Archive for November, 2015

Understanding the Kingdom of God

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

Christ The King

Dan 7: 13-14; Rev 1:5-8; Jn 18:33b-37

Dc. Larry Brockman

A Kingdom!  It’s not something that we can relate to in this country.  We have no “King”; in fact, our revolution occurred because we wanted to escape from domination by a King.  And so, as a result, the “Kingdom of God” may seem a little fuzzy for us.  The closest thing to a king that we can relate to is all the fuss made over other nations royalty.  We see them glorified in earthly terms and venerated.  But we have no equivalent in our society.

Yet in Biblical times, Kingdoms were the norm.  Everybody understood that a King was the absolute ruler.  All Dominion and Glory and Power belonged to the King, or Caesar or Emperor, or whatever he was called.  People understood the concept.  That is why Israel longed for the restoration of the Kingdom in Jesus’ time, because they were sickened by the corrupt and repressive domination of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans.  They wanted their own Kingdom with a just ruler, like David of old.  But they could only think in terms of an earthly Kingdom

One thing we know for sure:  Heaven is the Kingdom of God.  And so, whether we are familiar and comfortable with Kingdoms or not, we need to understand the Kingdom of God and how it differs from kingdoms in this world.  All of us have been offered everlasting life in that Kingdom; none of us has been promised everlasting life in this world.  Aside from life in the Kingdom of God after our earthly life, there is only the prospect of death.

So what is the Kingdom of God like?  Well, it is not a democracy- none of us gets a vote there, as individuals, we don’t get a say about what happens.  It is not a republic either- diverse groups of people don’t matter in its governance, only the King’s will matters.  God alone will make the rules, and give the orders, and make the rewards.  And the rewards are great- joy and happiness and freedom from all pain and suffering forever. Like all Kingdoms, the head of the Kingdom of God wants loyalty and service from his subjects.  Each of us has been given the opportunity to show our loyalty and to serve the King while we live.  We are called to respond to that opportunity by accepting the Word of God, Jesus Christ, on faith.  That’s the loyalty part.  And then by living according to the word of God by following the Gospel as a way of life, and by doing the will of the Father for us.  That’s the service part.  It is on these criteria that we will be selected for the Kingdom of God or not.  Put another way, these are the basis for our judgment.

Today we hear multiple accounts of the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Notice how similar the first two accounts are.  One like the Son of Man will come, and then everything will change- life as we know it will be different, because God, and His designated Son, will reign forever- with all dominion and glory and power.  There will be no more competing kings or earthly powers; no more death and suffering.  They also establish that Jesus Christ is that King.

Now the important point today is the message that this Kingdom is coming-  It is coming for all of us.  Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.  And the Gospel makes it very clear in Jesus’ own words that his kingdom is not of this world.  Funny, isn’t it.  Because we have just spent 10 or so weeks in ordinary time on the church calendar hearing about the kingdom of God in parables and stories and other snippets from the Gospel.  We hear that the Kingdom is amongst us; that the Kingdom is a hidden treasure waiting to be found right now; and that there is joy in heaven over repentant sinners because they will share in the Kingdom.  So how can the Kingdom be amongst us and at the same time not be of this world?

Well, the joy that we all seek is the joy that is in our hearts when we know that we are in harmony with God.  Nobody can take that away from us, no matter how much mental or physical stress or pain we may be under.  If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, in other words your King, then the Kingdom of God is already there for you.

Hanging In There When the Going Get’s Tough

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Thursday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

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

Dc. Larry Brockman

So, if things get tough will you hang in there? I mean, will you keep your faith if things get really tough? Or will you cave in like the “certain Jew” in today’s first reading. This man came forward and offered sacrifices to the pagan Greek gods, abandoning his faith and the faith of his ancestors, and desecrating the one true God’s house. Why? Because the Greeks overran the country and imposed the law we just heard described. Most of the people caved in- giving up their faith and joining the King’s followers to save their lives. While we might disapprove of Mattathias methods, his anger and the killings, you have to admire him for his zeal and for defending his faith.

Now, you might say, that would never happen to any of us. We would never have our faith challenged like that here in the good old USA. But it’s not so crazy that it would ever happen here, Because we are becoming a pluralistic secular country, one that tolerates all religions; and one that “respects” all kinds of moral codes; even those that run counter to our Church teaching. For example, we tolerate indecency and all forms of deviant life styles that are directly counter to our Faith in just about every public venue.

Not only that, our toleration of the minorities and these deviant moral codes has already translated to a persecution of the majority. And so our public officials have already told us we can’t pray in the schools anymore; we can’t pray before or after sporting events, we can’t put up Nativity scenes in public places; the ten commandments have to be removed from public places; and we shouldn’t say Merry Christmas because it might be offensive.

