Archive for December, 2010

Loving the Lord- a Commitment

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

 

6th Day in the Octave of Christmas

1 John 2: 12-17; Lk 2: 36-40

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

Focus!  If only we could focus on love of the Lord, and not love of things of this world then we would be more pleasing to God.  That’s the message that comes across from John this morning.   

Now, there is the interesting story of Anna the prophetess as an example.  She was truly focused on Love of the Lord.  Widowed just 7 years into her marriage, and they married young in her time, Anna lived alone as a widow for probably 60 years or more.  Here is a woman who was living the expected life at the time- married, devoted to a husband, focused on her life in the world and then suddenly, in the prime of life, she is a widow.  In the Old Testament times, being a widow was the most painful plight for a woman.  No matter how you look at it, that was a wake up call for Anna.  She was forced by the death of her husband to focus on what life was really all about.  I don’t detect any bitterness.  Rather, Anna trusted in God and was patient.  So, she dedicated her life to prayer and hope, rather than bitterness and focusing on things of the world.  She was content with the life of uncertainty that the Lord had dealt her, waiting, just waiting for decades and decades, for the coming of the promised Messiah.   

Each one of us starts out in life focused on things of the world.  That’s inevitable, because virtually all children focus on themselves and learning how to live in the world.  We grow into maturity, and learn about a higher purpose, something other than what the world has to offer.  Sometimes we do that with the help of our parents; sometimes by our own reflection; and sometimes by the school of hard knocks, like Anna did.  But in any event, we make a choice during the process- a choice to make the world and the things of the world our primary focus; or to balance the necessity to live in the world with a primary focus on God.  And the essence of focusing on God, the essence of Love of God, is patience and trust.  These are the virtues that are the foundation of Faith in God.  God’s will for us is not necessarily something we can map out, something that we can direct.  Rather, we need to learn the lesson that Anna learned- to be patient and trusting as the Lord guides us on his path for us even when things look the most bleak.   

The coming of the Christ Child changed everything.  Until then, the world seemed the ultimate in human experience.  Life everlasting was just a vague promise.  But with Christ, all that changed.  The Messiah that was promised became real, one of us.  And so, forever more, our primary focus must always be on God: when we are basking in prosperity; when we are just trying to make it in life; and even when we are miserable in hurt or sickness because “the world and its enticements are passing away.  But whoever does the will of the Father remains forever”!   

Our Families- Greatest Blessing and Greatest Curse!

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

 

Holy Family

Sir 3: 2-6, 12-14; Col 3: 12=21; Mt 2: 13-15, 19-23

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

There’s an old saying that goes something like this:  “Everyone’s greatest blessing is also their greatest curse”.  I’ll bet that sometimes you might feel that way about your own family.  Because our greatest joys come from our family; like the feeling you had when you fell in love with your spouse; or experiencing the birth of your child; or the joy on the faces of children on Christmas Morning.  But our families can also be the source of our greatest suffering: like the loss of a loved one; or when our children leave us; or when a relationship begins to sour.   

You know, the family unit is God’s plan for humans.  God could have made us like ferns.  Ferns are self sufficient and self propagating.  They don’t need moms and dads.  But humans need a family to survive and propagate.  We are made in the image and likeness of God, and God is a Trinity.  Our families are like the trinity- Moms, Dads, and children, three distinct parts.  Each has their own role; each is dependent on the other.  Sirach talks about those roles, and the respect that is due to each person in the family- respect due to Fathers, Mothers, and Children.  And love is the centerpiece of those mutual relations between the members of a family.   

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family.  It is our Parish Feast Day, because our Parish is Holy Family.  I am certain that very many of us celebrated Christmas as a Family- an extended Family that includes 4, even 5 generations.  This is how it should be, because all of our family shares in the gift of the Incarnation, how God became man, and the salvation of humanity that comes with it.  All of us should share in that joy with members of our family.    But sometimes, when families gather, there is strife.  It is part of the curse I talked about earlier.  The strife may be over old grudges that surfaced; or nagging that reminded us of frequent nagging in the past.  Or the strife might be fueled by jealousy or hurt over some part of the gift giving.  Somebody might be upset that they got light chocolates rather than dark chocolates; or Tommy’s toy is more in vogue than Dick’s; or this sweater is just not something I could ever wear.  In any event, today is a good time to put all that strife aside, and focus on the Christian Family.   

