Posts Tagged ‘Real Faith’

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. 

Let God Be Your Teacher

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Thursday of Third Week of Easter

Acts 8:26-40; Jn 6: 44-51

Dc. Larry Brockman

“They shall all be taught by God”.  These are Jesus’ words at the beginning of the Gospel- a quote from the prophets.   

Now I am sure that most of us glossed over that when we heard it.  Of course we are all taught by God. Really?   

One of the things we discover about those who teach us at a very early age, is that to learn, we have to listen, and believe what the teacher tells us without question.  Likely our first teachers were our parents.  And fortunately for most of us, we blindly accepted the words and instructions of our parents as toddlers.  We believed; we had faith.  And so we learned the basics- how to talk, how to walk, how to eat, how to love.   

Then we went to school.  We believed that the pattern in the book is an “A” just because we were told so by the teacher.  We also believed that the sound of an “A” is “ah”.  And so, we learned to read.  Indeed, we accepted a lot about what our first teachers told us without question.   

This is the sense of what it means deep down when Jesus quotes the prophets:  “They shall all be taught by God”.  God’s word on everything is the absolute truth.  If we want; we can be taught by God by believing on Faith what he tells us because we can absolutely trust God.   

But the fact is that as we grow up,  we learned that our other teachers could not be trusted absolutely.  There were times that our parents, teachers, and other folks in authority either didn’t know the truth, didn’t tell the truth, or didn’t understand the truth adequately.  Similarly, there were things that we discovered were ambiguous- the truth wasn’t clear sometimes.  And so, we learned to “think for ourselves” and to pick and choose to believe from what we heard. 

Unfortunately, many folks have applied this rationale to the things that God wants us to learn about him.  We test everything God tells us sort of like we test the things we hear from other sources.  And when we test it, we use our rationale.  It’s as if we put our thought process ahead of the wisdom of God.   

Real Faith is coming to believe in what God has told us simply because God has said so.  We cannot always reason it out; some of it is a mystery.  That is why Jesus says we need to have faith like a little child.   

Now the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunoch that we just heard is a great example of accepting on Faith what God has to say.  Here is a man who is totally foreign to the Jews.  He has somehow been attracted to the Jewish Scriptures, and is seeking the truth.  Jesus talks about such a person in the Gospel.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”.  That is what happened to the Ethiopian- God was drawing him to the truth.  And Phillip opens his eyes to what it all means by relating the prophecy of Isaiah to all that happened to Jesus.  What faith this Ethiopian man had- he truly had the Faith of a child.  He accepted the word of God without challenging it.   

This Gospel addresses some of the most important elements of our Faith.  We are all called to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, rose from the dead, and gave us the Eucharist as the bread of life.  All of us are called to live a Christian life daily, and to be witnesses to the world.  We are called to live in the world- not to withdraw from it.  But to live in this secular world with conflicting values and voices, we need all the help we can get.  Jesus promises us that He is bread of life in this Gospel.  The Eucharist is that bread of life, and it is available to us as often as we seek it.  When we really believe that Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist,  and relish those few moments after we receive Him, then we will be given all the strength we need, all the graces we need, to be Christian witnesses in the face of an ever increasing secular world; to bear our share of the hardships which life brings us; to love our neighbors as ourselves; and to forgive as God forgives us. 

And those who truly believe like this will live forever.

Living in Real Faith

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Thursday of the Easter Week

Acts 3:11-26; Lk 24: 35-48

Dc. Larry Brockman

How strong is your faith?  Do you really believe all the church teaches about Jesus Christ?  Do you believe that God the Father sent His only Son to share our human condition, to be fully human and fully divine?  And do you believe that Jesus, although God, endured the incredible suffering and humility of the Cross?  Do you believe deep down in the Resurrection of the body and life everlasting for each one of us?  You know, all of what I just asked is part of our creed, isn’t it.  And on Easter, we were all asked to reaffirm our belief.  So do you really believe?   

