Archive for August, 2017

A Wake Up Call From Jesus

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

Thursday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time
1 Thes 3: 7-13; Mt 24: 42-51
Dc. Larry Brockman

I hear it all the time: I’m too busy right now; maybe later on when my life calms down, after the kids have left for school; or after I take care of remodeling the house; or after the peak in my business; or after any number of things; then I will get in tune with the Lord and his will for me. Chances are, after the kids go to school, you will remodel your house, and then work harder during the business peak, and then something else will come up.

Today’s Gospel is intended to wake all of us up. Now is the time to pay attention to what the Lord has in mind for you- yes, right in the midst of your busy daily life; and right in the midst of all the special circumstances. God is calling you even then; maybe even especially then, to listen to what he has in mind for you.

You see, like the steward the Lord put in charge of his property, The Lord has entrusted you with gifts and talents and service to others. You are called to live out your Baptismal promise to believe in Him and to serve others on his behalf; to love others as Christ has loved you. It is a promise you made in exchange for membership in the Kingdom of God when you were Baptized. It is our challenge to always be in touch with God during the midst of life’s secular activity and to respond to him in real time, not our time, when he calls us.

Tell me this seriously. Which of us hasn’t swept aside the voices we hear pleading for help, and proceeded to live life according to our plans instead? The crisis in Texas is an example. It would seem that all of us should and can do something- it’s not just FEMA’s problem or the President’s problem or the Governor of Texas’s problem. There’s a tremendous crisis effecting hundreds of thousands of our own people right now.

If we ignore that crisis, isn’t it a little bit like the steward who beat his servants, shirking his responsibilities; and then partied away into the night? Jesus tells us that the Lord could come at any time and that the persons he has entrusted with much will be held accountable for their actions.

So will we. We are just as accountable for sins of omission as sins of commission. The Lord could come at any time.

So do yourself a favor. Stay awake; stay in tune; listen to the call of those in real need. And always take the time to do something. We are people with time, talent, and treasure. We can pray; we can donate; we can volunteer. But we all should be doing something. We can never be too busy to serve the Lord. After all, all of those affected are part of the Body of Christ.

Who do You Say that Jesus Is?

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 22: 19-23; Rom 11: 33-36; Mt 16: 13-20
Dc. Larry Brockman

Just exactly who is Jesus to you? Is he a voice in the wilderness; a friend; a moral teacher? Or is he something deeper than that? Specifically, is he your Lord and Savior; and is he God himself?

The reason I ask is that it’s hard for us to conceive that another person, who was a human being, could actually be our Lord and Savior, and God himself. That seems a stretch of our powers of reasoning. God made everything- that makes him so far above us in intelligence and capability. That means God is transcendent, far above everyone and everything. And that’s the concept of God held in most religions- especially in Islam and Judaism. It’s really hard to imagine how the transcendent God could take on our limited form and limited intelligence, living within the constraints of humankind, and still be God.

The fact is, that the Jews wouldn’t even pronounce the name of God that was revealed to Moses, Yahweh. Such was their respect for the transcendence of God. As we listened to Paul’s letter to the Romans, we heard that theme as well: “Oh, the depth and riches and wisdom and knowledge of God”. And: “For who has known the mind of the Lord”.

Such would have been the dilemma of the Apostles in today’s Gospel When they were asked by Jesus who he was. These people lived with Jesus; they were with him all the time. They knew that he was special; yet he was just like them. He was like them in culture, religion, stature in society- he was a simple carpenter. But then, there were all those signs and miracles he worked. Still, a faithful Jew of the day, familiar with the scriptures, would have remembered the many signs and wonders that Moses and Elijah and the other prophets had worked. They had indeed worked many miracles that prefigured the works of Jesus, including healings, rising people from the dead, and feeding crowds. And yet, there was just something about Jesus that made him so special. But they had been raised to have the utmost of respect for the Transcendent God. How could they say that Jesus is the Messiah and God?

