Archive for February, 2018

“Blessed Are Those Who Believe and Have Not Seen”

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Second Sunday of Lent
Gen 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8: 31b-34; Mark 9: 2-10
Dc. Larry Brockman

Today, we hear two of the most awesome and interesting stories in the Bible. They are about Faith, strong Faith, the kind of Faith all of us must have.

First, through Faith Abraham is obedient to God’s command to sacrifice his only Son, Isaac. And second, Jesus is transfigured before three of his Apostles as he discusses the details of his passing with Moses and Elijah. These Apostles are called to believe in what they actually saw; not just what they were told.

The story of Abraham and the sacrifice of his son Isaac prefigures God the Father sacrificing his only son Jesus Christ. Let me explain: Did you know that the name Abraham means “Great Father”. Imagine how society must have viewed a childless 100 year old man whose name was “Great Father”! You can almost hear the skeptics comment about Abraham’s pronounced faith. “So, how is God going to make a great nation out of you”! Imagine Abraham’s shame and frustration as decades go by; and yet, though he remains childless, he still has faith.

But then imagine Abraham’s joy when God’s promise that he would have a son was fulfilled in Isaac. And Isaac grew to become a strong young man. Only then, the Lord unexpectedly demands that Abraham sacrifice his son as a burnt offering! Wow, what an up and down ride that must have been for Abraham.

And yet, notice how calm and trusting Abraham is through it all. Some verses were left out of our account that really demonstrate how trusting both Abraham and Isaac were. Let me give a couple of examples. First, Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice up the mountain. That means Isaac was no young kid; he had to be a strong young adult. Second, Isaac asks his father where the Lamb was for the sacrifice. And Abraham responds “God will provide”. What all that means is that a strong, viral, Isaac allowed his 100 year old Father to tie him down for the sacrifice! Yes, Isaac was willing to allow his Father to sacrifice him. That certainly prefigures how God the Father was willing to sacrifice his only Son, Jesus and Jesus was so obedient to the Father’s will that he was willing to give up his life.

Now we can see how Abraham acts calmly and deliberately, trusting that God’s will was the most important thing. There is no emotion or appeal by Abraham in the account. Another verse that’s missing mentions that although God the Father speaks through an Angel, He was watching very carefully everything that happened, and so at the critical moment, what did God say? “I know now how devoted you are to God since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son”. Yes, Abraham exhibits an incredible faith and trust in God. The kind of faith and trust that exists between Jesus Christ and God the Father is prefigured by the human manifestation of obedience and love shown by Abraham and Isaac. And yet, strong as it was, it was still imperfect.

The whole incident tells us just how much God loves us in not withholding the sacrifice of his only Son; And how much love the Son had for the Father and us in allowing himself to be sacrificed In order to save all of us.

And then we have the story of the Transfiguration in the Gospel. Notice that this is an out-of-the-world experience. These three Apostles witness a conversation between a dazzling Jesus Christ in a transfigured body with two dead figures from the past- Moses representing the law and Elijah representing the prophets. Other Gospel accounts mention that they were discussing Jesus’ passing. In other words, they were discussing Jesus’ passion, death, and Resurrection and how it would fulfill both the law and the prophecies of old. These were two dead figures from 500 to 1000 years before! Just imagine how that must have dazzled Peter, James and John.

And then, God the Father speaks from the cloud. There are only two manifestations of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit simultaneously in the New Testament; and these three Apostles were witnesses to both of them. And yet, they couldn’t understand what it all meant. They didn’t appreciate the direct revelation that had been given to them. As the Gospel says, they were “questioning what rising from the dead meant.”

Today, we are made witnesses to all of this by the Word of God, the Bible. We are not first-hand witnesses; but rather, we are called to witness these truths solely through the Word of God which we have just read. We are called to believe, to have faith, under circumstances more demanding than these great Apostles. That is our calling; a calling to a Faith as strong as that of Abraham.

Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.

The Remarkable Power of Prayer

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Thursday of First Week of Lent (U)
Esth C: 12, 14-16, 23-25; Mt 7: 7-12
Dc. Larry Brockman

Prayer. It’s one of the three pillars of our Lenten observance. And it is the topic of both readings today. In fact, both readings are about asking for something in prayer. And both give us key advice about what kind of prayer works.

The story of Esther is fascinating. I recommend that all of you read the book of Esther- it is short. But let me just put today’s reading in context.

