Our Behavior Mirrors Our Generation’s Faith

March 18th, 2020

Wednesday of 3rd Week in Lent

Dt 4: 1, 5-9; Mt 5: 17-19

Deacon Larry Brockman

First, we hear from Moses that the Israeli Nation should live according to the law, not just to save themselves, but also so that their example would stand out.  In that way, other nations would see the wisdom and intelligence of their God and his law.   

Then, we hear Jesus admonish the people that He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  But Jesus whole ministry was aimed at instilling the law in our hearts.  It was not so much a matter of meeting the letter of the law, but a matter of understanding and living the law with our hearts.  And he goes further by saying that those who obey the law will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven, while those who teach others to abandon the law will be least in the Kingdom of Heaven. And so Jesus is also emphasizing the example that the people will give to others.   

You know, it struck me that these are definitely words of wisdom for our time.  All of a sudden, our entire world has been immersed in an incredible challenge- this Corona Virus pandemic.  It is so challenging that many have said that they have never seen anything like it before.  It is even being compared to World War II in terms of its eventual global impact; because this current pandemic has the potential to change life for all of us in ways we never expected just weeks ago.  We simply don’t understand the economic and human implications of what amounts to a national, let alone a world-wide lockdown for an extensive period of time.  We don’t know how many of us will become infected and how many of us will die.   

And yet, the reality is that the mortality rate is one in 40 or 50; so, the vast majority of people who get it will survive.  Only history will establish how well we respond to this pandemic and the challenges that it is presenting us.   

When you come right down to it, God is the solution to the problem.  We are being called to live according to the natural law of God; and what is more, we are being called to live according to the moral law that God has given us as we navigate our way through this challenge.  And so, we are being called to love our neighbor as ourselves; and we are being called to do unto others as we would have them do to us.  

Now these are not just merely words to ponder, but rather, they are a call to action.  We are being called upon to live the Christian faith now more than at any time in the past.  Let me be specific.   

Christianity calls for us to act in harmony with everyone’s interests, not just in own self-interest and to be calm and in control of ourselves, and not act out of panic.  That being the case, let me pose this question:  Just how much Clorox and toilet paper can a family use in 4 weeks?  Yet all of these items have been totally depleted everywhere in this country.  We’ve all been to the store; we’ve all seen the pictures.  People are panicking; but even more to the point, they are acting out of selfishness.  And this is only the first week or so of the National crisis.   

We stand on the threshold of what might be a long, long period of time when we are called to live orderly, disciplined lives according to the law while we are pretty much on our own; while we are in isolation.  And while we are all worried that the supply chain will be affected, we simply cannot panic.  Rather, we need to pray and to trust that God and our fellow man will be there for us.  The government simply can’t police all of us; and all of us are affected.  That takes self-control and discipline; and adherence to a moral code that we believe in.  It’s the kind of self-control Moses was asking the Israelis to practice; and the kind of adherence to the spirit of the law which was the essence of Jesus mission.   

Nobody knows how this pandemic will play out over the next couple of months.  But God loves all of us, and He will be there for us at this critical time if we call on His name and trust in Him.  Meanwhile, we need to be there for each other; and we need to listen to what our leaders are asking us to do.  In other words, we need to be obedient to the law.   

Generations from now, will our witness to our faith and the law that flows from it validate how we behaved in this crisis?  Will we establish a legacy we can all be proud of?  Will this generation be great in the kingdom of heaven?  Or will we walk away from God and make it every man for himself? 

Lenten Fasting Brings a Blessing

February 26th, 2020

Ash Wednesday

Joel 2: 12-18; 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2; Mt 6: 1-6, 16-18

Deacon Larry Brockman

“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart; with fasting and weeping and mourning”!   These words apply to all of us here just as they did to the folks Joel wrote them for.   

