Archive for October, 2015

Life is Not About Comfort!

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Thursday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time

Rom 8: 31b-39; Lk 13: 31-35

Dc. Larry Brockman

As if it is all about comfort in this life! But that’s the way the Pharisees spoke to Jesus. They as much as said:“Git while the gitin’s good”; such was their counsel.

But they were a brood of double dealing vipers. They wanted Jesus out because he was being heard; he was having an impact. And that bothered them, so much so that they would lobby the Roman Leaders to go after Jesus. Hence their half true, but deceitful advice- “Get out”.

But Jesus was just doing the will of the Father. He did it because that was his mission; it was not his mission in life to be comfortable, to be safe, and it was not his mission in life to “negotiate” with his opponents. There was no compromise; no negotiated back-off; no arrangement that would “live and let live”. It was his mission to spread the Gospel, the good news, that those who repent and believe will go to the Kingdom of God and everlasting life.

And it is the same with you and I. We are not here to compromise or to negotiate an accommodation so we will be comfortable. We are here to do God’s will for us; to perform our mission in life. Jesus wants us to avoid the conventional wisdom to “git while the gittin is good”.

Like what, you say?

Like standing firm when your kids want to watch things on TV or at the movies that you know are morally objectionable. And I’m not just talking about the sixth commandment either. How morally objectionable, for example is “Grand Theft Auto”; or movies that fantasize war and domination; or activities that suck all of our kids waking moments in front of an electronic device. Yet we constantly hear “but everybody does it”. Well, not everybody should do it. And it is so easy to give in; but it is not comfort that we should seek but rather harmony with the voice of God.

And of course, the same is true with adults in our dealings with other adults. We get ourselves in compromising situations with bosses, teachers, customers, and others. Yet we are called upon to not compromise our morals but rather, to show the faith that we really have.

Now many of us are derailed by the apparent success of those who do compromise, who do negotiate, who do seem to get away with just opting for the easy way out, and for comfort and peace in the short term. But that’s because we are thinking as the World does, not as God does. Their reward lasts for a relatively short time.

That’s what Paul’s message to the Roman’s was all about. He uses this argument. Jesus is our ideal; and yet Jesus did not opt for comfort, for safety. Rather Jesus held firm with God’s mission for him. It meant suffering and discomfort by all human standards- even a horrible painful death. But in the end, yes in the end, God rewarded Him with resurrection and everlasting life.

The same can be true for us. Paul says “Who will condemn us?” Indeed, no secular authority or cultural force can condemn us to death- they can make it painful and uncomfortable for us, yes. They can even kill our bodies. But they cannot condemn us to real death and everlasting suffering. Only we can do that by not obeying God.

You see, it is God’s system of reward that we should seek. In this world, that may mean pain and suffering. But as long as we have peace of mind, and our consciences rest easy that is OK. Because, as St. Paul says,  “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.

Being a Faithful and Persistent Follower

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Thursday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

Mal 3: 13-20b; Luke 11: 5-13

Dc. Larry Brockman

So, “evildoers prosper and even tempt God with impunity”? Such was the observation of the worldly folks of Malachi’s time as they lamented how vain it was to follow the Lord!

Indeed, today’s world is full of people who express the same cynical sentiments because some people tire easily of living the life God gave them, and so, they take matters into their own hands rather than trusting in God and his way. It’s the end that justifies the means for them, so, they do it their way, even if the tactics are not very Christian.

Perhaps a few examples would help: some people cheat on tests, even have someone else take a test for them; or copy other folks work and use it as their own. Some run cash businesses and hide a good portion of their income from taxes. Some people will buy an item, use it one time, and then return it to the store. And there are folks who lie whenever it serves their interests. or bully people to get their way.

I hear other people talk about these kinds of things often; even boasting of their exploits. They are like the people of Malachi’s time. Those who avoid these shameful practices are ridiculed as fools. And just like the people if Malachi’s time, most of these evil people would say to the Lord: “When have we spoken against you”? And so, the honest and faithful people of God seem sometimes to be left behind; and are frustrated by the apparent success of the evil doers.

