Archive for November, 2017

Speaking out for Jesus at Christmas

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Thursday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
Feast of St. Andrew
Rom 10: 9-18; Mt 4: 18-22
Deacon Larry Brockman

So, according to Paul, “Their voice has gone forth to all the earth and their words to the ends of the World”. This leads us to conclude that all have had the opportunity to believe in Jesus Christ. These words condemn those who have heard and have not chosen to believe.

The problem with that is that people forget with time. I’m not talking about individual people; but “people” in the collective sense, so whole Peoples have forgotten about Christ over the course of a couple of generations. In today’s world, many of our brothers and sisters right here in this country have never heard of the real Jesus Christ; nor have many people in the rest of the Western World. Their parents have become dulled to the message of Christ for a variety of reasons: by the ravages of war, unable to reconcile a loving God with what happened; by prosperity of means, for who needs God in the midst of all the pleasures and comforts of the world; and by ignorance- a willful disinterest in learning about things of God when there is so much to overload our senses. And so, Churches and Christ can be all around us, but the people who see it have never really heard of Christ. They haven’t seen what Christ can do for them.

Also, knowledge of Christ is suppressed over a third of the World by Islam, which strictly forbids any Christian evangelization in the areas they control. And Christianity has never penetrated over large areas of Asia where Eastern religions are practiced. And so, we have a very serious problem. We need to spread the word- we need to evangelize. The need for us to be Christ to the world has never been more urgent.

St. Paul talks about confessing with the lips, and believing with the heart; and that if we do that we will be saved. That’s all of us here, right. But if that is really so, then our lives should be full of enthusiasm for Christ. After all, if you believe in your heart and confess with your lips, you would be zealous for the Lord. Others should see that; others should be moved by that; others should be anxious to find out why you are so joyful and want to know more.

But chances are, we hold back- after all, we must be politically correct- no talking of religion or politics; no expression of moral judgment in the workplace or schools; no condemnation of secular values and media for religious reasons. It’s as if we are trained to say: I’m OK; your OK; just let me believe what I believe on my own, and I will leave you alone. But that is not confessing with your lips or believing in your hearts. Keeping our faith to ourselves wasn’t good enough in Jesus’ day, and it is not good enough today.

Jesus needed a team of disciples to follow after him. He needed to preach what was right; do what he preached; and leave a legacy behind to evangelize the Gospel. That’s how people confess with their lips and believe in their hearts the Word of God.

This morning, we hear about Andrew’s call. But this Gospel is taken out of context. Jesus did not walk up to Andrew, Peter, James, and John out of the blue as these words appear to indicate out of context. Take Andrew’s case. Andrew had been an ardent disciple of John the Baptist; and had shared all of that with Peter. Andrew had also been Baptized by John; and heard John’s words about who Jesus was. So, Andrew didn’t just respond out of the blue- he had been thinking about his life for some time. When Jesus tapped Andrew for help, it pushed him over the top. He and Peter left and followed the call. They didn’t just keep it to themselves.

This time of year, we are preparing for the joyous feast of Christmas. It is central to our belief as Christians. The focus on cards, trees, cookies, parties, presents, decorations, and all of the other secular emphasis on “The Holidays” distorts the real meaning of Christmas. Let us all make a resolution this year to confess with our lips and believe with our hearts, that Jesus Christ is what Christmas is all about.

It is always “Merry Christmas”, and it is all about Christ.

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary time
Wis 7: 22b- 8: 1; Luke 17: 20-25
Deacon Larry Brockman

So, the Kingdom of God is amongst us! And yet it is not something that one can announce and point to. Such a mystery.

And it certainly is a mystery to us human beings, because we lack the wisdom to truly comprehend the concept. We confuse God’s wisdom with earthly concepts for wisdom- a mixture of intelligence and knowledge; reasoning and observations. Yet we constrain our faculties to the things of this physical world, not the least of which is the dimension of time.

One thing is certain. Those who enjoy the Kingdom of God are alive; but to be alive means more than just life in this world. Some people have embraced life in the larger sense. They prioritize a relationship with God in their earthly lives. And to be alive in this way is to have God living in them- God’s spirit motivates and graces them. These folks are privileged with the special gift that the author of Wisdom speaks about this morning. They are the “holy souls that Wisdom passes into from age to age”. They are destined to everlasting life, and since they are alive today, and they are amongst us, then the Kingdom of God is amongst us as well.

