Archive for April, 2016

Becoming the Universal Church (U)

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Acts 15: 7-21; John 15: 9-11

By Deacon Larry Brockman


Today, our first reading talks about the very first Church Council, the Council of Jerusalem.  The Earliest Christians were a Jewish sect that accepted Jesus as the Messiah, and spun off from Judaism.  But they brought all of the ritual and legal baggage of the strict observance of the Mosaic Law with them. Now Paul and Barnabas return from their newly founded Churches amongst the Gentiles.  These Gentiles accepted all that Jesus taught and practiced; and wonderful things were reported about how God worked through them.  But they could not relate to the laws and ritual practices of the Jews- things like detailed food laws and circumcision.  And so, the Church was faced with a decision- to accept them or not.    Peter and James, and the whole assembly in unison, decided that what was important was Jesus teaching, not traditional rituals, laws and practices.  So, they decided to emphasize the direction they had been given by Jesus.

What was that direction?  To go out and Baptize all nations, even the Gentiles.  And so, they abandoned laws for the sake of maintaining tradition, in favor of being inclusive and open to all.  In so doing, they adopted what Jesus teaches in the Gospel this morning, namely.  “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”  Jesus primary commandment was to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Yes, love should be the primary ingredient of our dealings with others.  And so out of love, we keep the “detailed” commandments.  Our mission is to bring others over to our side by the love we show, so that they will embrace us and our way.  We can’t do that by imposing our rules on them, just as Paul and Barnabas couldn’t do it with the first Gentiles.  We can do it by loving them and showing mercy.

I think that this is the essence of what Pope Francis is trying to do in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Family.  In recent years, we have all been inundated with a secular wave of attacks on our family institutions.  So, we see society pushing “Alternate family structures” instead of the Traditional Family Unit; individual rights, like the “right to choose” rather than the right to life; and the right to choose one’s sexual preference as opposed to the way God made us.  Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation on the Family validated all of the traditional Church teachings on these issues.  The Church has not changed its teaching, and it is important that all of us recognize that is the case independent of what the media may have reported.

However, there are other matters relating to the family that have arisen over the last 100 years, areas where culture has changed, and families have changed with it.  This includes families with working men and working women; separation of multigenerational families; divorced and separated couples with shared responsibility for the children; and others.  The Pope has suggested that we emphasize love, mercy, and forgiveness in dealing with those who have gone awry in these areas rather than throwing up walls based on strict adherence to the rules.  His exhortation asks Church leaders to discern before acting in these areas rather than acting on the basis of the rule of law alone.

Granted, this is much harder to do.  But it is a dilemma much like the one we heard about in this morning’s first reading, where the culture of the Jews was so imbedded in their religion that it never occurred to them that it was turning the Gentiles off.  Our response today requires the same kind of discerning spirit as at the Council of Jerusalem.  At the very least, those who violate the rules need to be treated with love and mercy.

I encourage all of you to read Pope Francis Exhortation on the Family.  It is available on-line for free.

Love Others As I Have Loved You

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 14: 21-27; Rev 21: 1-5a; John 13: 31-33a, 34-35

By Deacon Larry Brockman

(This Homily may also be seen and heard by accessing Catholic Community TV at and then scrolling down to 7AM 5th Sunday of Easter and clicking on the Mass.  You can speed forward to the homily.)

For the last couple of weeks.  The pattern in our readings has been the same.  First, a reading from Acts that chronicles how the early church spread like wildfire.  Second, there’s an excerpt from the book of Revelation  that talks about what happens when we all reach heaven.  And third, a Gospel reading from John establishes that Jesus is God; Jesus then goes on to give us some advice for when he leaves his human form at the Ascension.

And the reason for this pattern is to remind us each week of the Easter Season just how deep and far reaching the Resurrection event is, not just for the early Church; but for all of us who believe.  The Church is trying to spread the joy and enthusiasm of the early Church.

Today, we hear of the manifold travels of Paul; and how many people were converted at each stop.  Priests, also known as Presbyters or Elders, were ordained at each location to keep the Church going there.  And they offered a service on Sunday- a service of the Word and of the Eucharist- just like we do.  They did that because that’s what the early disciples were told to do at the Last Supper.  We are doing the same 2000 years later.