Monday, I walked into a room here, and the patient told me he had left his faith many years ago.  But he still described himself as a Catholic.  He had just experienced a medical scare, and so, after 40 plus years of alienation from his faith; all of a sudden his mortality was working on him.  He said he was thinking about God.  I asked him if he wanted to pray; and he said “no”.  He said he didn’t all of a sudden want to use God.  I told him that God was relentless in his pursuit of us; that God was like water or light seeping through any crack He can find to get through to us; and that God was ready any time for his prayer.   

Most of you out there today work here and see this kind of thing often.  Time marches on, and all of a sudden life’s potential, which seems endless in the prime of life; is abruptly stunted for a patient.  And, it can happen to any of us- a stroke, an accident, a cancer diagnosis, Alzheimers, the loss of a loved one.  And if we have put God on the back burner, well you might just feel like the patient I described- concerned that if you all of a sudden turned to him; you were being a hypocrite, just using Him.  But what I said to this man applies to all of us too.  God is pursuing us; and will continue to pursue us until we recognize him. 

Today’s reading is the perfect example of that.  Joel recommends his people take stock of their lives, and repent because the Lord is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in kindness.”   

Lent is the time of year when the Church blows the trumpet, proclaims a fast, and calls an assembly.  Yes, all of us are called to review where we are in our relationship with God.  So, step off the fast-moving train of life for a little while, and let God work on you.  Spend some time pulling back from anything that prevents you from doing that- let that be your “fast”; maybe it’s TV, or sports, or video games, or long lunches.  And use that time for praying and reflecting on what you can do to get closer to God; not just for a while, but in the long term.  And pray about it in quiet.   

Who knows, maybe the Lord will relent, and leave behind a blessing.   

Tuesday Benediction

February 11th, 2020

Tuesday of the 5th Week of Ordinary Time

Reparation Week Benediction

2 Chron 7:14

Deacon Larry Brockman

It has begun.  The process for selecting our national leader has begun.  This very night, the first primary is being held.   

If ever our country needed prayers and reparation, it is now.  Because our choices are limited and should cause all of us grave concern.   

Of the 20 or so candidates who are seeking one party’s nomination, all 20 of them, every last one of them, is strongly pro – choice.  Not a single one of them believes in life from conception.  How can so many of them take such a position in what was a Christian Country?  It’s a position that Catholics just can’t accept.   

The choice on other side is marred by self-serving rhetoric, immoral behavior patterns, and risky international moves.  Ironic, that this side would be strongly pro-life.   

So, what can we do?  We have to turn it over to God.  Because only God has the answer; and God can work miracles despite the mess we are in.  Together, we can offer our prayers to God with all humility, and with the greatest of sincerity.   

And that is why we have Tuesday Benediction.  Because when we turn to our God; he is our hope.  Our country can survive anything as long as we focus on God and keeping his law. 

It is Christ That Unifies Us

February 9th, 2020

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 58: 7-10; 1 Cor 2: 1-5; Mt 5: 13-16

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today, all three of our readings tell us that the most important thing we can do in living our lives from day-to-day is to live the message of Christianity rather than preach it in words.  And what is more, that is something that all of us can do.  We can all spread the light of Christ by our attitude and enthusiasm for our faith; and by working together in doing it.  We don’t have to be gifted in all the details of theology to do that.  Our actions speak louder than words.   

Notice that St. Paul tells the Corinthians that when he came, he did not use fancy words, or wise arguments, or clever catch words to preach Christ.  He did not package his message with slick Madison Avenue sales gimmicks.  Rather, he came with “a demonstration of spirit and power”.  In other words, Paul projected a sense of commitment and fervor in what he believed; and people could see he was the genuine article because he demanded nothing in return.   

Elsewhere in the Epistles we learn that Paul accepted no pay or hospitality but carried his own weight by working as a tentmaker.  Paul did not work mighty deeds, make bold promises, or guarantee worldly success.  Paul just lived the message he preached.  That was novel and different in the Roman World of the first century.  It as a tactic that worked.   

