Archive for January, 2018

The Church Speaks the Truth!

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dt 18: 15-20; 1 Cor 7: 32-35; Mark 1: 21-28
Deacon Larry Brockman

I suppose it’s just human nature, but the fact is that people just don’t like to hear the plain truth. And they especially react to the truth when it is spoken with Authority. This is typical in today’s world because many people question absolutes. And yet, the truth is in fact an absolute, isn’t it.

And so when someone comes along who speaks the truth- the plain, unfiltered truth- and that person has authority to back them up, well, that is threatening because it means no amount of, wells, yes buts, on the other hands, and the like matter. The person in authority can and will be able to counter them. Evil reacts to truth presented this way.

What is an absolute truth, for example? Well, there either is a God or not. If there is a God, then certain things are morally wrong because they go against God and his plan for creation. And so, there is such a thing as sin. That also means there are truths that flow from the basic truth. God exists, and moral right and wrong and sin flow from that basic truth as a consequence.

Now in the Old Testament, the Israelis were exposed to the plain, unfiltered truth when God spoke directly to them. They didn’t like that; it was fearful because the voice of the Lord and the fire that accompanied it terrified them. And so they pleaded with Moses to appeal to the Lord for a softer approach. Today we hear from Moses that God promised to send them prophets like himself.

Notice that God will put his words in these prophets’ mouths. So, even though the prophets were to act as a buffer, they were still speaking the truth; and God told the people to listen to them. The authority of the prophets was established by the works they performed- a series of miracles and accurate predictions of the future. But make no mistake about it their main purpose was to tell the truth, God’s truth. They did that faithfully, even though many of them suffered greatly as a consequence. For example, Jeremiah was thrown in a cistern and left to die and Isaiah was sawn in two.

Of course, Moses promise was also fulfilled by Jesus Christ as well. Jesus was the word of God incarnate, and spoke the unfiltered word of his Father.

Now the Gospel says that Jesus spoke with authority. If one has “authority”, that means they have the right to do what they are doing. In government, authority is acquired by being elected, or by designation form a higher authority. In education, authority is established through knowledge of the topic. When speaking on behalf of God, authority is established by the ability to show the works of God.

Certainly, the Old Testament prophets established their authority by working miracles and by accurately predicting the future. Jesus worked even greater miracles, and thereby established his authority. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus’ authority has more of the authority that comes from educational knowledge to start out with. For Jesus was teaching, and he spoke about God with the ring of truth that not even the “authorities” of the Jewish faith, the Chief Priests and Rabbis could compete with. This frightened the evil spirit in the man in the temple just as the truth always frightens those who are evil. The evil spirit basically validated Jesus’ authority by recognizing Jesus for what he is- the Son of God.

It is just as essential for us to listen to God’s prophets and to listen to Jesus today as it was for the people in Moses time and in Jesus’ time. That is the basic message in both the Gospel and our first Reading. The problem is that our world is full of authorities- people who are experts, people to whom elected officials have delegated power. Our challenge is to determine which voices out there hold legitimate authority and then to listen to the truth that is spoken by the legitimate authority.

The best place to start is with the Church. Jesus delegated his authority to his Apostles and Disciples. And this has been embellished by the great doctors of the Church and Saints over the last two thousand years. We have an obligation to listen to the Lord speak through his Church. The Church speaks the truth; and the truth will set us free- forever.

Living By Example to Combat Evil

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Westminster Tower Ecumenical Service
Ephesians 6: 10-18
Deacon Larry Brockman

We don’t hear much about the devil today, do we? In fact, evil is not something we hear a lot about either.

In our secular society, things are relativistic, because society teaches that goodness or badness depends on your point of view, your frame of reference. Nothing is absolute in today’s society. Freedom and Tolerance are what we need; we need to be free to believe our own thing; and we need to be tolerant of others beliefs and practices above all. Such freedom and tolerance are supposed to foster a peaceful and happy society.

Only they don’t and haven’t. Today’s secular world is neither peaceful nor happy. Freedom and Tolerance have not worked as they are being practiced in our society.

I believe that it is no accident that our society has evolved this way. Rather, in my opinion, the evolution of secular society is being orchestrated by the forces of evil. It is being orchestrated by the devil.

Once our society abandoned the concept that it was based on Judeo-Christian values, and adopted the idea that all value systems need to be respected, then evil crept in. And so, there was room for Satanists, Atheists, Agnostics, Wichens, and other alternate belief systems. These belief systems teach morality which is at odds with generally agreed moral positions in the main-line religions. Additionally, the traditional family system has been augmented with alternate family models like same-sex partnerships with adopted children. These alternate life styles lead us away from God’s natural law.

