Archive for May, 2019

A Little Love Goes A Long Way

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Acts 17: 25, 22B- 18:1; Jn 16:12-15

Deacon Larry Brockman

It was just too much for them, these Greeks.  As Paul addresses the Athenians, he talks to them about a different kind of God and it was just too much for them to take at one time.    First of all, it was so different.  These were educated people according to the Greek traditions.  They knew all about their gods; and they knew about other cultures and their gods.  They were tolerant of these other beliefs as the altar to the unknown god testified.  In a sense, they knew too much about these other belief systems.  Today, they would be called pluralists; those who believe that there is a little bit of truth in all faiths.  Such folks believe that God speaks in his own special way to all cultures and peoples.  So, there is value in listening to all and integrating everyone’s revelation.  Pluralists think it is arrogant for someone to proclaim that their religion has the answer.    

Paul’s words turned everything around on them.   Paul talked about how there was only one God, a God who was beyond all understanding; a God who made everything and everyone.  Such a God would supersede all these other religions that these folks studied.  They just didn’t want to hear that.   

Secondly, they did not have the proper disposition because their hearts were closed.  They were not capable of inspiration; not open to it.  The vanity of their educated status and their long line of traditions, made the idea of resurrection of the body absurd to them.  And so, they politely rejected Paul.  They told him “We should like to hear about this some other time”.  And so Paul left.   

We also live in a culture that thinks it has all the answers.  Our culture believes that mankind can control their own destiny.  Many teach that all creation can be explained without God; and that our science and technology has advanced to the point where we can forge our own destiny.  We can clone animals and people, they say.  We have genetically engineered this and that.  And they also scoff at the idea of an afterlife, especially a resurrected body.   

Now, the interesting thing is that the Christian message conquered the western world despite the arguments, smugness, and arrogance of the establishment of its time.  They conquered the world because of the love that the Christians displayed.  They conquered the world by speaking and living the truth.   

The tiny group of 12 men that gathered around Jesus and listened to the words Jesus spoke to them this morning in the Gospel changed the world forever.  Most of the 12, all but one, suffered martyrdom in the process.  But they had the peace that Jesus offered them in the process.  They had that peace because of the tremendous force that Jesus promises them this morning.  They had the energy, words, inspiration, and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  And so even when they were being persecuted, they were at peace with their God.   

This Easter, Father John gave each of us a little book to read.  I don’t know how many of you have read it, but the author, Matthew Kelly, makes a very strong point.  He advises all of us that we can respond to the Holy Spirit with Holy Moments.  We may not live holy moments all the time but we can be inspired to live holy moments at any time.  Our holy moments involve the inspiration we have to do something simple, yet extraordinary in our lives: to love unconditionally and unexpectedly for just a short period of time by helping a neighbor; doing something extra and unexpected.  And if we all live holy moments more often, that will make a difference.  Even the most arrogant and smug in society can be touched by the love of a holy moment just like they were 2000 years ago.   

So a good, sound, theological argument may fall on deaf ears, just as it did with the Athenians in Paul’s time.  It may be just too much all at one time for those who are disposed otherwise.  But a little love goes a long way. 

What Is Heaven Like?

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

6th Sunday of Easter

Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29; Re 21: 10-14, 22-23; John 14: 23-29

Deacon Larry Brockman

Just what is heaven like?  Well, the Book of Revelation tells us something about that.  Amongst all the unfamiliar symbolism that John uses a good portion of the book of Revelation describes the indescribable transcendental state of heaven in the only words that John could muster that somehow did it justice.  Part of that description is in our second reading.   

I invite you to reflect for a moment without distraction on what we just heard.  First, John sees the holy city of Jerusalem, which descends down from heaven.  Later on John says that God will make his dwelling place with us, so the holy city of Jerusalem is our heaven.    Next, John says that the city gleams with the splendor of God.  He describes the splendor of that gleaming in terms of the reflection we see from a precious stone, like jasper; and he says that it is clear as crystal.  The glory of God is dazzling, sparkling, clear as crystal, and bright.  It will be captivating!   