Because some people have been gifted with Wisdom, they exhibit the characteristics listed in that first reading to a greater extent than most people. There is a sense about them that exudes intelligence, holiness, and uniqueness. Their wisdom exhibits itself in many ways, is subtle, quick, and clear. It is unstained, certain, not baneful, and keen. It is unhampered by the opposition, kindly, firm, and beneficial to those who come in contact with them. They are secure, firm, and tranquil people.

If you think about some of the really holy people of our century, people like John Paul II, Padre Pio, and Mother Theresa, these characteristics leap out at us. All three of these people were unique, yet each of them exhibited the characteristics of true Wisdom to a greater extent.

But you know what? All of us are invited to be holy as these special saints were holy because all of us are invited to the heavenly Kingdom by virtue of our Baptisms. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says as much. It is God’s will that all of what the Father gave him be saved. And Jesus says that the Father gave all of us to him.

Jesus did his part: He came, he showed us the way to live life by accepting the will of the Father and suffering whatever the consequences in worldly reaction. He left the Gospel as his roadmap. And then he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, the seat of the Kingdom of God. In so doing, he opened up and paved the way for us.

Now it is up to all of us to follow his example. Our first step going forward is to seek out the Wisdom of God. When it comes, it will be a subtle knowing; a warmth that comforts our hearts when we are troubled as long as we respond to His urgings. That’s what it means to seek ye first the Kingdom of God.


Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Col 3: 15-17
Dc. Larry Brockman

This evenings Liturgy of the Hours scripture is from Colossians 3. It says: “Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness”. How timely is that? Because in just a little over a week, we will all gather with our families for the traditional Thanksgiving holiday.

But what does that really mean? Does it mean we gotta get the turkey and all the trimmings done so we can share a big feast with all the relatives in the family, while all the while our minds are occupied with many other things: time to rush to the stores for our “holiday” shopping on Black Friday; time to send out the Christmas Cards; time to put up the lights and tree; time to bake, decorate, and party; and on and on. But you know what? Maybe we should step back from all that and think about what Thanksgiving is really all about.

400 or so years ago a band of pilgrims came to this country to escape religious tyranny from the government of England. They had to scrape everything together from the land they settled on. But they set aside a day for Thanksgiving: thankful they had survived- many hadn’t; thankful they had shelter- it had been close; thankful for their food for the winter ; thankful for the friendly Indians; and thankful that they were now free of their oppressors. And not just thankful, but rather, thankful to God.

A century ago, we institutionalized this custom in this country. And so, Thanksgiving isn’t a massive celebration with food, drink, and football. Rather it is our chance to express our thankfulness to God for all that we do have; for all of our blessings. We still have our freedom of faith and we have many blessings- food, shelter, family, health, friends, and most of all, life itself. We need to express this Thankfulness to God the Father from our hearts.

Our Thanksgiving celebration is really over the infinite mercy of God that has resulted in all these blessings

You Are Called to Evangelize- You Are the Church!

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
Ezek 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; 1 Cor 3 9c-11, 16-17; John 2: 13-22
Deacon Larry Brockman

Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of St. John Lateran. St. John Lateran was the first Basilica built in Rome, pre-dating the Vatican. It was built by Constantine for the Pope in the year 314 and housed the pope for centuries. Ironically, Constantine acquired the property from his former rival’s family; and built the Basilica on what was the quarters for the horses. It was originally dedicated to St. John the Baptist; but later rededicated to St. John the Evangelist. The Basilica has been sacked several times; was ravaged by fire twice; and has fallen into disrepair occasionally. But it has always been renovated, and is one of the five major Basilicas in Rome today.

As the Bishop of Rome, it is Pope Francis’ Church, although an Arch-priest is assigned to run the Basilica. It served as the site for 5 major Church Councils, the most famous of which was the one in 1214.

From this brief history, I am certain you can see why the Church celebrates the dedication of this Basilica, a rather unusual Church Feast.

The readings all remind us of the relationship between the Church and God’s people. Obviously, the water flowing out of the temple in the Ezekiel reading has symbolic meaning since, in fact, no such water did flow from the temple. Rather, the water symbolizes the “living water” that flows from the Church. So, the water that flows is a foreshadowing of Christ himself. This living water was instituted in the Baptism of Christ; but the flow of the water may be seen as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the living water that went forth and flowed to all countries. By the grace instilled by the Holy Spirit, all Baptized persons spread this living water as they fulfill their Baptismal pledge to evangelize in word and deed. The fruit trees and other items cited represent the various ways that the Gospel, the living water, has borne fruit in those who have heard the Gospel and accepted the message.

