Archive for November, 2010

Getting Ready for the Coming

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

 

First Sunday of Advent

Is 2: 1-5; Rom 13: 11-14; Mt 24: 37-44

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

What if I told you that even if you had all your shopping done, all your gifts wrapped, your tree and all your lights up, all your cookies and goodies made, and all your Christmas cards mailed out, that you would still not ready for Christmas?  What a wake up call that would be, eh, and yet, that’s kind of what our readings are all about this morning, because all those things I just mentioned, cards and gifts and lights and trees- none of them is mentioned in our readings.  They don’t prepare us for the coming of Christ.  Rather, they just tell us how well we are prepared for the secular celebration of Christmas.   

Advent begins today, the season that does prepare us for the coming of Christ.  And, although Advent certainly prepares us for the coming of the Christ Child; it is also the season to prepare us for the second coming of Christ.   

Now the joy that we all celebrate over the coming of the Christ Child boils down to this:  That God kept His promise, his covenant, by sending us a redeemer.  And that should be a source of great Joy for all of us, knowing that God loved us so much that he sent His only Son into the World to live amongst us as one of us; and to show us the way, through the example of His life, for us to live in harmony with God and His plan.  That’s what the Gospel is- a roadmap showing us that way.   

And the joy of the second coming is this: that we lived the good life here on earth, and are ready for everlasting life in the Kingdom because we believed, really believed, and lived our life with the love of Christ in us, responding to the call that each of us receives from God to do his will.  And so, we are ready for death and the Last Judgment.   

Now the emphasis of our readings today is on this second coming of Christ.  All three readings talk about it in one way or another, as well as the consequences of that second coming.  First, Isaiah describes people streaming to the Heavenly Kingdom, symbolized by Jerusalem, where they will be judged.  A life in everlasting peace follows for those embraced by the judge.  Next, we have Paul advising the Romans to live worthy lives so that when Jesus comes, they will not be caught off guard, but will be prepared.  Lastly, Jesus tells us that most people will be living their normal lives when the end will come; and that some will be taken, and others will not.   

We need a reminder of these two comings every year.  First, we need to be reminded that Jesus Christ is the answer, and that the Christ Child was the advent, the coming, of our savior so we can celebrate Christmas with great joy, make festive arrangements, and exchange gifts.  But second, we need to be reminded of the second coming as well.  Because after we recognize the Christ Child as God, we must live in harmony with God’s plan by living according to the roadmap in the Gospel, so that we will be prepared and joyful over the second coming of Christ.   

Preparation for the second coming takes a little effort because we need to step back occasionally from the lives that we are living, and check on our preparedness.  We need to reflect on our lives in the light of our Faith and the Gospel that shows us the way; and make changes in our lives accordingly so that we can be ready- ready for the end of our world for us because it can come at any time.   

Why is Advent is the time for us to do this reflection?  Well, it occurs once a year on the Church calendar just before Christmas and the fulfillment of God’s promise for a Redeemer.  If there is something nagging us about our lives, something that isn’t quite right then that nagging feeling will keep us from experiencing the joy that should be ours at Christmas.  You know, it is easy for us all to fall into a routine, a rut as we go through life- working, going to school, raising kids, and all the associated activities  These activities can become routines that we don’t even think about.  They are punctuated with constant pressures of the real world- like illnesses, financial problems, and people problems; and by questions and concerns, like what am I doing with my life, and what is life really all about?  You can find yourself depressed or puzzled about your role in the world.  It is then that it helps to step back from life to reflect on where we are going and how God is active in our lives.  That’s what Advent Reflection is all about.   

So how should we reflect?   First, we need to be in the right frame of mind- a frame of mind in which we slow down, put things out of our mind, and ponder the Faith we have in God and where he is working in our lives.  As an example of how we can get in the right frame of mind  Consider coming to the Church this Tuesday evening at 7:15 PM.  The parish will present a Lessons and Carols Service to help us reflect on the real meaning of Advent and Christmas.  We will review the history of the incarnation, the coming of Christ in our scriptures; and those lessons from scripture will be accompanied by the music of the season giving us all an opportunity to think about what God did for us and relax us so that we can begin the reflection process.   