And then we have the words of advice from Isaiah.  Who says: “Your light shall break forth like the dawn.”  That’s similar to the message Paul expressed, isn’t it?  Because Isaiah is recommending that the people show their commitment to God by the actions that they perform.  Isaiah recommends that the people simply be kind to each other, especially to those who have less.  At the same time, Isaiah asks for harmony- that the people should “remove oppression and false accusation” from their midst.  This is a script for doing away with factions and divisions.  These factions get in the way of the real progress that man can make in living together in peace.    

That brings me to the Gospel.  Jesus had just preached his sermon on the mount to a large crowd of people.  The Beatitudes were the essence of that message and precede this reading.  The Beatitudes are all about emptying self and doing God’s will.   

But just after Jesus finished preaching the Beatitudes, he tells his disciples that they need to be the “salt of the earth”, and a “light to the world”.  He tells them that it is not good enough to just accept his message and live it quietly; rather, they have to go out and spread that message.  And they have to deliver the message with salt- because it brings the taste of the message to life.  How else could this be done unless the people lived the message with zest and commitment.   

And they are to go out and spread the message like light disperses.  It is like the image given in Isaiah: Light breaking forth like the dawn.  For indeed, light pours out of small racks and spreads everywhere; and when the sun rises, it brightens and permeates everything.  That is the nature of light.   

So, how do we do that?  How do we maintain the zest in salt and spread our faith like a bright light?  We do it by the way we treat each other and the way we project ourselves as we live our lives.  We do it by engaging in the community that we live in; not by hiding in it.  We do it by being witnesses for what we believe- by speaking up at the right time; by being there for others when they need us; by failing to embrace the secular values when they are pushed on us; by being enthusiastic about life and Jesus Christ.   

It means a whole lot of little things.  Do we all say grace before meals when we are in public?  Are we enthusiastic about the religious activities we engage in when we talk to others?  Do we praise God for the beauty of his creation?  Do we refrain from gossip and forming factions?   

And from what I know about this small group of Catholics in in isolated community.  You do all that.  You are engaging the wider community and witnessing that you are Catholic.  You are doing it with zest and it is working. 

We Cannot Hide Our Chritianity

January 30th, 2020

Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

2 Sam 7: 18-19, 24-29; Mark 4: 21-25

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today’s first reading tells us all about the chosen people, Israel, and the House of God.  In a sense, this is analogous to the Church of today.

And in the Gospel, Jesus talks directly to his disciples, who are to be his witnesses to the end of the earth.  Today’s Gospel follows immediately after the parable Jesus told a great crowd on the lake in yesterday’s reading.  It was the parable of the sower and the seed.  Clearly, that parable was addressed to the crowd.  Jesus told his disciples he spoke in parables so that those who sought the truth would see; but those who weren’t seeking the truth would be blind to the analogy.  Those who would turn from his message at the first distraction; or be deceived by the devil or be drawn to the things of the world were identified and rejected.

Jesus was seeking to find those who were hungry for his message and would produce fruit in the long run by living according to it.  But then he told his disciples that they were especially gifted with knowledge of the Kingdom. 

So, today’s Gospel is the sequel to the parable of the seed.  He is not talking to the people in general but to the disciples who are especially gifted.  But he uses the same language as yesterday to challenge his disciples to look beyond the surface meaning and see the hidden message in the parable.  Jesus says: “Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”   

Since Jesus is addressing his disciples, what does it all mean to us?  Well, we are the chosen people now; and we are also his disciples.  Jesus intent was to propagate the Christian message throughout the world.  All of us are blessed as the House of Israel was blessed by virtue of our membership in the people of God.  We achieve that membership when we are Baptized into the Church.  

And when we are Baptized, the Priest or Deacon Says: “I anoint you as priest, prophet and king.”  And so, we are sent out to be God’s witnesses to the end of the earth.  This means that although Jesus was addressing His disciples in real time; He is addressing all of us today.   

You see, our Church needs witnesses; witnesses who are not afraid to share their knowledge, to share the light of Christ that they have received.  And what is more, this is what God expects of us.   

