Archive for January, 2010

You Have Been Dedicated By God!

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jer 1; 4-5, 17-19; 1 Cor 12: 31- 13: 3; Luke 4: 21-30

Dc. Larry Brockman

You have been dedicated by God, did you know that?  You see, Jeremiah’s words today apply to you as much as they do to Jeremiah.  I quote:  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born, I dedicated you.”  Yes, indeed, each and every one of you was known by God before you were born.  And God dedicated you to something.  These words definitely apply to you and I.  God doesn’t make junk, and he fashioned each and every one of you for something.   

Now Jeremiah was dedicated as a prophet.  Because, as our first reading tells the story, he heard God calling him to be a prophet and he heard God promising him to be with him.  Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet, but God promised to keep Jeremiah from being crushed.  He did not promise to guard him against suffering.  Indeed, Jeremiah’s suffered in his own time because his words bore God’s truth- an uncomfortable truth for Jeremiah’s people, and that brought Jeremiah an uncomfortable life.  And yet, we know that Jeremiah was not crushed.  And ultimately, Jeremiah triumphed over his adversaries because his words live on today, and serve as a lesson for all of us.  Yet his detractors suffered the demise he predicted.   

What is God calling you to?  Do you hear the word of God speaking to you about your calling?  Now before you answer that, consider Jesus experience in the Gospel.  He reads the scroll of Isaiah’s scripture in his home Synagogue, and tells the people that the reading was fulfilled in their hearing.  The reaction is mixed.  In an initial reaction, people acclaim him.  But then there are others who say wait a minute- who does this guy think he is?  Isn’t he just one of us?  Jesus then speaks of prophets not being accepted in their own town and quotes two Old Testament stories where God’s favor has been bestowed on foreigners rather than the Jews.  In both cases, the prophets messages were known to their own people and it rolled off of their backs without having any effect.  But the message of the prophets was new and fresh to the foreigners.  And so, these foreigners responded with genuine faith, and that faith was rewarded.   

These stories angered the people in Jesus synagogue because they realized that they were being told that they were like the Jews of old in these two stories.  You see, although the people in Jesus’ Synagogue were familiar with Isaiah’s scripture, that familiarity caused a sort of blindness in them.  They weren’t really hearing the word of God because it was too available to them, too familiar.  It had been proclaimed in a given context for centuries.  People were comfortable with that context.  It was a context that didn’t involve them.  It was a context that described happenings centuries ago to a group of other people- not them.  How dare some mere carpenter come along and shake them out of their comfort zone, and imply that the scriptures were being fulfilled in their time!   

Is it possible that we committed Catholics can suffer from the same kind of blindness with the scriptures?  We hear scripture proclaimed each week.  In fact, we hear the same scriptures every three years because our readings are taken from a three year cycle.  Do our minds lock into the “same old- same old” context, that these things happened long ago and don’t affect us?  Or are our minds open to God talking to us about our lives today?   

Now, if you agree that God knew each of you before you were born, and that he has dedicated you to something, then realize that he, too, is going to speak to you through the word of God.  He is talking to you through his scriptures every time you hear them.  Somewhere in these scriptures there are messages- just for you.  It is up to us to hear these scriptures in a fresh way, and to be open to when God is talking to us.   

Personally, I feel It would be really hard for me, or for any of you for that matter, to deny that today’s second reading isn’t speaking to each of us.  Wow, what a message.  Because no matter how good we are with the talents God has given us, it is all too easy to be self motivated, and not motivated out of love.  Patience with folks who don’t see things my way;  kindness to people who have hurt me; rejoicing over someone’s good fortune who I think hasn’t earned it; these are all things that are hard for me, and I bet they are hard for most of you as well.  And, we have all heard this scripture so many times before.  And so, we don’t really take it to heart.  It makes me uncomfortable, but by tomorrow, perhaps I will forget that twinge of conscience.  But if someone tells me that I just don’t get it,  Why I’m likely to get upset at them  How dare they?  Well, that’s what Jesus was talking about.  We, too, may be like the crowd in Jesus Synagogue. 

