Archive for May, 2010

The Trinity Matters

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Most Holy Trinity

Prov 8:22-31; Rom 5: 1-5; John 16: 12-15

Dc. Larry Brockman

Does it matter to you- the concept of the Most Holy Trinity?  The greatest minds in the history of the Church have pondered the Trinity.  In the first 400 years of Christianity, they argued back and forth about what three persons in one God meant; about the divinity and humanity of Christ; and about how the persons of the Trinity related to each other.  And out of all that, many were condemned as heretics, and so, the Church worked through all these issues, and settled them.  That process gave us the Creed, the Nicene Creed.  We say it every Sunday just after the homily.  That Creed is a summary of what we are to believe about the Trinity and what God did for us.  Virtually all Christians profess that Creed- Catholics, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, and Baptists for example.  And yet, the great minds in the Church all admit that the Trinity is a mystery and just can’t be fully explained or understood. 

When you recite the creed, do you even think about what it means?  Does it matter to you?    Well, consider this for a moment.  Suppose you had never met or even seen someone-  I will call that someone John.  And suppose that it was important for you to get to know John- he had the key to your future.  If I asked you whether or not you liked John, what would you say?  You really couldn’t say anything, could you.  People who have experienced John could tell you about him, but until you had first hand knowledge of John, you really wouldn’t know what John was like, whether you would like him or not, and how well you could relate to him.

Knowing and relating to God is a similar issue.  Unless and until you know something about God, and unless you experience God, you won’t be able to relate to Him, and you won’t be able to satisfy your hunger for the meaning of life. That’s why it should matter that you know God and know something about Him.   

God tells us about himself in many ways- some examples are through His creation and through scripture.  He chose to reveal the Trinity to us through the scriptures.  There must be a reason why.  Jesus says some very interesting things about the Trinity in today’s Gospel.  He says that everything the Father has is his.  We know that Jesus is the connection between God and man, because He became man. And John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is the Word of God.   So, Jesus knows the Father and is able to share everything the Father has, like his thoughts and creative actions, with us. 

Listen to what was said in the first reading about God the Father’s reaction to the human race after creation:   “And I found delight in the human race”.  Indeed, God delighted in us even before any of us knew Him.  This message, a message of Love for Humanity, was given to Jesus to communicate to us.  Jesus was sent to dwell among us, and to live as one of us, and to show us the way.  When He was with His apostles, Jesus could pass that message on directly and the apostles could experience it.  But now, Jesus has gone back to His Father.  So, Jesus says that the Spirit will “declare it to you”.  The Spirit, then, is the vehicle by which all of us today can hear the Word of God. Through the Spirit, we come by our knowledge of the Father.   

How could this knowledge of the God and the Trinity be of value to us and really matter?  Well, suppose we look at the relationship between the persons of the Trinity in more detail.  First of all, notice that these three persons of the Trinity are unified.  They are unified in both their goals and their actions.  They work together; they are striving to bring mankind into their kingdom.  Second, the relationship between the persons is characterized by Love.  That Love is expressed by each person giving totally to the other.  There is no holding back.  Whatever the Father has, the Son has as well.  The Son gives the Spirit everything that the Father has given Him. 

Now, we also know that mankind is made in the image and likeness of God, according to scripture.  So, just as the Father, Son, and Spirit, the three persons of the Trinity, are unified as one God, then, each one of us who mirror the image and likeness of God possess the presence of the same three personages.  And that matters in our relationship with God.  Here are a few of the ways it matters:  First, Our Triune God loved us enough to be intimate with us.  He sent His only son to live with us, and show us the way.  God is not some distant creative force that isn’t interested in us.  Our families mirror the love and intimacy that God gave his son, to whom He gave everything, when we have children, whom we love and share everything with.  Second, God gave us talents akin to His own- gifts of creativity like the sciences and the arts and physical abilities.  We mirror God the Father when we use those talents in creative ways.  And third, God gave us his spirit, his life giving breath, the stuff that echoes the difference between passive creation and a living being, a Spirit that is capable of communicating everything about ourselves to others.  We mirror the Spirit in the uniqueness of our personalities as they project the fullness of life and as we share ourselves with others.   

Each of these examples shows how much we are like God.  And so, when we communicate with God, when we pray to God, we are not praying to some distant, remote, God, but rather, to a loving, intimate, creative, and unique life force; a God who is interested in you.  And that makes all the difference in the world.  Just as God is unity in three persons, so also our three vestiges of the Father, Son, and Spirit within us- our creativity, our desire to share ourselves, and the uniqueness of our spirits; are seeking unity of purpose, and unity in action.  That is what we all crave in our relationship with God. 

So, get to know God and the Trinity- it matters. 

On Blindness

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

 

Thursday of the 8th Week in Ordinary Time

1 Peter 2: 2-5, 9-12; Mark 10: 46-52

Dc. Larry Brockman

Blindness!  Something all of us fear.  Imagine what it would be like not to see in this beautiful world of ours: God’s creative work in nature- the mountains and the sea; God’s gift of life- a newborn baby; God’s energy manifest through the wonderful works made by the hand of man.  And yet, even worse than physical blindness is spiritual blindness.  Jesus often criticized the Pharisees, who knew the law of the Lord, but didn’t see the intent of the law.  They suffered from spiritual blindness!  And likewise, he praised the children of the world, whose innocence and openness made them receptive, and not blind.   

