Archive for November, 2013

Pondering the Kingdom of God

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Christ the King

2 Sam 5: 1-3; Col `1: 1-12; Luke 23: 35-43

Deacon Larry Brockman


You know what?  Heaven is not run by the people!  There won’t be any politicians running for office or campaign promises there.  There aren’t going to be any elections either.  We are not going to get to vote for anyone or anything if we make it there.  We will have to just settle with whatever we get from God.  Heaven is after all a Kingdom- and Kingdoms have Kings not elected presidents.  Heaven is the Kingdom of God; and that Kingdom lasts forever- and forever is a long time.

God has already chosen His King, His anointed one- Jesus Christ.  That’s what today’s readings are all about- Christ the King.  We hear that Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God”.  We know that Jesus came before all of us and made everything.  Heaven has angels and saints in it but they are subjects, not voters.  God wills that things be handled by His King Jesus the Christ; and it will always be that way- forever.

And while all of us aspire to be part of God’s Kingdom,  It would be naïve of us to think that we will all be the same.  We are all loved by God equally, but each of us is unique, and is loved for our uniqueness.  And each of us will have our own unique place in Heaven if- if we follow Jesus as the Gospel calls for.  Let us ponder things about such a heavenly Kingdom :

First, we are each given gifts from God in this life.  If we don’t learn to be happy with what is ours in this life, it will be difficult to be happy in the Kingdom of God forever.  Life here is our opportunity to learn to accept the gifts that God has chosen for us.  But to appreciate these gifts to the utmost, we have to do God’s will for us because all of our gifts were especially chosen for us.  The closer we are to doing God’s will, the easier it will be for us to use our gifts.  If we try having it our way rather than God’s way there is going to be a problem- a disconnect between our gifts and our lives.  That can result in pain for us; and it will be the same in the next life as well- it will be Heaven or Hell for us.

The more we are given; the more God expects from us as stewards of those gifts.  Some of us were gifted with fame, money, power, special talents, or good looks as viewed by the world’s standards.  Others were entrusted with more ordinary things in life here.  We are white, black, yellow or red; and we are male and female.  But that doesn’t make any of us better than the other- just different and destined for our own special role in the Kingdom of God.  God loves all of us the same; and He is interested in how well we accept what He gives us.  Life here is like the tip of an iceberg compared to eternity, where we will experience the rest of our gifts.

Our greatest gift is life itself.  God wants us to cherish that above all other things.  He has gifted us with instincts that motivate us in exactly that way- to defend and preserve our lives no matter what.  If we don’t respect our life and the life of others in this world, why would we be expected to value life in the next?  And so, no matter what our quality of life, we simply must learn to love life itself.  After all, if we want to live an eternity with God, we must value life forever.

Next, all of us were born with limitations; but these also are gifts.  None of us could be perfect as only God is perfect.  If we can’t learn to live and be happy with our limitations in this life; how can we expect to be satisfied with our limitations in the next life forever?  But, even in the next life we will not be perfect; otherwise we would be God, and we are not God.

One of the biggest problems we have in this life is our tendency to have expectations.  We hope for, and expect that things will go our way.  But they don’t- they go God’s way.  Jesus the Christ is our King and so, we need to learn to be obedient to the King.  God, like all kings, is really big on obedience.  A house divided against itself cannot stand.  And so, God demands our obedience in His Kingdom- forever.  So, it is important for us to learn obedience in this life.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises the good thief Paradise.  From that we learn that the kingdom of God is paradise- a place of eternal happiness.  Why does he promise this thief paradise?   Because this man recognized his limitations; accepted them, and recognized himself for what he was; promising to learn from his mistakes.   He just wanted a chance to be remembered by the King.  All of us are called to do the same.

The other thief was arrogant and cynical, presuming to judge Jesus on his terms and according to his standards, as were the rulers and soldiers who sneered at Jesus.  These are people who are in control in this world; but the lessons we just outlined for the Kingdom of God escaped them.

And so, take the opportunity today to think about the coming of the King who will lead us into eternal happiness in His Kingdom.  Love life; accept your gifts and limitations, learn the King’s will for you, and be obedient.  Then you will enjoy the good life of the kingdom of God forever.

Real Peace

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Thursday of 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

   Presentation of Mary

1 Mac 2: 15-29; Luke 19: 41-44

Deacon Larry Brockman


“If this day you only knew what makes for peace”!  That’s what Jesus tells his contemporaries in our Gospel.  First, he grieves over the pending doom of Jerusalem and its temple, symbols of the Israeli nation and Jewish Faith.  He says they “will be encircled on all sides and smashed to the ground with their children”.  Why? Because “you did not recognize the time of your visitation”.

