Archive for January, 2019

Is the Law Written in Your Heart?

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

St. Maria Soledad Torres

Heb 10: 11-18; Mark 4:1-20

Deacon Larry Brockman

“I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds.”  This is the New Covenant of the Lord as Paul presented it to the Hebrews.    And you know what?  When people are committed to their Faith, when they seek the Lord and desire to do his will as an integral part of their lives, then the New Covenant applies to them.  

I suppose that the large crowd that came to hear Jesus was full of folks who came for some very different reasons.  On the surface, they came to hear this special preacher because of his reputation.  But really, only some came because they were seeking after the meaning of life.  Others came because it was the thing to do; or they felt justified by seeking spiritual diversity; or they wanted to belong; or they were dragged there by their spouse or family; or any of a number of other reasons.   

And what did they hear?  They heard about seeds sewn along a path.  Can’t you just imagine the reaction?  What’s he talking about?  What a bunch of baloney?  I came here for this?  What does this have to do with me?  Is that all there is?   

But you know what, many folks come to Mass sometimes on Sundays for some of the same reasons.  Some come because they are committed to their faith with their hearts.  But there are many other reasons that other folks come- some to justify themselves or to become belong to a community; others as sort of a guilt offering for their pre-occupation with the world; or because of peer pressure from their spouse or family; or to serve as an example for their children.  God bless them for whatever reason they come because they may be converted in heart by the living word of God at any time.   

But this morning, Jesus makes it clear he is looking for people who are truly committed to him with their hearts.  They may not be perfect- nobody is perfect.  And the people who think they are perfect, well they are probably the ones with the most to learn.  But they come with all humility seeking something better- the real meaning of life.   

Now Jesus spoke the truth in parables so that only those who came to hear him with their hearts would perceive the truth.  Jesus deliberately structured his message to challenge his audience.  He was challenging them to be open with their hearts and minds to a new and exciting message about the ultimate purpose of life.  Anyone who was committed to the earth and fleshly existence would perceive that message as a lot of baloney.  Only those who were honestly seeking the truth would be open to it.  If their minds and hearts were open to his message; they would get it because the Spirit of the Lord would work on them.     

The same thing is true today each and every time folks come to Mass.  When you hunger and thirst for the Word of God with your heart, and you yearn to receive the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, then coming to Mass on Sunday, and in fact any time you come to Mass; well then, the Mass will be something special to you.   

But when you come for any of the other reasons, there will always be something wrong-  the music wasn’t quite right; the homily was too long; it’s the same old thing every time, and on and on.   

When Paul quotes the Old Testament; “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds.”  He is talking to all of the people of God who come before him honestly seeking the truth.  To those, the Spirit will move them to understand what is hidden from the multitude.  The salvation promised in the New Covenant belongs to such as these. 

The Power of the People

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Cor 12: 12-30; Luke 1: 1-4, 4:14-21
Deacon Larry Brockman

It is much the same today, isn’t it.  We roll open a scroll of sorts, our Bibles or the Lectionary, and the word of the Lord is proclaimed to us, just as I have done here.  And then someone explains its meaning to the crowd- as I am trying to do right now with you.  And as a result, the people of God are energized, and rejoice.   

In Ezra’s day, the Israeli’s had gone through much.  They had been exiled from Judah and Jerusalem to Babylon; their temple had been ravaged and destroyed; and they had been taken into slavery.    

But now, decades later, they had returned to Jerusalem and were free.  Their leaders were determined to restore the temple and their Religious practice by building a new temple in Jerusalem.  And as a beginning, Ezra proclaims and explains the Word as in days of old from a makeshift platform.  The People weep- tears of happiness.  The whole scene calls for a celebration, and that is what we read.   

Notice that these people responded best to the call of the Lord when they were in adversity.  Imagine, if you will, what it took in the ancient world to return from exile, build a new temple, and restore Jewish practice.  It had to be a very hard road to hoe.  They were penniless; they were relatively few on numbers; and they had very little assets.  But they had faith and they had resolve.  They were determined.  And that is the story of the people of God throughout its history.   