Or do you hold back in reserve and kind of doubt some or all of the creed?  Before you answer too quickly, consider this.  Does doubt surface when you are confronted with your own mortality?  When you think about dying, do you wonder whether this is really all there is to life.  Or do you relish the idea of life in the Kingdom of God.  Chances are, when you think about dying, even the most faithful of us have twinges of doubt.  Maybe it is just fear of the unknown, but it might also be some doubt.  So, just how do we “cast out all fear” and embrace the unknown with real, genuine faith?   

You know, when you come right down to it the Apostles were incredible teachers on the matter of real faith.  They truly acted as all of us do- with doubt in the background.  During his lifetime, Jesus told the Apostles about the coming Kingdom of God; and he shared with them three times that the Son of Man would have to suffer horribly and die at the hands of evil men, only to rise on the third day.  But the Apostles didn’t get it; they were confused and Peter even tried to admonish Jesus not to say such things.  It just didn’t make sense that the Messiah would have to suffer.  Yes, the Apostles, the folks chosen by Jesus to spread the faith, had lots of problems exhibiting real faith.   

And right at the beginning of the Easter season, as our readings tell us the story of the Resurrection, even there we see doubt from the Apostles.  The Emmaus brothers tell the rest of the Apostles about their encounter with Jesus.  Jesus reenacts the Last Supper with them, offering bread and wine- his own flesh and blood.  And then breaks down the scriptures that predicted all that had happened to him.  It was only then that they recognized Him.  Jesus had just presided over the first Mass after the Resurrection.   

But the Apostles were incredulous- how could this be.  And then, Jesus is miraculously standing amongst them.  Jesus can read their minds, their body language, their doubt, and so he challenges them to touch him and see for themselves.  Then he eats a piece of fish- something a ghost cannot do.  Yes, it is the risen Jesus; he is a real, living person.  And Jesus then commissions the Apostles to be his witnesses to spread the good news of the gospel to everyone- everyone.   

And so, it finally begins to dawn on them.  The whole thing is really true- all of it; the incarnation, the call to repentance, the coming of the Kingdom, the suffering and death, the resurrection of the Body, salvation offered to all, and life everlasting.  It took a whole lot of convincing, but they all finally got it.  God so loved man that he sacrificed his son, and if we follow after him and take up our crosses, we will die physically, but only to be raised from the dead and live forever in the Kingdom of God.  They finally came to believe.   

That brings us to the first reading today.  Apparently the crippled man came to believe as well.  And the Apostles, now fully convinced and living in faith, were able to bring him to health through Jesus power.  And then they proclaimed that:   “God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”   

So, if you really believe, then you will turn from whatever evil is in your life, mend your ways, and follow after Jesus.  You don’t have to understand everything; you just need to believe in it because there is so much more to life than what this world offers.  There is life everlasting in the Kingdom of God.  And that is all that matters. 

The Two Rocks

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Thursday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time

Num 20: 1-13; Mt 16: 13-23

Dc. Larry Brockman

Two Rocks- that’s what today’s scriptures are about.

Now I am certain that most of you have heard the first reading many times and wondered at its meaning.  Just how did the Moses and the Israelis test the Lord and His sanctity?  Well, first notice that the Isaraelis grumbled to themselves over lack of water, not trusting in the Lord.  So they went to Moses and Aaron to complain.  Moses and Aaron, feeling faint of heart themselves, appeal to the Lord for help.  All of that demonstrates lack of faith and trust.  But the Lord tells Moses to take his famous staff out of the Ark where it was kept.  He was then to assemble the people and in their presence, order water to flow out of the rock.  Now the staff symbolized the power and sanctity of the Lord.  When Moses just held the staff, great things happened- like the parting of the Red Sea and victory in battle.  So, Moses was supposed to just hold it, not strike the rock.  That should have brought it all back to the Israelis- that this staff symbolized the power of an invincible God; it should have renewed their faith.  But as you can see, Moses spoke tentatively and impatiently in the presence of the people at the rock- not with faith, and so not with authority he was given.  And yet, despite their lack of faith and mistrust, God in his goodness caused water to gush from the rock.  Because Moses did not handle the situation properly, he and Aaron were punished.