Then, we need to pray to God asking him to help us sense and feel what He has in mind for us going forward- what feels wrong about our lives versus what feels right; what gnawing or nagging feeling do we have about the course of our lives right now, and what can be done to come to peace with it.  Each of us has their own unique cross to bear and God will give us the grace to endure it if we ask Him.  And finally, based on these reflections, we need to do something about it.  To steer our course in whatever direction helps to improve our relationship with God.   

Advent is a wonderful opportunity to come closer to God.  Embrace the season and use it to reflect on your life.  And then savor the joy of the Christmas Season. 

Is Christ Your King?

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

 

Christ the King

2 Sam 5: 1-3; Col 1: 12-20; Lk 23: 35-43

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

We all have the same choice to make, the same choice that the people that witnessed the Crucifixion had to make.   

First, we can align ourselves with the powers of this world.  The rulers and soldiers were in that group and so was the first thief.  They mocked Jesus as an impossible King because Jesus, who claimed to be an innocent man, suffered and died at the hands of evil men, but did not exhibit the power of the God he claimed to be.  He did not save himself from the suffering and evil of this world.  To people of this world, that made Jesus a false Christ rather than the all-powerful God come to save the world.   

Or second, we can be like the majority of the people at the scene- bystanders who just watched what was going on, passively watched, and did nothing.   

Lastly, we can be like the second thief who admitted his own guilt, proclaimed Jesus innocence, and simply asked Jesus to remember him in the next life.  What an expression of faith and trust that second thief displayed.   

All three of these choices on Christ the King are ours to make as we navigate through life.  Let’s take a closer look at all three choices.   

First, the rulers and soldiers.  These people are the folks who are tied to things of this world.  Here are some of the things they believe in:  “Show me the money”; success in the world, like a popular actor or actress or singer or athlete; or power- power that draws people to the winning side whether it is right or not.  Yes, there are people who align themselves with power rather than with right.  Now these are worldly values- money, fame, and power- and they are actually substitutes for God.  They are gods in and of themselves.  And the danger is that we embrace those values rather than the values of our Faith.  When you come right down to it, the value of life is not this worldly life- but the potential for everlasting life.  The rulers and the soldiers thought Jesus was a sham because they were looking for someone who would and could take care of themselves in this life right now to the exclusion of everybody else and everything else.  Notice that the first thief wasn’t so much interested in Jesus saving Jesus as he was in Jesus saving the rest of them as well, guilt or no guilt.  But that was not Jesus’ way.  He did not put himself first, and did not want fame and followers who were hoping He would do something for them.   

Second, there were the bystanders.  They neither supported the system that crucified Jesus nor did they do anything to help Jesus.  They just stood by, seemingly innocent of any wrongdoing.  But by being passive, they gave their consent.  They were not willing to buck the system.  They were not willing to do anything to commit themselves.  It is so easy for all of us to fall in that category- the bystanders.  Otherwise, how do we explain the low turnouts at our elections; or a lack of enthusiasm about our faith.  When someone says something that isn’t right, do we take a stand, or do we just stand by.  Then there is the lack of active participation in parish events.  After months of planning and announcements, our “Why Catholic” program began with just a couple of hundred people involved.  Where were the other 10,000 folks in our 6,000 plus registered families?  You see, it really is true that either you are with Christ or against Christ, there is no in between.  And we all have a responsibility to get to know Christ the King.  If we are going through life just engaged in the daily battle, we are like the bystanders who were not involved.  There are lots of excuses- not enough time or or other things to do, or an attitude of “let’s just wait and see”.  But that’s what they are- excuses.  

Our third option is the one chosen by a single solitary person at the scene- the second thief.  Our Bible experts tell us that the Greek word used for “Remember” means something a little more than the translation implies.  It means that the second thief asked over and over again for Jesus to remember him.  It means that he was persistent.  So here is a person who sees the hypocrisy and evil of Jesus crucifixion for what it was, and even though he himself suffered the same sentence, he admits his failing, and asks over and over for forgiveness and to be welcomed into the everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.  That is real faith- faith that Jesus was the Messiah; that there was a Kingdom of God; that Jesus could forgive him; and most important of all, that the promise that Kingdom of God is not of this world but is nevertheless real and worthwhile.   

