Archive for December, 2012

Picture of A Holy Family

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Holy Family

1 Sam 1: 20-22, 24-28; 1 John 3: 1-2, 21-24; Luke 2: 41-52

Dc. Larry Brockman

A Happy Family!  What picture forms in your mind today when you think about a happy family?  For most of you, it is probably something from a family of your past, either when you were young, and you were part of your parent’s family; or when you were first married and your children were very young.

Recently, I had my Father’s 8 mm movies converted to a DVD.  I hadn’t seen those movies in nearly 30 years.  As the first movie began, I saw myself placed on the top of my parent’s dining room table with my first birthday cake.  My Parents, Grandparents, Uncle, and favorite Great Uncle were there, smiling broadly, and watching me frolic with the cake.  They were moving and interacting- and it all seemed so real and present, like it just happened, even though almost everyone in the movie has already passed away.  I couldn’t help but be moved with the charisma and joy.  Then, I remembered the super 8 movies I took when I was a new parent- with my son the center of attention with my parents sitting around the table as proud grandparents; and then, even more recently, the nice sound and color videos my son took of his first child’s first birthday came to mind.  Now of course, I am the grandparent sitting around the table.

These scenes all showed family, and happy family at that.  A certain enthusiasm and charisma were present in all three.  One common theme leaped out of all three of them.  How much each generation of parents loved their new-born children; how that love was trans-generational; and how the hopes and dreams of the parents and Grandparents were with that new child.  The same happy family picture emerges almost every Sunday here at our Baptisms.  Sometimes we have 5 or 6 children Baptized and as many as 150 people in the Church, all celebrating Family; all bubbling over with enthusiasm.

These happy pictures of our family don’t last though.  Because there are other pictures we have of our families, aren’t there?  Pictures of unhappy families.  Conflicts develop between parents; children argue with their parents or siblings; these sometimes develop into long standing rifts between brothers and sisters or children and parents; and then there are the divorces and deaths that occur causing sad separations.  Yes, these are all less than happy pictures of family.

Is there a picture of our family that would last- one that assures our happiness in the long run?  I think the picture we need is of a Holy Family.  Today is the feast of the Holy Family and the Holy Family should be our model.  I think that there are a few strong hints for us in these readings.

First, John’s letter talks about believing and loving.  We have got to believe in the name of the Son, Jesus Christ and keep his commandments.  But we must also show our commitment by loving one another always.  As parents, our love for each other is a remarkable influence.  Parents who are clearly loving each other will have a positive effect on their children because the children will know what love is; it is something they see and sense every day- your example.  The same thing with the faith part of it- the believing.  Children will believe if they see that their parents really believe.  It isn’t so much the details of our faith that the children need to hear from us- although it is good if you can speak to them; but rather, it is visual evidence that you believe, like children seeing us adults praying together, going to Mass, saying the rosary, and taking the high road in the situations of life- honesty in our financial dealings and kindness in our dealings with people.  And our love must be inclusive- clearly shared not just between the parents but with the children.  It is the kind of love that is selfless, and that means self-sacrifice for the benefit of the people we love.

Second, every one of our children is a gift from God.  Not only that, but parents have a duty to return that gift to God.  In the first reading, we see Hannah doing just that- literally.  She prays for a child, and God answers her prayer with a beautiful baby boy.  She then returns the child when weaned to live a life of service to God in the temple forever.  Yes, parents have a responsibility to return their children to the care of the Lord at an appropriate time.  But maybe not so literally as Hannah did with Samuel.  Rather, we need to nurture our children in the knowledge that they are children of God and then release them to do God’s will at the right time.  John’s emphasizes that we are all God’s children now.  That means that if we really believe that we are God’s children then parents are caretakers, not owners of their children.  We may want our children to be doctors and lawyers and football players and cheerleaders and whatever else.  But what really matters is what God wants of them because they are God’s children.  The point is that it is our responsibility to help them find God’s will for them.  After that, they are still our children, but we have turned the responsibility over to God.  Many of the happy pictures we have of family when the children are young turn to unhappy pictures later on because of expectations we have for our children and because we fail to help them seek God’s will for themselves and then let go.

Lastly, but not necessarily least important, is obedience.  Our Gospel today demonstrates the virtue of obedience.  Jesus somehow realized early on that he had a special mission from God.  And so, when he was presented to the temple at the age of 12, he was ready to start doing his thing, his Father’s will.  But his parents, who were afraid they had lost him, confronted him there after looking for him for three days.  And so Jesus went down with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them.  God become man was obedient to these mere human mortals who were serving as parents.

