Archive for February, 2019

On Loving Our Enemies

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Sam 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Cor 15:45-49; Luke 6: 27-38
Deacon Larry Brockman

It’s a hard teaching, isn’t it?  Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.  It runs counter to our human nature; the innate tendency we have for self-preservation.  Indeed, from the very first, we all tend to think of ourselves.  So, just how do we overcome that self-centered focus and why is it so important?   

I think St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians this morning help.  Paul contrasts the first man- Adam with the last Adam, Jesus Christ.  He says the first Adam became a living being.  And what do we know about the nature of living beings?  That a living being has natural instincts.  And so, that living being strives to meet self-needs: food, water, comfort, affection, entertainment, and pleasure instinctively, and kind of in that order as one basic “need” after the other is satisfied.  Basically, our instincts for self-preservation motivate us to suppress anyone and anything that gets in the way of the satisfaction of our self needs.   

But you know what, when all of our “natural” needs are met; then we basically become bored, don’t we?  We ask inside, “what’s next”; and even, “what happens when I get old and I die”.  We begin to think about the spiritual, things that transcend our nature because all of us hope that we will live forever.   

But Paul makes it clear that the spiritual did not come first.  First, we become familiar with earthly things just like Adam.  And that is necessary for the self-preservation of life itself.    Then Paul says the last Adam came into the world.  Paul says that last Adam is spiritual.  Let me repeat precisely what he said: “The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven”.   

And so Jesus brings an answer to these nagging questions- what’s life in our natural world really all about; and what happens after we die?  Jesus tells us about the spiritual realm in which there is no time.  Jesus tells us about the Kingdom of God and that Kingdom lasts forever.  Jesus tells us that such is the destiny for all who believe in him and follow him.  There, in the kingdom of God, all who belong to it will be happy and content forever and ever.   

Yes, we believe that Jesus came amongst us- the spiritual assumed a human nature to give us a roadmap for getting to the Kingdom of God when we die.   

Jesus’ entire life was one of self-giving; not self-satisfaction.  Jesus bore hardships and a painful death at the hands of his enemies.  Jesus gave everything he had; turned the other cheek; and loved his enemies.  Jesus left us the Gospel as a way of life.   

And this part of the Gospel gets to the heart of the matter because Jesus just comes right out and tells us that we must love everyone, even our enemies.  That’s what it means for us to transcend from a creature of this earthly world and grow spiritually so we can be a citizen of the kingdom of God.   

Why this? Well first because God said so, and that should be enough.  We must all accept the fact that God’s understanding, his knowledge, his judgment, in other words, His wisdom, are far above anything we are capable of conceiving.  The Bible tells us that first and foremost God is love.  And so, we who are made in his spiritual image and likeness need to love as He loves.   

God chose to create everyone and everything out of love and God chooses to keep loving all of his created beings because God is always there to forgive them and welcome them back, no matter what they have done.  God wants all of us in the Kingdom with him.  And so, out of honor and respect for God, and in obedience to his word and commands we are called to do the same. 

That’s really why David did not take revenge on Saul when he had the chance, isn’t it?  David said as much when he recognized that God chose Saul as his anointed one.  And no matter what Saul did to David, out of honor and respect for God, and knowing God’s desire that Saul be saved, David would not kill him and interrupt that process.   

In fact, there are many stories of conversion by folks who did much harm to Christ and his Church.  St. Paul is a primary example; for he persecuted the early Christians before his Conversion.  But there are so many others, even in today’s world- like the Turkish radical who shot Pope John Paul II; like the person who accused Cardinal Bernardin of sexual misconduct.   

All of us have people in our lives who we just don’t care for.  They may gossip on us; scheme against us; rub us the wrong way; and hurt us in many, many ways.  But they are all part of God’s plan for his Kingdom.  As hard as it might be, we just have to cooperate with that plan.  We can’t always like them; but we can love them.  After all, love conquers all.

Holding Fast to Your Faith

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

St. Paul Miki & Companions

Heb 12: 4-7, 11-15; Mark 6:1-6

Deacon Larry Brockman

What an opening shot that was in our first reading: “Brothers and Sisters:  In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.”  What a strong message that was for the faithful.   

And in fact, in Paul’s day, there were many who did suffer terribly for their faith; many who shed their blood.  Yesterday, we heard about St. Agatha.  Because she rejected the advances of the Roman Leader in Sicily, she was tortured mercilessly; they even cut off her breasts!  But when they tried to burn her at the stake, an earthquake frightened off the Romans, and legend has it that St. Agatha died in prison.  I read recently that as many as 1 out of every 100 Christians in the first couple of centuries were martyred for their faith.   

Today is the feast of St. Paul Miki and companions.  Paul Miki was one of 25 Christians crucified on a hill above Nagasaki Japan in the late 16th century following missionary efforts by Jesuits and Franciscans to convert the people of Japan.  All 25 were put to death just because they preached Christ.  The Japanese wanted to root out the Christian movement in its infancy in Japan.   

One would think that such a brutal campaign would have ended it; but when Christian missionaries returned to Japan some 200 years later, they found over 1000 Christians there- such strength of Faith.   

How about you and me?   We live in an age when our Christian Faith is constantly being persecuted.  Dozens of people have been killed by the sword in Iraq and Syria and Egypt just because they are Christian.  Closer to home, people are being arrested and sued for following their consciences on Christian doctrine.  And there are people, some even claiming to be “Catholic”, defending the “right to choose” to abort a baby, and even to kill a newborn baby on the delivery table.  They are popping corks and celebrating the passage of laws in New York that allow just that. 

How can we live our lives so that it makes a difference in such a messed-up world?  Do we have to shed our blood to be saved?  We are just citizens, not politicians or activists, right.   

Well, we can certainly express ourselves to our elected officials; and we can vote.  But you know, there is an even better way; one which really demonstrates our faith but isn’t so drastic.  It is one that Paul mentions to the Hebrews this morning.  Because Paul also says this to the Hebrews: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”   

First peace.  Yes, we can all be civil to each other and be peacemakers.  But also “For that holiness without which no one will see the Lord!”  Ah, now that is much more difficult- to live lives of holiness so that everyone sees the Lord in us.  We are challenged to live that way every day by acting civil to our neighbors; showing love and respect in our families; worshipping the Lord and not secular things on the Sabbath; and giving of our time, talent, and treasure to help someone in need.  Basically, our kindness must be ever present on behalf of the Lord, while all the time we hold fast to what our faith is when we are challenged.   

And when is our faith challenged?  When others want us to gossip or gang up on someone; when others talk about the right to choose versus the right to life and we sit by idly; when we are affronted by immoral and objectionable material in the media and say nothing; and when an activity interferes with the practice of our faith but we do it any way.    Doing the right things in these situations are ways we can “see to it that no one is deprived of grace”; and that “no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many are defiled”.   

Each of us has the opportunity to win the struggle against sin.  For some, holding fast to their faith means shedding blood.  For all, holding fast to the faith is what it’s all about.