So consider this.  Just like the prophet Jeremiah, we can measure our success in our Faith not by how comfortable our faith is making us feel, but by how uncomfortable it is making us feel. 

Hiding Your Talents?

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

St. Thomas Aquinas

2 Sm 7:18-19, 24-29; Mark 4: 21-25

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

Are you hiding?  I mean, the real you.  God has blessed you with some special talents.  Are you using them.  Are you being the real you, or are your gifts hidden under a bushel basket?  Before you answer that question, let’s talk about what hiding means.  Sometimes we think we are being humble by using our talents sparingly.  We say we are just being shy.  But whatever it is that God gave us as a talent- a singing voice, an athletic talent, the ability to teach, the gift of understanding- whatever it is- it needs to be used fully.  It needs to blossom like a beautiful flower.  We are not being humble when we hide our talents.  Rather, we are not recognizing the beauty of the gift that we have.  And as Jesus says in the Gospel, people who hide their gifts in this way will lose them.   

Other people are quick to recognize and practice their talents,  But they use them only for themselves, and not for the benefit of others.  Their talents become self serving, and so, they too are hidden, because they are not shared.  All of us can and should benefit from each others gifts, to complement the ones that we have.     

There are many opportunities we have practice and share the gifts that we have.  If you feel that little urge nudging you, do try out for the Holy Family production of Godspel; do volunteer to help out with Prep; share yourself in Bible Study- you may have special insights everyone else needs to hear.  Do it, do it now.  Don’t hide under a basket. 

Envy Blinds Us

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

 

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

St. Agnes

1 Sam 18: 6-9,: 19: 1-7: Mk 3: 7-12

Dc. Larry Brockman

Today is the Feast of St. Agnes.  I found a strange kinship between the fate of David in or first reading, and St Agnes’ fate.  You see, both of these people were victims of a common vice- envy. 

Clearly Saul envied David, for although Saul was king, it was David whose praises were sung by the women the most.  Saul slew thousands; David slew Tens of Thousands.  And so, Saul envied David to the point of considering killing him.  Certainly, Saul was jealous and angry over his most loyal soldier’s success, but it was envy that drove those emotions.   

Now according to Saint Ambrose in the 4th Century, Agnes was a physically and spiritually beautiful teenage year girl who lived 100 years earlier.  She was much sought after in Rome by the young men, who envied and lusted after her beauty in body and spirit.  But she considered herself a bride of Christ, and rejected all these suitors.  This enraged the suitors, and so she was brought before the Roman officials charged with rejecting the Roman Gods.  She was threatened with torture, and ordered to worship pagan Gods.  When this didn’t work, they forced her into public prostitution knowing that she feared being violated more than she feared physical torture.  But whenever someone approached her, they had a change of heart.  They relented, and left her alone.  All except one, who in his boldness was struck blind, only to be cured of his blindness by Agnes herself.  Ultimately, her resolve and refusal to submit resulted in her being beheaded.  While lust seemed the primary motivation, I believe it was envy that was the root cause.  Envy of a young girl’s ability to stand up for the God she loved and believed in despite threats and perils.  An envy that moved her detractors to take whatever course of action they needed simply to break her- to seek revenge.  Anger, Lust, Revenge, and Jealousy fill these two stories, band but with an underlying base of envy.   

How about you and I?  Have we ever envied someone else’s success such that it caused us to be angry or jealous- with the result being some inappropriate action?  Have we envied someone else’s looks or possessions to the point of inappropriate desire?  God gives us all gifts- not necessarily the ones we want.  But the ones he wants for us.  Our vision is sometimes blinded to what we do have,  by our envy and desire of what we do not have.  Today, make a special effort to thank God for what you do have- your gifts, your talents, the beautiful person that you are.  After all, they were fashioned by your God just for you. 