Bartimaeus was a truly lucky man.  He was fortunate enough to be open spiritually to Jesus message.  Because he had trained himself to be discriminating about what his senses told him, he had to be discriminating- he couldn’t see.  And so, he was open to the “pure spiritual milk” that Peter was talking about.  Not only was he blessed by his faith, but his physical blindness was healed as well.   

Lest we be too critical of the Pharisees, It is fair to say that all of us can suffer from the same kind of blindness.  First, it is easy for us who do see to be blinded by what we see and have seen.  It’s a kind of sensory overload- sight, sound, and all of the other senses bombarded by so much all day long, all the time.  Second, we hear and see some things so often that they don’t register with us, and their meaning can escape us.  And lastly, we are blinded by expectations based on what we have heard and seen. 

Propaganda works like that.  If you show people something often enough, and tell them something often enough, they can be convinced that it is true, even when it isn’t.  Real truth, real understanding, is something that is a gift from God.  And so, us “sighted” folks need to be careful.  We need time out occasionally- time to close off the loud noises and the vibrant sights; long enough so that we will be open to the “pure spiritual milk” that Peter talks about;  time in which we put aside our prejudices and expectations and what everybody else is doing and saying; so that we can reflect on what our conscience tells us, and what God is urging through His Spirit.  Only then can we truly say, “I see”. 

Happy Birthday!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Pentecost

Acts 2: 1-11; 1 Coe 12: 3b-7, 12-13; John 14: 15-16, 23b-26

Dc. Larry Brockman

Happy Birthday!  Today is the Birthday of your Church.  Because on the feast of Pentecost some 2000 years ago, God sent His Spirit to dwell within several dozen people gathered in one small room in Jerusalem, and from that humble birth, the Christian Church has spread to all the corners of the Earth to be the largest religion in the world.  Happy Birthday to our Church!   

Now we usually dwell on Pentecost as the coming of the Spirit, but it is more than just that,  Pentecost initiated the great period of Evangelization, the conversion of the whole World- the Gentiles.  Just as Pentecost was used by the Jews as the commemoration of how God   Gave Moses the Ten Commandments and made His covenant with them to be their God; so also Pentecost commemorates for Christians how God gave the Apostles the Spirit and energized by that Spirit, He sent them to spread the New Covenant promising salvation to all people. The energy of the Spirit was not used to serve their own purposes, but rather, to accomplish God’s purpose.  They started by preaching to the tremendous crowd that was gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost, one of the three main Jewish pilgrimage feasts that brought Jews from all over the World to Jerusalem each year.   

Scripture scholars tell us that the miracle of the tongues we heard about, that is, each foreign person hearing preaching in his own language, was a symbol that the scrambling of speech and confusion that occurred at the Tower of Babel thousands of years before that, was being reversed.  God used this event, the first Christian Pentecost, to broadcast a clear message:  He had sent His Son to the redeem all people, people of every nation and tongue, and now was the time to spread that message to all people; to unify all people in belief in the one true God.  And so, God’s Spirit spread like tongues of fire on His Apostles and from them to people of the many nations gathered in Jerusalem at the time- a Spirit which instilled in them God’s Love for them; and a spirit of life and enthusiasm; a spirit that promised an inheritance of everlasting life for those who believe and repent of their sins.   

The Church celebrates Pentecost each year to remind you and I of all this so that we too, just like Apostles, will go out and spread the good news of the New Covenant.  Indeed, in the Gospel, Jesus makes this clear.  There, He talks about first loving Him and then keeping His commandments.  Then he says that, quote, “..we will come to him and make our dwelling in him”.  What dwells within in us is the Paraclete, or Advocate.  But an Advocate of what- God’s advocate; God’s voice that will dwell in us and is ever present to remind us, through our conscience, of what God wants us to do; and to be an advocate for us in God’s behalf.     

In our second reading, we hear that:  “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” First, this means that these inspirations have been specially selected by God for you, whatever they are.  Second, it means that whatever manifestation you have been given, whatever urgings, talents, energies, and inclinations that God whispers to you through His spirit, are for some benefit in His cause to unite all of us.  Our community of believers, our Church, consists of many diverse people with many diverse God-given gifts that are the manifestations of the Spirit of God.  So there is a place for all of us in God’s plan to evangelize.  Just like the Apostles, we are being called to use those gifts for the greater glory of God, and to build His community of believers, the Church. 