In fact, the disciples are being told that just because they have been chosen to hear about the kingdom of God directly,  They are not to keep it to themselves;  They are to spread that light, let it shine everywhere.  It would be inappropriate for them to keep this “secret” knowledge to themselves; and it would be unacceptable for them to receive special “gifts” and not use them to spread that message.   

Then Jesus repeats his challenge to the disciples a second time.  He says: Take care what you hear”.  And tells them: “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you”.  And: “To the one that has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”   

When we come into this beautiful building to worship, we experience a communal bond of fellowship and common belief.  It reinforces our faith and makes it vibrant and strong, especially when we receive the Eucharist.  But, this morning’s message is that this is not enough.  It is not enough for us to just support each other and to be comfortable in our faith.  The secular world is out there, and the light we have cannot be hidden in this Church.  It needs to be spread all around.   

Just like the disciples, all of us have been gifted in special ways.  God wants us to use those gifts to be his witnesses.  We should not hide these talents and savor our knowledge in closed communities.  If we do, we may just lose what we have.  We are the people of God now and it is our job, all of us, to spread the light of Christ.  In today’s world, the folks all around us are in just as much need of enlightenment as those in the remote corners of the world. 

So, let your light shine. 

Vivian Rowell Vigil

January 28th, 2020

Rom 8: 14-23; John 14: 1-6

Deacon Larry Brockman

We have all lost a wonderful lady.   

I have known Ted and Vivian since 1984 when I moved to Orlando.  We interacted occasionally over the many years at Holy Family, and even at St. Jude.  I can remember Vivian vividly- those intense blue eyes, her warmth, and her intensity.  And even though I did not know her well, her faith shown like a bright star.  Her devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Blue Army ministry she started were well know across the Parish.

Jane and I watched the Rowell family grow as we watched our own family grow.  The Rowell children were a little older, but our families grew much the same way.  Both the Rowells and the Brockmans were gifted with 13 grandchildren.  I sense that your family is very close, and that Vivian’s life was filled with great joy over her children and grandchildren.   

But here we are now 36 years later.  Time has taken its toll on our families.  I know that Vivian suffered greatly since her stroke in 2016.   But indeed, Paul’s words from Romans are so very relevant- “For the sufferings of the present are as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed for us.”  And that glory and the Kingdom of God are the constant hope of all of us while we live.  And that included Vivian.     

As you know Ted, I lost my life partner in 2018, so I know about how it feels to lose a spouse.  All of a sudden there’s a giant hole in your life.  But the fact is that Vivian, like my Jane, has finished the race, and through her strong Faith and constant commitment to God, she was ready for her transition into the Kingdom and her reward.  We can all be happy for her as we grieve over our loss.   

As the Gospel says, there are many dwelling places in God’s house.  Certainly, He has prepared a place for Vivian.  Recently Pope Francis said something very interesting about marriage.  He said it was “forever”.  It is one of those things he says that has been attacked.  But you know what, when you have been married for 63 years, and have been so committed to each other, it is hard to imagine that death in this world is anything other than a temporary separation.  

 So rejoice for Vivian.  Because her hope has been realized.  And some day, all of her loved ones will be reunited with her. 

Following Jesus Christ

January 26th, 2020

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17; Mt 4: 12-23

Deacon Larry Brockman

Do you hear Jesus calling you?  And are you willing to drop everything and just follow after Him like the two sets of Apostles in the Gospel?  And just what does it mean to hear the call and follow after Him?  

 In the reading from Paul to the Corinthians, Paul is preaching against divisions among the people of God.  These are people who have heard the call and have converted to Christianity in the budding Church of the first century.  However, these people are choosing between one person’s message and another’s- in fact, three different people are mentioned, presumably with three different emphases.  But this doesn’t mean their messages are mutually exclusive.   Nevertheless, this has caused discord among the people- divisions; because people just naturally want to keep it simple.  They want to believe that they have got it right and others have got it wrong.   