The second reading reminds us of the fullness of our heritage as believers- everlasting life with Jesus, the Lamb of God, forever and ever.  Today, we hear that there is a New Jerusalem and that there is no more sea.  The sea is the dwelling place of the Beast, or devil, in the book of Revelation.  But for those who reach heaven, the Beast will be no more, and his dwelling place will be gone.  All that will remain for us is everlasting happiness.

So, are you excited about all that yet?  Because you should be, that’s the whole idea of the repetition, the pattern the Church presents during these weeks of Easter.  The Church wants us to realize that we have all been blessed.   All of us experienced the evangelization by the Church and then Baptism and membership in it.  We are commissioned now to go be witnesses to the end of the earth and “pass it on” as it was passed on to us.  If we do that, we will experience the glory and joy of everlasting life described in the second reading.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus first talks about his glory.  Jesus carefully groomed his Apostles and Disciples for that moment- the moment when he would come into his glory, the moment when the plan of salvation will be clear to all.  The Apostles didn’t understand right then, but everything happened so fast after that.  The plan unfolded and happened before their eyes as witnesses.  And the glory of the Lord was revealed to them on Easter Sunday as the impossible happened.  A man who had been brutally tortured and murdered had arisen; and not only that, he was different.  He could appear and disappear at will; and he could pass through walls and doors; he was dazzling in appearance; and he would live forever with his Father.  Jesus promised that same Resurrection of the body to all of us, and he promised that it would last forever if we followed him.

Now Jesus knew that he was going to leave the Apostles, since his role as God made man had been fulfilled.  And so, he gave key advice to them; he told them:  “As I have loved you, so you should also love one another!”

As I have loved you.   This is what was new in Christianity- the love of God manifested by God made man.  The story of how Jesus loved us is what the Gospel as a whole is all about.  For Jesus, love consisted in this: doing the will of the Father always by loving others rather than his own self.  It was first of all made known in the ordinary things of life, Jesus’ friendships and fellowship with his Apostles; in the many miracles and kindnesses that he showed the rejected members of society, such as lepers and sinners; in the favors he did for strangers such as raising a child from the dead; and in the teaching he did through the parables.  Jesus showed all of us what God’s real love was all about by living a life of service for others rather than by seeking power and using it for his own end.  Then, he was called upon to suffer and die because the radical way of life he preached was rejected by the authorities.

Impressive as it was, all of what Jesus did would have passed into oblivion had it not been for the Resurrection.  That changed everything because nothing like it ever happened before.

All of us are given an opportunity to love “as I have loved you”.  It all begins in the ordinary things of life- your family, including your children and your parents, even when they are sick or handicapped or aged; and in those people that God has placed in your life at work and play, including those who need your help in tough times.  Love of others even means deferring our own agendas for the good of others.

That’s the advice Jesus left us.  For as Jesus said in the Gospel: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

You Are Blessed If You Do It! (U)

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Thursday of Fourth Week of Easter

Acts 13: 13-25; John 13: 16-20

By Deacon Larry Brockman

“If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.”  Such were Jesus’ words to the disciples just after he washed their feet.

What a contrast, because in the reading from Acts, we hear Paul summarize the case for the Messiah from Scriptures- how the nation of Israel was saved from Egyptian slavery, and brought into the promised land; how God the Father nurtured them, and led them by giving them Prophets, Judges, and Kings.  And ultimately, he promised them a Messiah from the line of David- a Messiah, a Savior, who would save them all forever.

But then, what happens when the Messiah, the Savior, comes to his people?  The savior of all mankind tells his disciples very clearly that, just as he was called to be a servant, he is calling all his disciples to be a servant as well, and that is what it takes to be blessed in God’s eyes.

Every Holy Thursday, we reenact the washing of the feet.  It is a powerful image- that the clergy are here to serve just as Jesus served.  This year, Father Giel extended that image so that those whose feet were washed by the clergy, were asked to wash the feet of other parishioners as well.  And how fitting, because we are all the descendants of the disciples.  And all of us are called to be blessed by serving others.

And yet, even though we hear the Gospel and it is preached to us often, do we follow Jesus example; do we embrace the concept of service to others as our primary mission?

I think that the mothers of the world are particularly blessed when you come right down to it.  Mothers know instinctively about deferring self for the benefit of their infant children- getting up at night; constant demands and interruptions, teaching moments during development.   These become a way of life for the first several years of life.  And that nurturing instinct carries forward in life as children grow up, doesn’t it.

