Archive for September, 2016

Mercy for Abortion Victims

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Blessing of the Memorial to the Unborn

Deacon Larry Brockman

As we gather together to bless our memorial to the unborn,  let us recall some very insightful words from our newest canonized saint- St. Theresa of Calcutta.  St. Theresa said, and I quote:  “Abortion kills twice.  It kills the body of the baby and it kills the conscience of the mother.  Abortion is profoundly anti-women.  Three quarters of its victims are women: half the babies and all the mothers.” End quote.

St. Theresa was always keen in her understanding of the poor.  And the poorest of the poor are those whose spirits are broken.  Truly, St. Theresa understood the long term implications of abortion- that the women who have abortions are wounded, broken, and suffering- they are victims, poor in spirit.

Studies have shown that in the first weeks after an abortion, the majority of women are emotionally paralyzed by the event, some 80 percent.  They don’t want to talk about it; they can’t talk about it.  By the 8th week, some begin to open up.  Those that do, express negative feelings and emotions-  55% express guilt; 44 percent experience nervous disorders; and 31 percent regret their decision.  More than one in ten required psychotropic medication from their doctors just to cope.

And, it doesn’t seem to get better with time.  In a Canadian study done over 5 years,  25 percent of post abortive women made visits to psychiatrists, some 6 times higher than the control group.  Other studies over multiple populations have shown that post abortive women are from 4 to 6 times more suicidal.  Post abortive women are indeed victims, they are poor in spirit.  St. Theresa understood this.  And as with other victims, St. Theresa understood the need for the Church to be merciful to such victims and minister to them.

All of us gathered here are sickened by the blight of abortion.  It has taken over 40 million American lives in less than 50 years; and almost 25% of American women have had abortions sometime in their lifetime.  There are avowed “Catholics” at the highest levels of our government defending a woman’s “right” to abortion.  The clinics are unhealthy and data shows it’s all about the money for the providers.  Despite having fought the problem for decades, we don’t seem to be winning.  And so, we project anger and disgust at this major problem.  This anger and disgust is certainly justified.  It’s easy to be angry at the system; it’s easy to be angry that people make the wrong decision.

But we need to understand something very profound about our anger.  Our attitudes can be misunderstood by the surviving victims of abortion- the post abortive women.  Our anger and frustration can be interpreted as a lack of willingness to extend mercy to them.  At a time when these women feel guilty and abandoned,  when they have recognized that they have made a mistake, and that they need to take a step to make a change in their lives;  it is at exactly that time, they may feel shut out by those who can help the most because they sense the anger we have over abortion, and they interpret that anger as being directed at them.

St. Theresa understood that; and she was always there to open the fount of mercy that God has for his people.  All of us are sinners in one way or another.  All of us need the mercy that God is willing to extend to us.  One of the things that is special about Christianity is the fact that God is a God of Love; and that God is love.  God loves all of us.  And there is much rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.  All of us have an obligation to make that love apparent to our brothers and sisters who need it the most.

Pope Francis has commissioned all of us to extend mercy during this year of Mercy.  His papal message made it clear that the Church needs to go out where the people are rather than wait for them to come to us.  That is a challenge.  But chances are, every one of us knows someone who has had an abortion.  They are likely hurting in the ways I indicated earlier.  But they have separated themselves from the Church.

I go to Health Central Hospital twice a week to help the chaplain.  The Chaplain sends me to all those who indicated they are Catholic on the incoming census.   Last Ash Wednesday I distributed ashes there.  As I entered one patient’s room, and asked the lady if she would like ashes.  She told me she no longer goes to Church because, because…  She just knew that she was not worthy of receiving ashes.  I told her that God loves all his creation, and that He is constantly looking for his lost ones.  I told her that she was precisely the kind of person who needed that Ash Wednesday blessing the most.