We gather a couple of times a week at most for a couple of hours in worship. Meanwhile, secular society broadcasts these alternate values 24-7. They permeate movies, media, TV, and live events. Is it any wonder that the new generations buy into secular values rather than traditional values?

Our local bishop gave each of the clerics in the Diocese of Orlando a book for Christmas. It’s entitled “To Light a Fire on the Earth”; and it is about Bishop Robert Barron. Some of you may have heard of him. He’s an Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles; but he is best known for his huge following on social media, including Facebook; and a raft of you-tube videos on religious topics. He has been compared to the late Bishop Fulton Sheen because he is a Catholic prelate with a wide audience that cuts across a large segment of the population. He is followed by Catholics and Protestants alike.

Bishop Barron is concerned about the statistically large part of our population who have no faith at all. He calls them “nones”. Some 56 million Americans are “nones” according to a 2015 Pew Research study. Even more alarming, 36 percent of Millennials, our young adult population, are “nones”l That means one out of every three young adults don’t believe in God or don’t integrate God in their lives. In essence, our freedom and tolerance are spawning a society that has no central beliefs at all! So rather than safeguard the many belief systems; Secular Society is fostering non-belief because of the largely hands-off, I’m OK, your OK policy. We are standing by in the face of evil.

So, Bishop Barron wants people of Faith to “Light a Fire on the Earth.” He wants people of Faith to evangelize the “Nones” out there.

I tend to agree with him; and I’ll bet that most of you do too. The big question is how? How do we evangelize the growing sea of atheists, agnostics, and new-age “nones”? Barron thinks he has an answer. He says we can effectively evangelize others by emphasizing the beauty and joy associated with what we Christians believe.

Now I thought a bit about that, and it seemed to me that us older folk have a definite roll to play in that process. You see, we have all lived 75 plus years, and have kept the faith. Just look at all of you here today- living examples of Faith. You have weathered wars, storms, disruptions, attacks, illnesses, heartbreaks, losses, and all kinds of other perils. In other words, you have seen evil, and have stood fast against it; and rather than embrace bitterness, you have held firm to your faith. You have come out of your trials with Christian joy as you await the central hope of your Christian Faith- the everlasting life in the Kingdom of God that awaits the believer. Our generation of believers and our hope are the testimony that the younger generation needs to hear.

In essence, we have done what Paul advises the Ephesians to do in the face of evil in our reading today. Going forward, we need to redouble our efforts and we need to show the strength of our faith and our conviction to it to our families, especially the younger members of our families.

You know, there was a time when people our age generally lived with their families. Young people got to know and enjoy intimacy with their grandparents, and great grandparents. And that intimacy taught some very important lessons. They can be summarized like this:

“Make no mistake about it, life is full of challenges. Nobody gets a free ride; everyone will have their fair share of suffering and discomfort just as I have. And some day, if you live a long and fruitful life, you will be right where I am- older and not so nimble. But that’s OK, because I thank the good Lord for the good times. And for the trials too, because they made me a stronger person. Not only that, the best is yet to come. Because a good life here is not the end-all that society tells you. I’ve been there and done that- but it didn’t satisfy. Our Christian Faith and Hope guarantee that we will live forever in peace and joy in God’s Kingdom. And that is something better than the good life here.”

So, let us now focus on how we all got to the place we are in now spiritually, and how we can strengthen it so we can spread that faith to others. Well, we drew our strength from the Lord, and put on the armor of God in order to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.

Paul uses a Roman soldier’s armor elements as symbols to make his point on what that armor is. First, he says we must be covered from head to foot. That means our whole person needs protecting- our minds, bodies, and spirits.

Now Paul makes no bones about it. He says our battle is not with mere flesh and blood, but with Principalities and Powers- both fallen choirs of angels; with the “world rulers of the present darkness”; and with the evil spirits in the heavens. That’s two spiritual foes, because Paul is making a distinction between the devil and the fallen angels on the one hand and the “evil spirits” in the heavens, presumably those who have died and are banished from God, on the other hand. Diabolic spirits orchestrate and coordinate; and evil spirits urge us, tempting us in every way. I am sure we can all relate to how the world has morphed and placed us in a spiritually dangerous environment.

Next, our loins must be girded with “truth”. Yes, there are absolutes; there are truths. The truths of our faith- belief in God, accepting the laws of God and nature; and recognizing the reality of sin. Nowadays, the truth seems to be watered down. But Paul first speaks of being girded with truth. We have girded ourselves with the truth of our faith.