Certainly, our times are like that.  We are a generation with serious divisions amongst us.  And there are so many different divisions amongst Christians.  There are literally hundreds of denominations and many non-denominational Christian Churches; and each of them will tell you that they are the ones who have the message right.   

Even within the Catholic Church there are divisions- for example, there are those who agree with this pope and those who disagree with him.   

But one thing is very clear from both Jesus and Paul’s message today:  It is really all about following Jesus Christ.  Now, it matters what Jesus said; but it matters more what He did.  Because when you follow someone, then you are really following after what they do.  No matter how eloquent someone is in their message; if they don’t practice what they preach; well, you’ve got to be wary of their message.   

You know, as I look back over the history of the Church,  I am struck by people who have had a tremendous impact on the Church:  Consider St. Francis of Assisi; Saint Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Ignatius of Loyola; and modern Sts. Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, and John Paul II for example.  All of these people practiced what they preached.  And all of them left a twofold legacy.  First, they all had something to say; but secondly, the primary way they validated what they said was the way they lived their lives.  And the way all of them lived their lives was by mirroring the love of God in what they did. Other people could see that they were special people- real saints; and so many of them developed followers.  So, today we have Franciscans, Jesuits, Sisters of Mercy, and other groups that try to emulate the special charisms f these people had.  But these are not divisions; rather they are people who are mirroring the love of God in certain specific ways.   

The fact is, each one of us is unique, and so we are each called in a different way to follow Jesus Christ.  We can choose to drop everything and follow after the special charisms of one of these special people.  Those who choose this path become priests or nuns or join a religious order.  Yes these people have heard the call and responded to it.  They are particularly blessed for committing their lives in this way.  

 But there is another way.  We can look at the way these special saints embraced the Gospel as a way of life, and do something similar in our lives- the ones that God has given us.  We are doctors, teachers, housewives, factory workers, and yes, even fisherman, and whatever else.  And we are all called to live our lives in accordance with the way of life Jesus showed those first disciples who followed him- by doing the will of God and loving others as self.   

We do it in the kindnesses we show other people; how we take care of our sick and elderly;   How we show our children what is right and wrong; how we reject the secular values that are contrary to Jesus’ teaching;  How we respect the dignity of all human life. 

The world badly needs Christians who publicly do as Jesus did.

And that is what it means to hear Jesus and follow after Him.. 

Preparing for Christmas Spiritually

December 15th, 2019

Lessons and Carols

Dc. Larry Brockman

Are you ready for the coming of Christ!  If you have been coming to Mass during Advent, then you know that this is the theme of the Advent Season- being ready for the coming of Christ.  But that begs the point.  What does it really mean to be ready for the coming of Christ?   

This is prime time in the holiday season.  Most folks are out there getting ready for Christmas the way our culture has taught us.  They are putting up lights or shopping or baking or partying or decorating the tree and house or writing Christmas Cards or any of those other things we all do to get ready.  But you have taken the time on such a busy Sunday afternoon to listen to what the coming of Christ is really all about and to understand why we are really rejoicing on Christmas Day.   

Now don’t get me wrong.  All of those things I mentioned above are fine traditions.  But they are putting the cart before the horse.  Because we are so busy celebrating and having a good time that we are missing the reason for our joy at Christmas.   

It is Jesus who is the real reason for the season and the amorphous “Spirit of Christmas” that everybody celebrates; that feeling of good will towards others; putting aside our busy work and school chores to celebrate; and the feasting on all those cookies and fine meals.  Well, they should proceed from our understanding of Jesus gift to us rather than precede it.   

We just spent about thirty minutes hearing about how the salvation of mankind came about and how Jesus became God’s ultimate gift to mankind.  Let’s review briefly what we heard.   

First, we heard about man’s fall- the story of Adam and Eve.  So, all of us who descended from Adam and Eve were born into a world crippled by that original sin.  Next, we heard from several of the Old Testament Prophets that God still loves us and that God would save us by sending us a savior.  The prophets said the Spirit of God would rest on this savior, God’s anointed one.  He would gather all his people into a special place- a place of everlasting happiness.   

