Archive for June, 2009

On Becoming Intimate With God

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

   

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wis 1: 13-15, 2: 23-24; 2 Cor 8: 7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5: 21-43

Dc. Larry Brockman

What do you suppose the hemorrhaging woman and the Synagogue official Jairus had in common?  Was it sincerity, dire need, and desperation- to be sure.  But others surely shared the desire for a miracle born out of these emotions,  And yet, with all these people that were following Jesus, these are the two that experienced the miracle, not the others. 

Now these two people were as different as night and day.  One, the woman, was an outcast, considered unclean.  She was shunned by the people in the crowd, literally an “untouchable”.  The other, Jairus, was a respected leader of the Jewish society.  He was very popular with the people in the crowd.  So, why combine these two stories together?  Is there a lesson to be learned from what else is common in them? 

Perhaps it was to teach us about the combined virtues of Faith and Humility.  Jesus proclaimed that their Faith had saved both of them.  The woman was so faithful that she believed it was only necessary to just touch Jesus cloak.  And Jairus humiliated himself in front of those he led, the people, by prostrating himself to Jesus, because he believed Jesus was the only one who could help him.  His faith was so strong that nothing else mattered.  Indeed, what is also clear from the Gospel text is the degree of humility that these two very different people had.  You see, both of them approached Jesus with respect and with humility.  That’s what they had in common.  Neither was bold and forceful.  Rather, they opened themselves up completely to Jesus no matter what the consequences.

 I think there’s a reason for the need to be humble, and it has to do with intimacy.  When we are humble with those with whom we interact, that fosters a spirit of intimacy in the relationship.  And it is from that intimacy that the relationship blossoms.  From that intimacy, energy flows both ways and makes things happen. 

Certainly that is true between a husband and wife.  They are willing to share their real selves with each other, both a physical and a spiritual nakedness.  It takes humility in both of those areas for a marriage to be long lasting, doesn’t it.  After the honeymoon period in a marriage, there’s a long period of reality that settles in where the physical and spiritual flaws of the two people in the marriage become obvious to each other.  And yet, the two people learn to love and accept each other despite these flaws, and maybe even, because of them, if the marriage is to last.  That takes true humility and love between the two people.  And it results in incredible intimacy- the kind of intimacy that allows unselfish giving and lasting trust between the two people.  And from that intimacy flows many blessings- children, motivation, creativity, determination, and a host of other benefits. 

In this Gospel, we see the intimacy in the touching- a forbidden touch between the woman and Jesus; and Jairus prostrating himself at the feet of Jesus, and Jesus touching the girl to bring her back to life.  Well, the Lord wants that intimacy between you and himself.  That intimacy is established first of all, by your prayer.  But in the midst of that prayer, complete honesty and humility are essential if you are to become intimate with the Lord- the kind of intimacy that you need so that God’s grace will enable you- whether it is to weather a storm in your life; accept His will in whatever illness or infirmity you have; renew your efforts to be creative and productive; or whatever else it is that you need for yourself or another.  Faith in the Lord, and the kind of humility that allows you to establish an intimate relationship with Him, that’s what helps bring joy and comfort to you, as the ultimate answer to your prayer. 

Faith Means Following God’s Will

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

 

Thursday of 12th Week in Ordinary Time

Gen 16: 6b-12, 15-16; Mt 7:21-29

Dc. Larry Brockman

Why the emphasis on a foundation other than pure Faith?  After all, isn’t Faith itself the foundation on which we as Christians build our lives?  And certainly, all of us here are believers, people of Faith.  We are among those who proclaim, “Lord, Lord”.   

Yet Jesus says “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven”.  That’s a very sobering statement that Jesus makes.  Because Jesus is telling us that the foundation on which we build our lives is not just a statement of Faith  It is the conversion that accompanies our statement of Faith, and that conversion must result in a positive response to the will of God for us, one which is motivated by a love of God and a desire from the heart to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. 

Now many people confuse the idea of work for the sake of the doing good with doing God’s will.  For sure, God’s will includes good works.  But there is a difference between a conversion of the heart, one which calls us to do the will of God for us, and a response that results in a lot of involvement, involvement that seems to mark one as a member of the Church of believers, but may not be from your heart.  If your involvement is motivated by a desire to belong, or serves to build up your own status, or a host of other motives not related to a call from the heart, then it is not clear these works are following the will of God.  That could be likened to the folks who Jesus said cast out demons and did mighty deeds in the name of the Lord; and yet, the Lord said he didn’t know them.   

