Archive for September, 2015

God’s Special People

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Num 11: 25-29; James 5: 1-6; Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48

Dc. Larry Brockman

I want all of you to think of yourselves as special today. Because just like the people in Moses time, you are in that special group of people on whom the Spirit of the Lord has descended. In fact, you are kind of like Eldad and Medad, who were absent from the main assembly, but, as believers, they were still gifted with the spirit. So, even though you are not out there working and mixing with the main assembly; you are still gifted with the Spirit- a spirit who gives people the ability to counsel, to prophesy, to teach, and to comfort, among other things.

And you know what? You are badly needed right where you are to do exactly that. In fact, you are especially needed right where you are because many of your contemporaries are at the end of the line. They have lived the fast track of life, and now it has ended and they don’t know where they are going. But you know where you are going. You are all looking forward to the everlasting state of happiness in the Kingdom of God. Yes, the kingdom is there for all who believe and repent of their sin.

And so, it has already begun for you because despite your infirmities and limitations, you know that the best part of life lies ahead; and the joy that comes with that knowledge fills you as you bear the hardships of life.

Are you ready to perform mighty deeds? Because many of the folks right here with you are waiting to hear about the good news, and to be blessed with the same spirit that you have dwelling within you- a spirit of hope, of comfort, of enthusiasm, and of peace in the future.   Jesus says it well in today’s Gospel: “Whoever is not against us is with us”; and “anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward”. That is all of you who show your love and spirit to your fellow mankind, especially those who are lost and looking for meaning in life and the future. By your spirit, the spirit of hope and of joy, you can transform others who are confused and seeking the truth.

Now to be sure there are many out here that fit the description in James letter today. They have lived life mostly for themselves. But now, their gold and silver has corroded, and that corrosion has been a testimony against them; they “lived on earth in luxury and pleasure”; they “have fattened their hearts for the day of slaughter”. They have condemned; and they have injured the righteous.

But you, brothers and sisters have good news for them because it is not too late to for them to repent. You can be instruments of conversion, because you bear the truth, and by your example and testimony, you demonstrate that Love conquers all, and that life with God is our ultimate goal. Surely, if you do that, your reward will not be lost.

Building the Lord’s House

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Hag 1: 1-8; Luke 9: 7-9

Dc. Larry Brockman

“Build my house”. That’s what Haggai told the Israelis to do. Darius had restored the Israelis to their land after a long exile. They were living in paneled houses, drinking and eating lavishly, and having a great time of prosperity there. But if we read between the lines accurately, they were just not happy. That begs the question, “why”?

Notice that they procrastinated in rebuilding the temple. They didn’t have time for the Lord. They didn’t have a decent place to worship, and that means it wasn’t a priority to them. Could it be that they were not happy because they didn’t really have God in their lives?

Now building the Church sounds like something we just can’t relate to with all the Churches we have today. I saw in the news the other day that Holy Trinity Church in downtown Syracuse had been sold to the Moslems who were going to convert it to a Mosque. Sad, but that sort of thing happens often now in the Northeast. Where did all the faithful go?

You know, I visit a local Hospital twice a week. The chaplain gives me a long list of Catholics to see each time. I’d say that while all of them identify themselves as Catholics, probably less than half are practicing Catholics of any description.

This is what I hear from them: “Years ago I went to see the priest about getting married to my live-in boyfriend, and he wouldn’t marry us, so I haven’t set foot inside a Church ever since.” Or: “Whenever I go to Church, all they ask for is money”; or: “I believe in Jesus, and it’s just me and Jesus, that’s what’s important, I don’t need the Church”; or a whole flock of other reasons, excuses, and sob stories.

What all that means is that it just isn’t true. It isn’t true that we don’t need to build the Church. The fact is that many of us are living comfortably and in complacency, yet we don’t see either the need or urgency of building the Church. But if we are honest about it, the erosion of the Church is clear because the flock is disappearing either out of disinterest, complacency, or disbelief. And deep down we cannot be happy about all the fallen away and lukewarm Catholics.