False Faith

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

 

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

1 Sam 4: 1-11: Mk 1: 40-45

Dc. Larry Brockman

False Faith!  That’s what characterized the Israelis in the first reading.  Consider the evidence.  Before this section of the Book of Samuel, the Israelis can be characterized as sinners who depended on their own strength, not their God’s.  And so, they go into battle with a fierce competitor, confident of their own abilities.  But they lose; they lose big time. 

They never gave a second thought to God before that first battle.  And yet, they decide to bring the symbol of the Israeli God forward for the second battle.  No prayers; no fasting; no repentance; no humility precedes their second battle; but rather, a prideful foot stomping celebration and confidence that just presence of the symbol of their God will win the day.  The scriptures show that they lost the second time even more decisively than the first.  False faith!- that’s what they had. 

Contrast this first story with the Gospel story.  A leper comes to Jesus with humility and says:  “If you wish, you can make me clean”.  Well thought out, don’t you think?  Because first, he says “If you wish”, he doesn’t begin with “please, please heal me Jesus”.  His whole demeanor is “Thy will be done” first.  Only after this does he say, “You can make me clean”.  The leper planned his appeal to Jesus; the leper had real faith; the leper humbly asked Jesus for help.  And he was rewarded for this approach.  God answered his prayer through His son Jesus. 

Now both of these stories happened so long ago.  What do they have to do with us today?  There are no great battles like that in my life at this very instant; and leprosy is a thing of the past.  But let me ask this simple question.  When you plan your daily activities, or before you encounter a big challenge in your life; has the Lord been your constant companion in prayer?  Do you come humbly before the Lord with your request planning your appeal with all humility and respect for your God?  Or is your appeal something that happens only after you get in to trouble?  Does it take a wake-up call- an illness, a job loss, an accident, a betrayal, to get you to ask for God’s help?  Or have you had a believing constant relationship with him before your appeal?  In other words, is your faith false- vested in the symbol of your God; or is it real; ahave  living vibrant relationship with the God you believe in. 

Too Good to be True!

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

 

Thursday after Epiphany

1John 4: 19 – 5: 4; Luke 4: 14-22

Dc. Larry Brockman

“Too good to believe”.  That would have been my reaction if I were in the crowd in that Synagogue.  Just imagine the situation.  This assembly right here is a group of folks who largely know each other.  This is the same as the Gospel writer infers about the people in Jesus Synagogue.  So just suppose one of the people in this congregation right here, perhaps our Reader this morning, stands up, and reads the scripture; and then, as he takes his seat, says: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing”.  Can you imagine looking at the reader with the new-found knowledge that he claims to be Almighty God incarnate?  The cynics in our assembly would say, “Oh yeah, sure”; the real believers would be in shock; but I just went on record with a different response: “Too good to believe”. 

I say that because God becoming man, the incarnation is, in fact, too good to believe at first blush.  But, sitting here 2000 years later, that is precisely the essence of our faith- that Jesus was, is, both God and man. 

Now the image that I just tried to put in your mind, that is, what it would be like if this reading had been fulfilled today in your hearing, brings into focus a challenge and a reward.  The challenge is your ability to believe, your faith. because the incarnation is not something that makes sense when you try to comprehend its details.  The more you reason about the details, the harder it is to believe it.  It just has to be accepted on faith.  And faith is believing in something that can’t be proven.  The image of “one of our own” makes it so very clear.  We just have to believe it.  Once we accept that “faith” is the key, then we can reap the reward.  And the reward is the almost incomprehensible joy associated with a complete acceptance of the Incarnation.  It is the knowledge that God loved us so much that he sent His Son to become one of us, and that he did all those things in the Isaiah prophecy for us.  We have been set free, we have been saved.  That is the real joy of Christmas.  Rejoice, because it’s almost too good to be true.