Archive for March, 2015

Suffering With Jesus- Our Own Crosses

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Palm Sunday

Mark 12: 12-16; Is 50: 4-7; Phil 2: 6-11; Mak 15: 1-39

Deacon Larry Brockman

It’s difficult, isn’t it, listening to such a gruesome account of Jesus suffering and death?  The movie the Passion of Christ a few years back was so vivid in the depiction of the horror of these events;  it too was hard to bear.  And yet, these images come to mind as we hear the yearly proclamation of the Passion.  They are reading a much longer version in our Churches, you know.   This one is abbreviated in the interest of time.  But we all feel the horror of the suffering Jesus went through, even with the shortened version and it is difficult and uncomfortable for us.   

We are all told that Jesus carried the sins of all of us in his suffering and death.  And indeed, when we read the book of Revelation, there are multiple references there to those who are saved having been washed in the blood of the Lamb- the Lamb being our savior Jesus Christ.  So yes, the events we just heard describe how Jesus suffered and died a horrible death and shed his blood for all of us.   

But you know what, God’s primary motivation for sending Jesus was love, not some super accounting scheme to send Jesus to remit our sins so we could all be saved.  And so, we need to understand what the love is all about.  God so loved us that he sent his son to show us the way.  And the way involves suffering and death, not just for Jesus; not just for some of us; but for all of us.  All of us must seek out and find God’s path for us, and then bear with the suffering that is part of our lives.   

God loved us so much that He sent His son to live that message.  Jesus was not spared his lot of suffering; in fact his plate was full.  But if we understand that Jesus is God, and that God doesn’t have to suffer; and yet He was willing to bear human suffering for the sake of all of us, then we get the message.  It is a message of love; the same kind of love that engenders forbearance of suffering for those who care for a loved one; the same kind of love that sacrifices self for the welfare of children; and the same kind of love that motivates a man to work tirelessly to support his family.  Only it’s an infinitely pure love, a love that most of us can’t really conceive of.  It’s love of mankind even when they ignore their God; defy their God; persecute their God; torture their God, and even kill him.   

Today, let us reflect for a few moments on that kind of Love- the love Jesus had for us.  That’s the kind of love all of us are called to practice in this world.   

On Keeping a Covenant With God

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Thursday of 4th Week in Lent

Gen 17:3-9; John 8: 51-59

Deacon Larry Brockman

When will we learn!  When will we learn what it means to keep God’s covenant.   

There is one thing for sure.  There is no question but that God has promised us everlasting life and happiness.  He has done it in the Multiple Covenants he has made with his people over the millennia.  First Adam and Eve, then Noah, then Abraham, and then Moses.  The message was simple each time:  “I will be your God and take care of you forever.  In fact, I will do one better than make a contract with you.  I will make a Covenant with you.”   

You see, a Covenant is an everlasting agreement as opposed to a contract which has escape clauses and finite lengths.  There is always just one thing about God’s covenants.   It is very accurately summed up in our first reading as:  “On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”  That means keeping God’s word.  And yet, despite those four covenants between God and His people; the people broke the covenants by straying from God’s word.   

And so, God sent His only son, Jesus, to us.  He sent him in the form of a man, that’s what we call the Incarnation.  “The Word became flesh” as St. John put it.  We didn’t have to listen to third party prophets; rather, we had only to listen directly to the Word of God speaking to us in the flesh.  His Gospels, the Good News, recorded all that he did and said.   

That brings us to today’s Gospel.  The Jewish leaders hung up on Jesus assertion that:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never die.”  They still didn’t understand the covenant being offered by God: everlasting life for those who believe in God, His Son, and His Word.  Because people of this world focus on this world; they are skeptical of anything beyond this world.   

Then, there was the clincher.  Because later on in today’s Gospel Jesus tells us a mindboggling truth:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.”  Some Catholic commentators on the Gospel say that these words are beyond comment, because they tell us unmistakably, in Jesus own words, that he is God.  That means the New Testament Covenant words were spoken with the ultimate authority.   