So, that’s where you and I come in. It isn’t enough for us to believe and come here to worship. We are called to be evangelizers in word and in deed. We are called upon to “build the Church,” not so much with brick and mortar, but by bringing others into the Body of Christ.

Nowadays, too many people are rudderless. They are like Herod in today’s Gospel, seeking something but they know not what. Whereas this country was built on Judeo Christian values, it is now fast becoming a pagan nation of people seeking self-gratification; people who don’t have God in their lives or who have a distorted idea of God. We are not here to coexist with them and let them do their own thing. We are here to convert them; to add them to the Body of Christ, the Church. So, this morning, it is as if Haggai were addressing each of us to get out there and “Build the Church.”

Are You Looking for the Truth?

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

25TH Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wis 2: 12, 17-20; James 3: 16-4:3; Mk 9: 30-37

Dc. Larry Brockman


Are you looking for the truth about what’s going on in the world today and about how to solve our problems? Because it is easy to be confused in today’s world with all the experts and pundits. Indeed, we don’t hear the news any more. Rather, we hear little snippets about events, and then hours upon hours of spin on those events. It isn’t even clear that we are hearing about the most important events. It might just be that the media is picking the events to match their spin.

Why is it that we allow others to pick our news and then let them interpret what they present rather than us assessing where the truth lies? Is it because we are unqualified, disinterested, stupid, gullible, self-absorbed or a combination of all of those things? Or is it because someone who wants to control us thinks we are unqualified, disinterested, stupid, gullible, self- absorbed or a combination of all of those things?   There is no question about the effect that all this management of the news and its analysis has on us though. It is dividing us, it is causing factions, and we are becoming less capable of working together to solve problems.

James has it right when he says: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice”. That seems to describe our world today- disorder and every foul practice. I’m thinking of Planned Parenthood and ISIS for example.

Indeed, when I listened to the first reading from Wisdom, two things struck me. First, it was a perfect predictor of what happened to Jesus. The jealous power brokers of Jesus time did precisely what was described in that reading. They persecuted the righteous man, Jesus, and followed the script perfectly, even up to the part about death.

And secondly, I see the same phenomena happening in this country today. Why else would a gay couple drive across two states to the only county clerk’s office that specifically would deny a marriage license to them if their intent wasn’t to foment trouble? And this is but one example. I saw many other examples in the three hour presidential debate the other night. Rather than focusing on the issues facing our country and the solutions each candidate would advocate, the moderators focused on pitting the candidates against each other.

So, is there a better way? Is there a better way to recognize truth and how to pursue it?   First of all, consider the context of the reading from James today. James is talking about how the tongue can get us in trouble.  And he is referring to the fruits of a loose tongue where jealousy and self-ambition are the motivators. James goes on to talk about what kind of fruits follow from a person who is motivated by God’s wisdom. Rather, he is saying that true wisdom can always be recognized by its works: purity, tranquility, modesty, docility, equity, mercy and piety.

Then James goes on to summarize his thought this way: “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” Just what does that mean? Well, it means that you cannot have peace without righteousness. In other words if organizations or people advocate peace, but they are not righteous, then don’t count on the peace they promise.

Now righteousness is different from being right and it is different from being self-righteous. Righteousness means being aligned with what God teaches. And as we have seen, the wisdom of God is “pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.”

The Gospel story makes a very interesting point about seeking the truth. Jesus and his Apostles are just back from the Transfiguration event. So, they had all just been exposed to undeniable, unmistakable, powerful proof that Jesus was God made man. He travels apart from the crowd so he can teach them. I think he is teaching them the truth, don’t you? But when He tells them he is going to have to suffer at the hands of his enemies because he is following the truth and the wisdom of God, what do they do? They put all of that aside and rather, they talk amongst themselves about who is number one.