First, we need to recall that our Advent experience was over joyful expectation of the coming of Christ- not just the Christ Child- but the second coming of Christ as well.  At that second coming, all of us will be judged.  So, while we are rejoicing over the promise of our salvation that is made so very real by the birth of the Savior; we need to recognize that a big responsibility comes with that promise.  All of us now need to be ready for that second coming by living the life of a Christian.   

Now our families are our first and most important influence on who we become as people.  Parents and Grandparents are the first and most memorable teachers of children.  If they don’t teach by taking an active role, then their avoidance of teaching their children effectively teaches any way.  In the second reading, St Paul gives us incredible and succinct insight on what it takes to be a Christian:  “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if one has a grievance against another”; and then later he says “Over all of these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection”.  Indeed, these are the ingredients that all members of a family need to embrace.   

Nobody is perfect- no Mom or Dad or Child.  And when we perceive that somebody has hurt us, we need to draw from Paul’s list of virtues rather than react.  I know that is hard, because just like every one else here, people in my own family have done things that hurt me.  I really wanted those dark chocolates, you know!  But, I have also done things that hurt as well.  If I want to be forgiven, and even expect to be forgiven; then I have to forgive as well.  That’s why Paul’s list of virtues is so important.  And even more critically important is that these virtues be practiced in our own families.  Because children are watching what their parents do, and that is how they will behave.  Likewise, our neighbors are watching what we do; and if we don’t reflect our professed Christianity, that is not likely to be a positive influence on them.   

There is no better example of the effect of hate, rather than love, than the story in today’s Gospel.  Herod’s jealousy and hate had no limits.  He was willing to inflict incredible pain on many, many families by killing all the infants in the area in order to be sure that the ancient prophesy of a Messiah was not fulfilled.  That hatred spawned incredible evil and suffering over many.  It is no different for us.  When we hate, the tentacles spread wide and in many unforeseen ways.  But love, no matter how hard it may be to practice, it can permeate the human spirit and propagate as well.  So, remember this when you gather as a family:  “Over all of these put on love.”   

Rejoice, Jesus is Born!

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

 

Christmas

Is 9: 1-6; Tit 2: 11-14; Lk 2: 1-14

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

The waiting is over!  The darkness that filled the world has been overcome by a bright light.  The Lord came to live and dwell among us!  And things will never be the same.  Because we were given a great gift, the Incarnation, God made man.  We now have a closeness, an intimacy, with God now and forever that is unique among the religions of the World.  It is something no other religion preaches or teaches; that God would become one of us and share His divinity with us.  And so we have much to rejoice about because the one and only almighty God sent His son to live as we do- in the form of a human being.   

Now we only know about 3 years in Jesus life- his public ministry.  We know very little about the other 30 years.  But there are things that are certain, things that are obvious for any human being:  This small child that we welcome at Christmas was helpless, cried, and needed to be nurtured by His mother to survive.  He had to learn how to eat and drink, crawl and walk; talk and play, and go to school and work.  He was just like us in every way, except for sin.  He experienced hunger and good food; joy and sadness, likes and dislikes; sickness and health; cold and hot.  He learned how to speak and write and read; He learned about the scriptures; and He even learned a job skill- carpentry.  Jesus experienced the dark emotions of humans as well, like fear and doubt and anger because that’s all part of becoming an adult human being, it’s all part of learning who we are.  Jesus learned who he was with the help of loving parents; and by living and working as a normal person does for 30 years.  Just think about that.  Jesus lived just like one of us for 30 years, growing up and becoming an adult and working to make a living.  In that time, He probably wondered what life was all about for him; what was he destined to do; and how was He destined to do it.  At the right time, He needed some answers.  And so, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert and thus confirmed in his mind who He really was, and how His Father wanted Him to live His life.  In other words, Jesus heard and responded to His calling.  And so, He went out and did His Father’s will for Him.  He conducted his public ministry of preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God.   

Because His message shook the establishment, he experienced suffering and death rather than violate God’s plan for Him.  And because He was sinless and also divine he was resurrected and returned to God the Father in glory.  It was a glory that he returned to His disciples to announce, to announce that we who believed in Him would share in the kingdom and His glory.   

Yes, there is much to rejoice about in such a fully human life because we have been shown the way.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is His story.  It shows us the values and mores we need to live as God intended us to live as humans, and yet be pleasing to Him.  St. Paul tells Titus that Jesus “trained us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age as we await the blessed hope, the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ”.  Indeed, this is another element of our joy, the knowledge that we who follow Jesus have been promised a share in the Glory of God.   

