Archive for July, 2009

Wandering Through the Desert of Life

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

 

Thursday of 17th Week in Ordinary Time

Ex 40: 16-21, 34-38; Mt 13: 47-53

Dc. Larry Brockman

Jesus spoke a parable this morning which likens a scribe recording Jesus words about the Kingdom of God, to a householder bringing out “Both the new and the old.”  What is He talking about? 

Well, Jesus was referring to Matthew, the scribe who recorded his Gospel.  Matthew is known for linking the words in the Old Testament stories and prophecies, with the New Testament promises- the new covenant.  Hence, the new and the old are brought out by our scribe, Matthew.

Now the Exodus reading this morning, on first glance,   Appears disconnected with this theme about the Kingdom of heaven, and the new and the old.  First, there is all the talk about the precise construction of a structure- the temporary tent temple,that will hold the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments.  Then, there is the description of the cloud and fire that occupies the tent structure when the Lord is present.  Is there a connection? 

Well the tent was the dwelling place of the Lord during the Exodus.  It is analogous to our Church Building, and the pillar of fire and smoke signify the continuous presence of the Lord with His people, the people of God.  Today, we are the people of God, and in this Church structure, we are blessed by the continuous presence of the Almighty God in our tabernacle, with a light that shines perpetually when Jesus is present in the Eucharist just beside it.   

The Exodus story goes on to record the wandering in the desert for 40 years.  The seemingly pointless wandering of a people dedicated to doing the will of God, and yet, for 40 years they wander here and there, almost as if they couldn’t discern God’s will for them.  In essence, these are a people who waited, waited until they were convinced that the time was right to enter the promised land.  To be sure, they made some mistakes- but despite these mistakes, the Lord was present continuously for them in the tent that housed the Ark of the Covenant. 

Doesn’t this sound familiar?  Which of us could describe our lives any differently?  We seek God’s will, and come here weekly, and sometimes more often than that, to pray that God will lead us in the right direction.  And yet, for a great many years, hopefully more than 40, we wander along the zig zag course of life, experiencing some high point and some low points, but in the process of it all never quite sure that we’ve got it right.  And yet, God is always there for us in this Church, listening, encouraging us to go on.   What’s the payoff- the promised land, the Kingdom of God, at the end of life.  Because we all have the sure hope for that Last Judgment that Jesus describes when the bad will be separated from us forever, and the good will be left as the Kingdom of God.   

Sharing Our Talents for the Greater Glory of God

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

 

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Kgs 4: 42-44; Eph 4: 1-6; Jn 6: 1-15

Dc. Larry Brockman

Put yourself in the shoes of the boy in today’s Gospel.  You see, you have 5 small barley loaves and two fish that your mother packed for lunch.  They were just meant for you.  Then, you see some men around you discussing how to feed 5000 people in the crowd.  So, you, a small boy who has been following Jesus, offer your lunch up.  The people of this world would think of you as a fool.  They would be shocked, angry, and skeptical that Jesus would take a meager lunch from the boy as well.  After all, Jesus disciples even said “But what are these among so many”.  But you offered them up with generosity, hoping and trusting that Jesus would make a difference.  And Jesus did make a difference.  We know that from the meager assets that this one small boy had, God provided for his people with plenty left over.   

It was the same in the story about Elisha.  In the midst of a famine in Elisha’s town, someone arrives with a few barley loaves.  Now barley loaves were typically small, and simply would not go very far.  But, trusting in God, Elisha feeds 100 people with them.   

So, both the Gospel and the Old Testament story about Elisha make a similar point.  The gifts we are given are not just for our benefit, but rather, we are entrusted with them as stewards.  They are meant to be used for the greater glory of God at the right time and place as chosen by God, and we need to trust in God’s providence that things will work out even when it seems unlikely.   

So, the question that comes to mind is this:  Which loaves and fish is God asking you to entrust to his care today, right now?  What do you have that you are being called to share with others for the greater glory of God?  Is it your time?  Maybe God has been whispering to you for a while, asking you to spend some more time with him each day in prayer, or in reading a good spiritual book, or in reflecting on the Bible.  You may be busy with the cares of life, so you feel you don’t have the time!  But God can work wonders with whatever little bit of time you do give him. 

