Archive for August, 2015

Things That Matter

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dt 4: 1-2, 6-8; James 1: 17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mk 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Dc. Larry Brockman

It is human nature to try to keep it simple.  We like it that way- the simpler, the better.  And so, a firm set of rules- do’s and don’ts- that is what all of us would really like to live life by.  We all want to know where we “cross the line” between right and wrong.  It’s like a defensive game the whole way.

The Israelis had such a list of rules- the Mosaic Law.  At the foundation of the Mosaic Law was “The Ten Commandments”.  These were simple and clear.  They were intended to communicate the essence of what is right and what is wrong in each area of life.  Do Honor the one true God, do keep holy the Sabbath, do honor your parents; do love God and your neighbor;  Don’t lie; don’t kill, don’t steal, and don’t covet what belongs to others.

Notice, though, that each of these is open to interpretation.  For example: what does it mean to love?   What does it mean to honor?  And what does it mean to lie?  Just when do we cross the line between desiring something we see and coveting it?

Now Moses made it clear to the Israelis that they were to live by these statutes and decrees.  But they were not to add or subtract from them.  And yet, that is exactly what the Israelis did- they added and even subtracted from them.  They did that because the Israelis had to come to grips with how to define these terms.  Rather than each person taking the spirit of these commandments into their hearts, and using their conscience as their guide, the establishment embellished the rules with hundreds of details that rounded out the Mosaic Law.

This became especially obvious after a thousand years of clarifications so that at the time of Jesus, we see the kind of thing that happened in the Gospel Story.  Somehow, in their zeal to assure that “Thou shalt not kill”, the detailed practices for cleanliness were issued.  One had to abide by all these practices to the letter.  And in so doing, the Jews actually diminished the real intent of the law.  For being kind to visitors and guests is certainly a priority of the heart;  To do otherwise would injure a person; whereas detailed observance of the rules of cleanliness ranks a little lower on the scale of being hospitable.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not criticizing the necessity to observe rules of cleanliness.  It’s just that the hypocrisy stood out in the Gospel story, and this was the point Jesus was making.  What is evil is the intent that comes out of us from our hearts.  The Pharisees disdained Jesus and his followers.  They were simple folk; not educated in the fineries of their faith; and they didn’t seem concerned with these rules.  Rather they seemed interested in spreading the word that Jesus taught, in being proactive.  And so, they practiced a different kind of morality- a morality that took into account what came from their hearts instead of a morality that just checked to see if one had crossed the line.  Jesus says that “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly” are all things that come from within our hearts, and these are the real evils of this world.

As we go through our daily lives, we are faced with a continual challenge to live our Christian faith.  All of us want to feel that we are doing the right thing.  But we like to keep it simple, and so, we audit ourselves against the Ten Commandments in very simple terms.  We haven’t killed anyone;  but what about gossip or avoiding people or any other ways we can hurt people.  We haven’t lied; but have we withheld, evaded, misrepresented, or exaggerated anything.  And we haven’t stolen; but we may resent folks for what they do have.  And how about our parents and loved ones- are we neglecting relationships and duties.

St. Paul has some words for us today that will help.  He says, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves”.  Yes, we need to be careful that we are not deluding ourselves.  Our lives need to be proactive; not reactive.  Instead of avoiding the little things that really don’t matter, we should be practicing the things that do matter, like seeking out opportunities to love our neighbors in need; like being there for those who have nobody else; and like bearing hardships with dignity and grace.  If we do that, then the little things that we do wrong won’t matter because God will see that it’s what’s in our hearts that really matters to us.

Making the Most of What We Have

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Thursday of 21st Week of the Year

1 Thes 3: 7-13; Mt 24: 42-51

Dc. Larry Brockman

Which is more serious- a sin of Omission or a Sin of Commission?  Really, both are serious sins, it just depends on the circumstances.  Jesus makes that clear in today’s Gospel.

If we just withdraw into a safe state of inaction- decide to relax; avoid challenges; and just take from life what it has to offer, then we are doing just what Jesus attacks in today’s Gospel.  Inaction is basically a sin of omission.  And it can be just as serious as when we go off and commit an action.

History is full of serious sins of omission- times when people stood by and watched terrible things happen.  Our times are certainly no different.  More to the point, there are times when people just live life for what they could get out of it, and don’t give back.

