Posts Tagged ‘Religious Liberty’

Is the USA Built on a Foundation of Rock or Sand?

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Gen 16: 1-12, 15- 16; Mt 7: 21-29

Dc. Larry Brockman


My what a mess we make of things when we try to bypass the will of God and take things into our own hands by acting on conventional wisdom.  Today’s first reading is a perfect example.

Sarai makes a big mess of things.  God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  But rather than trust in God to give her a son, Sarai takes matters into her own hands and arranges for Abraham to have a son through Hagar her servant girl.  This leads to jealousy, pride, envy, abuse, and much more, especially when one considers the historical implications of it all, namely the almost constant conflict between Ishmael’s descendants and the descendants of Isaac.  What a mess.

By contrast, we have Jesus’ words in the Gospel. “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.”  And when Jesus says we are to do the will of his Father, that means we have to listen to his words and act on them.  Yes, we have to act on them, rather than just say “Lord, Lord”.  Then he talks about houses built on rock and sand.  How can we put all that into practice?  Doing the will of the Father means understanding and doing God’s will for us.  And that means understanding God’s will in general.

Our home is the United States of America.  Is it built on sand or rock? Well, let’s see.  As of yesterday, marriage is defined as the union of any two people who want to get “married”, thanks to the Supreme Court.  And only 60 % of our children live in homes with a mom and a dad.  But marriage and family are the basic institutions of society.

There are 4,000 abortions a day in the United States of America.  Contraception and in-vitro fertilization are accepted as good things.  And we are on the verge of or have legalized euthanasia in several states.  Yet, the right to life is our most important right.

We can’t say school prayer in our public schools.  Our government and public meetings begin, at best, with a moment of silence.  And as of August 1 of this year, our Catholic Institutions may all have to close or else willfully violate God’s law.  So,
our religious liberty is in jeopardy.

If you ask Catholics what the Church teaches on many topics, they either don’t know; don’t care; or don’t agree with it.  In other words, we don’t understand the will of God for us.

My dear brothers and sisters, let’s face it, our house, the USA, is built on sand.

And so, it is time for us to do what Jesus says we need to do- establish our house on rock.  25 % of the US population identify themselves as Catholic.  If we all believed and acted on it, not just said “Lord, Lord” then this country could only be built on rock.  Unfortunately, we are not all united; and we are not all engaged.

Hopefully, all of you are responding to the Bishop’s call for a Fortnight of Prayer between June 25 and July 4th.  But we need to do more than that.  We all need to become involved in restoring God’s will.  Because we, just like Sarai, have made a mess of things.

Prophets in Our Time

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ez 2: 2-5; 2 Cor 12: 7-10; Mk 6: 1-6

By Deacon Larry Brockman


Have you ever thought of Jesus as a prophet?  According to Webster’s Dictionary, a prophet is “One who utters divinely inspired revelations”.  Jesus certainly fulfilled that role.  He told everyone about the coming of the Kingdom of God, but people didn’t want to hear about Jesus’ Kingdom.  They wanted to hear about an earthly Kingdom.  People wanted the Kingdom of Israel restored.  They wanted the occupation of the Romans to end with its stifling taxation and government control their lives.  They wanted a Jewish King and an Israeli State that would restore good times. They wanted prosperity on earth; a land full of milk and honey; and lots of money too!   


But Jesus didn’t talk about their kind of kingdom.  He had a different concern, and that was his saving message.  Jesus talked about a conversion of the heart- one that started with repentance for one’s sins and Faith in God’s providence and will for them.  Jesus talked about living their faith so that they could become part of an eternal kingdom.  And so, the people remarked: “Where did he get all this from?”  You see, they had lived right alongside of Jesus; he was known to them; and they didn’t see him following the path of a Rabbi.  Far from it, Jesus was self-taught, and was not a disciple of one of their rabbis as their customs required. 


And yet, there was something about Jesus’ teaching that rang true.  Indeed, a call for conversion of the heart wakes our consciences out of a slumber.  And Jesus also spoke with authority and with confidence.  His teaching came from a deep seated conviction that they could all sense.  But they didn’t accept it as authentic, because their culture didn’t condone Jesus as a teacher.  He didn’t have a rabbi’s training or credentials.  He didn’t talk about their kind of Kingdom.  And so, they kept on their own course, and were not open- they were of little faith that God had sent someone special to them.  And so, Jesus could not do great things for them because they rejected him and his message.   