Then, John describes four walls.  The walls are sturdy, built on stone foundations; and they are tall.  This means that heaven is protected; that it is isolated from darkness and outside influences; that it is impregnable.  There is no devil; there is no war or bickering; there is no pain, no deception, no misery in heaven; only peace, joy, and the glory of God.    

But the walls also mean that entry to heaven is limited.  One has to enter through one of the 12 gates guarded by angels, with 3 gates on each of the four sides.  John identifies the twelve tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles with each of the gates, signifying that both the chosen people, Israel, and the converts of the New Testament may enter.  One has to be a believer and must have survived a period of trial and judgment.   

Next we find out there is no temple in this city, no church within it.  There is no need for a temple, because God himself is there.  And there is no need for the light of the moon or the sun or the stars because the glory of God illuminates the place.   

How do we get there, to heaven?  Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that “Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him”.  That is how we get to heaven- by loving God and keeping His word.  For then God will come to us, like the holy city Jerusalem descending from heaven.

Jesus then goes on to offer us the help of the Holy Spirit in our crusade.  He calls the Holy Spirit the “Advocate”.  He says the Spirit will teach us everything we need to know.  Indeed, those who love God and sincerely desire to follow him will be moved by God’s advocate, the Spirit.  He will inspire us to know and serve God.   

Then Jesus offers us peace.  But it is not the peace of this world.  Rather, it is peace in the heart.  It is the kind of peace one has when they are totally reconciled with God- satisfied that they are doing the right thing, satisfied that they have resisted the temptations of self-gratification when they are called to serve; feeling in harmony with God’s will for them no matter what might be going on around them in a tumultuous world.  That is the kind of peace that Jesus wishes on us.  It is the kind of peace that circumstances and time cannot take away from us.   

Easter is still upon us.  We first experience the Easter joy of knowing that the resurrection is real; and that we have the opportunity to be resurrected just like Jesus.  In its wisdom, the Church uses the later part of the Easter season to describe the coming joy in the Kingdom of God.

We have all experienced just a little bit of that today   

An Amazing Transformation

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter

Acts 5: 27-33; Jn 3:31-36

Deacon Larry Brockman

What an amazing transformation!    The Apostles, who had been “huddled in the upper room for fear of the Jews”, were transformed by Jesus’ resurrection appearance and his gift of the Holy Spirit to them.  They would stand in the portico of the temple in full sight of the authorities who they had previously feared, and preach Christ crucified and resurrected.  That’s what we have been hearing day by day in this Easter season.   

This morning, our reading tells us that the court officers made them stand before the Sanhedrin, where they were reminded that they were given strict orders not to preach “in that name”.  And Peter boldly tells the Sanhedrin that: “We must obey God rather than men.”   

First, Jesus appears to the Apostles and tells them to be at peace; and he means internal peace, not peace in a secular or worldly sense.  Certainly Peter and the Apostles do not appear to be at peace in a worldly sense in this morning’s reading.  Here they are, hauled in front of the authorities they feared previously, and we are told that the authorities wanted to kill them.  That’s not the kind of peace the world gives.  But they were at peace in their hearts because they had found their calling; they had found their hearts; they were at peace with God.  They were responding to the call to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations.   

What do you suppose the message is for us?  Does this story just give us a glimpse of the authenticity of the Christian story?  Is that all we take away from it, and then go on with our daily lives?  Or is there a much more profound personal message?    

And then there is the Gospel today.  It is taken from the very beginning of St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 3.  Jesus is explaining his role.  He has come from heaven, from above, “to testify to what He has seen and heard” from God the Father.  He boldly claims that He has been sent from the Father and “speaks the words of God”.  And he tells everyone that “Whoever believes in the son has eternal life”.   

His next sentence is very interesting because he says “whoever disobeys the son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains in him.”  That means that our belief is proven by our obedience.  We are required to be obedient to God’s call to us.   

Jesus post-Resurrection message to the Apostles was meant to be a message to all of us, not just the Apostles.  We are called to believe and to go forth and testify to the truth.  That’s what the Easter season is all about.  We are not just called to hear the story.  We are called to believe the story, embrace the peace of God that protects us from fear of the secular world; and boldly spread the message of the Gospel to all nations.   