Well to all those teens out there, and to all other children out there who are living at home and think that they have arrived and that Mom and Dad are out of touch- take notice.  Jesus knew His mission in life early, but he was obedient to his parents, because he respected them and their role as parents.  Likewise, so should you be obedient to your parents.

A Holy Family is characterized by recognizing God’s gift of life given to parents as caretakers, not owners; parents who love each other and their children selflessly; parents who believe and who show that belief in word and deed; and parents who let go when the time is right.  Children in a Holy Family are obedient until they are released to do God’s will.  This obedience is required out of respect, a respect that even God made Man honored.  It’s a tall order.  But if we can get it right then the picture we will see is that of a Holy Family.  And despite the inevitable growing pains of life experienced in all families,  that picture leads us to everlasting happiness.

An Eye Witness Tells It All

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Thursday in the Octave of Christmas

St. John the Evangelist

1 Jn 1: 1-4; John 20: 1a, 2-8

Dc. Larry Brockman


He was a different sort of person than the other Apostles- younger, and more of a thinker.  His Gospel doesn’t track with the other three Gospels. The stories recorded in it are different and unique, like the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Prodigal Son, and the Woman at the Well.  And his message has a deeper theological content, like the beginning of his Gospel that explores the Trinity, and the sixth chapter that deals with the bread of life.  Today we celebrate his feast, the feast of John the Evangelist.

More than any other of the Gospel writers, John stressed the role of the Incarnation in God’s relationship with us.  John said that God’s love for us was so great that He sent His only begotten son into the world to live as one of us.  That is the Incarnation, one of the great mysteries of our Faith.  And John also emphasized his personal role as an eye witness.  That should be a source of joy to us- an eye witness that personally recorded what happened.  Why, because the Gospel story of Jesus’ life was not just recorded by some folks who heard it second or third hand, but rather, by eye witnesses, people who were involved.

We hear about two such eye witness accounts this morning.  First, in his letter, John brings to us the reality of the Incarnation.  First He says: “What was from the beginning.”  Here he is referring to the fact that Jesus was from the beginning and is God.  Then he says “What we heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of Life”.  Just imagine- this man heard, looked at, and touched the real thing- God almighty in human form.  John is spreading this good and exciting news so that we, too can fellowship with Jesus- that is his avowed purpose, and is something that should bring us joy.

The second eye witness account is of another great mystery of our Faith- the Resurrection.  John was there too.  He witnessed the trial, the crucifixion, and the burial of Jesus personally, together with the stone rolled against the tomb and the Roman Guards so that no predicted Resurrection could be staged.  And yet, what do we hear in the Gospel?  John’s first hand witness to the Resurrection.  Inexplicably, the stone was rolled back, the guards were gone, and the burial cloths- one for the head and one for the body- were separately and neatly rolled up.  As John entered the tomb and saw, he says he believed.  It had all come together for him, all the prophecies he had recorded in his Gospel- the suffering, death, and resurrection on the third day were fulfilled.

We have a choice to believe or not.  We are not eye witnesses, just people who have had the good fortune to hear the stories handed down by the eye witness.  We are challenged to believe, really believe in these two great mysteries- the Incarnation and the Resurrection.  What they mean is everlasting life for those of us who believe.  So believe, rejoice, and live your lives in the Lord.

Be Greater Than John the Baptist!

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

Is 41: 13-20; Mt 11: 11-15

Dc. Larry Brockman


So, the least in the Kingdom of God  Is greater than John the Baptist, who is the greatest of those born of a woman!  Is there any hope for us then, who certainly don’t have the insight or the zeal or the discipline of John the Baptist? Contrast that thought with response in our Psalm today:  “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow in anger, and great in kindness.”  How can both of these be true?  What does it all mean?

It means we all have cause to rejoice.  You see, the coming of Jesus, our savior, changed everything for us.  Up until then, the Kingdom of God was not open, and great as any human born of a woman might be, they could not enter the everlasting Kingdom of God.  Jesus’ coming put into action God’s plan to save all of us who believe and follow Jesus.  Yes, the Lord is gracious.

And to help us on our journey of life, we have been given great gifts- the Church and the Sacraments- Baptism, the Eucharist, Confirmation in particular.  These initiate and confirm us in our faith.  And the sacrament of reconciliation gives us a second, and third, and fourth, and on and on, chance to make things right with God as we fall on the way.  Yes indeed, the Lord is merciful and slow to anger.