You know, we are not just observers in all of this history.  We are part of it.  The Gospel was written for our benefit.  God so loved us that he gave His son and the Covenant promise to all of us.  The question is: are we skeptical and looking for worldly solutions?  Or do we believe in and live God’s Word?  Are we keeping His covenant?    Just like the cynical Jewish leaders of Jesus time, our world is full of cynics and unbelievers.  They demand proof in human terms rather than accept on Faith; they apply humanity’s limited logic and reason to divine law rather than accept that God means what he says; and they value and glorify only things that are of this world; rather than value the Covenant promise of life everlasting.  Some of them claim alternate revelation from God that denies Jesus is both God and man.  They “stone” those who believe by persecuting them, ridiculing them, bullying them, and even putting them to death.   

So, when are we going to learn what it means to keep God’s covenant?  When we learn to believe; and to follow God’s word no matter what happens to us.

Faith Versus the Law

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Thursday of the 4th Week in Lent

Feast of St. Joseph

2 Sam 7: 4-5a, 12-14a, 16; Rom 4: 13, 16-18, 22; Mt 1: 16, 18-21, 24a

Deacon Larry Brockman

Have you ever noticed how distorted the “law” can become at the expense of the intent of the law?   

Income tax law is a good example.  The intent is that all persons making income pay a fair share of their income as tax to support the Government.  Simple enough- but different factions have scrambled to define what the “fair share” is; and so, over the years, our income tax law has become terribly complex and contorted.  There are all kinds of exemptions, credits, special cases, variable rates, and other provisions which have found their way into our tax law, so that it is unclear who, if anybody, is really paying a fair share.   

The same thing is happening now with regard to laws that mandate how health care will be applied; and how marriage will be defined.  It is not clear how well the principle of doing “what is right” is being applied in either of these areas by our secular authorities.   

You see, no matter how well-meaning we are in applying the principle of “what is right”, if we lose sight of the primary motivation, then things will go awry.  With regard to moral law, the underlying motivation should be God’s natural law.  The Mosaic law; our national system of laws; and even the Islamic Sharia law, are all supposed to be based on God’s natural law.  But when mankind gets a hold of the first principles and defines the details, the results can, and do often get distorted.   

That’s why our second reading makes a very important point:  That God’s covenants with us are not primarily based on law; but rather on Faith.  If we have Faith in God’s word to us, then we will listen to God; trust in God; and act in accordance with the spirit of God’s word to us.  That is what we need to do to merit the fruits of the covenant.  For Christians, those fruits are everlasting life.   

So living in faith is not the same thing as living according to the law; because strict compliance with the details of the Mosaic law and secular law are not necessarily the same as following the word of God in faith.  I think another example would help.   

This is the feast of Joseph.  The Mosaic law was quite clear to St. Joseph at the time:  His betrothed wife was pregnant; and he was not the Father.  There were two possible remedies according to the law.  Go to the authorities and turn Mary in, which would have shamed her and possibly resulted in her being stoned to death; or quietly divorce her, which was his plan.    But Joseph did neither- because he was moved by the Spirit of God through the dream in which the angel appeared to him.  Joseph had faith in, and trusted in, God’s word to him and did not act according to the law.  This act of faith by Joseph ranks with Abraham’s faith in importance in human history; else Jesus Christ would not have entered into the world.   

We live in very interesting times.  For centuries now, Christians have lived their lives according to the law.  It was law that properly reflected the natural law of God.  But times are changing as the world becomes more pluralistic and secular.  Almost weekly we hear about Christians who are persecuted for living their faith, and even martyred for their faith.  It is even happening in this country- such as the owners of Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Catholic Adoption agencies who refuse to allow same-sex couples to adopt children, can attest.     

All of us, like King David, are being called to build a house for the Lord.  The house is our bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit.  As such, we are called to hold firm and live by faith, and not blindly according to the “law”.   

Our hope is the promise afforded by God’s covenant with us- the New Covenant promise of everlasting life for those who live by faith.  The rewards are great as predicted by Nathan the prophet:  “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever”. 