Jesus talks about the winds that blow and the floods that come, and refers to the dire consequences for those who don’t have the proper foundation.  Indeed, all of us experience these winds and floods in our lives.  They are especially evident now, in these times of high unemployment and economic uncertainty.  Our focus is essential- is it on the God of our Faith?  That means we hold the church’s moral teaching, which flows from our understanding of the will of God, as paramount in our response to the wind and floods just outside our door.  If we build our lives on that foundation, then we can survive the turmoil.  It is not sufficient to just proclaim that we believe. 

Real Faith and the Role of Fathers

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Job 38: 1, 8-11; 2 Cor 5: 14-17; Mark 4: 35-41

Dc. Larry Brockman

Why do you suppose that the Apostles were afraid?  After all, Jesus, the Lord, was quietly sleeping besides them.  Imagine that- the Lord, who was both God and man, was sleeping besides them while a violent storm raged, and the boat filled with water.  But surely, no harm could or would come to them as long as Jesus was there. 

Why then were they afraid?  Well, the Lord’s words tell us why.  Because he said to them “Do you not yet have faith”?  So it was a lack of Faith.   

Now it seems to me there are two kinds of Faith:  There’s a guarded kind of faith- a faith expressed and seemingly practiced until- until it is challenged.  And then, well, there’s got to be a back up path, a way out to take, just in case- a way for us to take control.  And then there’s real faith- a complete, trusting faith, a faith that accepts that whatever happens, we will trust in God’s providence.  So a backup path is not necessary, and we leave the control in God’s hands.  That’s the kind of Faith Jesus wants us to have in him.   

You know, I would like to say that mine is always the real kind of faith.  But I have to be honest.  I am certainly not as faithful as the apostles who, although they thought they had Faith in Jesus as Lord, nevertheless woke him to make sure everything would be OK- a backup personal appeal, if you will 

And consider the case of a man like Job in the first reading- Job, who was righteous in the eye of the Lord.  That’s a claim that is hard for any of us sinners to make, that we are righteous in the eyes of the Lord.  But Job’s faith was less than perfect too- because the trials and tribulations he went through weakened his resolve, and introduced doubt.   

And so, as a human, I have a problem with real faith.  And if I were in the boat with Jesus right next to me, even after all the teaching I’ve had in my Faith, I would probably do the same thing- wake Jesus up.  Indeed, it is only human to fear the consequences of the storms that come up in our lives, and to doubt that God is with us in the middle of them- storms like the loss of a loved one, a job loss, and the economic disasters that we are facing today.   We feel we must do something instead of putting our ultimate trust in the Lord.  I’ll bet that most of you, too, would be in the same boat as me.   

Now once and a while, someone comes along who has genuine, almost perfect Faith- people like Padre Pio, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Francis of Paolo.  We can read about them; we can listen to their stories, and yet, their faith remains a mystery to us.  Because it involves a level of trust in God’s will, moment to moment, and a degree of self sacrifice that is very, very difficult for us to accept.  Consider this story about St Francis of Paolo.  Once a papal representative visited him in his monastery to talk about the rules St. Francis was proposing for his religious order.  The cardinal was explaining that the rules were unreasonably harsh, impossible to follow except for a weather-worn peasant like himself.  The saint walked over to the fireplace, picked up a handful of burning coals in his bare hands, held them out towards his visitor, and said:   “Yes, it is true your Monsignor: I am only an unlearned peasant, and if I were not, I would not be able to do this.”  The well-educated clergyman got the message.   

I think that St. Paul gives us the key to having the kind of faith that gives us such power when he says “The love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all”.  First, we have to come to the conviction that Jesus was both God and Man, and that He died for all of us, and that he rose from the dead and saved all of us.  Having that conviction is the beginning of Faith.  But the second part is just as important.   

Once we come to that conviction, and an understanding of what it means, namely, everlasting life and a relationship with the almighty God, our reaction should be to love God and show it by putting him first; so that the love of Christ, “Impels us” to live for Christ, not for ourselves.  If we can do that, allow ourselves to be impelled by the Love of Christ, then that love will cast out our fears, we will have genuine faith, and the peace that goes along with it. 

