religion.  They are posted there because our founding fathers universally recognized that laws of the land needed to reflect them:  “Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not lie, and thou shalt not covet.”  It was just something that was understood.  Likewise, that’s why all our legal processes related to marriage up until now were predicated on marriage between a man and a woman.  Everyone just knew what marriage meant and why, because everybody was familiar with the Bible version-  the Genesis reading and others.   

But not now; as we find our nation marching down a path to redefine marriage.  Why is that so important to all of us?  Well, because God is watching us, just as he watched his people in the Old Testament, that‘s why.  The reality of life is that God not only wants us to live his plan for us as individuals; He also wants us to collectively live the life He wills for all of us.  And history has shown that when we don’t live collectively in harmony with God’s overall plan, disaster strikes.  It sure did strike for the Israeli nation over and over again in the Old Testament.  And it could happen to us.   

So, what can or should we do about our society as we watch it slip away from its Judeo-Christian roots?  First, we need to keep the faith, the faith that God’s word is the real authority; that God, not man knows best; and that God can and will conquer all evil in his own time. To do that, we have to know our faith like it was second nature to us.  And it should be second nature to us.   

Second, we need to teach that faith, and we need to be explicit about what is wrong with the alternatives.  That means teaching our children; our coworkers; and our political representatives.  We cannot afford to be passive- live and let live is not the answer.  We must personally stand up for our faith because that is the best way to teach our children and our coworkers.  That means getting involved- writing letters, speaking up at the office; participating in events like 40 days for life.   

Look at the faith of the woman in the Gospel as an example.  She heard that there was something special about Jesus’ teaching.  And so, she learned about him, and went to see him despite the fact that she was not a Jew.  She had three strikes against her- she was a woman; she was not a Jew or Jewish sympathizer, and she belonged to the pagans.   But she was willing to stand up and be counted in front of strangers and in opposition to her own people because she believed in Jesus and his message.   

If all of us stood up for Jesus as this woman did, our children, our coworkers, and our politicians would get the point.

Joy Comes From Listening to God

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Heb 12: 18-19, 21-24; Mark 6: 7-13

Deacon Larry Brockman


I don’t know about you, but that first reading sounded kind of scary when I first read it!  Recall that when Moses led the people to Mt.Sinai, they saw what was truly unapproachable- that which couldn’t be touched because it was feared; a blazing fire; gloomy darkness covered by clouds; a storm; and a voice that those who heard feared greatly. 

And as a result, the Israelites asked to be spared of a repeat of the horrible spectacle.  They asked for someone to speak in God’s name.  Moses made the request, and God appointed prophets in the tradition of Moses.  Moses and these prophets spread God’s word in the form of the scripture and the law.  They were captured as the ten commandments and the other laws handed on by tradition in the Jewish scripture.   

But over the course of Israeli History, the people didn’t listen to the prophets.  They were disobedient.  And Israel was scattered in exile. But not before these same prophets had predicted a new order- a New Covenant; one in which God would send his only son.  God’s son would be like all the rest of us, human in form.  And his word would be direct, not through prophets, but through his own example and spoken word as God’s son.   

Jesus spent three years telling his good news- the Gospel, a message of the heart, a message of love.  And Jesus spoke and acted with “authority”.  “Authority” is that special quality one has who speaks and acts with power delegated from above, the power of God- just as the prophets spoke with authority.  But Jesus acted and spoke with a “fidelity” that rang true.  Jesus not only spoke for God, he was God.   

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus delegating his “authority” to the Apostles. And we hear that the Apostles worked the same wonders in healing as they spread God’s word.  How fortunate we are to have the Bishops and leaders of the Church who today lead us with the same authority that was delegated to the 12 Apostles.  The message that we have received from the Gospel is exhilarating and exciting.  By following the Gospel of Jesus, by accepting God’s word on Faith, and living as Jesus taught, we can share in the legacy of Jesus- eternal life in the resurrected state in the kingdom of God.   

This is what Paul is talking about in the second half of the first reading.  We share in this promise by preparing to approach Mount Zion as we go through our earthly lives.  And what are we approaching?  The city of the living God- Mount Zion and the new Jerusalem with.countless angels in festive gathering; and the assembly of Jesus, the firstborn, in heaven, along with the spirits of the just made perfect.  That is us- the spirits of the just made perfect.   

So rather than scary, that first reading should bring us much joy because it is a message of hope and of eternal happiness for those who believe. 

Speaking With Authority

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dt 18: 15-20; 1 Cor 7: 32-35; Mark 1: 21-28

Deacon Larry Brockman


There’s no lack of folks speaking on moral issues in our time.  We have all those televangelists out there; and all those folks on Christian radio filling the airways.  And there are spokespeople for all the denominations of Churches.  And then there are the secular moral advocates.  They say different things about important issues on faith and morals.  So, how do you know when God is speaking to you through these people?  Well, you should look for someone who speaks with “authority”.   

The dictionary defines authority as “power to exercise judgment, make decisions, or command that something be done”.  It was clear that God tells Moses that he will raise up prophets from among the Jews who will talk in God’s name.  Clearly, those prophets spoke with authority- God given authority because God granted them the power to speak in His name.  And during the course of Old Testament History, God did use His prophets to shepherd His people.  He warned them when they began to go astray; he told them what to look for in a Messiah; and he consoled them with hope when they were in exile.   

But along with the real prophets, there were many false prophets.  These prophets may have had power granted to them by their rulers or have assumed authority by virtue of their knowledge.  But their message was flawed, because the authority they claimed came from the wrong power, not the power of God.   

The people of the Old Testament frequently ignored, and even persecuted the real prophets because they prophesied things the people did not want to hear.  Unfortunately, God’s real message is often something we don’t want to hear.  So, we need to be in tune for what constitutes real authority, not what constitutes the most palatable message.   

In Jesus day, the Scribes and Pharisees supposedly spoke with authority.  Their authority was based on scripture- literal interpretation of Jewish law derived from the Jewish scriptures.  In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus speaking with authority.  Jesus, as God become man, had authority by virtue of the power of God.  When Jesus spoke, things happened- demons were driven out; and people were cured.  But more than that when Jesus spoke, the words had a ring of truth to them.  They had a quality that cut through the arguments of the Jewish leaders of the time.  Jesus words contradicted strict observance of the law because His authority was based on God’s will, and God’s will was that we act with a loving heart.   

Now Jesus delegated his authority to the Church on Holy Thursday when he commissioned the Apostles to go out and Baptize everyone and to celebrate the Eucharist, a sharing of His own body and Blood.   So, the Church shares real authority just like the Old Testament Prophets did.   

Nowadays, there are many self- proclaimed experts who compete with the Church.  Some are the televangelists and radio evangelists who speak for competing denominations.   And to be sure, many of them spread God’s word and do much good.  But they sometimes fall into the same trap as the Pharisees and Scribes of Jesus time by emphasizing the Bible alone.  That is because the real authority comes from God; not directly from man’s interpretation of the Bible.   

Others speak with secular authority; a sort of pluralistic authority that takes into account multiple faiths and cultures.  Today, these “authorities” are attempting to impose a new way of thinking about marriage, homosexuality, individual rights and a host of other issues involving faith and morals.   

What matters in the end, is whether or not they speak with real authority.  They don’t, because the only real authority on these issues is God and God speaks through His Church.    In the last several years, I have come to appreciate the Catholic Catechism more and more.  The Catechism is a document that speaks with authority.  The arguments cut through the secular mishmash of today, and provide clear guidance for moral issues that have been clouded up by the false prophets of today.  I urge all of you to consult the Catechism for the truth because the Church speaks with the authority of God.