Now in the Old Testament, there was but one Temple- the Temple in Jerusalem. It housed the ark of the covenant, and was the official place for worship because it was thought that God himself resided in the ark. Notice that the image of the flow of God from this temple is an important difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant instituted by Christ. God is no longer confined to the Holy of Holies within the temple. The water flowing from the temple shows that God is making himself accessible through his people.

In fact, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are the Church. The temple is no longer the Church. Paul says he lays the foundation for the Church based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the people are the building. He challenges them to be careful to build the Church properly on that foundation. We must always build on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Then Paul tells them that they are all temples, temples of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us following our Baptisms.

Finally, our Gospel story reinforces this concept of each of us being a temple of the Holy Spirit. Because it makes clear that Jesus himself was referring to the temple of his body as he addressed the Scribes and Pharisees. Indeed, each of us as a temple of the Holy Spirit bear the responsibility for keeping and spreading the word of God. And God’s will is that all people be evangelized through the graces of the Holy Spirit which we receive at Baptism.

And so, as we gather in this fine Church building to worship God and to receive the Eucharist that is food for our spiritual journey, recognize that our real challenge is to do what the Deacon proclaims at the end of each Mass: to “go forth in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life” because you are the vehicle by which the living water flows; you are the Church that shares God with the masses.

Living as Priests, Prophets, and Kings

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mal 1:14b – 2: 2b, 8-10; 1 Thes 2: 7b-9, 13; Mt 23: 1-12
Deacon Larry Brockman

Hypocrisy and pride! These are central themes in our readings today. And those who acted as priests of the people were the central characters. But in the New Covenant, all of us are made priests, prophets, and kings at Baptism. And so, these words of warning by the prophet Malachi and by Jesus apply to all of us in our roles as Baptized people.

During each Mass, we hear that Jesus is a priest forever in the line of the high priest Melchisedek, Have you ever wondered what that means? Well, in the days of Abraham and earlier, priests of the High God were first born sons and Kings. They offered first fruits as priestly offerings and they governed either their families or tribes as king.

That all changed during the Exodus when the Israelis fashioned a golden Calf for their God. Through Moses, God established the Levitical Priesthood to atone for this great sin of the Israelis. The animal offerings they offered were a constant reminder of that sin and their need to keep the Law. But these offerings would never be able to atone for sin because they were offered by an imperfect priest who had to be from the tribe of Levi. God promised to favor his people if they kept his laws. But the Israelis broke the Law of the Covenant over and over.

In the time of King David, the Lord promised a Messiah from the house of Judah, not from the house of Levi One who would be a first born son. He would be a Priest and King, like Melchisedek of Old.

For the last two months I have been leading a Bible Study on the book of Hebrews. The central theme of Hebrews is that the Levitical priesthood of the Old Covenant became obsolete and was replaced by the Priesthood of Jesus Christ and his Apostles through the Church. Jesus fulfilled the promise made to King David. He was a first born Son from the house of Judah, not a Levite. The sacrificial offering of himself on the cross and subsequent Resurrection and Ascension accomplished what the Old Covenant priesthood could never do.

In our first reading, Malachi points to another fault of the Old Testament Priests. In Malachi’s days these priests also served as judges- arbitrators of the law. Malachi calls these priests biased and hypocritical by showing partiality in their decisions and giving false instruction in the law. Moreover, he accuses them of pride- doing what they do to be seen and to take places of honor, rather than out of conviction.

Jesus has similar things to say about the Pharisees. The Pharisees were teachers of the law; they offered no animal sacrifices as the Levite Priests did. To remind themselves of the law, they would write the ten commandments on pieces of cloth, and then attach them to their clothes as the phylacteries. Jesus said that they loved places of honor and would burden people with the letter of the law, but that they had no heart. Jesus is repulsed by them calling themselves Rabbis, Teachers because just like the priests in Malachi’s time, they were hypocrites and prideful leaders. They were supposed to be spiritual fathers, but they were not teaching how to live the law in their hearts. Rather, they were only looking after their own interests.

Rightfully, Jesus points out that we have one true spiritual father- God. Jesus served his Father as Priest and King, and was our Father model, made in the image and likeness of his Father. Jesus always deferred to the will of his Father. He lived a humble life and did everything from the heart. He delegated that Priestly role to our ordained priests at the Last Supper. That’s why we call our priests Father today, because they serve in the role as the High priest, Jesus Christ, every time they offer Mass.

The really good news is that by virtue of our Baptisms, we have returned to the ancient custom of anointing our children as Priests, Prophets and Kings. That is why Fathers are heads of their families, and priests of the domestic church, the home. It is an awesome responsibility.