But there simply are not enough Deacons and Priests to go around to minister to all of these women like that.  That’s where all of you come in.  These post abortive women are all around us.  They may be defensive about their situation; they may be tight lipped about it; or they may be openly distraught and in despair.  But with our eyes and ears, we need to be Christian witnesses and bring them back to the fold.  Through our help, we can turn these victims into strong soldiers for Christ.

At the end of every Mass, it is my privilege to say these words.  Hopefully, you will take them to heart because that is what we need to bring post-abortive women back into the fold.  “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”.

Do You Love God?

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Thursday of 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary

Romans 8: 28-30Mt 1: 18-23

By Deacon Larry Brockman

Do you love God?    Most of us would say “yes”, we do love God;  but if you’re honest, there’s a twinge of something in the back of your mind, a doubt almost.  Because when you come right down to it, loving God is something that is hard to verbalize and visualize.

You can love your spouse, your parents, your children, and other people partly because you can visualize them.  They are there in flesh and blood to hug, to share and to reciprocate affection and love.  You can feel it and visualize it.  But loving God is different, isn’t it?  You can say you love God when you pray, and for most of us, the response from God is mostly silent, or subtle at best.

Paul speaks eloquently of the Love of God this morning.  He says that:  “We know that all things work for good for those who love God who are called according to His purpose”.  So very simply, we show that we love God by accepting the call God has given us; and the proof that we are truly loving God will be that God assures that all things will work for good when we do that.  Loving God shows results by fulfilling God’s plan.  And that “good” is something that we can see; it’s like the hug we receive from our loved ones.

Of course the “good” that Paul is talking about is an ultimate good, the good that God intends.  That doesn’t always match the “good” that people seek on their own.  So, one has to be particularly discerning about the good we sense.  Some of us have special talents- artistic or technical or sporting or any number of other skills.  When we use those talents and skills the way they were intended, we feel good inside- a validation that things are working for good.  Many of you do things for other people- caring for the sick, helping those in need; teaching; and a whole host of other things.  They make us feel good as well; and that is an expression of the good that God intends.

This morning we are celebrating the birth of the Blessed Mother.  And our Gospel speaks of the prophecy God made to Mary using the Angel Gabriel through the eyes of her husband Joseph, who received validation of that prophecy when an angel of the Lord appeared to him and gave him the same message as Mary about the baby Jesus.

Both Mary and Joseph accepted God’s will for them; they married under less than ideal circumstances; and parented the child Jesus because it was God’s will for them.  Joseph did not divorce Mary but accepted her as his wife; Mary accepted that the child inside her was God’s child.  They both lived their lives by parenting Jesus in the best way they knew how.  They were called to a relatively straightforward, yet important task.

It’s something most of us have done or will do as well-  marry under less than an ideal situation, and parent children.  It is an awesome responsibility to parent any child-  they are a fantastic gift to any family.  But that is also what most of us have or will do.

My point is that neither Mary nor Joseph was asked to do anything tremendously extraordinary in life.  They didn’t invent the i- phone; they didn’t lead an army to victory; they didn’t write a best seller; they didn’t break any world sporting records.  They just parented the child Jesus, accepting the trials and tribulations of everyday life along the way.  For some of us, we may not be called to do extraordinary things in this life either.  But that’s OK, it is only necessary that we follow the calling we do have.  And all things will work for good when we do that.

Now the good that Mary and Joseph worked was not the good that the world expected.  The Messiah that the Jews expected was a King, someone in the image of a David or Solomon.  That isn’t what Jesus became; and yet, Mary knew.  Mary knew that Jesus was special; and all things were working for good through Him.  In the same way, we will know when things truly work for the good of God.  We will see it in our children and their lives.

Of course, like God and his children, we have to let go of our children at some point because they have free will, and are open to choose to follow God’s will for them or not.  But no matter what they do, we will still always love them.  It’s like the Love we are supposed to have for God- with our whole mind, our whole heart, and our whole soul, isn’t it.

Do you love God that way?

