Archive for May, 2016

The Eucharist- A Taste of What’s to Come

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Corpus Christi

Gen 14: 18-20; 1 Cor 11: 23-26; Luke 9: 11b-17

By Deacon Larry Brockman


Today we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi.  Corpus Christi means “The Body of Christ”.

So, do you believe?  Do you really believe that The Eucharist you will receive in just a few minutes really is the body and blood of Jesus?  And why is that so important for us in our faith?

In the first reading, the ancient priest Melchizedek brought out bread and wine, blessed those gifts, and blessed Abraham and God over this basic meal.  Thus Abraham left his established home for the promised land on Faith in response to God’s original covenant promise to him.  A man whose wife was barren, who had no ancestors, was promised “salvation” for his lineage, descendants as numerous as the stars of the heavens, if he listened to the Lord and left his established home.  And so he left his home on faith, and he went with God’s blessing.  Indeed, Abraham was blessed with descendants as promised.  “Salvation” had been realized.

Later on, The Lord memorialized the Passover event in which the Israelites were saved from the power of the Egyptians.  They were promised “salvation” in the form of independence and their own land.  The Passover symbolized the covenant the Lord made with Moses.  Both Bread and Wine are integral parts of the Passover celebration in which the presider blesses the bread and wine, and the blessing cup is shared amongst all the participants, memorializing and reminding them of their salvation.

Jesus used the same two fruits of the earth at the Last Supper as the Second reading describes.  Only now, the presider is not Melchizedek or Moses, but Jesus Christ himself, the perfect priest.  The bread and wine are first blessed, and then they become the body and blood of Christ.  They no longer symbolize the salvation that was promised by Jesus Christ.  Rather, they give us a taste of that salvation.  We call, this the New Covenant.  We are invited to eat this bread and wine turned Body and Blood of Christ because when we consume the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we share in the life of the Risen Lord, a life that transcends our earthly life.

Recall our Gospel acclamation today from the Gospel of John:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  If we believe, really believe, that the Communion we will receive in just a few moments is the body of Christ, then we believe that we are participating in the everlasting life of the Risen Christ as our Gospel acclamation asserts.  And not only that, but we keep receiving this gift each and every time we receive Communion.  We become an integral part of the Mystical Body of Christ, and we are participating in the coming Kingdom of God.

The Church has the Sacrament of the Sick for those who are sick or close to death.  And part of the sacrament is “Viaticum”, which is the reception of Holy Communion.  “Viaticum” means “food for the road”.  And so, Viaticum can lead the recipient from this life to eternal life.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

But you know what?  After a while it all just seems so mechanical to us- the same old same old week after week.  We can lose our sense of awe, of reverence, over this holy sacrament and what it offers not because we are weak in faith, but because we are human.  And we just don’t hold on to the significance; we become dulled to its meaning just like we would become dulled to the joy of eating chocolate cake every day.  Rather, we need to remind ourselves constantly of the meaning of the sacrament and the joy it brings.

Jesus works a monumental miracle in the Gospel reading today.  First, he talks about the Kingdom of God, everlasting life with God.  Then, he gives them real, earthly, food, all 5,000 families; families mind you, not individuals; from just a few loaves and fishes.   Jesus performed this miracle to show us that everything is possible with God.  Our earthly food sustains us for a day.  But the Bread of Life sustains us for a life that lasts forever.

Today, when you receive Communion, remember that your everlasting life has already begun.  You are living with Christ.  And no matter whether you are agile or feeble in this world, the life and spirit of the almighty God is there for you in the Eucharist.  It is a taste of what is to come.  Amen.

Overcoming Spiritual Blindness (U)

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Thursday of the 8th Week in Ordinary Time

1 Peter 2: 2-5, 9-12; Mark 10: 46-52

Dc. Larry Brockman


Blindness!  Something all of us fear.  Imagine what it would be like not to see in this beautiful world of ours like God’s creative work in nature- the mountains and the sea; God’s gift of life- a newborn baby; or God’s energy manifest through the wonderful works made by the hand of man.

And yet even worse than physical blindness is spiritual blindness.  Jesus often criticized the Pharisees, who knew the law of the Lord, but didn’t see the intent of the law.  They suffered from spiritual blindness!  And likewise, he praised the children of the world, whose innocence and openness made them receptive and not blind.

Bartimaeus was a truly lucky man.  He was fortunate enough to be open spiritually to Jesus message because he had trained himself to be discriminating about what his senses told him.  He had to be discriminating- he couldn’t see.  And so, he was open to the “pure spiritual milk” that Peter was talking about.  He was so blessed by his simple faith, that his physical blindness was healed as well.