Not only that, pressure exists to recognize gay marriages and the “right” to choose abortion. The day will come, when a gay couple will come to this Church, demand to be married here; and then use the force of compliance with the “law of the land” and secular authority to pressure our Church. That will be just the beginning of explicit persecution that we will all feel.

Will we be strong and keep our faith in the face of these secular pressures, not just our pastor and clergy, but all of us?

Today’s Gospel tells us what happens if we don’t stand strong. Jesus says this in the Gospel: “For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.” Isn’t that what is happening to Christians in this country right now? Maybe not a physical palisade, but a wall none the less, a barrier that keeps us from expressing our faith and evangelizing others, just by living our faith and being ourselves in public places.

The fact is that all of us must recognize our day of visitation and act on it. Else we can expect the same prediction for our Church as Christ predicted for Jerusalem: “They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Indeed, we all have been blessed with a “time of visitation”. Jesus has been preached to each and every one of us. That is why we are all here. But what have we done with that. Have we done our part to evangelize those around us, and are we standing strong in the faith when it is attacked all around us?   I don’t know about you, but I intend to do my part. It may be just a little early. But please pass it on. Merry Christmas!

Accepting the Spirit

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

Wis 7: 22b – 8:1; Lk 17: 20-25

Dc. Larry Brockman

So much for the argument that the Holy Spirit was not mentioned in the Old Testament! Because the beautiful and deep and pervasive description of the Holy Spirit is right there in that first reading. Yes, it is all right there, and has been in front of us the whole time.

Close your eyes and listen to it again: “In Wisdom is a spirit intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, agile, clear, unstained; Certain, not baneful, loving the good, keen, unhampered, beneficent, kindly; Firm, secure, tranquil, all powerful, all seeing, and pervading all spirits.”

Don’t you realize that you have that spirit living inside of you? You received that Spirit in Baptism, at Confirmation, and you receive it again whenever you receive the sacraments. Yes, the Spirit is right there inside of you, dwelling within you as believers, as those committed to the Lord, Jesus Christ.   And if you really appreciate that, then you will understand what Jesus means in today’s Gospel about the Kingdom of God. Because if you can learn to feel the Spirit of God within you, and act on his promptings, then truly, the Kingdom of God is present to you right here and now as well; because the Spirit brings with Him all of the qualities we just read off.

I cannot imagine anyone who feels protected by the Spirit of the all-powerful God dwelling in Him that is, intelligent, tranquil, kind, and possesses all those other qualities we mentioned, that wouldn’t feel secure and happy and joyful with their life, no matter what was going on around them.

The problem with our society, of course, is that it looks for the wrong things in life. People want a quick fix or a unique experience in their lives rather than to trust in God and follow Him. And so, they look for something other than what the Spirit of God within their hearts prompts.

That of course, is what Jesus says at the end of the Gospel. So, we have people today who tell us: “Look, there he is” and “Look, here he is”. Jesus tells us, as he told his Apostles, not to be fooled by that. Yes, don’t be fooled by latter day prophets who abandon the Church and its teaching In favor of someone’s personal revelations. We see this all the time- Moslems, Mormons, 7th Day Adventists, Jehovah’s witnesses, and modern megachurches are all examples. They say have found something new and revolutionary- and that we will find salvation through them.   No, that isn’t true. Salvation came through Jesus Christ and the Trinity. The Spirit was Jesus gift to us as Jesus left the world physically.

That’s what Pentecost was all about. And when we believe, and we embrace the Spirit dwelling within us, by following the promptings of the Spirit, accepting His gifts, and bearing his fruits, then all the good things mentioned in the Book of Wisdom happen to us: The spirit “…passes into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and prophets. For there is nought that God Loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom. and “Wickedness prevails not over Wisdom. ”

The kingdom of God is not something that can be observed and it will not be announced. It is already buried within you. The Spirit of God is there to pervade your being and lead you to God.   And when it is your time, then “just as the lightning flashes, so will the son of man be in his day.” Yes, he will be there for you at the Second Coming. But first, you must experience and live through your trials and the suffering it entails, just like Jesus did.

Concentrate on Your Own Weaknesses

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Thursday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

Rom 14: 7-12; Lk 15: 1-10

Dc. Larry Brockman

It is so easy- so easy to see the sins of the other guy, and yet be blind to our own weaknesses. We see other people gossiping; other people cheating; and other people misbehaving. But we gloss over our gossiping or cheating or acting up; and worse yet, we quickly and conveniently forget what we have done.