Now most of us can’t really appreciate the literal meanings of the first reading.  We are not shepherds and farmers, and we don’t live in ancient times.  We have huge diesel driven bulldozers and earthmoving equipment that can literally move mountains.  We have cell phones and electric lights and running water and air conditioning, even in the middle of the desert.  These things, by the way, are not what Isaiah was predicting.  But try for a moment to visualize the promise that the Lord is delivering through Isaiah.   Imagine threshing a mountain with a hand tool with ease, and water bubbling free in the desert with rivers flowing on bare land.   For nomadic ancient peoples, these things symbolized a dream come true-. a permanent solution to wandering and scraping the land for survival.  Well, they symbolize the same thing for us- a dream come true, a state of prosperity and happiness forever.  Yes indeed, the Lord shows us great kindness.

So, rejoice, because the coming of Jesus does for us what the exiled people that Isaiah spoke to were hoping for.  Jesus coming guarantees us who believe everlasting life in the Kingdom of God, where we will also be greater than the greatest born of a woman.

Finding Hope During Advent

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Second Sunday of Advent

Bar 5: 1-9; Phil 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3: 1-6

Dc. Larry Brockman


Hope!  It’s a virtue that is in short supply today.  Our economy and the economies of much the world are in a shambles.  We have record sustained unemployment; record debt; and housing foreclosures all around us.  We have a secular government that seems bent on interfering with our religious liberty- taking away school prayer, pushing gay marriage, and threatening our Church with oppressive forced insurance coverage of immoral items.  We have disastrous election results, like the defeat of propositions 6 and 8; gay marriage and legalized marijuana.  And lots of folks are depressed about all this.  Even the spirit of the Christmas Season can’t seem to break through and give us hope because there is so much to be done and it scares us to even think about doing it all.

But the message of today’s readings is hope because our salvation is at hand.   And we should be experiencing joyful expectation of that and not a sense of hopelessness and depression.  You see all of us who believe in Jesus and all of us who have Faith in his promise of salvation have the Heavenly Kingdom, symbolized by Jerusalem in today’s readings, to look forward to.  The reality of life, with all of its burdens and responsibilities and conflicts and chores is something we all must face.  But we must never lose sight of our goal, and never give up our Christian hope by trusting in God that He will work in our lives for our good.  Christian Hope and trust are what can keep us going through any of life’s burdens.

The first reading talks about how the Jewish people were returning from exile.  They had been through an extremely difficult and depressing time under the thumb of their conquerors.   But they were “rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”  Well, that applies to us as well.  We may be going through difficult times, but we have cause to rejoice because we are remembered by God.

No matter what we have done in the past, God always wants a relationship with us. ,And He is calling us back now to His heavenly Kingdom, just as he called back the scattered Jewish people.  And that should give us a profound sense of hope.

How can we capture that hope?  Well, that’s what Advent is about, a time for us to be in joyful expectation and renew our hope.  These readings tell us that the way is being prepared for the Lord to come into our hearts.  And we still have 2 weeks to ponder that before Christmas when the Church moves on and celebrates that Jesus has come.  The question is whether we will use that two weeks wisely to get ready in the right way for the coming of Jesus.  We may feel so down about the state of things, that we just can’t get motivated, or we may just bury ourselves with doing all those things that need to be done-  sending our cards, putting up the tree, shopping for gifts, celebrating at all the Christmas parties, baking of goodies, working overtime so that we reap the benefits of the season’s shoppers.  After all, that way we don’t have to think about what bothers us.  But if we do that, chances are we will still feel the same sense of sadness and depression after Christmas, maybe even worse.

The fact is that we simply must take some time to get away from it all and reflect on life.  It can be something simple- an hour a week in the Adoration Chapel; or an hour a couple of times a week in our easy chair when we are fresh in the morning, or in the evening when the house is finally quiet, maybe ion front of the Christmas tree.

And the first thing we need to reflect on is some gift that God has given us.  Surely, you can identify such a gift:  Your spouse, a child, a grandchild, that 1957 pink ford Edsel that you once had; your childhood Christmasses; your talent as a piano player or football player; the time you beat your arch rival in chess.  Whatever it is, that will put you in a frame of mind to consider how God has worked in your life, how He has answered your prayer in time of need.