So, two things happened to the Apostles. First, they didn’t want to deal with the truth. They should have been talking about all that just happened and all that Jesus taught them. These were incredibly significant events that had just happened. But no, they put all that aside and talked about something else. They didn’t want to talk about the truth. Secondly, they talked about who was number one. That sounds like jealousy and self-ambition to me!

Lest we be too critical, isn’t that our way as well? First, we really don’t want to hear the truth. We don’t want to hear about our monumental debt, unemployment, lack of integrity in government, ISIS, Moslem extremists, pollution, immigration, and all the rest of it. So, we may just block all that out. Instead, we are interested in our taxes, our rights, our benefits, our security, and our justice. We are interested in ourselves, number one.

The time is coming when we simply must hear the truth and deal with it. Righteousness and the wisdom of God are the keys. Jesus tells his disciples this at the end of today’s Gospel: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

So, are you listening, or are you worried about number one?

Dealing With Enemies

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Thursday of 23rd Week of Ordinary Time

Col 3: 12-17; Lk 6: 27-38

Dc. Larry Brockman

Isn’t it annoying how difficult the people around us are!  Like people who cut us off on the highway, or sneak into the parking place we’ve chosen just ahead of us.  Then there are the folks who talk in Church on Sunday.  And these are just the little things!    Worse yet is the person who always visits us unannounced right around dinner time; or the guy across the street who constantly plays recordings of a hard rock band at 11 O’clock at night.  They could be heard 2 miles away by the deaf with earmuffs on!

In fact, if each of us is really honest about our relationships in life, we recognize that sometimes we get irritated the easiest by those we are closest to in life.  Whether it is- because we expect more out of them; or it happens more often with them, or whatever, but the fact is that “familiarity breeds contempt”.

Now of course, I would never be such an irritation to anyone else.  Curious, but my wife looked over my shoulder as I was preparing this homily.  You know what she had the nerve to do?  She snickered, and said “Get over yourself”.

Yes, we view ourselves with one standard, but apply a different standard to everyone else.  The fact is that God wants all of us to abide by His standard, and it is truly a “standard” for everyone based on Love, the kind of love that is selfless; the kind of love that recognizes that none of us is perfect; all of us are human and all of us wrongfully think primarily of ourselves on occasion.

Let’s face it: all of us cut other people off in one way or another; all of us play loud music that bothers others- in one way or another; and all of us interrupt other people at an inconvenient time for them once and a while.  But do all of us bear with one another’s human faults like this with patience and forgiveness?  Indeed we are called to “put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” in all of these cases.

Most of us get frustrated with ourselves after we lose our cool over the little things,  And go away and feel sorry that we did them.  And we ask God to forgive us such trespasses.  We not only ask, but we expect that God will forgive us.  And fortunately, God hears our confession and forgives us.  He has told us over and over He would do that because his standard is love and forgiveness.  We need to do the same for others.

And yet forgiving people for their human weaknesses ends up being the easy part.  Jesus demands much more of us in the Gospel.  Jesus is not just talking about forgiving human weaknesses, but Jesus is talking about being kind, patient, forgiving, and even loving, to our enemies.  Yes, even to our enemies.

Now the interesting thing about the things an enemy does is that they are rooted in the same evil as our human weaknesses- selfishness.  That’s why people lie, cheat, steal, kill, and a whole host of other things.  Jesus is trying to tell us that we also need to handle these people and their flaws the same way we handle the small stuff- with Love, because that is God’s answer to all sin and selfishness.

You see, when you come right down to it,  God has no choice but to act according to his nature.  Life is all about us learning to adopt God’s nature as our own so we can live in harmony with him forever.  We have to kill our enemies with love because love is the only way they will truly be converted.  By our example, they can and will be converted.

That doesn’t mean we condone the evil an enemy does or stand by and let it happen.  But it means that when we have the opportunity to relate to them, we show them that we are people of love, not of hate.

So let’s all try it.  The next time you have an opportunity to relate to someone you haven’t been getting along with, try something different.  Try treating them in as loving a manner as you possibly can.