Learning How to Handle Our Exile

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

4th Sunday in Lent

2 Chr 36: 14-16, 19-23; Eph2: 4-10; Luke 16: 19-31

Deacon Larry Brockman

“God gave His only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  That is all of us because we believe!  What great cause for rejoicing!  And those words by Jesus to Nicodemus are echoed as well by Paul:  “God brought us to life in Christ- by grace you have been saved.”  More cause for rejoicing!   

But you know what.  That isn’t all that Jesus and Paul said.  There’s more.  But before getting to that, recall some of the history lesson in the first reading.   

Notice that the whole story of the Israelites is summarized there.  First, we know that the Israelites were God’s chosen people.  They had been brought out of slavery and given the promised land by God.  Yet despite being “saved” by their God, in the generations that followed, priest after priest, and all the people were guilty of ignoring the word of the Lord that was given to Moses and spread by the messengers of God and the prophets.  The Israelites are described as having done abominable deeds, even polluting the sacred temple of the Lord.  And so what happened to them?  After a period of many “second chances”, the Lord loses patience, and they are overrun and scattered by the pagans in exile.  And then, after the appointed time of purification had past, some 70 years in all, the pagan King Cyrus issues a decree enabling the faithful remnant to return to their promised land.   

This story should sound familiar.  It is the precursor of our own story.  We, too, have all been saved; but we were not saved for this life.  Rather we were saved by the Lord for eternal life.  God sent His only son to suffer on the cross, die, and then be resurrected from the dead to eternal life.  And God promised all of us who believe the same eternal life that His son has achieved in rising.   

But you know what?  We all have to go through our exile; to be purified of our past sins.    Listen again to Jesus and what he says to Nicodemus:  “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.”   Now Paul argues that:  “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ”   So, God loves us despite our sins, and has saved us despite our sins!   

We must obtain forgiveness for our sins through Confession.  But they are still not the kind of deeds that we would want exposed to the light of God.  That’s where our purification comes in.  Catholics call it Purgatory.   

We cannot save ourselves- God did that for us through His son.  But if we believe, really believe in all that Christ taught and promised; we confess our sins, and repent of them.    Then what flows from us is good deeds, deeds that are done by us in Christ, that is, in his name; deeds that are done by “living the truth” of our faith; and deeds that we have no hesitation in showing in the light. 

Christians whose deeds shine forth in the light are ready for the Last Judgment and the Kingdom of God where they will remain forever in the Light of Christ. 

Nobody is Beyond Saving

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Thursday of Third Week of Lent
Jer 7: 23-28; Lk 11: 14-23
Deacon Larry Brockman


The other day I saw a man in the hospital from another state who claimed he was beyond saving.  His marriage was a wreck; he alone and separated from his family, and now, to top it all off, he had a serious medical problem and ended up in the hospital. He felt guilty of many things, and thought he was beyond saving. This man was in the grip of the devil   because the devil had convinced him he was beyond saving. How ironic that is, because from the depths of his depression, I could sense that this man had already taken the first critical step- He recognized his sinfulness and was disposed to repent. And yet, he resisted prayer and the sacraments because he believed he was beyond saving. This is just one form of modern day possession by the devil.  Yes, indeed, the devil is alive and well, and he controls many people either this way, or in some other cycle of possession.

For example, there are many people who have lost a close one who can’t seem to snap out of it; the devil wants them to keep holding on, and works on them to shut God and his love out. Then, there are many are addicted to food, drugs, alcohol, pornography, Facebook, or any number of other things These people are not listening to God; but are slave to their addictions. .The devil feeds them on their gilt and gluttony, and encourages them to their excess. And then there are people so stagnant in their daily routine that they resist any and all kind of change. They have locked out the voice of God urging them to change, or they do as the man in the hospital, they tell themselves that they are beyond saving.  All of these things can be modern forms of possession.   

What’s the way out? Well, first we have to listen to the voice of God. Just as the prophets such as Jeremiah heralded God’s message to the Israelites long ago,   The Church and its messengers herald the voice of conversion and change. The Israelites are accused by Jeremiah of “not listening”. We need to learn a lesson from them, and listen to God.     

The Church asks us to listen for change often. We do it twice a year formally- in Advent and Lent. And of course, we are in the middle of Lent right now. So are we all listening?       