I wonder whether Jesus would tell us the same if he were in this Church today?  We are at the end of the Church year and will begin Advent shortly.  That’s the time in the Church Year when we are promised our visitation by the Lord.  During each Church year, we are first challenged to welcome Jesus as our savior during Advent and Christmas, by waiting for, and then rejoicing that God became man and showed us the way.   Then, we are called upon to witness the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the Cross as a saving act for our salvation during Lent; only to celebrate the promise of salvation to all of us who follow Jesus during Easter.  Yes, we are asked to accept our own crosses and to do as Jesus did- bearing our hardships with Faith and dignity because of that promise of salvation and the Kingdom of God.  And then for a half a year, during the many weeks of Ordinary Time, we go through the Old Testament, the Gospel and the stories of the Apostles and learn from these parables and stories just what it means to put our Faith into practice.  We have a year to recognize the time of our visitation and to learn what it means before the process repeats itself.

But do we get it?  Do we understand that the promise of salvation and the Kingdom of God depends on our commitment to our Faith?  Yes, we have to show we believe by putting our faith into practice.  And not only that, we have an obligation to work together as a people, as a church, to spread that Kingdom and to defend it.  Our Faith is not a private thing that is between us and God.  It needs to be a public thing.  We need to be committed to our Faith and Jesus

Now the story in our first reading is an interesting lesson about this this whole process.  You see, the Greeks had conquered the Jews, and were imposing their culture and lifestyle on Israel.  As long as everyone cooperated, everything would be OK.  But cooperating meant publically recognizing the Greek Gods and placing emphasis on loyalty to the state and it’s King.   Most of the people decided to go along with the Greeks.  After all, they could make a public display of support for the King, and then privately believe what they wanted.  But the point is, that isn’t good enough.

Mattathias was a holdout, a person who rallied his family and a remnant of the Jews to stick to their religion and the Covenant with the Lord.  And while he is making his impassioned speech in defense of that position, someone has the gall to come up to the altar, and cave in to the state.  This evokes a strong impassioned response by Mattathias.  The message is simply this:  We cannot compromise our Faith; we cannot coexist with the forces of evil.

I can see many signs of the same thing happening in our society.  We have politicians who say that privately they follow what the Church teaches; but they have a public duty to follow the wishes of our secular government.  We have folks who come to Church to satisfy their Sunday obligation; but then walk out of the Church and put their faith on hold while they live their daily lives, behaving as society expects them to; being part of the in crowd.  And we have people that believe that peace is the absence of confrontation, and so, whatever happens they remain passive and in the background because they don’t want to make waves, don’t want to cause trouble.  But you see, none of that will not do in the eyes of the Lord because like the Jews of Jesus time, such people do not recognize the time of their visitation.

This is the time of our visitation.  The question is, do we recognize it, and are we making the most of it?  Peace is what we all want.  But the peace that God provides is a different kind of peace.  Jesus might say to us_ “If only we knew what makes for that peace.”  But for us Christians, it is not hidden.  Our faith and living the Gospel without compromise, that’s what makes for real peace- the peace of God.

Finding the Kingdom of God

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

Wisdom7:22b – 8:1; Luke 17: 20-25

Deacon Larry Brockman


Have you ever had the experience of looking for something and not being able to find it?  Frustrating, isn’t it.  Especially when you think you know where to look for it.  But that, you see, might be the problem.  We all have expectations of where to find a missing article, and those expectations can cloud our minds; they blind us to the reality and so, we can miss what we are looking for even when it is right under our noses.

The Pharisees were like that.  They were looking for the Kingdom of God in earthly terms.  They were hoping and waiting for the return of the mighty earthly Kingdom like the one that Kings David and Solomon presided over.  They were not looking for the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached, a heavenly Kingdom, one where the joy and happiness are inside the person, rather than a result of worldly affluence.  What kind of a Kingdom of God are you looking for?

Now in the first reading we have a very poetic and beautiful description that tells us what it is like when a person is filled with the Wisdom of God.  The wisdom of God, we are told, “…Is a spirit: intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, agile, clear, unstained, certain, never harmful, loving the good, keen, unhampered, beneficent, kindly, firm, secure, tranquil, all-powerful, all-seeing, and pervading all spirits, though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle.”  Wow!

Can you just close your mind for a moment to everything else, and just think about what it would be like if you were filled with such a spirit?  Just imagine being filled with a spirit possessing all those qualities at the same time.  Because that is what it would be like to be filled with the Spirit of God.  And if we were so filled with such a spirit, we would have arrived; we would have somehow achieved a harmony between ourselves and God.  So we would be experiencing the Kingdom of God.

But I suspect that this is not what most of are looking for, and it is not what we are thinking about when we think of the Kingdom of God, because we are looking elsewhere.  Most of us are looking for our dream of eternal happiness, a dream which is unfortunately clouded by some ignorance, limited sight, harmful inclinations, and self-centeredness.  To achieve the wisdom of God, we would have to defer to the Spirit of God, by purging ourselves of all that interferes with such perfection, and this is very difficult to do.  And so, we can miss the real Kingdom of God.