Recognizing Hypocrisy

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Thursday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

1 Tim 4: 12-16; Luke 7: 36-50

Dc. Larry Brockman

Hypocrisy!  The world of today is filled with hypocrites- people who say one thing but act another way.  Both of our readings today expose hypocrisy for what it is

In the first reading, Timothy, who is a young disciple of St. Paul, writes this letter because some of the folks he evangelized have been influenced by older and self-proclaimed “wiser” teachers.  These older teachers were teaching based on the old law, the Mosaic Law, in the tradition of the Pharisees.  Their emphasis was on meeting the letter of the law.  And their expertise was knowledge of its details.  But Timothy had left the community with the Christian legacy of a new law.  He says it about as well as one can say it.  “Set an example for those who believe in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.”  Yes indeed, Timothy, not the elders, had it right.  Because the thing that speaks loudest is the way the teacher behaves, not what he says.

There is a similar message in the Gospel.  The Pharisees, Simon in today’s Gospel story included, held themselves above the rest of mankind because they were experts in keeping the letter of the Mosaic Law.  But they didn’t understand what real conversion of heart was.  They didn’t recognize that real conversion was not the ever increasing ability to conform in external behavior; but rather converting in internal attitude, by making a basic change in their behavior which we call repentance.

You see, the sinful woman in the Gospel repented of her sinfulness by faith in what she heard Jesus preach and by his example.  She was so uplifted by that feeling in her heart, the fact that she was forgiven and could start anew, that she was brimming full of love.  And as a consequence of her conversion of the heart, she was moved to show that love in the public display we hear about today.  It is easy to see how her Faith saved her, because she was living a new life now because she was not rejected for her sin, but rather changed by the love showed her by Jesus.

Notice that Jesus calls out the Pharisee for the way he treated him, his honored guest.  Indeed, the Pharisee was anything but cordial.  He may have been an expert knowledge of the law; but he certainly didn’t know how to apply it with “speech, conduct, love, faith and purity”.  Jesus actions and demeanor were in stark contrast to that of the Pharisees.  And so was the power of his example to convert others.

This lesson is something all of us need to learn in today’s world because all of us are constantly exposed to someone whose sinfulness we reject; but in so rejecting it, we reject, even ostracize the sinner as well.  We capture the hearts and minds of people not by beating them over the head with the law they have broken, but by “speech, conduct, love, faith and purity”.  I think that is what Pope Francis is trying to do with the changes he is making in dealing with folks who have second marriages or have had abortions.

Forgiveness, mercy, and love are God’s gifts to sinners.  All of us are sinners.  And there is room in our Church for everyone who repents of their sins and wants reconciliation.  There certainly was room in Jesus’ view for the woman in the Gospel story.

All of us have an influence on the people around us whether we realize it or not.  And all of the people around us are sinners in one way or another.  Rather than ostracize those who are sinners in an air in which we project self-righteousness, we need to woo them by “speech, conduct, love, faith and purity”.

Accepting on Faith

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Thursday of 22nd Week of Ordinary Time

Col 1: 9-14; Lk 5: 1-11

Dc. Larry Brockman

Imagine the Apostles Peter, James, and John’s reaction.  Here were three seasoned fisherman who had labored all night in vain.  And now, this stranger orders them to pull out from shore and lower their nets.  It was the wrong time of day; the tides were not right; and they were weary from working all night.  But despite their objections and cynicism, they made an incredible catch.  In fact, it was just plain mind boggling to them, so much so that they dropped everything and followed Jesus.

These three apostles saw miracles like this over and over again.  They listened to all that Jesus taught them, yes; but they came to believe in Jesus through these mighty deeds.  The case was so compelling- between the authority of Jesus’ teaching and the impact of the miracles, that they came to believe, with certainty, that this man was the Messiah; and that motivated them to ponder in the depths of their hearts what Jesus teaching was and to reorient their lives to follow him accordingly.  They walked away from what was comfortable and what they knew.  There was just no way that they could not follow Jesus after all that they experienced first-hand.