But our Faith demands more of us.  Practicing our faith means doing; being active just like the servant that Jesus praised in the Gospel.  That first servant was doing his job diligently whether the Master was present or not.

We are all blessed with talents and gifts.  We are all blessed with challenges and trials.  Jesus wants us to meet the challenges head on and apply the talents and the gifts that we have been given.  That is practicing our faith.

Sometimes getting involved seems hard to do.  You might say “What if I make a mistake”. Well, we learn from our mistakes, but at least we are trying.  And as Jesus implies in the Gospel, when the Lord comes, and sees how we are trying, he will be pleased as the master was pleased over the industrious servant

What God Are You Going to Serve?

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

21st Sunday Week in Ordinary Time

Joshua 24:1–2a, 15–17, 18b; Eph 5: 21-32; John 6: 60-69

Dc. Larry Brockman


So, what God are you going to serve?

You think that’s a silly question? It wasn’t a silly question for Joshua’s people. Although they had been through a lot during the Exodus with the Lord, and the lord had saved them multiple times, there were many people who grumbled the whole way. They longed for the comfort and peace of the life they had before they left Egypt. But our first reading makes it clear that they rose to the occasion this time as they looked across the river at the Promised Land, a land that was lush and green instead of a barren wasteland like the Sanai had been.

How about you? Do you feel it’s a silly question? After all, you are here at Mass this morning. You have made your choice, right. But the proof is in the pudding, isn’t it. So, ponder this: Just how involved are you with God in your life these days? Do you make God your constant companion during the day, guiding your every decision? How much time a week do you devote to your relationship with God? 1 hour? 2 hours? Just Mass on Sundays? Do you spend the kind of time with God that you spend with your friends? What kind of a friend would God think you were if he saw you just an hour a week?

You know, it is hard, isn’t it. It’s hard to believe in all of this that we preach. Just like the disciples who walked away from Jesus said in today’s Gospel: this is hard- that the bread that Jesus gives us is his flesh, that we must eat that bread to gain everlasting life. and that we have to believe that He, Jesus, is the Resurrection and the Life. Life seems like the barren desert on one side of a river at times; but we aren’t peering over that river at a land flowing with milk and honey. We have to take it on Faith that the Promised Land will be there forever for all of us who believe. Yes, it is hard.

So we allow ourselves to be seduced by what seems so real to us- the things of this world. Friends, money, power, good food and comforts, and lots of social activities- these things take all of our time and energy, and they all seem so good to us. They feel so right.

But where does all that lead? Well, all these things of the world can become our focus on life. In other words, they can become our god. If that is what takes our time for all but an hour or so a week rather than God, then time tells us what our focus is.

But then something happens. Something always happens And we face into the reality that life here as we know it doesn’t last forever. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, or an illness, or some accident that disables a friend, or a financial disaster. When these things happen we think that maybe, just maybe, we should look for a better focus on life. It is then that we think maybe we ought to do as the Israelis promised- to follow the Lord.

So, why not do that now, be proactive about it? If you do that right, you will be able to visualize what everlasting life will be like because when you become intimate with God, he will show you the way, his way. And he will give you a glimpse of the eternal bliss we all hope for, a glimpse across the river to the Promised Land.

But how do we do it right? First, by repenting- yes repenting. Now before you get all excited and defensive, recognize that repenting just means making a change. In this case, it means making a change in the basic direction of your life. You need to change your focus. Your focus needs to turn toward the Lord Jesus Christ and his will for you. And how do you do that- by giving Him more time. Yes, by giving him more time so you can become more intimate with him.

Second, by reaffirming your belief in the Lord. You know, for the last several weeks, the Gospel stories have all built up to the conclusion we hear today. Either the people Jesus was teaching would come to believe in his word and accept his offer of the bread of life, or they would reject it. You now have that same choice. You should be coming here each week because you believe, and because the Church has made the bread of life available to all of you as the Eucharist. And you should hunger for that bread, and affirm that you believe because if you do that, then you will live forever. It was a promise Jesus gave us, and it is the focus and meaning of life we are all need. When we face the reality that life on this earth, no matter how good or bad it seems today, is just not what it’s all about, we will come t6op that conclusion.