In the Gospel, Jesus talks about the Son of man “in his day”.  He says, “Just like the Lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in His day.”  So, how can you look for such a thing?  The answer is that you can’t look for it in a conventional sense.  You can’t say to yourself: “I want to see Lightning right now”, and go outside and scan the sky looking for it and expect to find it; rather, you have to be open to it all the time in a predisposition toward the spontaneous without being in control of exactly when and where you see it.  It’s making a conscious effort to always be on the lookout for the right thing and the right thing is to follow the urgings of that right spirit whose qualities we just listed a moment ago.

When you do that, let go and just be open to the urgings of the spirit then, you will find the Kingdom of God.

On Being an Involved Catholic

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Mac 7: 1-2, 9-14; 2 Thes 2: 16 – 3:5; Luke 20-27-28

Deacon Larry Brockman


Can you imagine how much Faith it must have taken for the young men in today’s first reading to do what they did, to sacrifice everything, their lives included, in order to keep the tenets of their faith?  All they had to do was eat pork, and they would have been spared.  But they believed in the law; they believed in their Faith; and their allegiance was to God and that Jewish Faith not the secular morality of the government of the time.  And you know, for all of us who eat pork, it might sound silly.  But it is the principle that matters.  Today, our government is trying to force Catholic business people and the Church and it’s institutions to accept the provisions of the HHS mandate for health care.  It’s just like eating pork for the Jews in our first reading.  And so, it is a matter of who we owe our allegiance; and it is time for all of us to stand up and be counted.

Now all of us are gathered here this morning for a reason.  And I hope that the reason is our commitment to Christ and his Church.  It is not so much a mater of what the Church can do for you; but rather, what you can do for your Church.  Clearly, the more committed our members are to the church; the more we pray together as a community; and the more we act together in unison as a church and individuals; then the more likely it is that we will prevail in the never ending battle we face against secular society and the attempts to force its standards on our Church.  But it takes all of us, not just some of us.

We had Matthew Kelly here some months ago, a very prominent Catholic lecturer who, among other things, studied involvement statistics.  One of the surprising results of his study is that only 7% of Catholics are really involved, whether it is as significant financial contributors or active members in Church organizations.  Amazingly, this statistic has been confirmed in parishes throughout the country.  But it runs counter to everyone else’s studies that say that it is the same 20 % of the people who do 80 % of the work in any conventional organization.  So the question is this: are you part of our 7% that is involved and makes a difference, or are you part of the other 93 %?

Our parish is devoting the next couple of weeks to a Stewardship campaign.  That means we are asking for your help in time, talent, and treasure.  It is called a stewardship campaign because all of us, no matter who we are, are stewards of the time, talent, and treasure that we possess because we receive all these as gifts from God; we are just His stewards.  Now you’ll hear people talk about tithing and 10%- they say that is the requirement.  But that seems like the wrong criteria- just meeting some financial threshold and then leaving it at that.  Rather, we are not asking for 10%; but we are asking for your involvement because, you see, everything you have is a gift.  God is most generous to those who are generous with what is theirs- whether it is time, talent, or treasure.  And everything we do should be in concert with being a good steward if all of us recognize that everything belongs to God and we are just His stewards.  Our Gospel readings over the last couple of months have emphasized this over and over.  So what we are asking for is 100% involvement, because that’s what God expects of us- He expects all of us to be involved.

How do you get involved?  Well we need CCD and Prep Teachers, Readers and Eucharistic Ministers, Ushers, Musicians and Singers, and Helpers with St. Vincent de Paul.   We need Pro Life helpers in many different activities; and people to help with bereavement.  We need people devoted to prayer groups and Bible Study; people who give their time in perpetual adoration.  We need men’s club, KOC, and Ladies Association members who serve as volunteers at their many activities.  We need people to write their representatives often and consistently about issues like abortion and Catholic Social Teaching.  We need people to start and lead new activities- a hospitality ministry, a Respite Ministry for caretakers; and other social justice activities.  And of course, we need money as well to support all of the facilities and the fine programs this parish is involved in.

And when you get involved, it will mean two things:  First, it will mean you have to give something up.  If your involvement doesn’t mean you are giving something up, like the widow a couple of weeks ago in the Gospel, then you are not giving from the heart; you are not really committed.  Secondly, it will mean that you have to trust God that your efforts will bear fruit.  Sometimes, there will be an immediate reward, like the satisfaction a minister of the sick sees when a hospitalized person receives the body of Christ; but more often than not, the rewards are longer term and a surprise, like when a CCD student comes up to a teacher 10 years later and tells them how much they helped them.  And after all, we are committed members of the Church for the long term “The Kingdom of God”.

So, how about it?  How about joining the 7%?