Esther is a beautiful Jewish maiden living in exile in Persia with the Jews. The King is smitten by her and makes her his Queen, not knowing that she is Jewish. Her Father gets on the wrong side of the King’s right hand man, a ruthless, arrogant, hateful person This man tricks the King into signing a decree that would put all the Jews to the sword. And that is where we join Esther this morning- as she prays for deliverance of her people.

Although Esther is the Queen, the King has a concubine and doesn’t see Esther all that often. She cannot approach him; he must approach her. Hence, her dilemma.
Notice several things about Esther’s prayer. First, Esther is giving her whole attention to her prayer. All distractions and everything else have been put aside. Second, she is humble before the Lord, prostrating herself and her entourage. Then she blesses the Lord and recognizes Him as the Lord of her ancestors. Only after all that does she ask for something. Lastly, she is not asking for a miracle- she is only asking for inspiration. She says ”Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart”. So Esther recognizes the need for her to act. She is asking God to enable her, not for God to work miracles. And we get the impression that she trusts that God will help her.

Esther’s prayer is answered, as you will find if you read the book. But the events that unfold are truly unexpected. There is no way anyone could have foreseen these events. God’s solution solves all Esther’s problems, and makes things better than she could have expected. And this makes a very important point. When we ask for God’s help, our expectations can get in the way. God will answer our prayer, but will not necessarily meet our expectations. God knows what is best for us and that is what he will give us. In the long run, we are better off with God’s solution and not our expectations.

Now the Gospel comes after Jesus presentation of the Lord’s Prayer. He explains the Lord’s prayer after presenting it. Then in this chapter Jesus goes into detail about when we ask for something. He tells us to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find.” But what will be given to us is what we need, not necessarily what we want. We are, after all, God’s children. We often respond to a child’s request with what they need, not what they want; And it is no different with God and his children.

It may seem to you that some specific expectation is the thing that is best for you- a home or place, a job, a promotion, a relationship with someone, a skill, and any number of other things. But when you pray for such things, keep an open mind. God may have a better place, a better job, another person, or a different skill for you. And in the long run, God’s way will be better.

God is big on trust. We tell our children the same thing- trust us. But sometimes that can be hard. Because, just like our children, we are disappointed that things don’t go our way even after prayer. But consider this: When Jesus says the law and the prophets is “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you”, then be assured of this. God will always do right for you, because He is beyond the law and the prophets.

There’s More to Life THan Life in the Flesh!

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Thursday After Ash Wednesday
Dt 30:15-20; Lk 9: 22-25
Deacon Larry Brockman

Life! All of us cherish our lives, right.

But what does that mean, really. Most of us cherish a prosperous life in this world. As long as things go well- we are healthy, comfortable, surrounded by loving family and friends; and have a good source of income, for example, then we cherish life in this world. And society constantly bombards us with advice about the good life- advertisements for foods, drink, leisure activities, and other pleasures the world has to offer. For those who are young or in the prime of life, especially in a prosperous country like ours, life is good! In fact, it can be so good that little thought is given to the ultimate reality of life. A person can be blinded to his long term destiny by the pace of life. There is, after all, school, work, raising children, finding a job, vacations, kids soccer games, super bowls, concerts, and lots of other things that make life a blur; weeks upon weeks of endless activities. There simply isn’t any time for anything else.

But if the circumstances change a bit- we lose our health; our family members and friends somehow vanish; if we have problems supporting ourselves; or if we would have to live in one of those third world places in abject poverty, then our enthusiasm for life can wane, and we can become depressed or disillusioned. Life in this world can then become drudgery.

Some people yearn for an end to life when they face pain and discomfort. In fact, some even seek suicide and euthanasia so they don’t have to face the reality of life.
When you come right down to it, the truth about life in this world is simply this: Life in the fast lane doesn’t go on forever. And the quality of life diminishes with time for those who live a full life in years. Ultimately, of course, all of us are going to die to this world.
Now ultimate life is the topic of both readings today. But the ultimate life that both Jesus and Moses are talking about is not life in this world. Both Moses’ message and Jesus’ message are the same: Live your life according to God’s plan for you, or else your ultimate life will be hell.

For us, Moses words are more allegorical. Moses and the Israeli’s have just gone through their “Lenten” experience- forty years wandering in the desert looking for the promised land. When he talks about being led astray and worshiping false gods, that translates to listening to the prince of this world, the devil; and embracing addictions that serve as false gods. Things for example, like pornography; excess preoccupation with things like video games, social media, work, or pop culture; and dependence on alcohol, drugs, or even one another. And the long life in the land promised to the people means everlasting life in the Kingdom of God. This is only achieved if people follow the commandments, the Mosaic Law.