What it comes down to is that the Apostles, just like you and me, had to come to the conclusion that Jesus was God on Faith. And that Faith was instilled in them by God the Father through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. That is precisely what Jesus said to Peter in the Gospel. When asked by Jesus who he was, Peter, speaking both for himself and as a spokesman for the others, Proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, and the Son of the living God; and so Jesus blessed Peter for proclaiming that because “flesh and blood” didn’t reveal it to him; rather the heavenly Father did.

Indeed, Jesus ushered in an entirely new concept of God- a God who was still far above us- transcendent; but a God who would always be close to us- intimate with us. And the intimacy came by God sharing His son Jesus with us, Jesus who is both true God and true man. It’s a matter of Faith, but all of us who have Faith profess with our lips that Jesus is our God and our Savior.

Now all of this sounds just fine from an intellectual perspective. We can understand that Jesus is God and Savior. But can we move beyond that? Justt how do we put it into practice? How do we live our lives recognizing Jesus as both an intimate friend and Almighty God?

First, we do it by showing the true respect shown to Almighty God. We do that by keeping the Sabbath and making God a priority in our daily lives; then by developing an intimate relationship with Him. You can show respect by listening to what Jesus tells you in your intimate relationship with him.

Each of us will be receiving Communion in just a few minutes. Jesus has left us Communion as a memorial of his intimacy with us. He is present, both as a human and divine person in the Communion we receive. In those few moments at Communion, praise the Almighty God that He is; thank Him for his ever-present relationship with you; and ask Him for the peace of mind and guidance that only God can provide; then listen to the small, still voices of your friend- your Savior and Lord.

Forgiving Our Trespassers

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Thursday of 19th Week in Ordinary Time
Josh 3: 7-10a, 11, 13-17; Mt 18: 21 – 19: 1
Dc. Larry Brockman

Recently, I saw a lady in the hospital who was recovering from a terrible automobile accident. A 19 year old woman had driven her car through a red light and hit her friend’s car broadside, killing her friend who was driving. This lady was the lucky one, a passenger in the car who survived; but she had a broken arm and broken leg, and several internal injuries. And she was bitter, not really thankful her life had been spared. She really wanted to talk, and during our talk, the topic of forgiveness came up. She looked at me with piercing eyes and said there was no way she could forgive the woman that killed her friend.

Today Jesus tells us we must forgive, not just once, but 7 times 70 times. Now that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to forgive the 491st time. Rather, 7 times 70 means as many as needed.

You know what? It is impossible for me to envision the Kingdom of God any other way. Let me explain. First, for every offense someone has committed against us; we have likely offended someone else the same way. Isn’t that the point of the parable today? And many of the times we offend others are we not even aware of it. Someone plays the radio too loud; someone parks his car too close to yours; someone makes an unkind or nasty remark without thinking; someone nicks the side of your car with their car door; someone cuts you off in traffic; someone won’t let you cut in; someone cuts the line at the movies or grocery store. That someone is likely you as often as it is done to you! And these are all little things; but they all require forgiveness. Most of us can live and let live on these little things; but have we forgiven the offenders, or have we just let it go?

Then secondly, there are the “big” offenses that we find harder to let go of and forgive- like the car accident the lady in the hospital experienced. Now this category includes lots of things, like family arguments and disagreements where people stop communicating; and things that separate us from parents or children or friends or coworkers, maybe even permanently. And there are the various ways people cheat each other with money- cheating people out of an inheritance; cheating them in a business deal. There are those who do violence against us; and of course, there are those who say things about us that we just cannot forgive. We can conceive of a whole lot of “big” unforgivable offenses like these. That said, we have an obligation to recognize the sins that we have committed and to go confess them so that we are right with God.

Let’s face it, we have all done things that we know are wrong and have hurt someone else, including some of the things mentioned above. So we go to Confession and ask for forgiveness from God. In fact, we actually expect God to forgive us for those sins, don’t we? Because He has told us that he will forgive us those sins we confess, right.