In the Gospel, Jesus is asking a central question of faith.  Have his disciples, by this time in his ministry to them, been moved in their hearts to know who he really is?   Do they believe, do they have faith in him?  Some dance around the issue, saying he is a prophet.  But Simon Peter comes up with the answer Jesus is looking for- that Jesus is the Messiah.  And so Jesus renames Simon to Peter, which means Rock and says that on that Rock he will build his Church.  Indeed, Peter went out and Baptized and spread the Gospel.  Peter had faith and acted on it despite many trials and tribulations and that’s how the Church was built.

Every day of our lives, we are confronted with challenges that test our faith.  Sometimes we feel like we are in the desert, and don’t know where to turn.  So we cry out to God like the Israelis did.  And in the midst of that challenge, it is like God is asking us first if we know who He is.  Do we act tentatively and without trust as Moses and some of the Apostles did, or do we speak out with confidence as Peter did?

Real Faith is a strong conviction that we know that Jesus is real; He did save us; He is in that Eucharist.  There is no doubt in real faith.  We need only hold the staff- we don’t have to strike the rock with it, let alone strike the rock twice.  Rather if we really believe in our hearts, we know that our prayer will be answered.  It may be that it is like water gushing from a rock, rather than a green fertile valley along a wide stream.  In other words, our answer may not be the vision we had in mind, but one way or another, our prayer will be answered.

It’s time we tried it, don’t you think?  So, if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

What is Real Faith?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Thursday of the 8th Week of Ordinary Time

Sir 42: 15-25; Mk 10: 46-52

Dc. Larry Brockman


What was so special about Bartimaeus’ faith?  I asked myself that question as I read this morning’s Gospel.  Here was a man blind from birth.  That meant lots of things in his day.  It meant that Bartimaeus was uneducated; it meant that he was unemployed, unable to care for himself; and it meant that he was rejected by society, he was ignored and pretty much resigned to a place in the background and a lowly station in life that was an object of pity.  And yet, Jesus singles Bartimaeus out, cures him and tells him “Go your way, your faith has saved you”.  Wow!   

Now Bartimaeus’ blindness certainly has a symbolic meaning, not just a literal meaning.  Because that’s the reason the Gospel stories were selected by their authors- as teaching stories, not just biographical stories.  So “blindness” in this case could mean many things.  For example- clueless, oblivious, pre-occupied, self-absorbed; all of these things are a form of blindness.  They are blindness to the realities of what life is all about. 

In the first reading from Sirach, we are all asked to appreciate the wonderful works of God.  This, it occurs to me, is the opposite to the symbolic blindness of the Gospel.  Because when we really appreciate the wonderful works of God, we exhibit a simple form of faith in God. He is a God who does great things and a God whose will results in the ultimate goodness for everyone and everything.  This kind of faith motivates us to accept the life that God gives us, and work our way into the Kingdom of God.   

Notice that after Bartimaeus is cured of his blindness of sight, he doesn’t just dance off in euphoria over his miraculous cure.  Rather, he follows Jesus, and so we have a hint that not only is his physical blindness cured, but his blindness to the meaning of life is cured as well.  Bartimaeus realizes that he needs to follow up on his cure, and seek God.   

But still, why was Bartimaeus singled out?  What was so special about his Faith going into this incident?  We have a few subtle clues.  First, Bartimaeus is persistent- so persistent that he is rebuked for being a pest.  And then, his appeal is simplistic, almost child-like in simplicity.  Also, Jesus doesn’t go to Bartimaeus the blind man; rather, Jesus asks the blind man to come to him!  And so Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, probably his sole and special possession, and works his uncertain way toward Jesus.  So, Bartimaeus exhibits a persistent, simplistic, basic faith, one in which he abandons all he has got to get to the object of his appeal, Jesus; and the path to Jesus was uncertain and meandering; yet steady.   

Our society is marked by a certain sophistication; our society honors wisdom and knowledge,  and throws out roadblocks of skepticism for things of faith.  Bartimaeus’ kind of faith as I just described it, is the antithesis, the direct opposite, to the wisdom of the world. 

And so, when you appeal to Jesus, do you do exhibit Bartimaeus kind of faith?