You know, real prophets have never been very popular.  They shake people up, because they tell the truth- the message that God wants them to proclaim.  Most of the time, that message doesn’t match the people’s concerns; but it may be the core of what’s wrong with society because God sees differently.  God sees the core of the problem. 


In the first reading, God tells Ezekiel to hold firm and to speak with resolve in God’s name, whatever God inspires him to say; so that even if the people reject the message, they will know that a prophet has been amongst them.  Prophets over all time have had to follow this advice.   


We live in a world that rejects prophets just like the Israelis did.  We are concerned with jobs and taxes and inflation and health insurance; and rightly so, because these are problems in our society.  But what is the root cause of these problems?  What is it that God wants us to know about his plan forward?  That’s what the modern prophets of God will speak to.  And what is the message that we are hearing from our modern day prophets- led by the Church and the Pope and the Bishops?  It is one of love and compassion and holding to the teachings of the Church.  These prophets speak of the importance of the right to life; the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman; and the rights of all people, even illegal immigrants, victims of human trafficking, and the poor.  And many of the spokesmen for the Church- prophets if you will, are right amongst us.  They are our own. 


Some people wonder where “they get all this from”.  The answer is simple.  They get the substance of their message from the Catechism because the Catechism summarizes the Scripture and traditional teachings of the Church; but they get the inspiration to speak up from God because it burns within them until they speak out, just like it burned within Ezekiel.   


Nowadays, the Church’s message seems to be more and more passionate as the problems gets worse.   First, the US Bishops have spoken as a group on all the major moral issues.  Second, as the attacks on our conscience rights by our Government have intensified; and as the pro-choice and gay rights movements have gotten more aggressive, prophets have risen from amongst us, people like Cardinal Dolan and Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.  And they are relentlessly bombarding us with the truth, and appealing to us to mend our ways and repent.  They are calling us to action as well.  But, are we listening? Are we responding?   


During our recent Fortnight for Freedom the parish held all kinds of events to give us the opportunity to pray as a group; to sacrifice our time and desires in order to listen and respond to God.  These events also provided educational opportunities, ways in which we could find out what the Church teaches and why.  Lastly, we were taught how we could respond; how we could help change things.  There were several hundred people involved, and that is great.  But what about the thousands of others in our parish?  Where were they?  Did they ignore the message because it was just more of the same?  After all, aren’t these people just part of our own community; and “where did they get all this from” and “who gives them this authority”?   


Perhaps people feel that they are powerless to do anything.  In which case, we need only to listen to Paul’s words this morning.  Paul was given “a thorn in the flesh” that burdened him.  And ultimately, he came to the conclusion that God would give him sufficient grace to overcome his weakness.  Indeed, God gives all of us sufficient grace to overcome our weaknesses.  All of us can do great things, especially together.  We can all pray, and we can all sacrifice some of our time to listen to God’s call and give Him the opportunity to lead us.   


The jury is out on us American Catholics.  Are we listening to the modern day prophets?  Our current Government has decided not to enforce the Marriage Act; is mandating that our Catholic Institutions pay for and provide insurance that violates our moral principles; has cut off funding to Catholic Charities to care for Human Trafficking victims because we won’t offer victims to birth control and other services; and has changed the law to publicly fund abortion.  But we all have an opportunity to do something about it this year.  Will we be like the Israelis in Ezekiel’s times, who hardened their hearts; or the people in Jesus home town who rejected one of their own?.  Or will we listen to our modern day prophets?  The choice is yours.

Be a Courageous Man!

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ez 17: 22-24; 2 Cor 5: 6-10; Mk 4: 26-34

By Deacon Larry Brockman


Courageous!  Paul advises all of us to be courageous while we are away from our heavenly home, the Kingdom of God, meaning while we are in our earthly bodies.  And so, that’s what Fathers are called to be today, especially in the secular world we live in today- courageous.  We need that courage every day to live out our role as Fathers. 


