Archive for May, 2017

Being a Witness for Christ

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1: 15-23; Lk 24: 44-53
Dc. Larry Brockman

You know, I experienced a kind of “aha” experience when I first read the readings for today.

When Jesus was alive and living amongst his disciples, his prayers and meditations and communications with God the Father were very much like our own are right now. Jesus was bound by the same limitations that all of us have as mere humans because Jesus was fully human. But over time, and with constant prayer and meditation, Jesus came to know God the Father and trust in him. His relationship with God became very close- much closer than ours. And Jesus came to know who he was- the Son of God and the Messiah. But still, he was like us, so his ability to communicate with the Father remained limited. As a result, there was a lack of clarity, of certainty, of completeness in his knowledge and in his words. Jesus’ ability to communicate God’s plan to us was thus limited. Notice that he even admitted that when he said that “Only the Father knows”.

But after the Resurrection, Jesus was fully divine, and had full knowledge of God and everything God the Father knew. And so, Jesus words after the Resurrection are powerful and direct messages to us, unfiltered and unencumbered by any of his former human limitations. That’s what makes the post Resurrection accounts in the Gospels over the last six weeks so special. The words convey important messages to us and they convey them in a manner that we can understand within the human limitations that we have. They are direct words from God. Such is the case for the Ascension.

In today’s account from Acts, Jesus finds the Apostles still in a state of doubt and uncertainty about what his role as the Messiah was all about. They wanted to know if the Kingdom of Israel was going to be restored right then. Jesus answer is very cryptic: “It is not for you to know”. You see, he is not talking about a worldly restoration of a Kingdom at all. Rather, he is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. Then he tells the Apostles that they will be empowered by the Holy Spirit and that they are to be his witnesses over the entire world.

Do you know what it means to be a witness for Jesus? It means two things: First, it means that the events in the Gospel need to be retold, repeated, and remembered for all in the future. The promise of salvation and everlasting life needs to be repeated. But it also means that the way of life that Jesus admonished needs to be lived by his witnesses. His witnesses need to bear witness to both his testimony and his way of life.

The Gospel of Matthew says something similar. First, Jesus says that all power has been given to him on heaven and earth. This statement validates that Jesus is now fully divine and has full knowledge of God the Father and His will. Then Jesus says that the Apostles must go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This direction from Jesus is one of the most direct messages from God that we have received. It is after the Resurrection, after Jesus has been fully empowered and is no longer encumbered by human nature.

So, this is what all of us have been commissioned to do: To be Witnesses for Christ, and to convert the World by Baptizing all nations. And Baptism means confessing our sins, repenting of them, and dying to self. Through Baptism we are all reborn by water and the spirit to a new life dedicated to Jesus and the Church.

Now, all of us have this mission; not just some of us, but all of us. It is a life-long commitment and mission.

In the very beginning of his Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul commissioned the first Christians in Ephesus by blessing them and sending them forth to perform this Baptismal Mission. It was a beautiful blessing that requested that the Ephesian converts be given wisdom and knowledge of God,and that they work through the Body of Christ, His Church. All of you gathered here today are part of the body of Christ, his Church. You are the witnesses of both the events of the Gospel and the way of Christ for this community. You have been blessed with the knowledge and wisdom of Christ.

Many of your companions will be depressed, disheartened, or even despairing in the face of old age and physical or mental impairments. But your Faith as Christians can save them. You are the witnesses that they need to realize that God loves them and has an incredible future in store for them. You are their messengers of hope and a joyful future. Amen.

Waiting “A Little While” Longer.

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Thursday of Sixth Week of Easter
Acts 18:1-8; Jn 16: 16-20
Dc. Larry Brockman

“A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me”. These were puzzling remarks to the disciples. And even more puzzling was Jesus’ explanation. “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

Surely, the words that Jesus spoke in today’s Gospel were intended for his Apostles and disciples. The first little while thus corresponds to the time leading to his Crucifixion; and indeed, after that Jesus would be gone from them and all would seem lost.they would be weeping and mourning. And the second “little while” refers to Jesus appearances after the Resurrection. Indeed, their grief would turn to joy.

But Jesus’ words in this Gospel were also ultimately directed to all of us. For the “little while” that we live in this world, we will not “see” God the Father nor His Son in the same way that the disciples and Apostles saw Jesus in the flesh. The world and its disciples have in fact rejoiced in that, because Jesus did not “restore” any Jewish Kingdom nor did he establish any theocracy. The secular world, under the orchestration of the devil, continues to play havoc with mankind whenever and wherever it can. And so, we weep and mourn and we suffer, not unlike Jesus suffered at the hands of evil men.

But for those of us who follow Jesus, our sorrow will turn to Joy because we will see God “in a little while”. Compared to eternity, any lifespan here as a human is just a little while. And so any pain, suffering, or boredom we have to endure in this world is just for “a little while” in the end.

Recently I saw a man in the hospital suffering from an incurable disease. He had listed himself as a Catholic but had rejected the Church and God 30 years ago. He rejected God because his father suffered greatly, and despite his fervent prayer for his father, His father died. The man could not forgive God for what happened to his father. It has been that way for 30 years.