This morning we hear God’s answers to this dilemma. First, in due time, God will see that justice is served. Those who are loyal to God’s word “Will experience the healing rays of the sun of justice; but the proud and the evildoers will be reduced to stubble”. Such is the main point made by Malachi.

And in fact we see this happen all the time in real life. Sooner or later, the cheaters, liars, and bullies experience justice because there are consequences to everyone’s actions. God’s justice escapes no one.

Second, God rewards those who are faithful and persistent in their efforts. Notice I said faithful and persistent. The parable Jesus tells makes this point in an interesting way. At first glance the neighbor appears to be pestering his friend for the three loaves of bread. But on closer examination of Jesus words, we get another impression because there are two important elements at play in the exchange between them. First, familiarity. Jesus makes it clear that these neighbors are also friends. This wasn’t some casual neighbor who knocked on the door; rather, it was a friend who was rousting his neighbor in the middle of the night. The word “friend” implies familiarity, the kind of familiarity that accompanies a faithful relationship.

Just so, we need to be familiar in our relationship with God. That means a frequent and faithful relationship with him in prayer so that when we need something, we are asking within the context of that familiar relationship with God. We are not just communicating with God when we need something; but rather, within the context of abiding faith.

And the second element is persistence. Now this is not an irritating kind of persistence. Rather, it is the kind of persistence that we can all identify with in a good friend; a confident, trusting persistence that goes along with the friendship. It is the kind of persistence one embraces when one trusts that the giver will come through and with the best he has. Indeed, we need to always trust that our persistent prayers have been heard and that God has given us only the best.

The world is full of cynical folks who will say or do anything to get their way. But we are called to be faithful and persistent followers of Jesus who believe that God always gives us the very best for us.

Keeping the Sabbath

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Thursday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time

Neh 8: 1-4a, 5-6, 7b-12; Luke 10: 1-12

Dc. Larry Brockman

Keep Holy the Sabbath! It’s one of the ten-commandments, you know.

The reading from Ezra kind of sums it up for the people of his time. Everyone came; and everyone showed reverence and respect for the God whose words they were about to hear. Then everyone listened to the word of God; after which the Priest broke down the word for them; he explained and interpreted the word. Then the Lord was Blessed; the day was called holy;, and a banquet of rich food and drink was advised. People were told to put aside their concerns, and to celebrate the day of the Lord.

You know what? We have carried that Sabbath tradition forward. It is precisely what we are supposed to do including Mass each Sunday and the day of rest that comes with it. Only the banquet that we participate in is the richest of food and drink- the body and blood of Jesus himself.

But let me ask this: Whatever happened to “Keep Holy the Sabbath” in our society?  Is our celebration limited to the one hour a Sunday we attend Mass? Or is our Sunday a holy observance of the Sabbath where we put aside the things of this world and celebrate God’s goodness with family and friends, rejoicing in God’s gifts to us, not the least of which is his holy word as proclaimed in the scriptures and broken down in the homily.

It’s really a matter of priorities, isn’t it? Kind of like the environment talked about in the Gospel. Jesus sends out 72 folks in pairs as a precursor to his visit to the towns in Israel. He is testing their attitudes- will they open their minds and hearts to the message, or will they be closed off and preoccupied with their own agendas? Jesus asks his disciples to focus on Peace and the Kingdom of God. And the peace that he is talking about is an internal peace- a peace of mind; a charitable peace; a peaceful spirit capable of overlooking the pressures and duties of the day in order to have time to reflect on things that are beyond and above the world; namely what they believe and the Kingdom that will come. It is as if these 72 disciples were sent out to prepare the folks in each village for the coming of the Lord on the Sabbath. They were sent to just one house; but their mission was communal- the people of the community. Would they be open, would they be ready, and would they be welcoming? Did they have a “Sabbath” attitude?

I am not sure how many of us really have a “Sabbath” attitude on Sundays these days. I think it’s because we confuse “rest” with “recreation”. But the commandment tells us that we need to pull away from the world, and “rest”- by recognizing and worshiping the one true God, and then reflecting on His message. But we are to do that communally; not just as individuals, celebrating all that God has done for us.

The people of Ezra’s time got it right. But are we doing the same, truly keeping the Sabbath?