Jesus’ message is one of the most direct messages in the bible. Jesus speaks this passage to his disciples after he has gone through his “Lenten” experience, the forty days he spent in the desert. Previously a carpenter for some 15 years, Jesus goes away after his Baptism to spend 40 days in the desert. There, he is tempted by Satan three times. Jesus is offered pleasure, fame, and power in this world. But Jesus returns with a clear vision, the vision he shares in our Gospel. It is a daunting vision- he must preach repentance and forgiveness of sins, and because of his teaching, he will suffer at the hands of the establishment. But then, there will be resurrection of the body and everlasting life.

Then Jesus shares with his disciples that they too must pick up their crosses and follow in his footsteps. That means, finding God’s will, even in the midst of the fast moving pace of life. That means doing the harder thing- rejecting the glitter of pleasure, fame, and power in this world for the real mission that God has in mind for each one of us.

These readings give us a wake-up call that says- stop. Stop what you are doing and take the time for your own Lenten experience. Use the next 40 days before Easter to find your roadmap to true life. Consider Jesus’ parting words today: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself”

Now Is the Acceptable Time!

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Ash Wednesday
Joel 2: 12-18; 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2; Mt 6: 1-6, 16-18
Deacon Larry Brockman

Well, it’s that time of year again! Lent is here. Time to fast, set aside some time for prayer, and give alms. So, what should we really do? Maybe give up candy, TV, or Facebook? Maybe a few extra minutes a day in prayer like a rosary would be good for prayer; and maybe a few extra dollars in the collection should do the trick for alms.

But wait a minute, Let’s just pull back and look at what the whole Lenten process is really about before we move off on a plan. Lent is all about examining your life and making a change- a permanent change. So, how did Jesus do that? Well, Jesus was raised in Nazareth and trained to be a carpenter. But after He was Baptized Jesus went away for 40 days and pondered what his life was all about. He came away from that 40 day retreat a changed man. That was the origin of the season of Lent.

Essentially Jesus was trying to find his heart when he went off into the desert. He sensed that he was not being called to be a carpenter the rest of his life. Jesus fasted and prayed and asked God his Father what life was all about for him. He was tempted by the devil, who tried to get Jesus to seek comfort, power, and fame. But Jesus emerged strong by resisting those temptations. Jesus understood that those things were worldly and that they were not God’s will for him.

So, Jesus listened to God’s voice, a little more subtle and gentle voice, a voice which revealed to him the special mission God wanted him to perform to believe in God and his law with his whole heart; to preach a new way of living, one that emphasized repentance and forgiveness of sins. Jesus resolved to be obedient to the Father, and Jesus also accepted whatever happened as a consequence of his obedience to the Father. Jesus even foresaw that the consequences would be his passion and death, followed by his Resurrection.

The ashes you will all receive in a few moments, are a reminder of your own mortality in the physical world. We all realize, just like Jesus realized, that we have limited time in this life. That’s why it is important for us all to be in a right relationship with God at all times. And yet, there are so many voices that dance through our minds Which of them is really God speaking to us, and what does he really want of us going forward?
Now there are three Lenten pillars that Jesus speaks of in Matthew- Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving. Fasting prepares us for hearing God; prayer is our channel for communicating with God; and almsgiving indicates that we have heard God and are responding to Him.

In a sense, Fasting is the most pressing need. Jesus found that conventional fasting helped clear his mind for prayer and talking to his Father. So, Jesus went into the desert and did not eat. That worked for him, because he had a very special relationship with the Father.

What we really need to do is to determine what will help us to focus on God’s voice. And it may not be a conventional fast. Notice that in the Joel reading for Ash Wednesday, Joel says we need to rend our hearts, not our garments. Rend means to tear open, to split up. Joel is recommending that we open up our hearts, tear them open and make them bare in front of the Lord. Joel is suggesting this so we get our hearts set right, then we will be in a right relationship with God.

How can you do that? Well, first find out where your heart is. Is your heart with your routine, your pleasures, your job, your family? Wherever your heart is, that is what motivates you; it’s also what occupies your time, especially your discretionary time. So, why not try to find something that that your heart is set on and give some of that up for Lent.