Now, he is suffering from an incurable disease himself and is facing the end of life. He has denied God and is in a panic. I could sense the horror and despair that he was feeling as he shared his life with me; he was scared that he could not be reconciled with God. I prayed over him and told him about God’s infinite mercy.

Fortunately, all of us believe in a God who is infinitely merciful; a God who loves every creature he made, and is always trying to get us back in harmony with Him. He will forgive us anything, as long as we forgive anyone who wronged us. The mercy and love of God are always there for us going forward as long as we repent and embrace Jesus beginning right now.

And the best part is that although we may have to grieve for a while, our grief will be turned to joy in just “a little while”.

Passing On Our Heritage

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Dc. Larry Brockman

Last Sunday, 130 children made their First Communion here. And this coming Sunday, another 130 will make their First Communion here. It’s a very special time for these children and their families because the core of our Catholic Faith is being passed on to the next generation.

You see, we are all called at Baptism to live as witnesses to our Catholic Faith. Witnesses are those who actively display their Faith and spread it to others. Witnesses are not reclusive, they are not silent. Witnesses are active in this world; they are very much part of the world. But today’s society is corrupted with doubt and cynicism and secular values. Our children need food for their journey. They need the Eucharist.

Today, we are gathered to adore and worship Jesus who is truly present body and soul and divinity In the Eucharist. It is essential that we all recognize that the Eucharist is the life giving food that sustains us in our journey as evangelizers in this world.
When Anna notified all of us about today’s Benediction, she described the first apparition at Fatima some 100 years ago. The light of Christ touched those children. We can be touched by Christ in a similar way when we consume the Eucharist. It penetrates us to the core; and can enable us to do God’s will for us. It is our food for the rest of our journey. Let us pray that all of us will truly believe that:

Lord, shed from us all vestiges of our unbelief. So that the light of Christ will consume us in the Eucharist And give us the courage and the power To vanquish the evil in our midst, by our words and deeds in your name. Amen.

Let God Be Your Teacher

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Thursday of Third Week of Easter

Acts 8:26-40; Jn 6: 44-51

Dc. Larry Brockman

“They shall all be taught by God”.  These are Jesus’ words at the beginning of the Gospel- a quote from the prophets.   

Now I am sure that most of us glossed over that when we heard it.  Of course we are all taught by God. Really?   

One of the things we discover about those who teach us at a very early age, is that to learn, we have to listen, and believe what the teacher tells us without question.  Likely our first teachers were our parents.  And fortunately for most of us, we blindly accepted the words and instructions of our parents as toddlers.  We believed; we had faith.  And so we learned the basics- how to talk, how to walk, how to eat, how to love.   

Then we went to school.  We believed that the pattern in the book is an “A” just because we were told so by the teacher.  We also believed that the sound of an “A” is “ah”.  And so, we learned to read.  Indeed, we accepted a lot about what our first teachers told us without question.   

This is the sense of what it means deep down when Jesus quotes the prophets:  “They shall all be taught by God”.  God’s word on everything is the absolute truth.  If we want; we can be taught by God by believing on Faith what he tells us because we can absolutely trust God.   

But the fact is that as we grow up,  we learned that our other teachers could not be trusted absolutely.  There were times that our parents, teachers, and other folks in authority either didn’t know the truth, didn’t tell the truth, or didn’t understand the truth adequately.  Similarly, there were things that we discovered were ambiguous- the truth wasn’t clear sometimes.  And so, we learned to “think for ourselves” and to pick and choose to believe from what we heard. 

Unfortunately, many folks have applied this rationale to the things that God wants us to learn about him.  We test everything God tells us sort of like we test the things we hear from other sources.  And when we test it, we use our rationale.  It’s as if we put our thought process ahead of the wisdom of God.   

Real Faith is coming to believe in what God has told us simply because God has said so.  We cannot always reason it out; some of it is a mystery.  That is why Jesus says we need to have faith like a little child.   

Now the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunoch that we just heard is a great example of accepting on Faith what God has to say.  Here is a man who is totally foreign to the Jews.  He has somehow been attracted to the Jewish Scriptures, and is seeking the truth.  Jesus talks about such a person in the Gospel.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”.  That is what happened to the Ethiopian- God was drawing him to the truth.  And Phillip opens his eyes to what it all means by relating the prophecy of Isaiah to all that happened to Jesus.  What faith this Ethiopian man had- he truly had the Faith of a child.  He accepted the word of God without challenging it.   

This Gospel addresses some of the most important elements of our Faith.  We are all called to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, rose from the dead, and gave us the Eucharist as the bread of life.  All of us are called to live a Christian life daily, and to be witnesses to the world.  We are called to live in the world- not to withdraw from it.  But to live in this secular world with conflicting values and voices, we need all the help we can get.  Jesus promises us that He is bread of life in this Gospel.  The Eucharist is that bread of life, and it is available to us as often as we seek it.  When we really believe that Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist,  and relish those few moments after we receive Him, then we will be given all the strength we need, all the graces we need, to be Christian witnesses in the face of an ever increasing secular world; to bear our share of the hardships which life brings us; to love our neighbors as ourselves; and to forgive as God forgives us. 

And those who truly believe like this will live forever.