Archive for April, 2019

Real Peace

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Divine Mercy Sunday

Acts 5: 12-16; Rev 1: 9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20: 19-31

Deacon Larry Brockman

“Peace be with you”.  Those were the first words of Jesus to his Apostles in his post-Resurrection appearance to them.   

Think about that for just a minute.  Jesus had been arrested, tried, tortured, and executed by an angry mob of Jews who had been whipped into a frenzy by the Jewish leaders.  The disciples were in fear that they would be pursued as well because the body of Jesus was missing from the tomb and they were the likely suspects!  They were terrified that the authorities would come after them.  And so, they were huddled together hiding from the authorities in the upper room.   

Jesus packs a big message in those first simple words to the disciples.  He is telling them to relax, and not to worry; to be at peace even with all that was going on.  Why? Because here he is, alive and well in the resurrected state.  Such a thing had never happened in the history of the world, and it will never happen again.  But by seeing and believing in the power of that resurrection miracle, a power that transcends any earthly power, Jesus is telling his Apostles to trust in him because no matter what, they will be given peace, real peace.  It was essentially a call to courage   

Then in his next words, Jesus sends the Apostles forward on their historical mission to be his witnesses and to convert the world because Jesus vests them with the power to forgive sins or not forgive them. This power also transcends any earthly power, because it is the gate by which one transcends this life to everlasting life or death; heaven or hell.  And so, Jesus is commanding his Apostles to go forth and exercise that power; to preach the Gospel.  This was going to take some courage, real courage.   

The first reading tells us that the Apostles were up to that challenge!  They were gathered in the Solomon’s Portico in clear view of the authorities.  Acts tells us very plainly that “None of the other’s dared join them”.  Indeed, the Apostles had been changed by Jesus visit and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were fired up; ready to go; they believed with all their hearts; they had real Faith; they were courageous.  But the others were still afraid.  You can’t really blame them, after all, the Romans and the Jews were incredibly brutal to Jesus. 

They were afraid because of a lack of Faith.  They are like us- we have not seen; we are called to believe without seeing.   

And so, we have the story of Thomas.  Thomas actually put his fingers into Jesus’ wound.  After that Thomas says “My Lord and my God”.  Can you just imagine as a human being realizing that you are standing in front of God himself!  That realization flipped Thomas to a firm believer, a man of Faith.  But Jesus words to Thomas echo across thousands of years: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed”.  And that is what all of us are called to do.  We are all called to believe in the whole story of Christianity without having been there; without having seen first-hand. We are called to faith.  And not only that, we are called to have courage and to be at peace no matter what is going on around us.  That’s the essence of Jesus command “Peace be with you”.   

So, when you are attacked for your Faith; when someone ridicules you for following the Gospel by keeping the commandments and faithfully worshipping God; and when you suffer the consequences of your own personal “crosses to bear”- like illnesses, losses, infirmities, loneliness, and every other painful state we find ourselves in-that it is all worth it, because if you believe, really believe, then the Peace of God rests on you.  And that peace of God rests in his promise to save all those who believe in him, such that they will all inherit the Kingdom. 

Dispelling Lingering Doubt on he Real Presence

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Easter Wednesday

Acts 3: 1-10; Luke 24: 13-35

Deacon Larry Brockman

The Emmaus Story!  How many times have we heard it?   

And you know, I’ll bet that most of us tend to judge the disciples along the road a little too harshly because our perspective is so much different than theirs was.  We are calmly reading the Gospel with knowledge of everything that has happened   But these disciples walking along the road only knew what they saw and heard in real time.   

So, let’s try to put ourselves in their position for just a minute.  I am certain that many of you have watched Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”, if not this year, then in the last couple of years.  It was hard to watch because it was so graphic.  We really don’t want to think that anyone could be as cruel to another human being as the authorities were when they beat and and tortured Jesus the way it was depicted in that movie.  But you know what?  It was probably even worse than that!  The experts that have examined the shroud of Turin, and those historical experts who were familiar with how Crucifixions were actually performed, have said as much.   

Those disciples walking along the road had seen all that happen.  The last they saw of Jesus he was, as we here in the Isaiah prophecy, “marred beyond recognition”.  The idea that he rose from the dead and was walking around in a dazzling purified state, well, that was just too much to believe.  And even though Jesus had told them exactly what was going to happen before it happened, they just didn’t get it; even when the women came back from the tomb and told them that it happened.   

The root of their problem is Faith, when you come right down to it.  The Faith of these disciples had been shaken by the reality of the horror that Jesus endured.  Most probably, all of us would have reacted the same way.  That’s why the Emmaus Story is so valuable to us.    First Jesus teaches these two people yet again the essence of his teaching in his three-year ministry.  He interprets the scriptures that predicted his coming and fulfillment of the promise to redeem them first.  And in a flash, they recognize him, because he reminded them and just put everything in the right perspective.  It all happened just as was predicted.  And so, their faith was given a giant shot in the arm.  They had seen, and so they believed.  Indeed, the Lord is risen!   

But in the process, Jesus does something truly profound for us.  Jesus reenacts the Last Supper.  He repeats the words of consecration of the bread and wine as his Body and Blood, thereby demonstrating for all that he meant what he said on Holy Thursday.  That bread and wine that the priest offers and blesses does become the real body and blood of Christ.  This is a tremendous stumbling block for so many Christians; and yet, it is the bread of life, a resource of incredible power for all of us who really believe because we have continuing access to almighty God- He has not left us.  But we have to believe, really believe, even though it just doesn’t seem possible.   