On the other hand, maybe it’s some special talent you have.  Maybe God has put a desire in your heart to do something for him or for your neighbor, to start something new, to reach out to those in need.  But you have been afraid of trying, or are afraid of failing.  Rest assured though, God can multiply whatever little talent you have, if you just put it sincerely and obediently into his hands. 

Maybe it’s a gift to you which is as simple as the ability to provide a little talk.  Possibly there is someone in your life that you need to speak to – to speak a word of forgiveness, or an apology, or possibly an invite back to the Church.  Or maybe they just need a word of encouragement to walk away from some destructive behavior.  God could help you to know the right thing to say, to turn your words into seeds of grace, if only you place them in his hands, and take a chance.  Whatever it is, God can work miracles with whatever you have that you place in his trust.  It happens at the most unexpected times, and in the most unexpected circumstances.  Like the small boy whose lunch feeds 5000 people, or the man who offers a gift of the first fruits to a prophet, and it breaks a terrible famine for the prophet’s people.   

And it happens in our day and age too.  There was once an old Christian Chinese man named Yo-San.  He worked in the rice fields and lived alone in poverty in a boat on a river.  He came to the missionary one day and said, “Father, wouldn’t it be good if we could have a real church instead of the wooden hut?”  “Indeed it would,” the priest answered, “but it will take us a long time to raise the money.”  “Father,” said Yo-San, “I would like to pay for the building of a new church.”  Yo-San then produced the actual amount of cash needed to build the Church.  The priest was astounded, and so Yo-San explained.  Years ago, when he was a young man just receiving his first instruction in the faith, he had heard the priest that the purpose of our life is to give glory to God.  Hearing this, he conceived the desire to someday build a temple to God’s name.  So, for forty years, living with no family and no house, he had managed to lay aside most of his scanty wages, which he now offered to the priest.  The priest objected to the gift, seeing that Yo-San was old and would soon need the money to support himself.  But Yo San said that God would take care of him, and begged the Father to grant his life-long desire.  The priest finally consented.  The church was built and it was standing-room-only when the first Mass was celebrated there.  After the Mass, Yo-San stayed kneeling in the beautiful little church for a long time.  That afternoon he was found lifeless, still kneeling – his heart broken with joy and gratitude.  Indeed, Yo-San was a man who understood the real value of offering our poor efforts to God. 

The Chance to Really Hear and See

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

 

Thursday of 16th Week in Ordinary Time

Ex 19: 1-2, 9-11, 16-20b; Mt 13: 10-17

Dc. Larry Brockman

“All the people in the camp trembled”.  Imagine that-  God making His presence so abundantly clear through nature, that everyone trembled.  And yet, even with such clear and unmistakable signs, people, as a rule, did not listen.  For, as we shall see, the ten commandments follow shortly in the Exodus story.  They were direct, plain talk about what to do and what not to do.  Yet, the people did not heed them; and did not make the Lord their top priority, even when truly marvelous and unmistakable physical signs were worked for them, followed by the plain talk in the ten commandments. 

Why?  Why is it that plain talk and clear physical signs don’t work.  I think it’s because we are born products of this world, conditioned to have a set of hopes and expectations that resonate with our knowledge of the world.  It’s that knowledge of the ways of the world that biases our expectations of what we want to hear.  We want to hear about justice in human terms; pleasure and happiness in human terms; and we hear that all men are created equal-   But that means to us that we are created first among equals, because of what we see and observe in others.  Certainly some people are not as equal, people like unborn babies; people with downs syndrome, and the wild natives in darkest Africa or New Guinea.  That’s what we see; and that fuels what we expect to see. 

So, the message of the Kingdom of God just doesn’t compute where everyone is truly created equal; where real happiness is Christian joy, which is not necessarily always about us, and is not pleasure oriented; and where justice and mercy are balanced by a set of rules that only God understands.  So, rather than the direct approach, Jesus uses another approach- parables, parables with layers of hidden meaning, and a wisdom that is not of this world.  Only those who seek God and respond to His grace can understand it.  It is a wisdom reserved only for those who choose to listen, to listen with their hearts.  Consider yourselves truly blessed.  Because you have the chance to really hear and see. 