Most of us are not being called to drop out of the life we have been given to do something entirely new, but rather, to learn how to bloom right where we have been planted.  Chances are that all of you out there recognize the special abilities that God has given you.  These are the gifts of the Spirit that you have.  They are your talents; the wholesome interests that you have; and even your limitations.  They are the things that you love.  They are what makes you special.  God wants you to use those inclinations and gifts for the common good, and in such a way, that your actions broadcast your dedication to the values and goals of Christianity.  If you are a business man; be an honest and trustworthy business man.  If you are a caretaker- a stay at home Mom or caretaker for a sick or aging person, be a loving and giving caretaker;  if you are someone’s employee; be a loyal and hard working employee;  and if you are a teacher, or a person in a position of influence through your words and deeds,  then always teach and act by what is true and of value.  Whatever you do, do it for the greater glory of God.  And like the miracle of tongues today, everyone will hear you, loud and clear, whether you speak their language or not. 

What Will You Do?

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Ascension Sunday

Acts 1: 1-11; Heb 9: 24-28; 10: 19-23; Luke 24: 46-53

Dc. Larry Brockman

What will you do?  Imagine that you were there for the Lord’s Ascension.  You are there as one of the Apostles.  Before your very eyes, this man whom you had come to love and depend on, who suffered and died a horrible death; and then, in the middle of a desperate feeling of depression three days later, when you felt abandoned, and confused, and without hope; you saw him resurrected in body, eating and talking with you.  Wow.  And this goes on for 40 days, this Easter experience.  

But now, after the 40 days, he tells you that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem”.  Then he tells you that you are witnesses to all of that.  He doesn’t mean that you were there for it, although as an Apostle, you surely would have been that kind of witness.  No, what he means is that you are to witness to all of that, meaning you are to give testimony to what happened.  You are the one being asked to proclaim what happened.  Indeed, you are to be the person who proclaims the message of repentance beginning in Jerusalem.  You, as a party to all of what happened, are called to be that kind of witness- just think about that.   

But then, even before all of that could sink in your mind,  He takes you out to a neighborhood hill overlooking a garden valley, and while he is blessing you, He parts from you.  Parts from you- what does that mean?  The reading from Acts, also authored by St. Luke but later, says that he was lifted up and disappeared from them in a cloud.  But that’s not what Luke’s Gospel says.  It says that He “parted” from them.  It is as if He vanished from them- poof- right in the middle of the blessing, just as he did to the two Emmaus brothers in Luke’s earlier story.  How would you feel if you experienced all that?  What will you do?   

Some 2000 years later, all of us hearing this story of the Ascension in the pews this morning, can hear the story of the Ascension one of several ways.  First, you can hear the story of the Ascension as a detached critical observer.  That means you hear it like any other old story from history- something that is quite a yarn, and something that you hope is true, but deep down- you need more proof.  You will just have to wait and see, maintaining all your options.   

A second way you can hear the story is in your head, in which case, the Ascension story is something you decide to believe in, something that becomes part of your “faith”.  That means that you believe that God, in the person of Jesus, took on our nature and became human, that Jesus underwent suffering and death, then was Resurrected, and finally ascended into heaven.  Theologically, that means that God came very close to us for a while, close enough for some people that lived at the time to see and touch God.  And then, He  went back to God in heaven.  Wow! Isn’t that awesome, the one God dwelt amongst us as one of our own.  God who is the creator of everything, was that close to us.  That, in itself is a mind numbing piece of knowledge for those who believe. 

The fact that God so loved us that he came close to us is unique to our Christian Faith.  It is not something that Jews or Moslems or Hindus or Oriental Faiths believe that God would or could do.  It is unique to Christianity; we call this the Immanence of God.  Other faiths believe that God is so immeasurably greater than us that there is, and always will be, a separation between us, called a “Transcendence”- and so God Transcends us.  The Ascension shows us both the Immanence and the Transcendence of God- it is the transition from Immanence to Transcendence that we witness in the Ascension story today.  And that is all very good for us to understand with our heads.   

But there is a third way to hear the story of the Ascension- with our hearts.  As we come to realize the full revelation of the mystery of God, the simultaneous Immanence and Transcendence of God, we can feel that in our hearts.  It is a feeling of tremendous Joy, the joy of knowing that we are that close to the one true God who is also so far above us.  That’s what the Apostles realized in the Gospel.  Not only did they experience the story of the Ascension with their minds, but they also experienced it with their hearts. And that’s why they did him homage, returned to Jerusalem, and continually praised Him in the temple.  Because the Apostles realized that if God was that close to them, and also infinite in power, then nothing, absolutely nothing, could harm them.  They trusted in the God that they experienced, no matter what.  They trusted Him so much that they went into the Temple where Jesus had been hauled before a tribunal for Trial and conviction and execution.  They were no longer afraid of anything like that, but rather, were ready to be the witnesses He had called them to be.   

If you heard the story of the Ascension with your heart today, then you, too, can experience the joy of complete trust in God, and be His witness here and now, 2000 years later.   Next week, the Church celebrates Pentecost, when the energy, the life force, the inspiration, and the strength to follow through on your joy will be given to you.  As the Apostles received the Holy Spirit, then when we are armed with the Holy Spirit, we, who trust in God’s will for us, can all do great things. We do this as we witness for Him in this cold, secular, and increasingly Godless world-  wherever we work; we shop; we go to school; we play; we vote; we talk; and we walk.  We can be His witnesses, witnesses to the truth of Christianity, preaching the repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His name, by what we do and say.

What will you do?