All of us have our own lives to live- we have our learning and discovery and working and reflecting to do.  Most of us have heard God calling us, maybe not the first time, but God is relentless and we are like branches growing on a tree.  No matter which way we grow, as parents or bosses or retirees, God is there to nourish us.  And yet, we are likely to be pruned once and a while.  Sometimes it’s an illness or a loss or a setback.   But new buds form and so, we change our direction of growth, and God is there to help us follow our revised course whenever we ask Him, until eventually, our tree dies.   

Life as a human is a gift from God, as it was to the baby Jesus.  It is God’s gift to give; and God’s alone to take away.  But because of this day- Christmas, the celebration of the Incarnation, we share in the glory of the second more glorious life with Jesus in the kingdom of God.  So rejoice, Jesus is born! 

Have You Been Refined?

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

 

Thursday of 4th Week of Advent

Mal 3: 1-4, 23-24; Lk 1: 57-66

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

In this season when we are expecting the joy of the coming of Jesus, why such somber talk about refining Gold and Silver?  Well, in the Gospel, this messenger sent by God, John the Baptist, talked about getting ready for the coming of Jesus.  John preached asking for forgiveness and then repentance, and he used a public a ritual of Baptism to symbolize a person’s acceptance of that conversion of the heart.  So, that’s how John foresaw getting ready for the coming of Jesus.  We must show our willingness to seek forgiveness of sins, and repent of our ways that led to those sins so that when Jesus comes, we will be truly ready for him.     

In today’s world, there is a troubling trend:  People downplay the seriousness of their sins.  Instead of participating in such a public ritual as John the Baptist performed, or even the public confessions that were practiced in the early Church, where one makes a public commitment to conversion, we have been blessed with private confession where we make that commitment to conversion to the priest.  That’s important- because human nature being what it is, we all have to face the need for accountability, not just for what we did or failed to do, but for our commitment to change, our conversion.  The priest serves as Jesus himself in that confessional and is bound to secrecy.  And yet, in recent years, people don’t seem to take advantage of this wonderful Sacrament.  Is it because they are sinless?  Is anyone sinless?  I think that the devil prompts us to sweep our sins under the carpet where we try to forget about them.  And though we may ask for forgiveness, do we really make a commitment to make a change?    Listen to the prophet Malachi’s words, because if we are not prepared when Jesus comes: then Jesus will purify us like refining of gold or silver or the threshing of wheat.  And that is meant to sound ominous, foreboding, and painful because ultimately we are accountable to God; we cannot hide that or sweep it under the carpet. 

Another thing stands out about the refining of gold and silver.  These are valuable, aren’t they?  So even in the midst of a very sobering message of painful refining or threshing, there is a beautiful message for all of us- that God sees us as so very valuable to him in our converted state, as valuable as the finest Gold or Silver.   

Why Does God Abandon Us?

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

 

Thursday of 3rd Week of Advent

Is 54: 1-10; Lk 7: 24-30

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

He leaves all of us for a brief moment, doesn’t He?  For some of us, He leaves us for 80 or 90 years or more; others never make it out of their mother’s womb.  But He abandons all of us, and I’m just using His words from Isaiah.  Yes, we are abandoned and given the opportunity to make a choice on our own- a choice highlighted in today’s Gospel.  A choice that the Jewish people of John the Baptist’s time, including the lowest of low, the tax collectors who collaborated with the Romans, were given the freedom to make.  We are all given the choice to find God; accept Him; believe in Him; and be Baptized and follow His lead from the Gospel; or to reject Him and his teachings for something else, like the Pharisees and scholars of the law did.  That’s what it comes down to.  God abandons us so we can exercise our own free will.   

Now, as Isaiah goes on to say, it doesn’t matter what we have done in the time we have been abandoned by Him.  When we choose God and his will for us going forward, he will welcome us back and treat us like that abandoned wife that was welcomed back.  In fact, in God’s time, He abandoned us for just an instant- that is all.  Because we will have an eternity left with Him in the Kingdom of God.  And so whatever sufferings we endured while we were abandoned- failed relationships; physical or mental pain; hard lives; whatever, will ultimately seem like just an instant in time.  That’s what the good news of the coming of Jesus is all about.  Because when He comes this Christmas, if we really believe in Him as the Son of God, all can be well for us.  We can be totally happy knowing that we will at least be the least in the Kingdom of God for all eternity.   