On the Trenscendence and Intimacy of God

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

 

Thursday of 15th Week in Ordinary Time

Ex 3: 13-20; Mt 11: 28-30

Dc. Larry Brockman

I am who am- Yahweh!  That is the Jewish name for the Almighty God.  So sacred is it that the Jews don’t pronounce that name, and Pope Benedict has decreed that we should not use it either.  This honor of the name of God is called for out of respect- respect for the almighty power and sacredness of God.  In a nutshell, these attitudes towards the sacred name describe the transcendence of God, the fact that God is so powerful, so holy and good, so far above and beyond our nature, that we should always show the utmost of respect, and recognize the infinite gap, the distance, between us and God.  The very answer, “I am who am” is such a perfect description of the mystery of God.  Because no matter how hard disbelievers try, nobody can explain how anything ultimately came to be.  God’s answer to Moses, “I am who am”, is such a perfect answer.  It cannot be explained; it just is. 

And so also is that innate feeling of transcendence between ourselves and God.  But, despite the reality of the separation between God and us, God chose to willingly narrow that gap.  In the first covenant, he did it by communicating with his people by being present with them in the Cloud or the Pillar of Fire, and as a voice to Moses.  Then later, God was constantly present through the prophets.  But the people did not respond; did not stay in obedience to His will and commands.  And so, God sent his only son, Jesus, true God and true man to live among us and show us the way.  This forever bridged the transcendence between God and Man.  No other religion can make that claim. 

And so, as Christians, we benefit from the intimacy that God shared with us   By assuming our human nature. and living amongst us for 30 some years, long enough to show us that it was possible to please God in our human nature. 

The first reading is a most ideal way to set the stage for our Gospel, today.  Listen again: “Jesus said:  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”” 

How God’s Will Can Prevail Over Evil Done To Us

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

 

Thursday of 14th Week in Ordinary Time

Gen 44: 18-21, 23b-29,; 45: 1-5; Mt 10:7-15

Dc. Larry Brockman

Just imagine, your family, your own flesh and blood, selling you into slavery.  What a terrible tragedy!  And yet the story of Joseph has this happy ending that we hear this morning.  Because rather than displaying bitterness and seeking revenge on his brothers, Joseph says something truly amazing that reveals much about the faith that was in his heart throughout his slavery.  He says:  “It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you”. 

Wow, what faith this man had in the Lord.  Joseph shows us that even when you are subjected to evil, such as your brothers selling you into slavery, good can come of it, the Kingdom of God can emerge even in the face of such evil.  It depends on how you react to the evil and whether you live your faith when exposed to such a disaster. 

There are lots of similar stories as Joseph’s.  Consider St. Patrick’s story for example.  He was captured and enslaved by the Irish as a young man.  Although Patrick managed to escape that slavery, he returned voluntarily to Ireland as a Priest, and that resulted in the conversion of Ireland to the faith. 

Most of us are touched by some kind of evil during our lives.  God doesn’t will this evil on us, but everybody has free will, and sometimes one of our brothers uses it in evil ways.  And so, innocent people are cheated, or swindled, or the victim of identity theft every day, for example.  Similarly, husbands or wives leave their families suddenly causing great pain and suffering.  Accidents and disease leave many people in difficult situations.  The examples of evil that befalls us are many.  When these seemingly evil things happen to you, it is hard not to be bitter, but, as Joseph demonstrates, it is important to focus on your faith rather than the bitterness and revenge.  God always provides us the grace and the means to build his Kingdom- even in the face of evil. 

The Gospel message is not just meant for the apostles.  Because all of us, too, are being sent out.  However and wherever we end up as a result of the circumstances of our lives, Including those times when we are burdened by evil, we are called to proclaim the Kingdom of God.  In fact, we all have the potential to do great things in the face of evil just like Joseph and Patrick!