Fast forward 500 years to Jesus’ time.  Jesus does the same- He enters the temple opens the scroll and reads from the prophet Isaiah.  The times were bad for Jesus’ people.  They were captive to the Romans.  But Jesus explains the meaning of Isaiah’s word of God in absolutely revolutionary terms.  It was like nothing heard before or after.  Jesus claims that he is personally fulfilling the age-old prophecy of Isaiah in their presence.  Jesus is saying that he is the fulfilment of the prophecy to proclaim good tidings to the poor, liberty to the captives and cure the lame.  Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah who will save Israel, and indeed the World.   

And indeed, that is precisely what he did.  Jesus cured the lame; and set those free who thought the only life was life in this world either in captivity or poverty.   Jesus message opened up life in the Kingdom of God for all who believed.  He blazed through the Holy Land on a three-year mission, and made the ultimate sacrifice, his own life on the cross, but was risen from the dead and seen by many.  He promised believers everlasting life like his own.   

And finally, let us fast forward to today.  We too, have heard the word proclaimed.  We have heard that Jesus is the fulfilment of the prophecy.  We are challenged with keeping firm in our faith through much adversity.  There are many who attack our faith and ridicule us.  Our secular world seems to be winning the battle.  But it is in such adversity that we can rise to the occasion and renew the world.   

You see, we have also heard about the mystical body of Christ.  Yes, all of us are part of that mystical body of Christ.  All of us in some way contribute.  We are the arms, legs, hands, feet, eyes, ears, and all the other parts of the mystical body of Christ.  Even the less honorable parts of that mystical body in man’s eyes are honorable and contribute.  That includes those who are disenfranchised, lame, and infirm.   

Because all of us are made in the mage and likeness of God, God’s mystical body can radiate his love, the love of God.  When we project the love of God, then we conquer all obstacles as did the people of Ezra’s time.   

Yes, it is much the same today as it was in Ezra’s time.  It is time for us to weep tears of joy over the restoration of the promise.  For we are the people of God who do his will and have the capacity to bring all people to the one and only God of Love.

The Real Thing

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

St. Francis de Sales

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Heb 7: 25b – 8:6; Mark 3:7-12

Deacon Larry Brockman

As our Gospel today clearly demonstrates, Jesus was and is the real thing- God himself.    Jesus healed the sick, cast out unclean spirits, and worked miracles no other earthly man could do.  And Jesus drew crowds from all over the area because of the authority and truth of his message. 

But Jesus’ earthly ministry ended in the self-sacrifice of the perfect God made man on the cross on behalf of all of us.  It was a sacrifice that atoned for all of our sins and earned salvation for all of us.  The proof of our salvation was his Resurrection and his promise of everlasting life to all who believe in him as passed on by the witnesses to his Resurrection.

Paul’s message to the Hebrews this morning was all about the salvation process.  It is a lesson all of us should heed as well.  Paul talks about it in terms of priesthood.  But in Paul’s days, priests attained their priesthood by birth.  According to their law, only those who were descendants of the Levite tribe could be priests.

They offered animal sacrifices year after year in atonement for their sins on the day of atonement.  But these sacrifices were made by imperfect people- people who died and had to be replaced.  And these animal sacrifices obviously could never properly atone for their sins and those of the people before almighty God.  They were just a gesture of humility and sincere intent to be contrite; they were a remembrance according to the law; they were not a messianic or saving event.  And in fact, the Jews are still looking today for their Messiah.   

Paul then points out that Jesus Christ acted as our priest, the perfect priest.  Jesus, who was and is sinless, lives forever and his sacrifice was and is acceptable to the Father.  Just like Melchizidek, Jesus is a priest, a prophet, and a king.   He does not have any of the shortcomings of previous priests.   

Now Jesus Christ wanted us to participate in the salvation he earned for us by providing us with persons who could act as a high priest for him.  And so, he handed on to his apostles the priesthood at the Last Supper.  We provide bread and wine, fruit of the vine and work of our human hands at each Mass.  They symbolize our willing participation in the Mass, our willingness to sacrifice ourselves.  Every time one of our priests offers that bread and wine and consecrates it as Jesus did, then Jesus self-Sacrifice is memorialized and is offered again to his Father on our behalf.  Jesus told us to do precisely that- in memory of him.  We are present as witnesses to that event at each Mass and we partake of the body and blood of Christ to validate our belief.   