Think about that a minute.  We can go on celebrating the secular Christmas for just so long.  And then, our life is gone.  But the Joy of Christmas is an everlasting joy, because we will be in an eternal home.   

Then, the Prophet Isaiah predicted this savior would come to us through a child.  And indeed, we hear in the Annunciation story that Mary will bear that child.  We also learn that the child will be God himself, in the person of the Son of God.   

Next, we hear about the birth of Jesus and the coming of the magi, the Three Kings.  And so, the promise of salvation made to the Jews was extended to all peoples as symbolized by the three Kings.     

Lastly, we heard what is called the “Last Gospel”.  St John tells us about the nature of God in a nutshell.  They are the clearest words on the nature of the Trinity available in scripture and they define Jesus as the second person of the Trinity.  Yes, Jesus is both God and man.     

And so, the whole story of Jesus coming was reviewed for us through these 8 scriptures passages.  We’ve heard all of it before, haven’t we?  But do we really appreciate what it all means?  And do we understand why it brings us so much joy?  

First of all, Christianity is unique.  It is even unique among those religions who believe in one God.  That’s because all other religions believe that God is so far above us that we cannot easily relate to him, especially not relate to him one on one.    But Jesus came into the world as one of us.  He grew, lived, played, learned, worked, taught, suffered, died, and was buried in the same way all of us experience life.  He related to people just like you and I one on one.    When Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples and promised them that if they believed in Him and followed His example, they would experience the same resurrection and life after death.  We learned that all believers are united together in the Church as one mystical body.  All that Jesus said and did is recorded in our Gospels so we can spread that word to everyone else.   

We call this the Incarnation; it is the source of our Christian joy because rather than a distant, austere God; one who is hard to relate to; we have a God that is close to us, intimate with us; and He has promised us all everlasting life.   

Christmas is the story about the awesome God who loves us all without limit.  When you give gifts, you are sharing God’s spirit of giving to His loved ones- the gift of Jesus, his promise of everlasting life, and love of God.   

And so, let us get ready for the Coming of Christ by reviewing our lives and assuring that we are living according to the Gospel.  Let us share the joy of the gift of Jesus and our salvation by recognizing the source.  The source of Christmas joy is Jesus Christ, now and forever, Amen. 

Finding the Light Burden

December 11th, 2019

Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent

Is 40: 25-31; Mt 11: 28-30

Deacon Larry Brockman

“Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.  For my yoke is easy and my burden light”.  That really struck me and strikes me every time I hear it because it doesn’t seem to be so, does it?   

All of us face burdens and trials in life and some of them seem really hard, not easy.  We lose our jobs; we get illnesses, some of them chronic; we lose a parent or spouse or child.  We are accosted by difficult people; we are burdened with debt, fear, or the unknown.  And even though we pray for help it still seems really hard sometimes, doesn’t it?  

 It’s especially hard when multiple problems have to be faced at the same time because we feel that we have to be in control at all times; and when we get hit from all sides, we don’t feel in control.  That makes the whole dilemma seem that much worse.   

Now the first reading today gives some special insight about God’s relationship with us.  God makes it abundantly clear that we cannot hide anything from him.  No matter how much we think that we are in control and can circumvent fate ourselves; the reality is that God knows; He always knows; and but for the grace of God, none of our actions to do anything would be effective.  So, we are never really ever in control; God is.  

Isaiah speaks of God’s intimate knowledge of each member of His army; He knows each of them by their name and He leads them.  So, no matter what, the Lord is there to lead the way.  We can resist; or we can cooperate, it’s up to us.     

Then, Isaiah says that even young men faint and grow weary.  So those of us who are strong and like to be in control- beware; you will eventually faint and grow weary.  Our energy is limited, and we just can’t get there by ourselves.   

