Archive for November, 2009

How to Prepare for the Coming of Christ

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

 1st Sunday of Advent

Jer 33: 14-16; 1 Thes: 3: 12- 4: 2; Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Dc. Larry Brockman

Do you feel it?  Do you feel as if the sun and the moon and the stars are in disarray?  Is that what your life seems like to you?  A racetrack full of obstacles and challenges to overcome, but somehow, not full of a deeper meaning and especially, not particularly filled with joy.  If so, welcome to Advent, because Advent is your wake up call.  That’s what the message of today’s readings is.  It’s time to wake up and get ready for the coming of Christ.  But what does that really mean, the coming of Christ?   

Let me start with an example:  Perhaps you have heard of Michelle Malkin.  Michelle is a journalist and popular commentator on Cable News.  Michelle was immersed in a busier and busier schedule a few years back,  A schedule filled with interviews and other events,  As well as her regular job.  As a result, she was not spending much time with her 2 children.  One day, as she was returning from a particularly busy day, she started up her steep driveway in her SUV and passed a few neighborhood children below her.  She was in a hurry to get dinner ready.  So she left the car at the entrance to the garage, and started toward her house.  But she forgot to set the parking brake, and so, the car started drifting down the steep driveway towards the children.  She watched in horror as the car gathered speed and headed downward right towards the children.  Suddenly, the car swerved slightly and struck a birch tree stopping it cold.  What a relief she thought.  But then, it dawned on her how lucky she really was because that incident woke her up.  She had been so much in a hurry, that she didn’t take the time to put safety first.  But, she had been given a second chance- no real harm was done- so, she used that second chance to reflect on what was really important in her life- to get her priorities straight, and to modify her routine so that she had the time to do things right,  And to experience the joy in life that her family brought her.  That’s what Jesus is asking us to do today, and that is the message of Advent.   

Every one of has a life that has settled into a pattern.  It may be a fast paced pattern like Michelle Malkin’s, or it may be a slow, almost boring pattern.  But whatever the pattern, now is the time to   Step back from the groove you are in over the next four weeks and reflect on that pattern, and how to change it for the good.   

Now there are two things that we need to reflect on and be ready for:  The first is the second coming of Christ, and that is the topic of the Gospel.  As Jesus says, that second coming can come at any time for any of us- it will most likely come when we least expect it.  It is about judgment for wayward ways, in particular, the wayward way of the pattern of our lives.  Ask yourself what is there about the pattern of your life that needs a change?  What is it that gnaws at you and says the track I am on is just not right.  It may be because you are too harried with job and responsibilities, always cutting corners to get as much into the agenda as possible; but never having enough time to do things the right way and to put things into the right priority, kind of like Michelle Malkin’s problem.  Or perhaps you spend too much time absorbed in your own world, immersed in video games or football or telephone marathons with your friends; and as a result, your work or family or household suffers.  Or perhaps you have settled into a pattern of withdrawal, of non-involvement, where days and weeks go by and all of your activity revolves around yourself.  You don’t extend yourself by getting out and relating to others.  These are all patterns that can harbor sin in a social context, because the life styles that foster them ignore the responsibility we have to participate fully in the world in the context that God has planned for us.   

The second thing we need to get ready for is the coming of the baby Jesus at Christmas.  This is the topic of our first reading- the prediction of the coming of the Messiah as promised,   the coming of God incarnate as a human being.  Because of that arrival, we have been given a great gift.  God’s gift, His son, shows us the way to perfection through Jesus’ example, because Jesus is not only human; He is divine.  That means that God, who transcends all of us, meaning that He is far above us and not easily grasped, nevertheless made His divine presence immanent to us- close to us, in a form which all of us can relate to, a person like us in all things except sin.     

And so, Jesus arrival is a time of great joy because it heralds the entry into the world of a person whose pattern of life is wholly perfect and acceptable to God.  We have been given the Gospels to tell us what Jesus did and said so we can follow that pattern, for as Jeremiah predicts,  “He shall do what is just and right in the land”.   

And so, Advent is that special time of year, when we are asked to step back and reflect.  Reflect on what is wrong with our lives as a pattern, so that we will be prepared for the second coming of Christ at any time.  And then we are called upon to reflect on how to fix it,  We can do that by reflecting on the coming of the Christ Child, and the pattern of life Jesus laid out for us in the Gospels, so that we may modify our lives accordingly.   

Why should we do all this reflecting?  Well, St. Paul said this:  “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of Our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones”.   