That is what is so important about our Mass.  It is not just a forum for worshipping God; an event held in a special place where God’s word is proclaimed and affirmed and where the congregation says to God that they believe in him and praise him.  Of course, the Mass is all of that too.   

But rather, the Mass is a continuation of the salvation event itself.  Because just as Jesus promised, the bread and wine become His real body and blood.  So, the Sacrifice of the Mass is our way of participating in the original offering to the Father.   

Yes, Jesus Christ is the real thing.  And so is the Mass and the Eucharist consecrated by our Priest. 

It’s Christmas Still!

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

Lessons and Carols


What an incredible story! Yes, we have all just heard an incredible story unfold before us. Many thousands of years ago, the Lord God promised his people a Savior. And he delivered on his words in his own time- more than a thousand years from the time of that promise. But he did it, he delivered. He sent His only son to become one of us and show us the way. We call it the Incarnation.
And the Incarnation is what is truly unique about Christianity. You see, the Son of God became intimate with our human nature- He was born like one of us; and he lived as one of us, worked as one of us, suffered like one of us, and died like one of us. But then, he rose from the dead, showed himself to over 500 people and promised all of us the same resurrected life forever with him if we follow after him.
And so, we have testimonies- eye witness testimonies- and the Gospels that tell and validate that story, incredible as it may seem. Our God is not some distant, transcendent God who we cannot approach; rather, our God has elected to become one of us, and yet maintain his divinity in some mysterious way that we are incapable of understanding. But he did it, and the proof is in the story we have just heard.
We should be absolutely exuberant, bursting with joy, and tremendously thankful for all of that. Because the real meaning of life has been laid out before us- everlasting life with our creator, with Jesus Christ and his Father.
And indeed, that is what Christmas is all about. Christmas is all about Christ. Because of Christ, we have been saved, and we have been shown the way.
Now two thousand years have passed since the events in the nativity story. The secular world, led by the powers of darkness, first introduced doubt, skepticism, and erroneous teaching to try to derail the truth about Christ and the joy that it brings. And so we have all these splinter religions- like those who believe Jesus is divine but not human; and those who believe he was human but not divine; and those who warped his teaching about our great sacrament of the Eucharist, which Jesus left us to maintain his presence with us for all time. Many of their followers are well meaning but misguided folk who hunger for but are ignorant of the whole truth.
The division among the people of God is sad indeed. It is our duty to help them with the truth by displaying our faith and knowledge of the truth.
And yet, even sadder are the later attacks on Christianity- attacks by a secular society. Many in our modern society don’t believe in God at all; or if they do, they believe that any belief in a God is as valid as any other belief. Yes, our Christian roots are being undermined by secular society’s politically correct morphing of Christmas into the Holiday Season. The forces of darkness are hell bent on making the “Spirit of Christmas” something other then what Christmas is all about. I am here to tell you that our Trees and decorations and gifts and cards, and everything else we do this time of the year, are all about Christmas, and the joy that the Incarnation brings. They are not about the “Holiday” season.
Now don’t get me wrong. God bless those folks who want to celebrate Hanukah or Kwanza, or some other “Holiday” at this time of the year every year. That’s their choice; but realistically, they are a minority riding the coattails of Western societies roots in the Christian feast of Christmas.
We Christians celebrate what Christmas is really all about- that is, to relive the joy over what Christ’s coming into the world 2000 years ago brought us. When we give each other gifts, we do so because we realize that Christ gave freely, unselfishly to all of us. And our gift is a memorial of the gift of everlasting life that Christ has brought us. Our fleeting happiness over the gifts we receive is symbolic of the joy that we should all realize about our prospect for the gift of everlasting life in heaven that Jesus gave us. It will bring Joy that will last forever and ever. And not only that, it is our duty and obligation to infect the rest of society with our Christian joy. We are here to evangelize secular society by proclaiming the truth of Christmas.
I hope that all of you enjoyed the wonderful music and spiritual lessons we presented tonight. If you did, join me in proclaiming the Christian message to the world because the Christmas season lasts from Christmas until the Baptism of the Lord on January 9th.So enjoy the Epiphany this weekend, which commemorates the visit by the Three Magi on January 6th.
Yes, we are still in the Christmas Season. Merry Christmas to all!