Yes, there have been setbacks and problems; and there may be plenty of problems right now.  Some of them are consequences of what we’ve done; others are a mystery.  But the point is, that when we reflect like this, we can always sense the presence of God in our lives, giving us gifts.

Sometimes we can sense a thread, a kind of pattern, where the Lord has gradually nudged us through some tough times when we cared to listen.  We can then see that the mystery and pain of the past actually became a hidden blessing in the future.  For example, a missed opportunity that we pined over, only to have a better one come along.  That is God’s hand in our life, it is God’s blessing.  Cardinal Newman put it very well in one of his poems:  “Your power and goodness have blessed me, protected me, forgiven me, and guided me my whole life long, Lord, in spite of all my sins…”

If you can recognize such patterns in your reflection, then, there will be hope for the future.  Because the same power of the Lord is there now to guide us through the valleys and mountains of life.  That’s what Isaiah and the Gospel writer is telling us.  There is hope, and in that hope there is also joy, the joy of knowing that the Lord is coming, He is coming for you and me.

When our lives are done, and we have lived the good fight, our prayer and hope will surely not be disappointed.  The Lord will come and guide us to the heavenly Jerusalem because the mountains will be lowered, and the valleys filled in and the path to the Lord will be straight.  Jerusalem, the Heavenly Kingdom, with all the glory and rejoicing described today, will be ours.

Life is Fragile

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

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

Dc. Larry Brockman


Fragile!  That’s what life and our plans in this world are- fragile.  And yet most of the days of our lives are spent dealing with our goals and objectives based on optimizing our fragile earthly existence.  Whether it be our health, our security, or our relationships, we need to make sure we don’t build these things on sand, but on rock.  Because ultimately, we will pass away, these earthly things will pass away, and all our efforts can come to nothing.

We are in Advent, a time when we are called to reflect on the coming of Christ and what that means to us.  This morning, we are concerned with the second coming of Christ when all of us will be judged on the basis of our lives.  Jesus makes it clear, that we should build our houses, our lives as Christians if you will, on something solid, like rock, rather than on sand  Because not all those who cry “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now there are those who claim that they believe, but they concern themselves with building a life based on the passing sand of today’s secular world.  Given your status in life, whatever it is, which I liken to a building site, you can choose to settle into the life God gave you in a certain way, one that is built on sand; or alternately, one built on a foundation that will last into the Kingdom of God.

So then, what kind of foundation passes the test?  Well, Isaiah says it clearly this morning.  He says that those will be saved who are:  “A nation that is just; one that keeps faith; and one with a firm purpose; trusting always in God.”  These are the folks who will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God.

I think the Faith part of it is absolutely critical.  We all not talking about the kind of faith that involves what we believe in as much as the kind of faith that says:  “I trust in the Lord that he will be with me at all times and guide me at each moment to do the right thing.”  And the right thing is what we feel in our hearts is right whenever we have a choice to make.  That will be a course of action that is just in the eyes of God, a firm purpose that holds to the right thing, no matter what.

I don’t know how many of you have seen the new film Lincoln.  But I think the message in the movie is a perfect example of what we are talking about in building our houses on rock vs sand.  It was Lincoln’s task to deal with the issue of slavery at a critical time in our history.  Lincoln understood that our nation had to be built on equality for all and despite the politics and pressures of the day, he held to that conviction through thick and thin.  Lincoln pursued justice with firm resolve and passed the thirteenth amendment that freed us of slavery because he trusted always that God would be with him if he did the right thing.

Today’s world is full of sand.  Our challenge is to find the rock on which we build our lives. The rock we seek is real faith and trust in God.  If we build our lives on that then fragile as our human existence may be, when we pass on for judgment into the Heavenly Jerusalem, we will have survived the rain and floods and turmoil of life and will still be standing tall at the Last Judgment.

Joyful Expectation

Thursday, December 6th, 2012


Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman

Are you joyful!  You see, it’s Advent, the season when we are supposed to be in joyful expectation of the coming of Christ.  Or are you in panic to get everything done and don’t have time for the joy of the season?  Do you even have a spare moment to think about what it all means?  There are cards to do, parties to go to, gifts to buy, recitals to attend, lights and trees to put up, baking to be done, and on and on.  And these are all things that we need and even like to do.  But when you get right down to it, this season is supposed to be all about preparing for Christmas in joyful expectation.  We owe it to ourselves to seek out and find out what that it really means for us to be in joyful expectation and how the coming of the Christ child can change our lives.   