Allegiance to the King

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

 

Christ The King

Dan 7: 13-14; Rev 1: 5-8; John 18: 33b-37

Dc. Larry Brockman

“The roots of all violence are found in the hatred of the truth.”  This is a quote from the 2008 Dean Koontz novel “Your Heart Belongs to Me”.  Let me say it again:  “The roots of all violence are found in the hatred of the truth.”  Thinking back, isn’t that what caused the trial and crucifixion of Jesus?  Because the Jewish leaders hated the truth that Jesus professed,  their hearts agitated and stirred to get rid of him any way they could.  Because their laws wouldn’t permit killing him for what he said, they turned him over to the Romans to do it.   And isn’t that what caused the horrible incidents of genocide in our past century?  Because people like Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Pol Pot couldn’t handle the educated or wealthy classes which could challenge them with the truth.  And isn’t that what is behind abortion today?  Because people refuse to recognize the truth that a fetus is a human being, a life worthy of living, just like their own.   

Now in today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about how He is a King, but He is not your typical King.  He clearly testified to Pilate that he was not a king in an earthly sense-  he was not challenging secular powers to be the power that ruled secular society- Oh no.  Rather, He says His Kingdom is not of this World.  Because the emphasis of Jesus Kingdom is not on power; but rather, the emphasis is on truth.  Specifically, Jesus says:  “For this I came into the world, to testify to the truth, everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice”. 

Now right after this Gospel reading, Pilate responds to Jesus with the statement:   “What is truth?”  Indeed, this was a problem in society at Jesus’ time.  The authorities did not agree on the truth.  And it seems to me that the same thing is true today.  Our society no longer agrees on the truth.  The leadership in our society has asked the same question- What is truth?

Certainly, truth is not always simple.  And that’s what our educated secular society tries to tell us.  So let’s talk abut truth for a minute.   

One of my references had an interesting view of truth.  It said that the Truth can be viewed from three different perspectives.  First, there are the facts.    Facts seem to establish the truth-  because facts are what is generally agreed to have happened.  The car was white; his eyes are blue.  At first blush, these details seem to be the facts.  And yet, people can fail to recognize the most important fact  by concentrating on obvious details and not their meaning.  Let me give an example.  When Jesus died on the cross, the fact is that He did it to show his love for us, the point is that the fact of an incident is not so much the sum of all the details that make it up, as it is the meaning behind all the details that make it up.   

Second, truth includes the morality of something.  It is the right way of behaving in a given situation.  It is the “true blue” approach.  Jesus death on the cross bore witness to obedience to what was right and true for Him; it was Jesus obedience to the call of His conscience, not obedience to his physical welfare, or a quest for self indulgence.  The truth, then, is that which brings forth righteousness in our hearts, not in our physical comforts.   

Third, the truth implies trustworthiness and dependence.  When we say that a friend is true, we mean that we can count on them.  They are trustworthy and honest, even when that may seem uncomfortable.  You can depend on the truth; you cannot depend on a lie. 

Now these three perspectives of truth-   The way things really are; the rightness of things; and trustworthiness- these are all totally consistent with the Love Jesus had for us.  And so, Jesus certainly did testify to the truth, to Love in His words and deeds.   

What about us? Do we know the truth for us?  In the past, our society was a mirror of Christian Morality.  What inspired our laws and the interpretation of them was the Christian values which were an integral part of our popular culture.  But I don’t think that is true any more.  American society today has been secularized, just like the Roman World was secularized.  Society is offended by the display of the ten commandments; by marriage being defined as between a man and a woman; and by prayer in the schools.  Society today doesn’t know what truth is.  So, we can no longer trust society to lead us to the truth.  Rather, we have to seek it out.  You can do that in many different ways- by seeking out what the Church does teach on the issues of the day; by reading the Bible and studying it; but most especially, by prayer which leads to direct conversation with God and the graces that flow from it.   

Why do all of us need to seek and understand the truth?  Because we all want to be part of Jesus Kingdom.  Life on this earth ends, but life in Jesus Kingdom is everlasting.  How do we get there?- by testifying to the truth with our lives.  The last line of the Gospel says it well:  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.   

Offering Sacrifices to the Secular World

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

1 Mac 2: 15-29; Luke 19: 41-44

Dc. Larry Brockman

Just because we don’t carry animals to an altar to be burned there, doesn’t mean that we don’t offer pagan sacrifices in today’s world.  Ok then, so what would it mean to offer sacrifices to the King today according to some decree?  A decree which runs counter to the long standing teaching of our religion?  I think that when we give significant time, talent, or treasure in support of any cause, then we are making a sacrifice.   