Now I know that all of you are committed to the focus of Lent. That’s why you’re all here at daily Mass. And so, all of you are searching for ways to improve your lives as  Christians. You are listening for the voice of God as you earnestly pray to make  yourselves better. But are you making the same mistake that many in the crowd made in the Gospel reading? Are you looking for a sign from heaven? You see, God has already spoken to us; and His word lasts forever. It is present in the scriptures, it is present in the traditions of the Church; and it is spoken to us unwittingly by those God places in our path every day. We just have to listen for it; and not look for a direct sign from heaven.

Jesus says something very powerful at the end of the Gospel as well. He talks about strength. The implication is clear. Make yourself strong spiritually so that the enemy cannot overcome you. For those of us who sincerely seek change in our spiritual wellness, spiritual strength is the key. And that means prayer, bible study, the sacraments, and becoming the best version of ourselves. It’s all the things that the Dynamic Catholic People are talking about in       

God loves all of us and never gives up on us. He is constantly after us to repent and change.His message is ever right before us.  So, If today you hear his voice, however weak that may be, harden not your hearts

How Torturous is the Human Heart

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Thursday of the 2nd Week in Lent

Jer 17: 5-10; Luke 16: 19-31

Deacon Larry Brockman

“More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?”    How true is that with regard to the Rich Man in the Gospel?  One can only ask the question- Why?  Why, with all his wealth and comfort, would the Rich man ignore Lazarus day after day, month after month?   

Was it because the Rich Man was not aware?  Was it because he was not caring or generous?  What was it about the Rich Man that separates him from righteousness to such an extent that he is permanently exiled to an eternal place of torment?   

But the Rich man was aware- he knew who Lazarus was, even knew him by name; he hoped that Abraham would send Lazarus in a mission of kindness to him.  How ironic- a man who ignores Lazarus and his suffering for so many years now blithely begs for kindness from him.  No, the rich man was aware.   

Similarly, the Rich man cares- cares for his brothers and his family; otherwise he wouldn’t appeal for someone to go to his family so they could avoid his plight.  Granted, his generosity and concern is just for those close to him; but the Rich man doesn’t come across in the story as being totally uncaring.  

And so, if the Rich Man was sensitive enough to be aware and had a basic sense of caring for others; what was it that went on inside of his heart?  I think the rich man was too comfortable in his life.  He was always in control; everything was about him.  He made something of himself in life-  he amassed wealth; he was a member of the privileged and favored society.  But he was so preoccupied with himself that he just never got around to listening to his conscience, or responding to it either. Time passed, and before he knew it, life was over.      

Jeremiah quotes the Lord as follows: “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD.”  And that’s what happened to the Rich Man- he was cursed, and separated from favor in the Kingdom of God because he trusted in the world and what it had to offer.   

Can we apply this lesson to ourselves?  Are we aware of all the things that are happening right under our noses?  Like the homelessness and poverty and all kinds of moral evil that are going on around us constantly.  Ah, yes, we do notice it OK, and it gnaws at us too, doesn’t it; so we care, too.  But, like the Rich Man, are we so busy with our own agendas and find it difficult to really respond?     

Indeed, as Jeremiah said: “More tortuous than all else is the human heart; who can understand it?”  God understands it.  God knows what is really in our hearts.  And where our treasure is, that is where are hearts are.

We Are All Being Put to the Test

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Second Sunday of Lent

Gn 22: 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8: 31b-34; Mk 9: 2-10

Deacon Larry Brockman


You know what?  We are all being put to the test.  Just like Abraham in the first reading, and just like Peter, James and John in the Gospel, your faith is being put to the test constantly.  And what better time than Lent for you to reflect on that test: how you are being tested in your faith and what can you do to pass God’s test for you.   

You know, the story in first reading is so familiar to us, that we may not appreciate the whole meaning.  Did you know, for example, that the land of Moriah to which Abraham brought Isaac, meant the hills above Jerusalem- the exact same place where Jesus was crucified?  And that a little math will resolve the fact that when Isaac was brought by Abraham to Moriah, he was virtually the same age as Jesus when he suffered and died on the Cross- in his early 30’s.  He wasn’t some young lad, virtually helpless against an older parent.   