So, spending more time with the Lord and believing in what he teaches, these are a good start. But then third, we need to cement our change in focus by becoming a servant of the Lord. This is what it means to put into practice what we learn from the first two things I mentioned.

When you look at the second reading today, think of it in that way- becoming a servant of the Lord. Because the family structure that Paul describes there is the pattern that God intends for his family- love, mutual respect, and obedience between the husband and wife. But it means even more than that because Paul is also using marriage as a metaphor about the relationship between Christ and the Church.  We are the Body of Christ, and so all together we are the Bride in the metaphor. That’s what Paul means by that last line: “This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church”

Boy have I got a deal for you. You see, this is the time of year when we set up booths around the narthex that describe all the different ways that you can get more involved with God and with the Church. It all starts next weekend, and I encourage all of you to take a serious look. There are many ways to bolster your prayer life- like prayer groups and the Adoration Chapel; many ways to get to know God better- like Bible Studies and the Dynamic Catholic movement; and many ways to serve the Lord and others- like St. Vincent de Paul and ministry to the sick. People from these and many other organizations will be there to give you information and answer questions. But do yourself a favor- make a commitment in time and effort to be of more service.

I leave you with this final thought. What God are you going to serve?

Coming Together As a People of God

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19:4-8; Eph 4:30 – 5:2; John 6: 41-51

Deacon Larry Brockman


Guilty on 2 counts!

First, we are all guilty of the same offense that Jesus accused the Jews of in today’s Gospel when he says: “Stop murmuring amongst yourselves”. Why? Because we are not united as one body of Christ. Rather, we are a diverse group of individualists fined honed by the culture of our time. We question all authority and test everything.

Now, that doesn’t sound so bad on the surface- we should question certain kinds of authority, particular in today’s world of clever deception. Everyone has an angle; everyone is selling with self-proclaimed authority. We do need to test secular authority like the Government. That kind of skepticism is good and healthy.

But there is an exception: The authority of God. That, we should not question- we should be of one mind and body in accepting the authority of God. We have given that unified body the name- the Body of Christ. And the Word of God, as represented by the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church, ought to be the knowledge that binds us together in body and spirit as the Church so that when we gather here to worship and participate in the Eucharist, we fulfill Jesus words: “They shall all be taught by God.” And “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me”.

As it is, some of us challenge the incarnation, some the right to life, some the definition of marriage, and some the social teachings of the Church.  But whatever it is that we pick and choose, it causes division in the Church. We are like the Jews who questioned what it meant to come down from heaven. Guilty!

And then there is the second count over which we are guilty. Despite all of the teaching we have had in our Catholic schools, in our Prep programs, and in our RCIA programs, and all the homilies from this and other pulpits over the years, a 1992 Gallup poll revealed that only 30 percent of Catholics believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist they receive. And the situation probably hasn’t gotten any better because Church attendance is way down since then. So, many Catholics are guilty of rejecting Jesus teaching in today’s Gospel that He is the bread of life, and that whoever eats this bread will live forever. Guilty again.

But you see, these two things are key to our salvation. First, we absolutely must accept God’s teaching and plan for us on Faith. “Faith” is the theme of the whole Pentecost season- real Faith. That means believing with the heart what God has revealed. Not just some of it, but all of it.   And second, we will not enter the Kingdom of God when we die unless we have eaten of the flesh of Jesus Christ. That is what today’s Gospel is all about. And when eat that flesh, the whole idea of it is that we do it so that we have Christ living in us. And having Christ live in us means that we will be given the graces to act Christ-like in our lives, not just some of the time, but all of the time. That’s why we receive the Eucharist often.

Paul says it so well in Ephesians this morning: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us.” That means we put aside bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling; rather we must be kind to one another, compassionate, and forgiving.

I couldn’t help but be struck by the clear example shown this morning in the first reading of how all this applies. Elijah roams into the desert and is starved for both food and purpose. The King, and in particular, the Queen, are angry with him over his prophecy of the truth, and so, they wish to put him to death. Despondent in exile, Elijah gives up on life, and even prays for death.