It didn’t seem possible that a man who was “marred beyond recognition”; beaten and tortured to death; a man who shed virtually all of his blood in the process- it just didn’t seem believable that such a person could rise from the dead.  But it happened, and hundreds of people were witnesses to it.   

Likewise, it just doesn’t seem possible that the bread and wine are really the body and blood of Christ.  But that’s what Emmaus is about- Jesus showed us again that he really meant what he said.  He said the words and he was there in the resurrected body; and in a flash, the Eucharist was still there, but the visible Christ was gone.  We are called to believe that- we are not called to look for a rational proof of it.   

Now, the thing is that once we get beyond the lingering doubt; the need for understanding how it’s possible; and just really accept on Faith the important truths of Christianity- the Incarnation; the Resurrection; and the Eucharist; then something really amazing happens to us.  It happened to Peter and John in our first reading.  Their faith was so strong that they could work mighty miracles in Jesus name.   

All of us have the potential to do the same when we really believe!   

Suffering Servants- All of Us

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

It’s such a contrast. the two Gospels we heard this morning.   

First, Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph.  They had all heard about the raising of Lazarus and his other miracles.  And so, Jesus is heralded by a crowd proclaiming: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”.   

But just a little while later, things have changed.  Now the crowd shouts “crucify him” over and over again.  And Jesus is subjected to the most cruel and inhumane treatment.  He is sentenced to death on a cross.  What happened?   

Well, make absolutely no mistake about it, Satan was alive and active in the world sewing seeds of descension; orchestrating evil deeds; waiting and lurking for any opportunity to make things worse; looking to corrupt those who are vulnerable; and playing on pride, greed, and all the other sins of the heart.   

What happened is really very simple.  The people of Jerusalem lacked real Faith.  They believed in a God who rewarded them for keeping the law, but their faith was weak and vulnerable. They were happy to praise Jesus as long as he worked miracles and fed them abundantly. They also expected this miracle worker to get rid of the Romans for them.

But when Jesus came, he preached in the temple.  He preached things the authorities didn’t want to hear.  And when he attacked the motives and methods of their leaders; when Jesus offered a new and better way, one that would require them to change; and when it became clear he wasn’t challenging the Romans; well, then the worst qualities of human nature took over.   

Jesus did not follow the detailed p’s and q’s of the law.  He even drove money changers out of the temple, ridiculing their motivation to make money.  You have to wonder what the common folk felt when they saw this.  Because rather than “getting right” with the Lord in a simple pigeon or dove offering, they were being told that it takes more than that; it takes a conversion of the heart; an offering that is a real sacrifice; not just some token offering.   

So, Jesus called into question the motives of both the leaders and the people, and even identified their hypocrisies in the process.  Their self-image was hurt; they fell victim to pride.  I can hear it now: “I’m not as bad as all that”.  And the miracles he worked just made the matters worse, diminishing the leader’s reputation even more.  The Jewish authorities became jealous and angry.  They were ready to do anything to get rid of this “imposter”.   

And then there was Judas.  Jesus was not bringing a revolution to bear against Roman rule as Judas hoped he would do.  Jesus’ revolution meant changing the heart not the government.  And so, Judas was upset and impatient with Jesus and his greed for money and control took over, so he betrayed Jesus.   

And so, Satan had a welcome audience- vulnerable people who were so taken with their own self-interests that they would do anything to get rid of Jesus.  They wanted this voice of conscience out of the way.  And Satan was all to ready to whip them into a frenzy.   

Our readings today talk about suffering in general.  Isaiah’s prophecy addressed the suffering of the entire Jewish people during the Babylonian exile.  But it also predicted the sufferings of Jesus.   

Our second reading is a first century hymn incorporated by St,. Paul into one of his epistles.  It summarizes Jesus sacrifice for all of us quite well.  Here is God made man, humbling himself in the most extraordinary way.  A totally innocent man who gives freely of his own life to save all of us and offer us a resurrected life in the kingdom of God.   

And so, God highly exalted Jesus- and that is what Christianity is all about.  We are to follow in the footsteps of this God-made Man so we too can share in everlasting life and joy.   

But wait a minute; there is a catch.  It seems that all of us need to share in the sufferings of Christ.  Yes, all of us are given a life of challenges where we have to face choices- choices between comfort and suffering; choices between right and wrong; choices between standing up for what is right  or taking an easier more comfortable road; choices between doing things in the light of day or doing them in the deceptive cover of night.  All of us are confronted with these types of choices.  Only the strength of our faith and the graces that come with it can sustain us in these situations.   

The Gospel of the passion is uncomfortable for us to hear.  It is even more uncomfortable when it is effectively dramatized, as it was in Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”.  And there are even more challenging descriptions of the Passion than that which we can voluntarily look at, like “The 24 hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” by Luisa Picareta, which is an hour by hour chronicle of the horror of the passion.  The purpose of these vivid descriptions is for us to appreciate just what Jesus Christ did for us.  It was not just physical suffering, but intense mental and spiritual suffering as well- more suffering than any of us could possibly bear. 

And that is the point.  God was willing to send His son to do that for each and every one of us.  We surely can endure the sufferings that each of us has been called to endure for the sake of our Faith.   

Palm Sunday and Holy Week are that time each year when each of us is called to reflect on all of this.  And to make our commitment to believe- really believe.  And really believing means putting your faith into action.   

All of you here are making that choice on Easter Sunday.  God bless you all and your Faith.