How much more vivid do these two factors make the comparison between Isaac and Abraham versus  Jesus and God the Father.  Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son because God challenged him, put him to the test, to show his loyalty.  And God intended that we draw the parallel- a son the same age; and a sacrifice to take place in the precise location of Calvary.  Yes, it is necessary to give up that which is the most precious to us in order to show our loyalty and faith in God.   

Why was it so important that Abraham pass this test?  Because faith means everything- ultimately without faith in God, we are reduced to nothing.  We have no firm ground, no basis; we don’t have the stamina and fortitude to survive the trials in this world; and we have no future beyond this life.  Real faith in God not only means knowledge of God, but a healthy fear of God; a humility that recognizes we are always subject to God, and not in control; and trust in the fact that God loves each one of us so much that he will always help us to be the best version of ourselves.  That’s why it is important for us to have faith, and faith that has been put to the test.   

Abraham passed his test; he believed God, even if it meant sacrificing his only son.  And as a reward, God gave him descendants as numerous as the stars from his one son Isaac.  God extended the promise to maintain Abraham’s legacy symbolically “forever” through his descendants.   

Similarly, the Apostles faith is being tested in the Gospel reading.  They had left everything to follow Jesus.  But they didn’t really know what that meant.  Jesus miracles and charisma and teaching authority were beyond question in their minds.  But when Jesus told them, following the 40 days in the desert that we heard about last week, that he was going to suffer much, die, and then be resurrected, well, that was too much for them; Jesus words to them had fallen on deaf ears.   

And so, Jesus took them on Mt. Tabor for an unforgettable encounter.  Right in front of their eyes, Jesus was transfigured, meaning that he became dazzling in brightness.  Clearly, this was a brightness that emanated from within him.  And there were Moses and Elijah as well in similar brilliance and reality- Moses representing the Law; and Elijah representing the prophets.   

Jesus had been accused by the Pharisees of violating the law and misrepresenting the prophets.  So, Moses and Elijah’s presence validated that Jesus was on the right track.  He was the fulfillment of the law and the prophecies.  Amazingly, the three Apostles recognized Moses and Elijah- their eyes were opened.  Then, God the Father spoke from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son”.  What an encounter!  If ever they had doubts about who Jesus was, this should have removed them.     

But even as they left the mountain, Jesus repeats the prophecy of his on suffering and death.  Indeed, the Faith the Apostles had was being called into test.  They had seen; but to really believe, they had to believe in all of it, trusting that even that which seemed unlikely or counterintuitive, was true.  They needed to have faith in Jesus 100 percent, and then act accordingly.   

Each year, we are brought into the season of Lent to prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is a good time for us to stop what we are doing for a while and reflect on our lives.  How are we being put to the test?  And do we really believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior?  Do we trust that no matter what the world throws at us, we still need to live the Gospel message, and trust God? 

So, what are some of the ways that we can establish that our faith is genuine as we reflect on our lives?  St. Paul tells us this morning that we should not be ashamed of our testimony to the Lord.  Today, that means we should stand tall for our Christian moral values-  values such as Respect for Life, concern for the Poor, the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman; and honesty in business to name a few.  Paul also tells us that God has:  “…Called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus”.  First, we are called to a holy life.  Are we living holy lives?  And then, we are called, not according to our own works that is our own interpretation about what is right for us and how to do things, but rather through God’s will for us, His design.  That’s a whole lot to reflect on.  I am sure all of us are being tested, and we have this opportunity to strengthen our faith.   

I go to a local hospital twice a week to visit the Catholics there.  It’s probably accurate to say that many of them experience a sort of wake up call.  I see People who are losing a leg because of diabetes; or suddenly find themselves with cancer; or any of a number of other life threatening diseases.   I hear a lot of “Why me? And I see a lot of denial.”  Some of them are in panic because they know their lives are not in harmony with God.  Their faith is weak; and they are struggling with the consequences.     

Each of us has the opportunity right now to face the test of our faith, and not be caught by surprise.  So, examine your life; and then make whatever change you need to strengthen your faith now.  Make ready for the promise of the Resurrection!