We can do that within the context of our daily lives from where we are planted by God.  Each of us was given life in the here and now- in this age, some 2000 years after the events of the Gospel.  But our mission is the same as that of the first Christians.  We are called to be fearless witnesses of everything we have heard about our Christian Faith.   

We don’t have to drop everything and dedicate every waking hour to preaching Christ.  Rather, we just have to preach Christ by our daily lives in the way we treat others we come in contact with; in the way we raise our families; in the example we show our children and coworkers; in the way we stand up to the evils of the secular world.   

Yes, it is Jesus hope that each year in the Easter season each of us will experience an amazing transition just like the Apostles did. 

Living in Harmony With God’s Call (U)

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

St. Joseph the Worker (May 1, 2019)

Col 3: 14-15, 17, 23-24; Mt 13:54-58

Deacon Larry Brockman

No matter who you are, God has a plan especially for you.   God has gifted each you with the talents and personality that you have.  It is up to you to allow God’s spirit working within you to sense God’s plan for you and to use the gifts you have wisely.   

Of course, your parents and the environment you live in have a lot to do with it as well.  But God had a role to play in that too, didn’t he?  It was God’s will that you live right now- in this time and place.   

Jesus was like you and me in every way in his humanity.  It was God’s will that Jesus be born in the time and place that he was.  And it was God’s will that Jesus grow up in a humble environment as the son of a carpenter.  And yet, God also graced Jesus with special talents- the ability to know God the Father intimately; to discover who He was, the Son of God; and to embark on his 3 year Mission to preach about the Kingdom of God.   

And through the Spirit, Jesus was able to discern that things had to change; people had to change because the message that God had passed on to His people through Moses and the prophets had morphed.  Instead of loving God and neighbor with one’s whole heart, mind, and soul; the essence of being a Jew in Jesus’ time was adherence to the Mosaic law.  Jesus preached repentance, which is a change in lifestyle to correct for deficiencies; and Jesus preached following in his own way of life to be in harmony with God, even if it resulted in suffering and pain.  In Jesus’ case, it resulted in his death on the cross.  

St. Paul does a great job summarizing what Jesus was trying to teach the people in this morning’s first reading.  First and foremost, we must put on love.  And, we must seek out and act on the peace that God gives us.   

Sunday we learned Jesus’ greeting to the Apostles was “Peace be with you” in each of the post-Resurrection appearances.  And that “peace” is the internal peace that comes with being in a right relationship with God.  When your life is in harmony with God’s will, you are at peace internally no matter what is going on around you in the world.  Such peace requires us to be strong; to be resolute; and to accept the realities of conflict in the world.  It seems so ironic; but someone who is suffering from terrible persecution can have the internal peace of God although they are hardly at peace in the eyes of the secular world.   

And we are to act from the heart.  That means that whatever we do, we are motivated by the Spirit working deep within us such that we feel that it is the right thing to do.  Our motivation is not just to comply with the law; but rather to fulfill the deepest sentiments of our hearts. 

For example, we should go to Mass on Sundays not because we have to; but because we want to be with God and we seek the nourishment that are in both the Word of God and the Bread of Life.  

And lastly, we are to be slaves of Christ.  Yes, all of us are called to a servant role, to do God’s will.  For most of us, that means we are called to be servants to those who are in our families.  Serving the needs of our children and our spouses are our top priorities.   

When Jesus stood up in that local synagogue and taught the people, He was at peace with his Father, he was doing the will of His Father, and he was using the talents that God had given him, talents that were above and beyond those that he had learned in his trade as a carpenter.  Jesus spoke with authority, and his message was well structured and well thought out.  But most importantly, Jesus was fulfilling the will of His Father to preach repentance and about the coming Kingdom of God.  And Jesus was at peace when his own people rejected him.   

This morning, we are all called to reflect on how we are living our lives.  Are we in harmony with the will of God?  Are we using the personality and talents we have been given to be servants of God?  And are we at peace with all of that?