Certainly, because we are not perfect, we will sometimes fail, just as these apostles did.  But the important thing is that we return to our Faith and the Love of Christ each time we fail. 

This weekend we celebrate Fathers Day.  A day in which all of us thank our Fathers for the manifold gifts they have given us.  For many of us, it was our Fathers who passed on to us the gift of Faith.  Indeed, if we have a genuine faith, then our Fathers probably had a lot to do with it.  Because although we can learn from teachers and books and schools and all kinds of sources, what we should believe as part of our faith, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is our conviction.  To have conviction in our Faith on our hearts takes the influence of a good parent- like a good Father because children observe the faith of their father, and can see whether it is genuine or not.  And they can see whether the actions of their fathers are impelled by the love of Christ. And so today, God bless all those who are Ftaher figures who pass on their faith to their children. 

Sharing Your Faith Without Cost

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

  Thursday of 10th Week in Ordinary Time

Feast of St. Barnabas

Acts:11; 21b – 26; 13: 1-5; Mt 10:7-13

Dc. Larry Brockman

“Without cost you received; without cost you are to give”.  These were Jesus words to his disciples as he sent them forward.  They are something all of us need to ponder.  Because almost all of us did, indeed, receive the gift of faith without cost. 

Not so in China, or Iran, or dozens of other places, where the cost of believing is certainly an issue.  How truly blessed we all are, whether our faith was handed down to us in Baptism as an infant, and nurtured by our parents, or acquired by us later in life through our own free choice.  It was basically without cost- free to us.  All we had to do was accept it, and move on.  Consider how costly accepting faith is for others, like the people in the places I mentioned. 

But, we have an awesome obligation as well- an obligation to spread that faith, also without cost, to others.  But what exactly does that mean?  Most of you, I am sure, do not consider yourselves evangelists.  But, by virtue of your Baptismal promise, you are.  And whether you like it or not, you have been given the opportunity already- your children, your co-workers, your friends, even your enemies.  They have all had the opportunity of relating to you, and observing first hand how and whether you project your faith.  Have you demonstrated it freely, and without charge?  Or do you hide it, keeping it to yourself? 

So, first of all, you give your faith freely by living it so that it is noticed by all by going out of your way to make your Sunday obligation; and by taking seriously what your Church teaches on issues and morals.  Second, our faith needs to be contagious- like a gift- something that others will seek out because they want what you have.  You do that by projecting joy, conviction, and above all, love, in what you do. 

Paul and Barnabas are great examples of evangelizers.  They exhibited these qualities, and their peers could not help but notice it.  Today’s society is absorbed in secularism.  All of you are called to be new Barnabases and Pauls, by sharing what you have, freely, and without cost. 

Loving God

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

 

Thursday of 9th Week in Ordinary Time

Tob 6:10-11; 7: 1bcde, 9-17; 8: 4-9a; Mark 12: 28-34

Dc. Larry Brockman

How does one Love God with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength?  For although we are taught that this is the greatest commandment, this reading doesn’t tell us how to do it. 

Perhaps the second greatest commandment is easier to understand- Loving our neighbor as ourselves.  All of us understand love of self.  We love ourselves when we show respect for the dignity of our bodies and minds by refraining from doing ourselves harm, but only doing what is good for us.  And we understand how we might apply that to our neighbor.  We can see, touch, and communicate easily with our “neighbor” and so we can show them respect, honor, affection, and do a host of other things that are intended to be good for them, and not bear any evil.  I think it is fair to say that love of the kind I’m talking about involves patience, kindness, forgiveness, and the other things St. John talks about in his famous epistle. 

But loving God- just how do we do that?  Loving God is the reflection back to God of how He loves us.  To be sure, he loves us the way we are supposed to love our neighbor- with patience and kindness and forgiveness.  But it is much deeper- because God gave the life of his only son for us- the ultimate sacrifice. 

Can we love God that way- are we patient with God, or do we expect an answer to our prayer immediately?  Are we kind to God, or do we give him only the minimum of attention to get by?  Do we forgive God, or to put another way, do we always blame Him for our problems?  And are we willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for God?  That means following his will no matter what.  Discerning God’s will means knowing God- by being familiar with His Word, and following our consciences, that little voice inside that tells us what’s right.  Any way you look at it, loving God is a commitment for life.