Tonight, we have tried to put aside all of the clutter of the season and focus on the story of the Incarnation.  For the last half hour, you have heard the story about the promise of a Messiah and how God fulfilled that promise.  Hopefully, we have your attention.  So let’s reflect on what we heard before we walk back out there into the secular world, and see if we can learn from it because all of us want the coming of Christ to bring us Joy, peace, and happiness rather than strife, exhaustion, disappointment, and debt.  And the whole reason for practicing religion is for us to better our relationship with God.   

The people of the Old Testament had been scattered to the East and the West.  They wanted to go home; they wanted to go back to Jerusalem.  They wanted their own Kingdom restored.  And they were looking for earthly prosperity.  They must have felt like most of us feel about our country today; we want a return to the good old days of prosperity.   

The Old Testament prophet in the first reading is giving them hope.  But it is not the kind of hope they were looking for.  Because the prophet promises a Messiah will be born, a tiny child, one who is to be their savior.  This hope was too vague; too remote for them.  What are you looking for this Christmas?  When the Christ Child comes, will He fulfill your hope?  You see, that hope really isn’t fulfilled in the gifts you get; and it may not be fulfilled by your other worldly hopes either.  To find hope in Jesus, you have to look deeper.   

Now Jesus, the Messiah, came to us under the most humbling of circumstances.  He was born in a manger; and was attended by poor shepherds and farmers.  It was in Bethlehem in the remote and lonely hills of Israel.  Jesus did not come amongst the world’s favorites.  He did not receive pomp and ceremony from the world.  He did not bring into the world the peace and resolution that the people wanted in the way they expected it.  Rather, He came to rescue the world from the prevailing wisdom of the day.  Are you looking for some bursts of worldly wisdom, some miracles that will make all of your worldly problems go away?  Because the real gift of the Christ child is different than that.  It is simplicity and humility and inward.  It is an inner knowing, a transformation of the heart.  That’s what Jesus came for- to transform our hearts and to show us a different way through the Gospel.   

Now St. Paul tells us something that is truly unique about our Faith-  that Jesus Christ is God made man.  That is the essence of what we call the Incarnation-  that God became one of us, and was incarnate as a human being.  Nobody else teaches that, not the Eastern Religions, not the Moslems, not the Jews, not the Buddhists, not the Hindus, and none of the new age religions either.  None of them teaches that God came and dwelled among us to show us the way once and for all; and to give us an example and to redeem all of us in a single act of saving self-sacrifice.   Only Christianity teaches that God became man by sending His only son amongst us.  And therein lays the secret to our joy- the Incarnation holds that secret.  We don’t have to wonder what the words in sacred books mean;  or try to decode some esoteric wisdom of a guru; or cower before a transcendent super being in fear.  We know that ours is a loving God who came and dwelled amongst us,   Jesus who was and is close to us, and showed us by His example, the Gospel, what it takes to live a life pleasing to God. 

But is that how we are patterning our lives, after the Gospel?  Because this is the perfect time of the year to ponder on that and find the key to living a God centered life for ourselves.   

Notice that God did something else.  He brought our wonderful savior Jesus to us through the normal process of birth.  He did not miraculously send Jesus into this world.  Jesus was born of a woman, Mary.  And Mary showed us that she understood the essence of what it means to live a God-centered life.  Yes, Mary understood what the key was by saying yes to her call by the Lord, and giving up whatever ambitions she may have had.   

Have you heard that call?  It can come in many different forms and at almost any stage of life-  a burning urge to make a difference;  taking care of an aged relative or family member; children and their many special needs; or a call to service in the Church.  It can even come in the form of using a talent you have to the fullest extent. 

Sometimes it is hard to hear that call in the humdrum of the normal flow of life.  We have to take some time out, and just be still and listen.  Yet there is a benefit in hearing and responding to the call; because when you respond to God’s call, there is a great feeling of inner joy and peace.   

That brings us to the ultimate reason for all of our joy- the coming glory that we will experience when we enter the Kingdom of God.  We get a sense of that glory in reading that describes the birth of Jesus and the visit of the angels to the shepherds.   We hear of the glory of the Lord, and the joy and celebration of the choirs of angels.  Because this is so foreign to us, we can be cynical.  The joys of this life are all we experience.  But this life ends- and this first hand Gospel report of the heavenly host and things that will be just seems too good to be true.  And yet, it is what we believe.  We either believe the whole Gospel, or all of it is nonsense to us.   