In fact all those habits and patterns of life that we settle into can sometimes be so obviously imperfect to another person, and yet, we become blind to them. We learn to live with them- even grow into them. For example, all of us know that we should eat the proper foods to be healthy and keep our proper weight. And yet which of us is above commenting that so and so is fat; or so and so is skinny, as we consume our third donut over Sunday coffee and donuts. We should take a good hard look at ourselves, not others.

Why do we dwell on other people’s faults? Is it because it makes us feel better about ourselves? Is it because it distracts attention away from our own faults? And yet, it is a good image of ourselves that we all need. Paul hits the nail on the head this morning when he says: “All of us will need to give an accounting of our own behavior before God when we meet him”. We won’t have an opportunity to say: “Well what about John, isn’t he a lot worse”; No, the attention will be on your own sins.

You know, today’s Gospel makes an important point about all this- that there is more rejoicing in heaven about a repentant sinner than about a righteous person. It is not so much that God and his angels and saints won’t rejoice over a truly righteous person; but more that “righteous” is in the eye of the beholder. You and I, the average beholders, do a pretty good job at recognizing sinners; and maybe not so good a job in detecting the righteous. How so? Well, a repentant sinner in today’s society can be persecuted beyond belief.

Let me give some examples: “He was an alcoholic”; “She had an affair”; “He lied on his application”. And yet, such a person may have repented of his sins and may be in much better standing with God than those who cast judgment.

Paul says “Whether we are alive or dead, we must live our lives for the Lord if we are to enter the Kingdom of God.” And that task is worthy of 100% of our time. We really don’t have the time for being our neighbor’s conscience. We need all the time we can get to make things right with God, because we are all sinners.

Soon, we will enter the season of Advent to prepare for the coming of Christ. That includes the coming of the Christ Child, yes- but it also includes the second coming of Christ. That could be any time for any of us. So, let’s get real about our own sinfulness. Turn and look at yourself in the mirror. What is it that you are hiding? What is it that you are missing about yourself? What is it that you are kidding yourself about? Because when you stand before God, what will you say about all of that?

What It Means to Be a Saint

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

All Saints Day

Rev 7: 2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3: 1-3; Mt 5: 1-12a

Dc. Larry Brockman

Good News, in fact Great News! This is our feast day. That’s right. It’s your feast day and my feast day because we are the saints that the readings today are all about.

You see, the vision that St. John describes in Revelation, the one of the countless folks with the white robes- these are the believers who survived the great period of trial. And we are those true believers- that’s why we are all gathered here, because we are the believers. And so, as the saying goes, the Kingdom of God is ours for the taking. All we have to do is believe and survive the great period of trial- the life God gave us on earth.

Now as I listen to the Gospel, I hear the great period of trial described for each of us. Because I can’t help but think that life is all about learning the lessons that each beatitude teaches.

And so, each of us must first learn we are “poor in spirit” because each of is lacking in one way or another. It is important that we recognize that- it’s the virtue of humility.

Each of us experiences losses- loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of health; and we mourn these losses. But God wants us to know that in the face of any such losses, He still loves us. And so, we will be comforted, always.

Each of us needs to learn to step back and not be too pushy at times- in other words, be meek. Life is not all about us- life is about give and take. Each of us needs to seek God’s will for us in all of the circumstances of life-. That is what it means to hunger for righteousness because righteousness is defined as harmony with God.

And everyone who hopes that God will show them mercy knows that they must show mercy to others. Jesus taught us that in the “Our Father”. We also need to be pure of heart- that is, have a clear conscience. When we do not have a clear conscience, it is God who is nudging us to make things right. Life has many ways of showing us how violence and bickering lead to disaster. That’s how we learn to be peacemakers.

But make no mistake about it. Every single one of us will be challenged at some point in our lives to stand up for what is right, and to reject what is wrong. Yes, every one of us will face some sort of persecution for our faith. It may not be like the Christians in Syria facing the ISIS threat. But it is persecution just the same: the cynical look of peer pressure to “go along or be ostracized” when we object to today’s loose morals; pressure from elected officials to “get with it” when we take a staunch respect life position; or any of a number of other things society or the government does to pressure people who hold to their convictions.

Yes, the beatitudes kind of sum up the lessons each of us faces in life. And yet, as Jesus proclaims, if we learn the lessons implied in the beatitudes, then we will have survived the great period of trial, and the Kingdom of heaven is ours.

In the second reading, we learn what the Kingdom of God will be like. We are children of God now, and we are treated as children of God. Our duty is to believe God’s word, and to act on it in love, always, even when we can’t understand everything. Then, when we pass on to the next world, we will enter the Kingdom of God; we will be part of that great multitude of folks wearing white robes.

As John so eloquently says it, we will be like Him. Indeed, God made us in his own image and likeness, so man will share in the glory of God. And there can be nothing like that!