But he has also told us this: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And today he tells us we need to forgive those who trespass against us 7 times 70 times. Why? Because when he forgives us, and we go to the Kingdom of God, we will be amongst all those people who “trespassed against us!” All of us will need to love and accept everyone that is in the Kingdom of God; and we simply can’t do that unless we have forgiven them, no matter how often they have hurt us. That’s why I can’t envision a Kingdom of God without this kind of radical forgiveness.

Let me ask each of you to do something this morning. Examine your life and find one person that you have told yourselves the proverbial “7 times 70 times” that you cannot or will not forgive them; and forgive them from the heart so that you would be comfortable in the coming Kingdom of God.

Listening to the Lord in Adversity

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Westminster Towers Ecumenical Service
1 Kings 19: 3-16
Dc. Larry Brockman

I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a single one of you that hasn’t had to deal with adversity during your long lives: the loss of a loved one; job loss; sickness or infirmity; natural disasters; the effects of war; or psychological disasters. Indeed “Into every life, a little rain must fall”.

But how about some drastic adversity that happens even when you feel you are right with God, something that happens in your life that leaves you spellbound; where your emotions include fear, a feeling of loss of control, panic, and more; and despite your abiding faith? A situation like that calls for strong faith; yet it is your faith is that is being tested, isn’t it?

Now ultimately, each of us needs to recognize that God is in control. When we think we are in control and things are going well, then all is fine. But when things don’t go well even when we think we are right with God, then we lose heart and begin to doubt. Something drastic happens, and we panic when we experience the feeling of loss of control. Just what can we do in such cases?

I have some close friends who are in just such a situation now- a lovely couple who have been married nearly 55 years. The lady has terminal cancer that has spread rapidly. Her caretaker husband recently had a heart attack that has been complicated by other issues. He is in near panic because he cannot care for his wife any more in the condition he is in. He feels he has been doing everything right. He asks, “Why has God abandoned me.” He feels things are out of control.

Well, such is the situation with Elijah in our reading. Elijah, as he says in the reading, believes he has been most zealous for the Lord; but despite his best efforts, he is in trouble and is in a panic. To understand why, let me present some background.

The King of Israel, Ahab, has married a pagan woman named Jezebel. She is an evil woman, a “femme fatale” if there ever was one. She has corrupted her husband and the Israelites with her pagan religion, worshiping the god Baal. She has killed virtually all of the Israelite Prophets except Elijah. And her husband Ahab has deferred to her in everything. At first, there is prosperity. But then Israel is hit by a severe draught. And all the Prophets of Jezebel’s false god Baal have been assembled to pray for rain. Elijah challenges them, proposing a burnt offering of a fine ram. But the fire must be set by calling on their God to start it. The prophets of Baal accept the challenge, but after many hours of invocation, they fail. Finally, Elijah sets his ram on the altar near the end of the day. He then calls on his servants to douse the altar and kindling three times with water. Even so, when Elijah calls for fire from the Lord, Elijah’s prayers are answered and the altar is consumed by fire.

This so impresses the people, that they follow Elijah’s lead to chase away the prophets of Baal, who are all slain by the sword, all 450 of them! Then Elijah waits for the fulfillment of the successful offering to the Lord. And indeed, despite all indications to the contrary, including a cloudless blue sky; in a sudden change, a deluge of rain descends on Israel.

Nevertheless, when Jezebel hears of what Elijah has done, she vows to have Elijah killed. Knowing that Jezebel is the real power, Elijah flees in panic- and today’s reading tells us what happens next.

Notice the emotions which Elijah is experiencing. First, he is afraid. Why? Because he has done right by the Lord, and he has shown the false god Baal as just that, a false god. Not only that, he brought rain through the Lord to end the draught. And yet, things are still out of control and he is still under attack. He feels the Lord has abandoned him.

