Archive for July, 2007

The Meaning of Life

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

   July 29, 2007

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

(Presented on Thursday July 26 at WestminsterTowers)

Gen 18: 20-32; Col 2: 12-14; Luke 11: 1-13

Dc. Larry Brockman

All this talk about Baptism, and burial and death and rising- what can it mean?  Well, consider this.  When you were younger, you lived in the world and for the world.  You wanted to choose your own destiny.  At first, life was all about your dreams- what you wanted to do; what you wanted to be.  And off you went, trying as hard as you could, to make it all happen.  You were going to be president; you were going to be a movie star; you were going to be a millionaire.  There probably wasn’t a whole lot of thought about God then.  That could wait till later.   Now, some of you may have succeeded in some measure.  Others of you were thrown life’s curves sooner than others.  Then confusion and uncertainty settled in.  You found yourself just living life- the job, the children, the house, all the demands of society.  They consumed all your time and energy.  So, the day came when you all of a sudden you realized that life was never going to be all that you wanted.  You simply found that you were not in control.  Society calls this “mid-life crisis”; but it can happen earlier or later in life.  For some people, this crisis results in a restart- the dreaming process begins all over again and there’s a new plan, a new career; a new spouse; a new or different slant on life.    Chances are that they will just end up in another such crisis again.  Eventually, if you are smart, you’re going to conclude that the things of this world are not what life is all about.  In fact, life in this world is not what life is all about.  

Jesus’ Baptism is symbolic of that realization.  Jesus died and was buried to this world in his Baptism.  He was reborn to do God’s will through God’s spirit that flowed into him at Baptism.  The same is true in your own Baptism.    In your Baptism, you committed to the same death and burial to this world in order to be resurrected as a spirit filled person who is committed to do God’s will.  That’s what life is all about.   It is then that we give glory to God and share in Christ’s resurrection.  That’s how we become part of the Kingdom of God- by becoming one of God’s subjects.  

In the Gospel, Jesus taught the disciples the “Our Father”.  When you say the words-    “Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, on whose behalf do you say them- for others, or for yourself- for yourself- of course.  Thy Kingdom come for me; thy will be done by me, on earth as it is (and will be for me) in heaven.  That’s what you want, isn’t it?  You want a share in an eternal Kingdom where you will be happy forever.    A plan for yourself based on the things of this world, Is just never going to happen.   Any happiness which is just of this world, ends.  But God’s will for you- which gives him Glory, assures a place for you in His Kingdom- forever.    Now we just heard the story of Sodom and Gamorrah.  Not even 10 good people were found.  But, think of it this way: God answered Abraham’s request, and promised to save those who loved and served him, no matter how many bad people were out there,  and no matter what the bad was that they did.  God kept agreeing to save the few good despite the many who were evil.  In other words, God wants you, he wants all of us to succeed.  But we have to meet him on his terms.     

Paul tells us that our sins are forgiven- nailed on the cross with Jesus.  So, our sins, are not the issue.  Sure, we must seek forgiveness for them.  But having done that, God wants something else from us   He wants us to live out our baptismal promise.  He will help us with that.  Jesus tells us at the end of the Gospel that God will give us his spirit to help us do his will if we ask for it because he loves those who have a relationship with him, and because he responds to our persistence- like the friend who opened his door and gave the loaves of bread.

It turns out that our Baptism takes a lifetime.  We must be buried with Christ in Baptism, so that by the end of our lives, we have risen with him, part of the Mystical body of Christ, to do his will, now and forever, for the greater glory of God.   

The Mystery of Life

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

  July 22, 2007

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gen 18: 1-10a; Col 1: 24-28; Luke 10: 38-42

Dc. Larry Brockman

Not just one mystery!  But three mysteries.  That’s what we are treated to in the today’s scriptures.  

 Paul says his mystery was hidden through the ages.  But it is now revealed and is this:  “Christ in you, the hope for Glory”.  First “Christ in you”.  Now Paul was talking to those who had accepted Christ- those Colossians who were Christians and were living as Christians.  It was a mystery so close to them, yet it was not so obvious.  But, to know and accept Christ means that you are listening to him, that you have heard his words, and they have meaning to you.  If those words have meaning to you, then ever after you will act consistently with what you have been taught, with what you heard; just as you did when, as a child, you heard your parents and listened to them. 

That takes a certain kind of listening; a wholehearted acceptance without questioning.  So that it is second nature for your actions to reflect that acceptance and living out the word.  All of us have much to do to be that familiar with the word so that it is second nature to us to act consistently.  But, if you do that- then, and here is the second part of the mystery- the core of the mystery-  Then there is hope for glory- your glory.  And that’s what we are all after, to share in the Glory of Christ.   