How to be a Disciple of Christ

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wis 9: 13-18b; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14: 25-33

By Deacon Larry Brockman

Today Mother Theresa has been canonized a Saint.  And clearly, Mother Theresa was a disciple of Christ.

So, what does it take to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Well, that is the topic of our readings today.  And, clearly, one cannot become a disciple of Christ  without putting aside conventional wisdom, and embracing wisdom from above.  That’s the message to all of us this morning in our readings; and it’s the message that St. Theresa of Calcutta broadcast throughout her life.

First, let us consider the context of the Gospel.  Jesus has been working miracles, curing the lame and the sick.  And a great multitude has gathered and is following him.  The people are enthusiastic and hungry for more.  But Jesus turns on them suddenly, and says:  “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother,   Wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life,   He cannot be my disciple”.  Pretty strong words!

Some of the great doctors of the Church have struggled over those words, even asking the question,  “How can we be told by Jesus we must hate our own flesh and blood, when he has also told us to love everyone”?  But you see, Jesus was a master at shock treatment with many of his words and preaching.  This is a perfect example, because our fathers, mothers, wives, children, brothers and sisters, and all of the pleasures that life has to offer, must be secondary to our relationship with God if we are to find our way into the Kingdom of God.  And it takes shock therapy like Jesus’ words today to get us to realize that.

Simply put, we need to “hate” anything that tends to derail God’s plan for us, and our efforts to live it accordingly, even when the obstacles are our loved ones and living life for ourselves.  Yes, we are being asked to sacrifice our personal interests when that is needed to assure that we make an effort to follow Jesus.

If you are willing to look closely at your life, you can see areas where life gets in the way.  Sleeping in on Sunday Morning; sports events, family parties, trips out of town, and kids sporting events are a few examples.  None of those things are bad, and in fact, they are all good as far as that goes.  But they can be obstacles in maintaining our relationship with God and in following after Jesus if we allow them to.

Our second reading gives an interesting example about the kind of sacrifice we are called to make.  You see, Paul’s letter to Philemon was a letter to a well-to-do person whom Onesimus had served as a slave.  Onesimus had escaped, and ended up attending to Paul while Paul was in prison.  Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon, but there is a catch.  Paul is asking Philemon to accept Onesimus as an equal.  So, in a time and culture in which slavery was accepted, and a personal slave considered a status symbol, Paul is asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus for escaping; refrain from punishing him; refrain from putting him back into slavery; and accept him as an equal.   Wow! That was asking a lot.

But the reality is that all of us need to let go of something that’s holding us back from being the Christian we are called to be.  Maybe it’s some combination of those little things I mentioned, but it can also be some major attachment or habit or personal relationship, like the one that Philemon had for his slave.

And notice that the thing that might hold you back the most, is what society thinks of you.  For example, if Philemon accepted Onesimus back as an equal, then Roman society would have thought of him as a fool, a weakling, a loser.  That kind of societal pressure can be hard to take.

But Jesus tells us that:  “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  Yes, we have to embrace our crosses and follow him, turning away from what other people think, turning away from gratifying our flesh and blood.

But we cannot do it alone, can we.  Solomon understood that, as we saw in the first reading.  First, Solomon pointed out how difficult it is for us to grasp the mind of God on our own.  Then he writes:  “Or who can know your counsel, unless you give Wisdom and send your holy spirit from on high”.  Yes, it is the Holy Spirit that we need to identify God’s will for us, and our associated cross.  Our cross is simply the obstacles that the world and the agents of evil throw into our path along the way.  Those obstacles can be a pile of little things that divert us; or a major obstacle like the one Philemon had, including peer pressure to belong to our current culture.

So, let all of us reflect a bit on our lives.  First, call upon the Holy Spirit for the Counsel of the most high.  Then ask yourself this question.  What is holding you back from accepting your cross?  What do you have to turn away from, even “hate”, in order to accept Jesus’ invitation.