Not so for the Pharisees and scholars of the law.  Unlike the average people of their time, the Pharisees and scholars knew too much.  They were not open to the real thing when it appeared in front of them.  They were blinded to the simplicity of the message.  Indeed, they had expectations of what the Messiah would be like, expectations that prevented them from “accepting the plan of God for themselves”.  You see, they thought the Messiah would come to save them physically from their woes.   

And so, let us strive not to fall into the same trap.  Ask yourself what kind of a Messiah are you looking for?  Is He one who will answer your expectations for saving you from the trials and tribulations of this World?  Or is He a Messiah who comes into your heart this Christmas just to whisper to you the “plan of God” for you, hard as it may be in the brief instant of time that is your life relative to the infinite time of God’s eternity. 

The Least in the Kingdom of God!

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

 

Thursday of 2nd Week of Advent

Is 41: 13-20; Mt 18: 12-14

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

Have you ever just barely made it in the door before it shut for good?  Perhaps you were the last one on a plane or a bus or the subway; or the last one to get into a concert or sports stadium or movie theatre.  But you made it, and that’s what mattered.  What a feeling of relief that was, and maybe even a sense of joy.  But there are those who don’t make it.  For them, there is sadness and maybe even anger and frustration.  How dreadful is that feeling.   

Now just imagine how much more dreadful it would be not to make it into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Sadly, there are those who will find the gates of heaven closed to them.  Just imagine how dreadful that would be.  In contrast, what a feeling of euphoria one would have knowing that they had made it on the other side of that threshold between heaven and hell, even if they were the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.   

Now we are told this morning that John the Baptist is the greatest of those born of a woman.  And yet, the least, yes, the very least in the Kingdom of Heaven, is greater than he.  I don’t know about you, but that is a very sobering thought because John was a man who devoted his whole life to being God’s messenger; heralding the coming of the Lord; heralding the advent of his cousin Jesus.  He avoided things and pleasures of this world.  Rather, he thought and acted only on the Mission God had given him.  So, when I reflect on the life of John the Baptist, I am quite sure I don’t measure up to him.  I cannot say that my life is totally dedicated to God like John’s was.  Can you say that?  Does that mean that we can’t even be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven?   

Well, fortunately for us, it does not.  Listen again to what the prophet Isaiah said:  “I am the Lord your God, who grasp your right hand; it is I who say to you “Fear not, I will help you””.  We have to believe, really believe, that Jesus came to save us all and that no matter what we do, if we believe and are truly sorry for our sins, and we ask for the help, it will be ours; and so will the Kingdom of Heaven when we come to that gate at the end of our lives. 

What is Your Foundation?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

 

Thursday of 1st Week of Advent

Is 26: 1-6; Mt 7: 21, 24-27

Dc. Larry Brockman

 

What kind of a foundation is your life built on?  You know, today’s Gospel story talks about two houses- one built on sand, and the other built on rock.  Have you ever thought about the fact that the houses themselves were actually built identically?  There is nothing in the Gospel to indicate anything different.  From all external appearances, they would then look pretty much the same to start because only the foundations were different; and so, only the ability of the houses to stand up to the storms was different.   

Now, just think about all of us human beings for a minute.  We are all built nearly identically as well.  We all have mouths and noses and feet and eyes in the same places.  We are all born as babies, and we are nourished in our formative years by our mothers; and so when we grow up, from external appearances, we are all pretty much alike.   

But then sometime during the course of our lives, we are buffeted by storms of one kind or another.  The storms are the things outside of us that enter into our lives- the environment that we face each day; the people we meet that influence us; and the circumstances that present themselves that force us to make decisions- decisions about play and school and work and marriage and all the rest.  These are all normal storms of life, the tide of real life that confronts each and every one of us.  And no matter how isolated we would like to be from these storms; we are all still confronted with the reality of life.   

The thing that matters the most when we are confronted by the tide of life is this:  Just what is the foundation that our lives were built on?  Is it an absolute truth, like the values represented in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Or is our foundation one that is relative- relative to the times; relative to the person who has our ear today; or relative to whatever seems the easiest course of action.  Because if you embrace a foundation that is relative, that means you can be floating all over the place, taking this position today and that tomorrow.  Eventually, you will be torn to pieces, just like the house built on sand because that floating foundation means that you never come to grips with what is right or wrong, and that will eventually tear you apart inside.   

Make your foundation a solid one- solid as rock.  Listen to what the Gospel preaches.  It is consistent and although it may be hard at times, you always know where you are- safe with Jesus Christ.