What a contrast to the Colossians that Paul is talking to in our first reading.  You see, the Colossians had to accept on faith what they heard second and even third hand.  They weren’t privy to the miracles and the personal contact with Jesus.  That is why Paul’s prayer in our first reading is so incredibly beautiful, because Paul recognizes first that the Colossians had real faith.  They had come to believe on their own, without all the advantages that the apostles had.  And so, Paul’s first thought is to give thanks for their faith.

But then, Paul prays that God would bless them.  Notice that he doesn’t pray that they would love one another and keep all of Jesus’ commandments.  Rather, he prays that they “would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding”.  That was the very first item on Paul’s prayer agenda.   He is praying that they would do what the Apostles did.  Ponder the message in the depths of their hearts and find out what God’s will was for them.

We are in the same boat as the Colossians.   We have come to believe on the basis of faith alone.  And Paul’s good words of Thanksgiving apply to us as well.  But we need to move on from there, and before we can go out and just obey God’s commandments, we have a higher priority to establish first.  We need to discern God’s will for us so that we can “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord so as to be fully pleasing in every good work bearing fruit.”    Paul goes on to say that if we do that “We will be strengthened with every power in accord with his glorious might.”  Wow!

There’s a lot of times when people suffer consequences for making wrong decisions that are counter to God’s way.  For example, we are subject to civil penalties if we steal or hurt someone.  But there are more subtle consequences as well.  If we choose our careers; choose our mates, and choose any number of other things without God’s blessing, all kinds of things can and do go wrong.

This, however, is a different teaching.  It says that we will be strengthened when we make good decisions about how to live our lives that are in harmony with what God has in mind for us.  We will even bear fruit accordingly.

So, if you are unsure where you are going in life,  And if you are just trying to get by in life by keeping God’s commandments, why not read Paul’s prayer about the Colossians especially carefully and go off and follow Paul’s advice?  You might even find that a miracle of abundance will surface in your life if you do.

Anticipating the Kingdom of God

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Tuesday of 22nd Week of the Ordinary Time

Is 35: 4-7a; James 2: 1-5; Mk 7: 31-37

Dc. Larry Brockman

All of us want to be whole. Like the deaf and dumb man in today’s Gospel, we all want to be free of all sickness and limitations and defects. But the reality of life is different, isn’t it because all of us have limitations. And if you don’t have one today- just wait because age will certainly bring on limitations. But you know what? We are blinded by these limitations to what is really important. This life, no matter how sweet it was to us in the past, and no matter how sweet we would like it to be in the future, aAnd no matter how painful it may be at the moment, Is not what life is really all about. Jesus came down and lived among us to offer all of us a better life- life in the Kingdom of God. And he showed us the way to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel. First, we have to believe in Him. That’s what all of our readings for the last 6 or so Sundays have been about- believing in Him; believing that He is the son of man; and believing that when we receive Communion, that He is comes into us body and spirit. He has told all of us that if we do believe in Him, and follow His Gospel, then we will get to join Him in the Kingdom of God. And what does it mean to follow the Gospel? It means that we pick up our own crosses and bear them faithfully with dignity. That’s what all of us are doing right now, isn’t it. Trying to live with the crosses we have to bear with dignity and patience and grace- living with limitations, pain, loneliness, and other forms of temporary suffering. This week, we hear some very good news! This morning, we hear Isaiah talk about what it will be like when we get to the Kingdom of God. First, he says to fear not because God will come to vindicate. Then he says there will be no more limitations. The blind will see; the deaf will hear; the dumb will talk; and the lame will dance and play. They will no longer live in a desert- no longer be deprived, but rather, they will live in a lush and beautiful land, happy forever and ever. And the good news is that it will be like that for all of us who are faithful and have born our crosses faithfully. So rejoice, brothers and sisters. Because all of you are destined for great things, forever and ever, Amen.