By putting that something aside, you will do two things. You will open a place for God there. You may find yourself hurting for a while; but that’s why the process may take 40 days. Second, a little bit of self-giving goes a long way with God. If you really make a sacrifice out of your own wants from the heart; if your sincere motivation is to have a better relationship with God, then God will respond.

I think all of us have things that we really like to do that take up our time and sap our energy. These things are what our hearts are set on. Maybe it is TV, Facebook, going out with the girls, video games, or eating too much. In other words, maybe it is some of the things we usually try to fast from. But there are also those things that we just have to have our way. They may be stopping us from being obedient to God in some important way.

This Lent, try something different. Identify something that would be a real sacrifice for you, something that is a basic change in direction that you have wanted to make for a long time; something that is a change in heart; even something that opens your heart to vulnerability. And then pray that God will fill you with some new course in its place. My bet is that when you open your heart to the Lord that way, He will answer your prayer. He will fill you with his Love and will nudge you in a new direction.

As St. Paul says to the Corinthians: “Now is the acceptable time”. Yes, now is the acceptable time to make a difference.

Holy Face of Jesus

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Dc. Larry Brockman

Welcome to Mardi Gras! Yep, this is the actual day when Mardi Gras is celebrated. Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, is the last day that folks could enjoy rich food before the Lenten Fast! And so it was a celebration.

But you know what? That really misses the point of what the next 40 days are all about. Because rather than focus on comfortable living today because we’re going to fast tomorrow, we should be focused on what the next 40 days are all about.

Back in 1840, Jesus appeared to Sister Mary of St. Peter, a Carmelite nun. This appearance was on Shrove Tuesday. Jesus’ face was all disfigured and in suffering. The suffering was caused by people who mocked Jesus and Blasphemed against Christianity. Jesus told Sister Mary that people should pray on Shrove Tuesday in remembrance of his Holy Face for the reparation of the Sins of the Blasphemers. In 1885 Pope Leo XIII established the Archconfraternity to the Holy Face.

Then, Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother began appearing to Blessed Maria Pierina de Micheli from the age of seven in 1898. When He appeared to her on the first day of Lent in 1938 he repeated the request for a special day of Prayer on Shrove Tuesday each year in remembrance of his Holy Face. So in 1958, Pope Pius XII declared the Feast of the Holy Face be celebrated every Shrove Tuesday.

This little known feast is a timely reminder that we need to counter the cynical doubt about Christianity that is prevalent in our secular society today with prayer. And so, let us celebrate Fat Tuesday by venerating the Holy Face of Jesus with this prayer while we contemplate Jesus wounds in reparation for the multiple sins of Blasphemy. It is an excellent preparation Lent.

“May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and unutterable name of God be always praised, blessed, loved, adored, and glorified, in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.”

Modern Day “Leprosy”

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lev 13: 1-2, 44-46; 1 Cor 10: 31 – 11: 1; Mark 1: 40-45
Deacon Larry Brockman

Today, we hear all about Leprosy. In the ancient world, Leprosy was a truly dreaded disease. If you had it; then that was it for you because there was no cure. You would experience a slow, painful death.

The First reading talks about what the Mosaic Law prescribed for Lepers. That law was written to protect everybody else; it did nothing to comfort or cure the Leper. The Leper was an outcast, who had to leave home and family. He had to wear his garments rent, or torn, so that his sores were visible. This would assure that anyone passing by would be able to discern his Leprosy. And the Leper was not to approach anyone. Nobody could even touch him or they would be ostracized as well for fear that the disease would spread.

Just imagine how that made the Leper feel- no human contact whatsoever; no physical contact, no hugs, nothing. Contrast all that to the Gospel Story of the Leper. The Leper boldly comes forward to approach Jesus. And kneeling before the Lord Jesus with a humble and heartfelt demeanor, he begs Jesus to heal him. Jesus, moved by compassion, wills that the Leper be cured. The Leper is cured instantly, a major miracle for that time and age! And despite being admonished not to mention his cure to anyone, the Leper broadcasts his good fortune to all.

So, what does this all mean to us? Well, think of Leprosy and sin in an allegorical sense. There is absolutely nothing that mankind could do about Leprosy in either Moses or Jesus day and age because it was beyond medical science; it was incurable. The Leper was isolated and doomed to death. It took the word of God and the grace that flows from it to cure the Leper. And the Leper was cured instantly. One can imagine his joy, and why he ignored Jesus request not to publicize his good fortune. The man must have been beside himself because he had regained his life.