Today we celebrate the end of the church year.  That’s why our liturgy focuses on Christ the King and te coming of the end of times and the Kingdom of God.  Symbolically, the end of the Church year means that time will run out for all of us some day.  Our end times can come unexpectedly, at any time.  So now is the time for us to make a commitment to Christ.  Either we are actively against Him; or we are passively not for Him; or we commit ourselves and our energy towards Him.  The choice is ours. 

What Makes for Peace

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

 

Thursday of 33rd Week of Ordinary Time

Dedication of Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul

Rev 5: 1-10; Lk 19: 41-44

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

“If only you knew what makes for peace”.  Such were Jesus’ words as he prophesied the fate of Jerusalem.  In their blindness, the people of Jesus’ time did not recognize the Messiah.  They were looking for someone who was powerful and mighty in worldly terms, someone who could negate the coming military defeat of the Israelis, as if defeating the Romans on their terms would  “Make for Peace”.  And that’s the point.  It would not make for peace.  Establishing a powerful, worldly, kingdom that could subdue all opposition with force. will not make for peace.  And that has been demonstrated over and over again in the history of the world- China, the Mongols, Persia, Greece, Rome, the great Moslem Califates, Great Britain, Nazi Germany, and even the United States have proven that point over and over. 

So, what is it that we all need to recognize that makes for peace?  Well, that’s what Jesus came here for.  His Gospel provides us the roadmap.  It is a peace which is characterized by belief in God as the primary value.  It is a peace which is characterized by love of others, not of self.  It is a peace which is characterized by a focus on seeking and finding the will of God, not comfort in this life because all things, even the great temple of the Jews, will pass away in this world.  And the clearest example of our fragility, is that each of us, no matter how powerful or weak, rich or poor, talented in earthly skills or not- will pass away too.  What is left is the Kingdom of God. 

Our challenge as Christians is to live our lives worthily, making every effort to do God’s will,  While we live in a physical world that demands that we have food and shelter; that we have jobs and raise families and use our God given talents;  at the same time we must keep our focus on the ultimate goal, a spiritual goal- life in the Kingdom of God.  It’s called balance- and it precludes envy, lust, gluttony, and all the other seven deadly sins, because the focus of them is not on our ultimate goal- a primary focus on recognizing God’s presence in our lives  That is what makes for peace. 

Our First Day in the kingdom of God

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Thursday of 32nd Week of Ordinary Time

St. Martin of Tours

Phlm 7-20; Lk 17: 20-25

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

This is the first day of the rest of your life!  An old cliché, yes. but an accurate way to sum up the essence of the Kingdom of God.  Because today, all of us who are saved, those who believe; those whose eyes are open to what God wants them to do in their lives; these people are already experiencing the Kingdom of God, for it is right there among them, just as Jesus said..   

Now you might say to yourself:  “How can that be?  Is this all there is to the Kingdom of God?  What about the everlasting joy that was promised?  Surely this cannot be it; this imperfect world with all its problems and evil and sickness and pain.   

Well, just suppose that the key to the Kingdom of God is this:  That God gave us life and love, And that the love of God, when we believe in it and cooperate with it so that it dwells in us, guarantees us everlasting life.  Well then, on the day in your life when you come to embrace all that, that is the first day of your life when you are living in eternity.  You are already experiencing the Kingdom of God.  And nobody can ever take that away from you.  That is the promise.  Yes, you may get sick or old; and you will even die in this world, but when you believe that such a death is just the beginning of our eternal life with the God who is the source of all life, then the joy of knowing we will live forever with God is ours.  And that is a joy that transcends all the rest of the pain in our lives.  That joy can and should already be with us.   

The world, on the other hand, is looking for joy somewhere else.  Some people seek happiness in the pleasure of things in this world, setting aside belief in God and rejecting the promise- how sad.  Other people seek out the finest music; the clever new message; the most entertaining preacher; in an effort to find the Kingdom of God.  They seek visions of Jesus and the coming of the Kingdom that flash before them like lightning because they are seeking the Kingdom of Heaven as if it was hidden away from us and was some deep dark secret rather than listening to the Gospel message of Jesus.   

The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Accept what seems to be such a simple and uncomplicated message: that Christianity’s promise is it.  God loved us so much he sent his son, who suffered, died, and was buried.  He rose, and promised us a place in his Kingdom if we believed and did his will.  When you really embrace all of that, you need not search any further for the truth because this can be the first day of the rest of your life in the Kingdom of God.