How many of us are wandering around in a desert of sorts despondent over the trials and tribulations of life, starved for both means and purpose? And don’t we sometimes feel like giving up? But then God provides Elijah a simple meal and drink through the angel. And the angel tells him to get up and get going because that meal was intended to sustain him for “40 days and 40 nights”. In Biblical terms 40 simply meant a long, long, time. Yes, the bread that God gave Elijah was intended to sustain him a long, long time, just as the mana sustained the Israelites for 40 years during the Exodus.

Just so, we are given something even more powerful than the hearthcakes the angel gave Elijah. We have been given the actual Body and Blood of Christ to sustain us. But it won’t work unless we really believe that Jesus has come to us physically and spiritually, and unless we have Faith in what Jesus taught us in the Gospel to trust that his way is the way and to act in accordance with His teaching and the teachings of the Church.

In this day and age when the Church is under attack, rather than allow the secular forces to tear us apart by driving a wedge though our congregation issue by issue, and by shaking us in our Faith in what seems contrary to our senses, we need to come together as the People of God. We need to be innocent of these two errors united solidly in one body of Christ, believers in word and deed, and firm that Christ is with is in the Eucharist. Amen!

How Christianity is Unique

Thursday, August 6th, 2015


Dan 7: 9-10, 13-14; 2 Pet 1: 16-19; Mark 9: 2-10

Deacon Larry Brockman

We Christians are so Blessed, because we are the ones who have been given revelations above and beyond all other religions! And they are all summed up so well for us today in the Transfiguration.

You see, all other people who believe in Gods see God as transcendent- high above us in every way. That’s the way Moslems and Jews and Buddhists all see God. That’s why the Jews forbid the use of the term Yahweh anymore; and out of respect, the Church has followed suit. And it’s why the Moslems react so strongly to anyone whom they consider blasphemes their God; and it is why the Buddhists monks separate themselves and purify themselves, because nothing impure can commune with Almighty God. There is a separation, a distance, a respect to be sure, but one that is more accurately characterized as fear, between them and their God.

But as Christians we have a different experience. We see Jesus Christ as both true God and true man- a Transcendent God like the one that was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, yes; and yet, the guy that Peter, James, and John ate and drank and lived with for three years- one of the boys whom they were intimate with; a friend, a confidant, someone who was immanent to them, as close to them as a brother or sister.  Jesus was someone they could relate to. He loved them as friends and confidants do; and he was there besides them as they lived their daily life.

These two extremes are highlighted in our readings today- the immanence and transcendence of God. First, Jesus travels up the mountain with them, struggling right along with them with the stress of the climb. But having arrived, the glory of almighty God is previewed with them through Jesus. And they are fearful- so fearful that they hardly know what to say.

There are many lessons to learn from this experience that the three Apostles had. First, we are all accompanied by Jesus Christ in our daily lives. He is walking right there alongside of us, just as he did with his Apostles, and particularly if we avail ourselves of the bread of life we’ve been talking about the last several Sundays; particularly if we receive Holy Communion often. And not only that, but he has left us his script- the Gospel, for living our daily lives. It is a script that emphasizes love and respect for all- a purity of heart; a script that emphasizes sacrificing self for others; and a script that emphasizes living God’s will, not our own- a purity of purpose-because that’s the way Jesus lived his own life.

This way of life is not popular in a world where self-sufficiency, independence, and self-gratification prevail; the life style of those who believe they are their own God. And it is not popular with people who live solely by the law because the law defines an objective standard in a world of subjective circumstances. The law ignores what is in the heart and emphasizes what is in the mind. But God looks for what is in our hearts, just as he looked at what was in Jesus’ heart.   And it is not popular with those who escape from the world for a life of denial and isolation. An immanent Christ, one who shows us how we can live God’s plan by example, by living it right in front of our eyes for us, is a God who is in the world, yet not consumed by it. And that is what we are all called to do as well, to live in the world and bear much fruit, just as Jesus Christ himself did.

Next, we are all called to the same glory that Jesus showed on the mountain that day. If we believe that Christ died for us to save us and was resurrected in the body to live forever in a glorified state prefigured in our reading today, then we believe that we are destined for the same glory.

Yes, we are fortunate as Christians to have had revealed to us that there is an awesome, almighty God who loves us, just as he loved His own son; a God who is both as far above us as possible and yet as immanent as Jesus in the Eucharist. We truly blessed.