A second mystery is how Sarah could bear a child after reaching the ripe old age of 90.  Well, Abraham shows us the kind of attention to the word that Paul was talking about.  Abraham had trained himself to listen for the voice of the Lord.  And the first reading shows us an example of when this happened.  What seemed like a simple act of hospitality to three visitors was really something else altogether.  You see, Abraham somehow sensed that there was something special in the three visitors.  One source indicates that the meal Abraham laid out for these men was extraordinary.  In terms of the customs of that time, it was a grand feast fit for a king, not just a small meal.  Plus, he ran to meet them in the sweltering mid-day desert heat.  Abraham just knew; he was aware of when the Lord was speaking to him and that trust and acceptance resulted in God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah that a child would be born- Isaac.  Many of you probably frowned when you hear Sarah chuckling in the background about what the visitors said.  But, I’ll be that our seniors more than understand how she felt.  Having a baby, especially after being barren up to the age of 90, that was ridiculous.  Yet Abraham listened, and believed in the Lord’s word.  This mystery is like the way God will work in our lives if we really listen and respond to His word.  Because things that will happen that seem to be a miracle- like unexpected blessings- a job offer, a child, a healing; or seemingly impossible expectations, will be met- a turn of heart, an unexpected windfall.  But, they are the blessings that God has in mind for us; not necessarily the ones we plan for.   

The third mystery is the problem of Martha and Mary.  Last week, we heard the story of the Good Samaritan.  We learned that we must always be open to meet the needs of our neighbors.  “Love your neighbor as yourself”!  Isn’t that what Martha was doing?  The story implies that Martha was providing for a large group.  That was what the women were supposed to do.  Women were not supposed to sit at the feet of the teachers- they were supposed to be loving, serving, gracious hosts.  And certainly, after the lesson of the Good Samaritan, isn’t that what Martha and Mary should both do?  I just bet that most of the ladies out there are really puzzled by this one!  You can really relate to Martha- just doing the right thing.  So, why did Jesus rebuke Martha, even as mild as it was- another mystery?  Jesus says “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things, there is need of only one thing”.  Last weeks Gospel and this weeks Gospel are a pair.  The greatest commandment is to love God, and then our neighbor as ourselves.  Last week we heard about Loving our neighbor.  This week we hear about Loving God.  They were reversed, weren’t they?  Because the right priority is this: love God; and then love your neighbor.  That is what Mary was doing; Martha did not have that priority straight.  And with other stories in the Scriptures, an exaggeration is used to make a point, this special point on getting priorities straight.   

For all of you, life, and what comes next, is ultimately a mystery.  But the memory of this morning’s three mysteries can help.  Listen to the Word of God by living it; trust that if you have your priority straight, God will shower you with blessings in wonderful ways;and then, expect to share in His Glory. 

Follow Jesus

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

  July 1, 2007

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19: 16b, 19-21; Gal 5: 1, 13-18; Luke 9: 51-62

Dc. Larry Brockman

“Follow Me”.  Twice in today’s readings we heard that command.  If each of you are honest with yourselves, then you will have to admit that you have heard that same command during your lives.  Deep down, you have heard a call, an urge to follow the Lord.  And, as both examples show, that entails giving something up.  At first glance, it seems that “following me” means giving up your freedom.  Elisha gives up his profession and his relationship with his family, to follow Elijah.  The people that talked to Jesus were told the same thing.  They were even told that to follow Jesus, they must give up their homes, and not look back.  Is it really that hard to follow Jesus?  Giving up your livelihood?  Giving up your family?  Well, scripture scholars tell us that many times the stories in the Bible are presented as extremes.  This is done to make a point.  The two stories make this point very clearly- yes, to follow the Lord you will have to give something up. 

What the scriptures are really telling us is that to follow the Lord we need to do three things.  First, we need to look forward, not back.  Looking back saps your strength; makes you a slave to your old burdens; and diverts you from your new course.  Rather, you should concentrate on what’s ahead whatever you feel you were called to do or to be.  It’s not that you forget the past; because the past has defined you; has served as your time in the crucible to learn and to experience life.  But rather, that you should not let the past consume you.  The future is the only place where “it’s at”.  Recently I saw the old film “Sunset Boulevard”  It was all about a woman who couldn’t, wouldn’t, and didn’t get out of the past.   

Second, you need to trust.  In both of the scripture stories we heard it was clear that neither Elisha nor Jesus knew the details of what was ahead.  They just trusted that God would prevail and would provide.  Funny, because that’s another process of letting go, isn’t it.  Year’s ago, my wife and I went to Ireland for a vacation.  I always plan my trips- down to the very last detail.  But, I had been told that Bed and Breakfasts were the way to go.  I was told not to book ahead, but just drive down the road, and stop at a B&B when the day was done.  How difficult that was for me.  But, it was wonderful.  It’s that kind of trust I am talking about.  Trust that God will provide when the need arises.  You have to be aware of your needs as you go along; but don’t let them consume you either.  Trust that God will be there, but in His way, not yours.   

Third, you do have to give up what seems like your freedom and when you give it up, it is then that you are truly set free.  That’s what Paul’s message to the Galatians was all about.  To some of the Galatians, freedom from the law meant just that- freedom to do anything that the flesh desired.  Paul defined this type of freedom as “the yoke of slavery”.  Indeed, this type of self-consuming freedom is really a burden.  When you only think of yourself, and that is what consumes you, then you are a slave to yourself, and not truly free.  So, the Galatians were looking for the law- what was the line which they must not step over.  Paul was telling them that as Christians, they were free from the law.  Rather than the law, love must be their guide.  Love is the greatest commandment of all.  Love sets us all free.  Love does not define a black and white line.  That would be too easy.  If you resolve to follow the Lord, the Spirit will inspire you to Love as you go along.  The rest is up to you when you trust that God will be there for you.  Then just always show your love wherever and whenever you are put to the test because it is then that you are following Him and He is right there with you.  Always.