Lest we be too critical of the Pharisees, it is fair to say that all of us can suffer from the same kind of blindness.  First, it is easy for us who do see to be blinded by what we see and have seen.  It’s a kind of sensory overload- sight, sound, and all of the other senses bombarded by so much all day long, all the time so that we don’t see the truly meaningful amongst the chaff.  Second, we hear and see some things so often, that they don’t register with us, and their meaning can escape us.  And lastly, we are blinded by expectations based on what we have heard and seen.  Propaganda works like that.  If you show people something often enough, and tell them something often enough, they can be convinced that it is true, even when it isn’t.  Real truth, real understanding, is something that is a gift from God.

And so, “sighted” folks need to be careful.  We need time out occasionally- time to close off the loud noises and the vibrant sights; long enough so that we will be open to the “pure spiritual milk” that Peter talks about; time in which we put aside our prejudices and expectations and what everybody else is doing and saying so that we can reflect on what our conscience tells us. and what God is urging through His Spirit.  Only then can we truly say,  “I see”.

The Heavenly Church- the New Jerusalem

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 15: 12, 22-29; Rev 21: 20-24. 22-23; John 14: 23-29

By Deacon Larry Brockman


The common theme in today’s scriptures is the Church.

First we have a description of a Church with divisions among the participants.  Some people were saying that the most important thing to maintain membership in the Church is following all the rules.  And the rules they advocated were the rules they brought with them from their Jewish heritage.  They were do’s and don’ts and detailed ritual rules.  Follow the rules and you are “in”; break the rules and you are “out”.  Others were saying that the rules have changed by virtue of Jesus and the opening of the Church to the Gentiles.  What is important is following the Gospel that Jesus taught, a rule of love and openness to all people.

So, Paul and Barnabas return to Jerusalem and get a reading from the Church leaders of the time on which interpretation is correct. Should the Church carryover the old Mosaic law with Jesus teaching added to it; or should the rules be changed to emphasize the teachings of Jesus and an openness to all?  Notice that the feedback from Jerusalem includes a unanimous vote from the leaders, but it also includes the “decision of the Holy Spirit”.  This is kind of like the first Papal Action, because the decision of the Apostles is validated by the Holy Spirit. God has spoken!

And the decision is to abandon the detailed rituals such as circumcision and strict dietary laws in favor of what is reasonable for ritual practice supplemented with the teachings of Jesus on internalization of the Gospel message.  The ritual practice that Jesus left- the breaking of the bread and the opening of the word of God, were adopted.  But make no mistake about it.  The concept of the “Church” was validated.  We all need to belong to a Church to strengthen our faith and worship God communally.

This point is validated by the second reading from Revelation, which describes how the Church will ultimately evolve into the Kingdom of God.  Most Bible scholars agree that the New Jerusalem described in the book of Revelation is the new Church, the heavenly one.  It has three gates on each of four sides because it is universal, accepting all peoples from all regions of the earth.  It has high walls to protect all of the members and provide a safe haven from any harm.  And, there is no need for a temple or lights because of the presence of God forever, who provides heavenly light and is the center of all worship.

It is the objective of all of us to be part of that Church, one where we are in the presence of God continuously for ever and ever, and one where we share that presence with all of our loved ones communally, and participate in God’s Glory.  That is what is known as the Communion of Saints.

Just how do we guarantee that we will gain entrance to that Church?  Well, Jesus tells us very plainly in the Gospel:  “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”  So, all of us must love God and keep His word to dwell with him.

But then Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that even though he will be leaving this world in his human form, he will not abandon us; rather, he will send:  “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—  He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”  So, the Spirit will guide us on how we should interpret and implement Jesus teaching.

Every so often in the history of the Church the Church has gone through reformation and revision.  I think Pope Francis is reminding us today that we need to go back to our roots, kind of like the Early Churches went back to Jerusalem for a reading from those who were Jesus’ contemporaries.  Francis’ exhortation on the Family talks about maintaining all of the traditional teachings of the Church on family matters, including marriage and divorce; homosexuality; abortion and birth control.  But Francis is reminding us that our attitude towards all of God’s people must be one of love, forgiveness, and mercy.  Francis wants all of us to exhibit these properties rather than emphasize rules and regulations.  That’s why he has called on the Church leaders to use proper discernment in all of their pastoral decisions.

We need to welcome sinners as Jesus welcomed sinners and convert them by our love, not by our rule of law because we want all to join us in the heavenly Church, the New Jerusalem