Do you remember Father Larry Richards?  He seemed to energize this Parish during his recent mission here like nobody else in recent years.  We had record attendance; and we saw such enthusiasm for his message, especially among the men.  Many of you bought his tapes and books, like the “Be A Man” Book.  And how appropriate was his message in “Be a Man” for the Fathers out there today.  Because the “Man” that Father Larry told us we were all called to is a courageous men.  Father Larry told us that we men need to stay focused on the ultimate goal, the Kingdom of God.  Because all else, everything of the world, is left behind when we die.  Rather, we need to live as a beloved son of God, and teach our children to live as beloved sons and daughters; we need to repent of our sins and frailties, to live in the Spirit of God, and to be strong yet loving.  We need to be wise in the ways of the Lord, and to do what we were created to do- God’s will for us.  We need to be holy men;  And we need to be men who change the world.  If we can be such men, then we will be men who are courageous.


As I look out at all the fathers today, I suspect that most of you are wondering right now how you can meet such a tall order.  And yet God the Father, the ultimate Father, did something to help us.  He sent us His son, Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago to show us the way.  That’s what Ezekiel means by the shoot from the uppermost branches.  The Father is the uppermost branches, and He planted His Son, Jesus amongst us so that we could all learn how to be like Him.  His Gospel and the scriptures and the Church serve to transmit how we should do that.  And just like His son, God the Father will care for us and nurture us who believe in Him and follow Him by sending His spirit to live amongst us, and by giving us the graces to be courageous.  Jesus promised all that before he left us.  The spirit and graces of God are what gives us the courage to walk by faith, not by sight.


You know, those of us who are Fathers are truly gifted.  God has given us loving spouses who bear our children; and children are Gods greatest gifts entrusted to us so we can be an example of God’s fatherhood and love.  That, after all, should be our major focus as Fathers.  And God has also given us a challenge- the challenge to be our own persons, yet at the same time provide for our families and take responsibility for the spiritual welfare of our families.  Yes, that’s why we need to be courageous, because it takes courage to follow Jesus and do all of that.  But when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ those of us who have been courageous and met that challenge will receive our heavenly reward- everlasting life with God.


Now the things I have just talked about, the qualities of a man who is courageous, are not the same as the qualities that our society teaches about being a man.  In our society, it is success in the world that gets rewarded- money and power and physical strength and good looks and education.  These are the hallmarks of a successful man.  But these things are all centered on self; and that is not the message of the Gospel.  Rather, being a courageous man means that we center our attention on God first, our family second, and everything else comes after that.   

What I want for all of us men here today to realize is the essential difference between the successful man as Father Richards has defined him, and the successful man of the world, because today we are in drastic need of real men.  As Father Larry said, these are men who change the world, and the world needs changing right here in America.


We are living in a country where the divorce rate is phenomenally high; where the family unit and where the father as the spiritual leader of the family are under constant attack from our secular society, a society that pushes same-sex marriages and other alternate life styles that are contrary to God’s natural Law; and a Government that is trying to force our Church to sanction things that our Church and our hearts tell us are wrong.  Gentlemen, our roles as Fathers are under attack.  What God needs now are courageous men to turn this society around. 


How do we do that?  We start with our own families by the example we set; because our children are watching and become what we teach them.  Are we putting our wives and our families first, rather than our own self interests?  What are you doing to reflect the family values and the Church’s teaching in your own families?  And then there is the larger problem of erosion of family values in our society.  Are you involved?  There are plenty of ways to be involved- Respect Life, St. Vincent de Paul, and volunteering your talents in some other way, just to name a few.  Now some people will say, “What can I do that will make a difference”?  Those folks miss the point of today’s Gospel on the Kingdom of God.  Because the fruit of few good men, the smallest of seeds, can result in great things, just like the mustard bush in the Gospel.  That’s what the Kingdom of God is like, and all of you men can help make it happen together. 


Earlier, I mentioned the attack on the Church.  One way to get involved right now is to lead your family in support of the Bishop’s call to action in the Fortnight for Freedom that will be held from Thursday, June 21 through Wednesday, July 4.  This parish plans to conduct an evening prayer service each and every day with education sessions that address what is wrong and how you can help. 


All of us are busy with the things of the world.  But, our Religious Freedom is important, very important.  I challenge each and every Dad to be courageous and lead your family by example.  Get involved in the Fortnight for Freedom.  Find the time, lead your family, and be a men who together change the World!