Our second reading from 1 Thessalonians gives a clear contrast between the Old Testament priesthood and the New Testament priesthood. For Paul reminds the Thessalonians that while he was with them he served as their Pries. After his Baptism and conversion of his heart, Paul preached the Gospel to the Thessalonians with affection. He treated them with kindness and gentleness, as a mother cares for her children. He did all that while continuing to care for himself by working, not expecting or accepting compensation for his efforts. This was a man who preached the law from the heart, and practiced what he preached. And as a result, his efforts bore much fruit. Paul was the great evangelizer and apostle to the Gentiles.

My dear people, all of you are called in Baptism to be priests, prophets and kings. You are called to accept the word of God and the teachings of the church in your hearts- your faith; and by word and deed, to live and project that faith. You are called to be humble Fathers to your families, and great evangelizers in this secular world of hypocrites and prideful people.

Rejoice Over the Souls of the Righteous

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

All Souls Day
Wis 3: 1-9; Rom 8:31b-35, 37-39; Jn 6:37-40
Deacon Larry Brockman

Today, we celebrate the Feast of all the faithful departed. All of us have close relatives and friends who we hope are in that category. All of us hope that we will be in that category. Tonight at 7 PM, we have a special Mass in memory of all those who have died in the last year. But most of us have loved ones who have passed away over the years- our Moms and Dads, Grandparents, close friends, and many children. We remember them all now on All Souls Day; our hope and expectation is that they all are heirs to the promise in today’s scriptures.

And just what is that? Well, Solomon said: The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God. The righteous are in the hands of God! What better hands to be in than God’s. Now “righteous” means those who are right with God- they are those who believed in him and lived lives in accordance with his will. And most of us try to do that- live the lives in which God placed us; using the talents God gave us; and accepting the limitations that God gave us. We are mostly moms and dads and students and breadwinners and soccer coaches and lots of mundane things. And so were our loved ones who preceded us.

We may have started out life thinking we would conquer the world. The world was our oyster, so to speak. But sometime during our life, we become aware of our own limitations. We weren’t going to conquer the world. And we realized that self-indulgence has its limits and doesn’t bring true happiness. It is then that we came to understand the wisdom of the beatitudes that we heard proclaimed yesterday. Indeed, all of us need to learn the lesson of humility and deferring to others. God is in control, and we need to recognize that and turn over our trust to his wisdom, to his will. His will is that we love one another as ourselves.

God gives all of us a lifetime to find him and his will in this way. For many of us that is 70, 80, or more years. Thank God for all that time! Others have less time. But in that time, whatever it is, all of us were “chastised a little”, and yet hopefully that really means that we were “greatly blessed” Because God tried” us and found us “worthy of himself”.

Paul tells the Romans that God did not spare his own Son Jesus from suffering. Rather, Jesus paved the way for all of us by bearing his suffering with dignity; submitting to the will of the Father at the hands of evil men. But he conquered death by his Resurrection and Ascension to heaven. What became of those who put him to death after their worldly lives?

Indeed, Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. Ultimately, all of us will also come to the realization that life in this world is not what life is all about either; no matter how wonderful things seem at the prime of life. As we review the lives of our loved ones who have already passed away, we can see that this was definitely the case for them! And so, it is our hope that something more will be there for them- the everlasting life in the Kingdom of God that Jesus paved the way to. Indeed, that is our Christian hope as well.

Now Jesus made it very clear in our Gospel that his mission on earth was to save all that God gave him; and that is all of us and all of our loved ones who are already departed. He says that it is the Father’s will that all who “see the son and believe in him may have eternal life”; and that “I will not reject anyone who comes to me”. So, the key is for us to believe and to honestly do the will of God; to love one another and to always seek the Lord no matter what the hardship.

Paul tells the Romans something very profound: He says: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us”. Yes, God loves us- all of us, unconditionally. After all, he created us and desperately wants us with Him. Why would he create us and not want to have his creation with him? But, we must believe in him, endure the trials of this life, defer to one another, and then come after him. And “Coming after him” means seeking the Kingdom of God, not seeking after our own will.

And so, on this great Feast of All Souls. Let us rejoice over the great multitude of souls who have done just that- our moms and dads and grandparents and children and friends who loved us. Many of them accepted the challenges and hardships of life with dignity and grace- raising us, educating us, defending us in battle, giving to us from their sustenance- only to suffer illnesses or infirmities in their old age or even some sudden death. But make no mistake about it. The souls of these righteous ones are in the hands of God.