The shepherds believed, because they saw, they experienced, the glory of the Lord and so, they went to see the baby Jesus, and the story by the angels was validated for them.  Imagine what those shepherds must have experienced.  A crazy, unlikely story by an other-worldly angelic figure, followed by a heavenly chorus of angels.  It must have seemed like a dream.  But then, they saw the baby Jesus, just as the Angel predicted and realized that the unlikely story was true.  Now seeing is believing; and that’s what happened to the shepherds.  They must have been in ecstatic joy having seen the glory of the Lord that they had just been promised a share in.  We, on the other hand, are called upon to accept all this on faith based on the Gospel story and the traditions of our Church.  But our share in the glory is real; and it is what our faith is all about.     

Yes, Jesus is the light of the world.  He was from the beginning; and will be forever.  He has come to give all of us the gift of also becoming children of God for those who believe, and follow Jesus,   Our reward is the joy and happiness of the Kingdom, of God, and a share in the Glory of God.  And that is what we await in joyful expectation! 

Standing Before God at Judgment

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Westminster Towers

Jer 33: 14-16;  1 Thes 3: 12 – 4: 2; Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

By Deacon Larry Brockman


Advent, we are entering the Church’s season of Advent.  It’s a 4 week period of preparation and joyful expectation of the coming of the Messiah.  But there are two such comings that we are waiting for.  The first is Christmas and the second is the second coming of Christ.  Christmas is a memorial of something that happened 2000 years ago.  But the second coming has yet to occur, and so we need to remind ourselves each year of the reality of that second coming and what it means to us.

The first reading talks about the first coming of Christ.  Christmas, the long awaited coming of the Messiah.   We can, and should, commemorate that coming with incredible joy because Jesus showed us the way and guaranteed us everlasting life.   Now, most of us spend our time during Advent preparing for Christmas- trees and cards and presents and all kinds of rituals that remind us of the season we are about to celebrate.  And that is fine, as long as we also focus on the real meaning of the Nativity that I just mentioned.

But this week, the last week of ordinary time, and the first week of Advent that follow this Sunday is a transition that focuses on the end times and the second coming of Christ.  The Gospel that we just read is all about that second coming.  And that’s what I want to talk a little more about

It sounded scary, didn’t it, ll that talk about earth and the moon and the sun nd people dying of fright.  What does it all mean?  Many think that the emphasis in this reading is on the actual physical end of the World.  But I think there is a more immediate meaning, and that is the one we need to concentrate on.  You see, when each of us dies then we will perceive all of the events described in the Gospel.  The stars and the moon and the sun will be no more to us; and we will see the son of man coming to perform the last judgment on us.

Will we be ready for that, the Last Judgment?  Jesus warns us to “beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from the worldly anxieties of daily life”.  Because when we become drowsy in this way, we may be caught by surprise.  Yes, indeed, we can be caught by surprise in our own death.  Especially if we have not thought through what it means to focus on God rather than our worldly lives.  It is easy to fall into this trap when we grow into adulthood and enter the fast lane of life.  Spouses, jobs, interests, children, money, sports- all these things bid for our time and effort.  And before we know it, we are in the twilight of life and yet, our focus is still on the worldly anxieties of life- our health, our families, and our finances for example.  But we cannot afford to be caught by surprise.  Because these are the people who Jesus says will be afraid- the ones Jesus says will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming.  And being frightened away from Christ is the real death, because it is separation from God and the Kingdom of God.

But there is another side to this Gospel, a very positive one.  Because Jesus is also saying that when we die, we can experience Christ our sovereign King as He approaches us for judgment in the clouds, with a joyful spirit and hopeful expectation.  In fact, Jesus says we should stand erect, and have confidence that our salvation is near!  Have you ever really thought about it that way before?  Standing erect confident of our salvation sounds very appealing, doesn’t it.

So what should we do to make sure we are in the second group?  Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians gives us a strong hint on what we should do.  Paul says that we “should abound in love for one another and for all so as to strengthen our hearts at the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ”.  Yes, love is the answer, how have we loved as we walked through life.  That’s how we strengthen our hearts rather than making our hearts drowsy.

During Advent, we can and should resolve to reflect on our lives.  We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it, and focus on the future, a future where love of God and neighbor are the focus of our energy.  God is infinitely merciful and forgiving to those who believe in Him and love Him.  If we are focused forward in this way then when we die, we will not be caught by surprise.  We will welcome the second coming of Christ.