Archive for February, 2010

Attaining Our Ultimate Glory

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Second Sunday of Lent

Gen 15: 5-12, 17-18; Phil 3: 17 – 4: 1; Luke 9: 28b-36

Dc. Larry Brockman

Glory.  What is Glory?  We talk about a glorious sunrise; we talk about people being in their glory.  But what do we mean.  Is glory incredible beauty?  Is it an ultimate state of happiness?  Is it both of these things and more?   

All three readings today address Glory- an other-worldly Glory.  First, Abram, soon to be Abraham, is cast into a deep trance, and, in the midst of a terrifying darkness, he senses the glory of the Lord passing between the animals he has prepared as smoking fire pots and a torch.  And in that trance, he hears the Lord make a covenant with him.  This sensing of the Glory of the Lord motivates Abram to believe- to believe the incredible promise of the covenant made to him that an old man with a barren old wife could be the Father of a nation as numerous as the stars in the sky, if he obeys the Lord, and goes on an exodus, a journey where he takes his family away from safety and prosperity, and goes to the land the Lord promises to him.  The vision of that promise became believable to him, as hard as it might be to believe- and it came true.   

In the Gospel, the Apostles John, Peter and James, witness Jesus in a transfigured state, along with “glorified” appearances of Moses and Elijah.  They are dumbfounded and don’t know what they are saying.  But it had a lasting impression on them, whatever they really saw.  It was an image and an impact that wasn’t fully appreciated until after the Resurrection of Christ; an image that predicted that Jesus would have to suffer and pass into his glory at the resurrection.  That’s what the exodus was that Jesus was foretold in the image- Jesus’ exodus, Jesus’ journey to fulfill the will of his Father.  And that exodus, that journey, involved suffering and self sacrifice.  That also came true, the suffering, death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus.  So, just as with Abram, the Apostles are blessed with an image of the Glory yet to come, the promise made to us all.   

Now in Paul’s letter, he talks about how our bodies will change into a glorious state to conform with the glorified body of Christ, if we can rightly claim our citizenship in Heaven.  How do we do that?  How do we catch sight of the glory in store for us, and change our lives to claim that citizenship in heaven? 

Paul tells us what we cannot do.  He tells us that many conduct their affairs as enemies of the Cross of Christ.  Their God is their stomach, and their glory is their shame.   

Now we are all human, and we have needs as humans.  These needs might be summed up as follows:  Oh that I was younger and stronger.  Oh that I would have comfort and no pain.  Oh that my hungers for the things of this world would be filled.  Then I would be happy; then I would be in my glory.  But the fact is, despite the human needs we have that need to be met to live this life, these are not the needs that define what life is about.  The fact is, in the end, they are not what real life is about at all.  Because when we die, these wants, these needs, pass away along with our mortal bodies.  And so we should be seeking other things during our life.  We need visions of our future glory so that we might seek after them, just as Abram and the Apostles did. 

What can these things possibly be?  Can we have visions of the glory that God has in mind for us?  I would like to suggest that we can.  I think that all of us are given experiences- dreams, visions, life experiences, in which we catch a glimpse of the glory meant for us.  But it is not in the fulfillment of our bodily or worldly needs.  Rather, it is our appreciation of God’s creation, appreciation of each other when others do things for us; and the feeling of happiness we feel over successful efforts we make to help others.  It comes in our visions of what can be, when we apply ourselves, even in a small way, to solving the problems in the world.  And, for some, deep in their prayer life, it comes from glorious visions of things to come for them who live life jst the way God has given it to us, no matter how difficult and painful that is and yet, still believe in Jesus and the Glory he promises.  I believe that we can sense that ultimate glory, a glory where we are with our Father in heaven and our loved ones, at peace, with no more pain, no more concerns, no more wants.  But just peace and love. 

Unanswered Prayer

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

 

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Esther C: 12, 14-16, 23-25; Matthew 7: 7-12

Dc. Larry Brockman

Prayer!  Prayer is the common theme of today’s readings.  Jesus tells us that the one that asks will receive.  And that God, who is good, will give us what we really need.  Sometimes when we pray, we don’t sense that our prayers are being answered.  So, do we stop praying?  Do we lose our confidence that our prayers are being heard?  In other words, is our prayer filled with doubt? 