Now, we have been asked to offer time, talent, and treasure in some measure to our Church.  Father Ennis spoke about the treasure part of stewardship this past weekend.  He spoke about sacrificial giving- giving which is out of our needs rather than out of our surplus.  Well, the same thing applies to our relationship with the secular world.  Whenever we give significant time, talent, or treasure to the secular world, we are making a sacrifice- offering up our treasure out of our needs rather than our surplus.  And the fact is, that we have only so much time, talent and treasure to give, so that whether we like it or not, we are setting a priority on how we use our time, talent, and treasure.  And if we make our priority anything in the secular world that compromises our relationship with God then it is like the offering of sacrifices to the King in accordance with the decree because the “King” becomes something other than Christ.  We can offer such pagan sacrifices by supporting a blatantly evil cause- like Planned Parenthood; and by an addiction that depletes our time, talent or treasure, such as an addiction to pornography or video games or gambling, or drugs, or TV, or football, or even work.   

This is the time of year when we are being asked to reflect.  Reflect on the fact that at any time, the end could be near.  It is imperative that we have our priority straight on how to allocate our time, talent, and treasure.  Why?  Because you don’t want Jesus to say to you:  “They will smash you to the ground and your children within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” 

Enjoy Your Feast Day

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

 

All Saints Day

Rev 7: 2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3: 1-3; Mt 5: 1-12a

Dc. Larry Brockman

What does it mean to be a saint?  I think we get some strong clues in today’s readings.

Saints are people who are humble in spirit; who suffer quietly through life’s trials; and who are meek and not arrogant.  Saints thirst and hunger for the right thing to do, rather than the expedient thing to do.  They are merciful, forgiving those who do them wrong.  They have pure and clean hearts, and stay within God’s moral law; they don’t cheat when nobody is looking.  They are peacemakers, and avoid confrontations to get even; they rejoice at the success of others, even when they, themselves, fail.  And yet, saints endure persecution when they are defending their faith- they hang in there in faith even when they are insulted and berated for what they do.  These are things that characterize the saints.  They live a life that is patterned after Jesus.  

Lot’s of times, we think the saints are just canonized saints-  the apostles, the martyrs, and great defenders of the faith from the past, people like Saints Peter and Paul and Augustine and Agatha and Catherine of Siena and Joan of Arc.  And indeed, the Church has recognized these people as saints.  But there is something we should all know about these saints.  They were not perfect.  Each of the classic saints I mentioned above had sinned.  Peter denied Christ three times; Paul persecuted the Christians before his conversion; and Augustine led a pleasure seeking life before his conversion.  But, they went on to practice one or more of the beatitudes with zeal.   

Now, there are many people who lived amongst us recently who were not perfect but who practiced one or more of the Beatitudes we mentioned above.  They lived them out of faith, and they lived them with a passion.  Some easily recognized modern day saints include war heroes who sacrificed their lives to save others; and people dedicated to relieving the suffering of the poor and lepers, and people who dedicated their lives to caring for unwed mothers who were considering abortion.  There are names we can think of that fit each of these three categories.  Yes, they may have been sinners as well.  But God’s mercy triumphs over justice.  And these people were surely saints for what they have done.   

Likewise, there are many living amongst us today who are destined to become saints.  They are people in our own families who have given up their own dreams of personal achievement  In order to follow some task they have been called to do.  Like raising children; caring for aging parents; providing for their families; teaching others; using God’s resources to make life better for us all, and defending our country against terror.  They, also, are not perfect- they are sinners as well.  The point is that saints live their faith as imperfect humans.  They work at it with zeal, and God’s mercy triumphs over justice.   

Today, we recognize all these latter day saints as well as the canonized ones.  They are amongst the great multitude which no one could count.  They survived the time of great distress.  The Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.   

Now, that calls to mind this question.  What does it mean to be a saint?  Yes, what is it that waits for those who become saints?  John answers that question for us.  He says that we are God’s children now.  So we are first of all, God’s children.  Now think about when you were a child.  We needed to learn to do what we were told just because our parents said so.  So also, we need to do what God wants us to do.  We need to do it even if we don’t understand it, just because God told us to do so.  Why?  Because God loves us, just like our parents loved us.  How does God love us?  God’s love was displayed visibly by the gift of his Son Jesus.  His son suffered and died for us.  But then, he was resurrected. 

We have been told that it will be the same for us.  We will suffer and die, and most importantly, we will be resurrected, thanks to the gift of Jesus becoming human, a gift we will soon celebrate as we enter the Advent and Christmas season.  John goes on to say that even though we be resurrected, we don’t know what that will be like.  But he says that we will be like him, like Jesus. 

Wow!  Think of that.  We will be like Jesus, and we will know the Father just like He does.  And knowing in this sense, is experiencing God.  So we will experience the love and the glory and the joy that is from God.  We will be part of the Kingdom of God.  

So rejoice everybody.  Rejoice that you are destined to become a saint,   Imperfect though you may be.  And rejoice over the everlasting joy that will be yours.  Because this is your feast day, the feast of All Saints.