Similarly, when we sin, there is no earthly remedy for it. We are isolated from God and if our sin is serious, we are doomed to death. Like the Leper, we must approach God with a humble and contrite heart, kneel before him, confess our sin, and ask for the remedy from him. It takes the word of God and the grace that flows from it to cure us of our sins because sin is an incurable disease in the mind of God for those who are unrepentant. Like the Leper, if we are truly heartfelt in our appeal to be healed of Sin, then God will heal us instantly, just as He healed the Leper. And like the Leper, we should be joyful to know that we are restored to God’s good graces, and ready for renewed zest for life in the Kingdom of God.

Now the signs of sin, especially in today’s secular society are also kind of like the sores that appear in Leprosy. They are blemishes that we carry around with us and they haunt us. Addictions, gossip, loss of temper, unkindness, lust, and envy are just some of the sins that can haunt us. They may not be as physical in appearance as the sore of Leprosy; but they are obvious blemishes on our character- often obvious to others around us.

Persons who are isolated from God by these sins are often preoccupied with themselves. They can be depressed and out of sorts because their consciences eat away at them. Like leprosy, this hurt can’t be healed by the secular society that tempted them; but such hurt can be healed by God, and God is moved by compassion to do so. All we have to do is recognize our sin, kneel before God, and ask for forgiveness.

Lent is just a few days away from us. Lent is a time when we are called to examine our consciences, repent of our sin, and renew our relationship with God. We will be conducting a Lenten Mission from February 19th through the 21st here at Holy Family. Renowned inspirational speaker and author Fr. Cedric Pesegna will conduct the mission. As part of the mission, a Penance Service will be held on February 20th. The mission and the Penance service are excellent opportunities to cleanse yourself of your Leprosy, your sin. Don’t miss that opportunity.

Healing the Broken Hearted

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Job 7: 1-4, 6-7; 1 Cor 9: 16-19, 22-23; Mark 1: 29-39
Deacon Larry Brockman

Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted!

And certainly, that’s a good description for Job today. If anyone was ever brokenhearted, it was Job. Here is a righteous man, meaning a man who loved the Lord and lived according to God’s Law. So Job was in a right relationship with God. And yet, Job had lost everything by human standards- his wife, his livelihood, and his health. Job was indeed brokenhearted and even cries out for an end to it all.

It’s a sentiment many of us experience during the course of life. In the midst of your comfort, which you worked hard to achieve, everything seems to crumble around you. It can be triggered by a job loss, the loss of a loved one, a medical diagnosis, the political environment; or even by the onset of a nasty long term flu. You feel depressed, brokenhearted, and even a little bit angry.

The question even arises in your mind- why did this happen to me? You look around and see people who don’t seem to have a relationship with God. They don’t go to church; they seem preoccupied with themselves and life’s pleasures. But by George, they are prospering and here you are, miserable. So, what is all this about Praising the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted? What does that mean?

I think St. Paul gives us a hint on how to resolve this dilemma in Corinthians. You see, Paul understands that life is not all about comfort. Rather, life is all about our relationship with God. Nothing else really matters in the end, does it- our wealth, our health, and even our friends, don’t matter.

Paul was struck off his horse in the midst of his zealous efforts to persecute the people of God, the Christians, and commissioned by Jesus to preach to the Gentiles. He didn’t say: “OK Lord, I’ll do that, but there are a few tents I’m commissioned to make first so I can make the house payment (Paul was a tentmaker by trade). No, he dropped everything and went off and preached the Gospel to the Gentiles, not knowing where his next meal and shelter would be in the process. We know that Paul worked his trade while he preached the Gospel from some of his other letters. So he found a way to do God’s mission for him and still eek out his sustenance.

Now in today’s reading, Paul says this: “If I preach the Gospel, there is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me.” Yes, Paul understands that an obligation has been imposed on him. God has imposed this mission on him. He is free to embrace it or not; but there are consequences either way. Only, the way to true righteousness with God is when we take up our cross and follow our mission. And when we are right with God, then nothing else matters.

So it was to Paul. Paul emphasizes that he could willingly or unwillingly follow that obligation to preach. His recompense if he willingly preaches the Gospel is righteousness with God. I get a sense of weariness in Paul’s words- He’s been at it for some time, but he feels he must keep going without break to save as many as possible. That is what is expected of him. He must endure whatever else befalls him on that path. And his ultimate recompense is a share in the promise of the Gospel- eternal life.