And then consider this.  Decades ago, multigenerational households were the norm.  Usually, an aged parent or relative was around, and just as these folks had cared for their parents or relatives in their day, now their children were called to that kind of service for them.  Everybody in the household learned what it meant to be a servant by observing.  And everybody got it- that some day, the roles would likely be reversed.  But we seem to have lost that cultural call to service these days, and the lesson that goes with it, possibly because everybody strives now to be independent and not a burden.

Now there are many other ways that men, and indeed all of us, are presented with opportunities to serve others in our daily lives.  We don’t have to go out of our way to find them, although some blessed people are called for that too.  I’m thinking about times when neighbors need your help- getting their car started, cleaning up a mess after a storm; or when something happens like a sickness or death in the family.  You all know what I mean because when these things happen, you see them; and you may even hear a little voice inside.  But do you respond?

It’s time that all of us slowed down just a little from our fast pace in life and take a break from independence and self-absorption to sense and respond to the opportunities we have to serve others.

Blessed are you if you do it.

Is Following the Good Shepherd Easy?

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 13: 43-52; Rev 7: 9, 14b-17; John 10: 27-30

By Deacon Larry Brockman

It sounds so easy.  Jesus says that all we have to do to experience eternal life with God is to believe in him, listen to his word and follow him.  If we do that, then Jesus, the good shepherd, will protect us from anything and everything; and we cannot be snatched away by anything the devil throws at us.  It sounds easy; but in reality, it is the challenging path.  Because it takes fortitude to do all three of the required things- believe in, listen to, and follow Jesus.

First, there is the belief part.  That’s kind of what the first reading is about.  You see, right after Jesus’ resurrection, there were hundreds of eye witnesses to the Resurrection.  And these people were fearless in the Lord; they were truly zealous witnesses of all the Jesus said and did.  And, as the story in the first reading shows, they met with great success in the synagogues.  Why? Because the Apostles and the Disciples told their story with conviction.  The witnessing that Paul and Barnabas did was so effective that thousands of people believed.

They believed that a poor carpenter led an inspired life; performed miracles; claimed that he was the son of God made man out of God’s love; preached repentance and conversion of heart to do God’s will; suffered because of his message; died, was buried, and rose from the dead to eternal life to show us the way to eternal life if we followed him.  These people believed all this on the basis of the Apostles’ word alone.  That took real faith for the folks of the time.  And it takes great faith for those of us separated from these events by 2000 years.

But you know what?  Paul, Barnabas, and the Apostles are present today to all of us; they are the Church.  And the Church preaches with the same conviction.  What we are to believe is called the Creed, which we will all recite in just a few minutes.  That Creed has all of the elements I mentioned above and a few more.  Yes, it is a challenge to believe all of it just on the word of the Church.  But that is what all of us are called by God to do- to first of all believe.

And then there is the “listen” part.  That’s maybe the hardest part of all for us- to listen to the word of God.  Perhaps it’s because we are so busy with life; and perhaps it’s because we don’t really want to know.  Ignorance, after all, is bliss; but listening means more than just coming here on Sundays for an hour a week.  Listening means taking time out for really getting in tune with God.  How can you do the last part, following the Lord, if you don’t know what you are following?

Now all of you here today are part of a family.  Indeed, you are Holy Family; but aside from that greater family, all of you are part of a nuclear family.  Are you listening to what God wants for your family?

Pope Francis has just issued an Apostolic Exhortation to all of us on the Family.  It is based on the results of the Synod of Bishops that has been meeting to discuss Family matters in Rome over the last couple of years.  And let me be clear about this-  what you hear on radio and TV and the press about the document is probably not accurate.  Because, despite what you might have heard, the document reaffirms all of the traditional teachings of the Church on the family.  It does recognize that times have changed   So that the Church must present these traditional teachings in a way which is relevant in today’s society; and it exhorts the Church to always, always, be pastoral in dealing with persons who have gone astray.

But it doesn’t change any of the traditional positions of the Church.  In fact, the document strengthens them by giving justifications for the church’s classic positions on controversial topics such as gender identity, gay marriage, cohabitation; and divorce.  It is well worth reading; and I encourage all of you to read it.  It is a free download on the internet and,  although it is 257 pages long, the type is large and one single column..  Reading it would be a big part of what it takes to listen to the Lord on what his pattern is for families.