Second, we are to be clothed with the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness means being in a right relationship with God and the breastplate protects our hearts. Wherever our hearts are, that’s where our real priorities are. If we have faith and maintain a prayer relationship with the Lord, that goes a long way towards establishing our righteousness, because we receive God’s grace in response to our prayers. We all have a prayer relationship with God, right.

Next, our feet must be shod in the readiness for the gospel of peace. The gospel is the story of how the Word of God, Jesus, came to dwell amongst us and live as we do. We must walk along the same path as Jesus did in the Gospel- a walk that includes following God’s will, no matter what the consequences.

Peace here is the inner peace of knowing that we are in a right relationship with God, not necessarily the peace that the world offers. As we walk, we offer that peace to those who we come in contact with. If we are at peace inside, that will come across. This is the kind of peace that our current generation does not have, and may not understand.

Then Paul talks about holding Faith as our shield. Faith includes all the principles of our faith. We have first of all, got to know what they are. We have to know what we believe. Then believe and accept these principles of our faith just because God has revealed them to us- not because we can prove them in a battle of wits. This is a testimony in humility- that we recognize there is a higher power, and that it is beyond our understanding. We owe our life and destiny to that higher power. And so, such faith is our motivation, because the hope we have for salvation has also been revealed to us. Indeed, many “flaming arrows” have, and will come our way in the course of life, but we have, and we will, deflect them all by the firmness and conviction of our faith.

That brings us to the helmet of Salvation. The helmet protects our head, our minds, from being misled. It helps us to fend off other priorities than our Christian hope.

Lastly, the Holy Spirit is our sword. All of us who have been Baptized are heirs to the Spirit. And the Spirit is a powerful weapon in fighting the forces of evil. It is the Spirit who gives us the strength to recall and practice the Word of God. It is the Spirit that gives us our zest and enthusiasm for life. The Spirit enables us to communicate to those around us that we still believe; that we have fought the battle; and are winning.

What the world needs now is belief in God, real love, recognition of truth, and embracing God’s will for mankind. We can all help to change the world because through the working of the Spirit we can draw in today’s skeptics, the “nones”. They will see the Spirit and Love of God working within us just as the third century pagans saw it in the early Christians. We can light a fire by showing the World real Christianity in practice. For all of us here, that is 75+ years of it, pure Christian Joy.

What Are You Looking For?

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Thursday of Second Week of Christmas
St. Elizabeth Seton
Jn 3: 7-10; Jn 1: 35-42
Deacon Larry Brockman

“What are you looking for”?

I think these words ring just as true for all of us as they did for Andrew in this morning’s Gospel. First, something happens that awakens us to our need. Andrew was looking for something new; that’s why he was following John the Baptist in the desert. Then he found it: John the Baptist’s words suddenly gave direction to Andrew and his companion. Andrew heard the words “There is the Lamb of God”. In other words: “There is the answer to the restlessness about what it’s all about.”

And so, just like Andrew, we should go forward and seek after that answer when it is pointed to us. The arrival of the Christ Child at Christmas is like John the Baptist’s declaration. In fact, the whole season of Advent memorializes the theme: “The Lord is coming, there he is, follow him”. And as we go after the truth, we should hear Jesus calling back to us: “What are you looking for”? and “Come follow me and I will show you where I dwell”.

In fact, the whole process described in the Gospel applies over and over again to each of us. Whether it’s in our prayers or in other pursuits of the truth like a book we are reading or a class we are taking to seek the answer to the age old question of “What’s it all about”. Indeed, those are times to turn our attention to the Lord and follow him as he calls us.

The four Gospels tell us how Jesus followed the call to holiness. They chronicle Jesus through 3 years in word and deed. They show how he went into the desert and pondered what it was all about for him; how he determined God’s will for him in the midst of temptation; how he came out from the desert and launched his ministry; and how he was called to hold firm to the Father’s will even when threatened by evil men who didn’t like his message. Jesus held firm to the end by gving his life rather than forsake the will of the Father.

St. John’s epistle helps us with the follow-through. Whatever you do to help you in your quest of the Father’s will, you need to act in righteousness. Righteousness is holy and upright living in accordance with God’s standards. We are righteous when we are right with God. If what we are doing is not in accord with God’s standards, then do not kid yourselves; you are not righteous. St. John’s words are stronger- he says we are in sin if we are not righteous.

Life is full of times when we wonder what it’s all about. A break in the normal routine, like the Christmas Holidays, and the whole idea of a new beginning for the New Year calls our normal routine into question. These times give us the opportunity to feel that urge that maybe a change is needed. Don’t let the opportunity pass.

What are you looking for?