Second, he is at wits end. He doesn’t know what to do next. In his mind, he was worked the ultimate miracles in the face of the full force of the enemy. By invoking the Lord’s name, he has successfully offered the sacrifice to the Lord where the prophets of Baal have failed. And what is more, these false prophets have been slain and the draught ended. What more can he do? How much more adversity can he face. And so, he runs away, runs away without a plan. He says, “I’ve had enough, I can stand no more; take me, my life is at an end.” And after a long journey into the desert, he falls asleep under a broom tree.

But an angel awakens him and urges him to eat and drink. A cake and water are provided for him. Now this cake symbolizes the “bread of life”- like the manna in the desert before; and like the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus gave us at the Last Supper. And as such, it represents the nourishment Elijah really needs; the presence of God within him. And so, refreshed from this nourishment, Elijah travels for 40 days and is led by the Lord to the mountain of Horeb.

40 days is a symbol as well. Just like the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 days; and just like Jesus went into the desert for 40 days to reflect; so Elijah wanders for 40 days on a journey that the Bible experts tell us would only have taken 5 days, until he comes to the mountain of Horeb, which is another name for Sanai. Elijah is being prepared for an encounter with the Lord.

Now in earlier scripture, Moses ascends Sanai only to encounter the glory of almighty God. That glory was manifest in a cloud and the wind, and in the thunder and lightning, and in fire. But things are different for Elijah. For although God is present for him during all those things; the Lord’s voice was not present in any of those things. Rather, after all the loud and boisterous commotion, the Lord’s voice is heard in a tiny whispering sound. That’s what gains Elijah’s attention.

After recognizing the presence of the Lord, Elijah first pours out his anger and frustration to the Lord. And then listens, really listens, to the Lord’s response. And what is the Lord’s response. First, “Go back.” Wow! Such a lot of meaning in so few words. It’s translates to- “Take courage, go back and face this thing head on; I will be with you; how can you doubt me, my grace is enough; look at what I have done for you so far”. And then he gives his specific direction- anoint this person as the new king; and that one as your successor. What is not obvious is that it took years, yes even years after Elijah passed away, Before the things the Lord challenged Elijah to do on his return were fulfilled.

So, there’s a strong message in that prophecy. Elijah was God’s servant; he had only to do God’s will; but he could not even expect to see it all happen on his watch. He just needed to move forward on trust; and God would provide what he needed when he needed it.

And so, when we are faced with this kind of adversity, what lessons can we learn from Elijah? First, we cannot run from the situation. It didn’t work for Elijah, and it won’t work for us. Second, if you truly believe that you are faithful to God, then trust that he will be there for you. You may not believe that angels are there for you, but think again, because most of us are helped by angels when we are in a panic- your closest friend that consoles you and helps you; the perfect stranger who just happens to show up at the right time; a minister or priest; the police; even a secular counselor. You may never even see them again, but they were your special angel at the time.

Third, you need “the bread of life”. It is there for you- Jesus Christ is always there for you. For those who believe, it is available in the Eucharist. But Jesus is just a prayer away in any event. You may need to go out into the desert- to get alone; to make free time; but He is there for you.

Fourth, it may take some time to dispel the panic and get things back under control. It takes the biblical “40 days”; which is whatever is right for you under the circumstances. That could be 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, 40 days.

Next, you have got to listen for the voice of the Lord. Normally, that voice will be a tiny whispering sound- not the strong voices of our culture and society. That’s why solitude and quiet can become important. Don’t hesitate to pour out your dilemma on the Lord first. Elijah certainly did that. But then do listen, listen to the quiet urgings in your heart.

Chances are, the message will be similar to the one the Lord gave Elijah. “Get out there and turn it over to me. I will be with you; do your best.” And lastly, do not be surprised if it all doesn’t happen the way you envision or want it to happen. After all “God’s ways are not your ways”. What is important is that your soul be at peace; that you feel the presence of God by your side at all times; and that you are trusting in God’s providence.

God loves us; all of us. His love is everlasting. He will not abandon us. He sends his angels, nourishes us, and looks after us in adversity. We have only to accept His love and listening to the tiny whispering sound.