And lastly, we are called to follow.  With respect to the teaching that the Pope issued on the family, that means a lot of challenges to all of us.  For example, when you read the document you will see that the primary responsibility for educating children rests with the parents, not the Church; and that the primary purpose of marriage is procreation of children out of mutual love; and that the family includes the elderly and those who are marginalized with infirmities.  These later categories of people are opportunities for all of us to learn patience, humility, and a spirit of service.

In the second reading, we hear about those called to the heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb.  There is cause for great rejoicing in those words from Revelation, words such as the fact that those saved are: “A great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue”; and: “For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Yes, this is what is in store for all of us who follow- and it is a great throng of people.  And it includes all of us who believe in, listen to, and follow the Lord Jesus.

If Only We Had the Zeal of the Apostles!

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Second Sunday of Easter

Divine Mercy Sunday

Acts 5: 12-16; Rev 1: 9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20: 19-31

Dc. Larry Brockman

Oh, that all of us could share in the zeal for the Lord that the Apostles had after the Resurrection!  What a different world it would be, indeed.

How many of you have seen the film “Risen”?  Well, it depicts how one man, one very worldly man, was converted, a career army officer, the Roman Tribune Clavius.  The movie opens with Clavius brutally leading an attack against Jewish insurgents in Israel.  In recognition for his service, Clavius was ordered by Pilate to assure that Jesus was dead, buried, and guarded.  Pilate didn’t want anything to go awry because the Jewish leaders were warning him of Jesus promise to rise from the dead.  The Jews were telling him the Apostles planned to steal the body and claim Jesus was risen.  And so, Clavius pierced Jesus side with his sword; and supervised the burial into a sealed tomb with 24 hour guards posted there.   But alas!  The guards fell asleep after a drinking spree, and the body was gone.  So, Pilate told the tribune to find the body or else.

Clavius hears stories from the guards about a bright light, stones moving away, and a risen body.  But he doesn’t buy any of it.  So he hunts for Jesus followers, the likely suspects that would have stolen the body- and finds them.  They were cowering in an upper room, hiding from the authorities for fear of arrest.  And what does Clavius also find but the risen Jesus meeting with his Apostles there.

That changes everything for Clavius.  The impossible had happened, the risen Jesus Christ and life everlasting were real!  All the stories he had heard were real.

Of course, the movie is fiction, but it teaches us all a lesson because we can all imagine that Clavius represents each one of us.  We are naturally skeptical and find the story hard to believe.  But imagine that we are a sinner like Clavius who gets to be a first-hand witness.  We would have heard and seen all that Clavius had heard and seen.  We would all have been truly converted.  We would all feel the real joy of Easter because we would all have seen the risen Christ, just as Clavius did.  Things would never, could never, be the same for us.  Our priorities in life would change.

As it is, we are all doubting Thomases deep down and Jesus words to Thomas apply to us:  “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  If we had seen, things would never be the same for us.  But as it is, we did not see; so we hold back a little; we don’t have that zeal.

The Apostles were filled with zeal because they all saw.  And so they moved out of the darkness and into the public square.  Solomon’s Portico was indeed a public place.  And they fearlessly proclaimed all that the Lord said and did.   Indeed, there were no written Gospels or Epistles as yet.  But as our Gospel today recounts, the Apostles had been given their marching orders when Jesus appeared to them and the prophecies in the Jewish scriptures had been interpreted for them.  The light had come on; they were changed people, and didn’t give a hoot what they authorities would do to them because Jesus had told them they would experience the same resurrection and life with him if they believed.  They were fearless witnesses for the Lord and it worked- they converted many people over to their side.

This Sunday we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.  Jesus has promised that he will extend mercy to all who repent and believe no matter what they have done.  Even the Roman Tribune was forgiven, and his was the sword that pierced Jesus.  Our readings today deal with the “believe” part of the Divine Mercy promise. We have not seen, but we can still  believe; we can all have the same fearless faith that Jesus is asking us to embrace, a faith that Jesus Christ is risen; He is risen indeed.  We can all believe because we have heard it all from eye witnesses.  Yes, all of us who believe will be forgiven and will rise with him to a new life.  And if we really did believe and act on that.  Oh what a difference that would make!