But the Lord does not grow weary- ever.  Isaiah says that the Lord gives strength to the faint.  So, if we let God lead, let Him take control, we will be strengthened in what we do.   

Well, that’s basically what Jesus is talking about as well.  We are all called to turn over our burdens to the one who is in control- God.  This means that we trust in God.  It does not mean that we abandon our efforts.  Rather, we trust that God will lead us through whatever we are faced with.  We still need to act; but we act knowing that God is behind us all the way.    Now when we try to control everything, and things don’t go our way; well, that usually results in very bad feelings inside- anger, hate, jealousy, disappointment, and lots of other negative emotions.    But when we trust in God and let Him lead us; He may just grace us with unexpected outcomes.  Sometimes those outcomes are even better than we ever imagined.  Often we get a feeling of satisfaction from the Lord; an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction that God has heard us; that he loves us; and that we are in harmony with him.  Those feelings of harmony are in stark contrast to the feelings of resentment we get when we try to be in control.   

There are hard times that all of us will have to endure in life.  But if we trust in the Lord and turn it over to him, we will be sure to find rest for ourselves- the eternal rest that never ends. 

Ascending the Mountain of the lord

December 4th, 2019

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Is 25: 6-10a; Mt 15: 29-37

Deacon Larry Brockman

Two mountains; two feasts; and the mercy of God.  That’s what we heard about today in both readings today.   

The gospel story has both a literal and a symbolic meaning.  In a literal sense, we see that Jesus shows an incredible amount of mercy and compassion.  Not only does he heal all the blind, the sick, the deformed, the mute, and the lame brought to him; but he meets the bodily needs of the whole crowd whom he senses is famished after following him for days.  Jesus was always thinking of others, not himself.   

Just imagine how exhausted Jesus must have been.  After all, he was faced with a constant stream of desperate people for days; and yet the further away he travelled to get some peace; the more crowded it got; the more individuals he had to heal.  Finally, he ends up on the mountain with nowhere to go!.  Even after all that, His focus was on everybody else, not himself.     

Now human beings are limited in their capacity to show mercy and compassion.  And since Jesus was fully human, he was under those limitations   But this story gives us just a hint at the breadth and depth of the mercy and compassion of God.  Jesus, God made fully human, demonstrates mercy and compassion almost beyond human capacity in this story.  And yet God himself has no such limits.  That’s what the literal part of the gospel tells us.  It tells us to rejoice over the unlimited mercy and compassion of God.   

The gospel also has a symbolic meaning.  And that meaning is foretold in our first reading from Isaiah.  Isaiah has been called the Gospel of the Old Testament because it foretells so much about Jesus life and mission.   

Today’s first reading is an apocalyptic vision of “the mountain of God”, that is, the Holy City of Jerusalem in the Kingdom of God.  The feast with fine wines and rich foods is the heavenly reward of all those who enter its gates.  When the Lord Comes again, we are all hoping we will follow him into this final place of rest and satisfaction.  Death will be destroyed there, yielding everlasting life for its inhabitants.  There will be no tears, and all nations will live in harmony.  The reproach of the people will be removed; so, all sins will be forgiven.  And as Isaiah himself says “Behold our God to whom we looked to save us!”  So, we will all be in the presence of God.  This is the ultimate vision of the mercy and compassion of God; a vision of salvation and happiness for all those who are saved.  

Today’s gospel has all the same symbols-  the mountain symbolizes the Kingdom; the healing of all the infirmities symbolizes forgiveness of any and all of our brokenness; and the bread and fish symbolize nourishment for all by God himself.  Jesus is God made man and symbolizes our presence in the Kingdom with almighty God.   

We are in the early part of Advent.  We are all being called to joyful expectation of the Kingdom like the crowd in Jesus’ time,  We need to be desperate for healing; humble and contrite in our approach; and hungry for what really satisfies our hunger.  If we are, then we can joyfully anticipate the limitless mercy and compassion of Jesus when he comes; and the rich feast in the Holy City of Jerusalem will be ours!