I was struck by the parallel between Paul’s mission and Jesus mission in today’s Gospel. This story is right in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel- just as Jesus is getting started after his Baptism. Jesus is preaching a new way, something different than the teaching of the Jewish Pharisees. Jesus is preaching “repentance”- that is, the need to change the way people live their lives. Instead of embracing the comforts of the world, people need to embrace love of God with their hearts, and to love their neighbors in the same way.

In the last couple of weeks, the “authority” of Jesus teaching has been emphasized in the daily and Sunday Gospels. “Authority” is what gives someone the right to do what they do. Jesus was not schooled by the Jews; Jesus was not authorized by the Romans or the Jews. Rather, Jesus authority was established by the works he did. And here, at the beginning of his preaching ministry, Jesus shows his authority by going around the country, visiting synagogues to cast out demons and cure the lame and sick.

Today’s Gospel shows how truly daunting that task was. Just like Paul, Jesus has left his life as a simple carpenter to follow the promptings his Father gave him to preach a Gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins and to heal the possessed and sick in the process. Jesus gets virtually no respite; no comfort in the process.

His disciples even chase him down after a very busy day while he tries to get a few hours to himself. Jesus realizes that he must press on and says: “Let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there also.”

No matter how you feel about your life today, the only thing that really matters in the end is whether you are righteous in the eyes of the Lord. That is something we all need to go away and reflect on. Our Parish mission is coming up right at the beginning of Lent. It will be a golden opportunity for all of us, brokenhearted or not, to get in a right relationship with the Lord- to “Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted!”

“Be a Man”!

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Thursday of Week 4 in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 2: 1-4; 10-12; Mark 6: 7-13
Deacon Larry Brockman

“Take courage and be a man”. These are David’s words to his son Solomon as David rested on his deathbed.

And just to make certain Solomon understood what that meant, David elaborated on what it means to be a man (or woman). It means following the law of God- his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees. In other words, putting away any tendency to folly and to accept the responsibilities of life. But first and foremost, the will of God.

In Solomon’s case, his role was to rule Israel as a successor to God’s chosen one, David. Solomon had received a mandate, his marching orders. He was to do God’s will and obey Him in all things and to make certain that his descendants and the people followed the will of the Lord and kept his law. Solomon was a prefiguring of the Messiah to come. Through Solomon, the promises made to King David were to be passed on to David’s descendants and the Kingdom of Israel would be maintained.

Only things didn’t work out that way. Solomon and his descendants strayed from the path, Their emphasis was on things of the world- a worldly Kingdom; and their priests and Pharisees distorted the meaning of the law. Rather than a law that moved their hearts, they interpreted the law literally.

Nearly 1000 years later, Jesus arrives on the scene. Jesus became the true Messiah that Solomon prefigured. He was the first-born son of God, and God’s chosen one. And Jesus mission was to preach repentance. Jesus message was to live the law of God in your heart. And so, Jesus commissions the disciples to preach repentance.

The disciples’ authority is established by the power Jesus gave them to cast out evil spirits and to cure the sick and lame. They are given their marching orders, and discharged to carry them out- to go forth two by two and spread the message of Jesus, a call to repentance; to love your neighbor as yourself; and to find and do the will of God in your life.

We are nourished today by two messages. The first message is the message in the first reading. Given human tendencies, civil authorities will lose favor with God if they do not follow his lead. In fact, our civil leaders have fallen into the same human trap as the kings of Israel. They are preoccupied with things of the world- getting elected, making money, and wielding power. They do not govern the people according to God’s law, a law of love.

And our spiritual life has to go deeper than following the law. It is only human to look for a way to follow the law in a literal sense- to do what is required to satisfy the letter, but not necessarily the intent of the law, and then to settle onto a comfortable plateau of compliance.

But that is not satisfactory to God. And so, the Gospel message rings loud and clear for us today. The Church has been commissioned by Jesus to go into our midst with the message of repentance. We are the townspeople who receive that message. Do we welcome God’s message amongst us? Or are we rejecting it. Rejecting it can take many forms- but procrastinating and even forgetting on a daily basis are the easiest paths.

We are just a couple of weeks away from Lent. The time is coming for us to reflect on our role as Christians. It is a time to “take courage, and to be a man”. And that means repenting of our ways.