I find myself guilty on that count occasionally.  I want my prayers answered right away, and when that doesn’t happen, it discourages me.  If I am in a truly difficult bind, and simply don’t know what to do, kind of like Esther in today’s first reading, I will pray and hope that a sense of inspiration will come over me at the same time I am praying.  And that just sometimes doesn’t happen.  Maybe some of you are fortunate enough to have the kind of relationship with God where your prayers are always answered right away.  But I think mine is more typical, kind of like Esther’s. 

If you look at the first reading closely, you will note that Esther prayed all day long.  Also, text is missing from verses 16 through 22.  In that text, Esther discusses her dilemma with the Lord.  She talks of her frustration and the sin in her people’s lives.  During her prayer, she asks for the same thing multiple times.  There doesn’t appear to be any answer to her pray-  just a one sided appeal and discussion of the dilemma.  There is no expression of confidence, no report of comfort from the prayer in the words of the scripture.  And sometimes that’s the way I feel- almost an emptiness.   

Now if we read more of the book of Esther, we discover that her prayer was answered.  She did manage to say the right things to the King and the evil Haman.  And Esther and her people were delivered from the evil that they faced.  I think that the same thing happens in our lives after prayer, only we sometimes don’t recognize it for what it is.  We pray for help, we don’t receive a rush of inspiration or comfort, and we get discouraged.  But what God wants from us is trust.  He wants us to leave our prayer session with faith and trust that the prayers were heard.  Then go out and face the dilemma and let God do His work with us and through us to accomplish His will. 

Choosing Everlasting Life

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

 

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Dt 30: 15-20; Luke 9: 22-25

Dc. Larry Brockman

Things have not changed in thousands of years.  The choice Moses presents to the Israelis was the same as the choice Jesus had 2000 years later, and is the same as the choice we have today, 2000 years after that.  Only Jesus made the reward more specific.  Because the long life that Moses promised to his people, appeared to be an earthly award- one here in this world.  The promise Jesus made is life in the Kingdom of God. 

If we choose life and prosperity rather than death and doom, then we must face into the fact that such a choice in this world involves a sacrifice, just like it did for Jesus.  We are invited to spend the forty days of Lent reflecting on our lives by using Prayer and Fast and Almsgiving to help us detach ourselves from our worldly passions, and by listening to what God is asking of us.  That’s what Jesus did.  He went into the desert when he was in his thirties, and prayed and fasted for 40 days.  And when he returned, he made the stark and grim announcement to his disciples that we heard this morning.  He told his disciples that he discerned that he would suffer much and die- that was God’s will for him.  Then he goes on to say:  “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it”.  He shared with us the results of his desert experience, his communion with his father.  And it is simply this:  It’s all about living God’s will for us.  That’s what it takes to save your life for the Kingdom of God. 

Fortunately for us, we are not called upon to make the severe sacrifice that Jesus made, one in which the God made man was humbled by being betrayed by his friends, beat severely, and hung on a cross- an agonizing and painful death.  But all of us are called to make a sacrifice, deferring our agendas for the one that God makes known to us.  It may not be clear this year, or even in the next few years, what that is.  But if we are open to God, at sometime during our lives, in God’s time, we will be able to discern His will for us, the sacrifice he is asking us to make.  Is it caring for our families at the expense of a career?  Is it being a caregiver for a sick or aging person?  Is it devoting your life to God as a religious or priest?  Is it passionate expression or practice of some talent that you have?  It could be one of many things. 

This is the time of the year when the Church calls of us to put aside, the things of the world for a while-  long enough to listen, listen for that small voice of God just like Jesus did in his 40 days.  Are you listening? 

Praying For a Healing

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

 

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Our Lady of Lourdes

World Day of the Sick

1 Kings 11: 4-13; Mark 7: 24-30

Dc. Larry Brockman

There’s one thing all Christians seem to have in common:  A belief that God can heal us, even in seemingly hopeless situations.  And so, even the least devout of Christians, when faced with the need for a healing, especially a healing in seemingly hopeless situations, will pray to God, asking for a healing.   