The Treasure of the Church

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr
2 Cor 9: 6-10; Jn 12: 24-26
Dc. Larry Brockman

Today is the Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr. Not only do I share the same name, but by the grace of God, I share St. Lawrence’s Diaconal calling as well.

St. Lawrence’s story is riveting, and was recorded for us by St. Ambrose. In the third century, Lawrence served as Pope Sixtus II’s Deacon. As Pope Sixtus was being led to his execution under the Roman Emperor Valerian’s persecution, Lawrence lamented that he was not sharing in Sixtus’ fate. So Sixtus remarked to him prophetically that he also would lose his life in just three days!

Indeed, the Roman’s then summoned Lawrence and demanded the “treasures of the church” from him, knowing that Sixtus’ Deacon was the keeper of the purse. Lawrence cheerfully agreed to provide them the treasures. But Lawrence assembled all of the poor, widowed, maimed, and lepers in front of his accusers and boldly proclaimed that these were the treasures of the Church. The Romans seized Lawrence and sentenced him to be burned alive on an open grill. As Lawrence was being executed, he was allegedly heard admonishing his tortures in defiance to turn him over, he was done on one side.

St. Lawrence understood what it meant to die to oneself. He had dedicated his life in service as a Deacon, and he was obedient to Sixtus and the Church. Lawrence treasured the Christ in all of his people; the breathing, living, spirit of God; and the goodness that dwells in all of us despite what the external appearances or the assessment in the eyes of the world tells to the contrary.

Indeed, Christ does dwells in the poor, widowed, maimed, and lepers amongst us in today’s world. This includes those with severe diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and all forms of physical disabilities- today’s maimed and lepers; it includes the homeless, the jobless, victims of human trafficking and many who live day to day- todays poor; and it includes those who have lost loved ones or lost everything in some tragedy- todays widowed. There are many of these people in our affluent community. And, as in Lawrence time, they are the treasure of the Church because God desires that all of us be saved. We are the body of Christ; and the Body of Christ is the strength of the Church and the Kingdom of God.

Our Gospel parable tells us that we must put aside our own desires and allow ourselves to die to them, else we die alone and abandoned. On the other hand, if we fall to the ground, and let God take over, then we will produce much fruit.

But then after that parable, Jesus says this directly. “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” And Jesus is with all those who believe and hope in him, including the maimed, poor, and widows. Jesus goes on to say: “The Father will honor whoever serves me”. And that is our ultimate goal: to follow Jesus and share in the honor of those who serve him.

The Feast St Lawrence is a reminder that all of us are called to get involved. The suffering part of the body of Christ is all around us. They are the treasure of the Church; they are our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. We need to bring them home because that is how all of us will thrive.

As Paul tells us in today’s reading: “Whoever sows bountifully will reap bountifully;” and that “God is able to make every grace abundant for you”. So, if you know someone who is sick, struggling, losing their mobility, or recovering from a disaster; help them in their moment of need. Don’t wait to be asked. They are the treasure of the Church.

Spiritual Rule of Dominic

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Feast of St. Dominic
Dc. Larry Brockman

Today is the Feast of St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers. St. Dominic is also famous for his “rule”. In essence, this “rule” provides guidelines for living life yet maintaining spiritual discipline; a spiritual discipline that focuses on a regular set of spiritual practices as a first priority!

Now it seems to me that in our busy world, something like the rule of Dominic is badly needed for folks like you and me. Our society is saturated with noise- I-pod noise, phone noise, text message noise, TV noise, highway noise, you name it noise.

That’s why this simple centuries old Benediction ceremony is so special. Once a month we have the opportunity to give Jesus, our redeemer, undivided attention- first in adoration; and then in a quiet, scared environment, to reflect on the humdrum of daily life with all its conflicting demands; and let the Lord talk to us.

So slow down, relax, and exercise some spiritual discipline. Let this be a foundation for your own “rule”; a regular set of spiritual practices that has first priority in your life.