This morning we hear of such a healing.  There are a few things worth noting about this story.  First, the woman is not one of the “believers”.  She is not amongst God’s chosen people- she is a foreigner.  And so, she does not believe in the details of the Jewish religion; and in fact, probably wasn’t even familiar with them.  So, what is it about her “faith” that stands out?  Well, she humbles herself at Jesus’ feet, and basically admits that she is not one of the believers.  She then goes on to say that she is willing “to take the scraps”.  In other words, she believes that Jesus scraps will be enough, just his glancing attention is enough.  This is not a faith which involves knowledge of the facts.  This is true faith, a faith in the heart.  And that is the kind of faith that Jesus is looking for, a trusting, faith in the heart, that whatever God’s will is, that will be enough.   

Second, notice that this is not a physical healing.  Rather, it is a spiritual healing- a demon is cast out.  I think that this is something all of us need to understand about healing.  We often times want a healing to conform to our expectations; more than likely, that is a physical healing.  Sometimes, our prayers for a physical healing are answered.  But spiritual healings are what really counts.  If we can be at peace in our hearts, because our spirits are healed, then we can face whatever our ailments are.  After all, the ultimate measure of our health doesn’t relate to our bodies, but rather, it is the health of our souls because it is our souls that we take into eternity.   

And third, notice that the healing was done at a distance- Jesus did not even go to the site.  So, the woman had to go away and trust that Jesus had done what he said.  All too often, we want what we pray for right now, and we want it to unfold in front of us.  But God’s healing power comes at His own pace, not ours; and it comes in His way; not ours.  The manifestation of the healing may be at a different time and in a different way than we are expecting it.  It may be remote, like the healing was in this story.   

Today, February 11, was designated by Pope John Paul II as the World Day of the Sick each year.  It is also the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes- and of course, Lourdes is the site of many miraculous healings.  So, let us take this opportunity to really pray for the Sick.  In the spirit of the Syro-Phoenician Woman, with true faith.  And God’s power will work for us- to bring us the Spiritual healing we need. 

Coming to Grips With Our Demons

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

 

Thursday of the Forth Week in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 2: 1-4, 10-12; Mark 6: 7-13

Dc. Larry Brockman

“The twelve drove out many demons”.  How can we relate to that in our day and age?  Now the disciples were given power to cast out demons, and we just heard that they succeeded.  So, there were definitely demons in Jesus’ day.  Just exactly what were these demons like anyway?  Were they just some special phenomena that only existed in Jesus’ time?  Or are there demons all around us today that need to be cast out? 

Our secular society would like to deny the existence of demons.  It’s not something we hear about in the Church very often either.  But personally, I believe that there are demons today,  because I don’t think things have changed that much in 2000 years.  Human nature is human nature- it hasn’t changed.  And it is subject to the same kinds of influence today as 2000 years ago. 

I would project that demons show themselves to us in two ways.  First, there are demons who totally possess some people in our society.  Sadly, these are people who are Godless, self absorbed people who seem to thrive on, and constantly seek evil.  And they are bent on infecting anyone and everyone they come in contact with.  They are the ruthless and cutthroat in business; or people who are addicted to sex; or people who derive pleasure out of killing for example.  It would be great if we could cast these demons out of people, but that takes a special talent, and few have been given that talent.  The best we can do is recognize the possessed for what they are, pray for them, and avoid them.

Second, there are the demons who are trying to possess us.  They constantly try to derail us in our faith.  These demons show themselves to us as temptations, persistent and unrelenting temptations.  And when they succeed, it is almost as if they redouble their efforts to drag us further and further into sin until our temptations control our lives.  But we have free will, and we have the sacraments.  These demons can be cast out by our faith and resilience as Christians, with prayer, confession, and resolve not to sin again- in other words, repentance. 

The Twelve were sent out to preach repentance and that indeed is what is needed today by all of us.  We can cast out our demons when we repent, when we confess our sins, resolve not to sin again, and have control over our temptations.