Archive for December, 2015

Finding Time for Christ’s Coming

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman


It started way before Thanksgiving this year!  My neighbor put up his lights a week before Thanksgiving;  and the stores started pushing “Pre-Black Friday” sales, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday- you name it.  Every year it starts earlier and earlier, the Frenzy that has become “The Holidays”.

But you know what? We used to call it the Christmas Season, because as Christians say “Jesus is the reason for the season”.  Nowt it seems that Jesus’ coming has been hijacked.   Instead, we celebrate a secular “Holiday Season” where buying lots of stuff and secular joy take precedence.  Even Santa says “Happy Holidays” and not Merry Christmas.  At one local hospital, there’s a beautiful “Holiday Tree” in the lobby-   Yep, they call it a holiday tree, not a Christmas Tree.  And there’s a table with Hanukah Candles and Kwanzaa candles on it right next to the tree, but there’s no Advent Wreath there.  Boy, have they got their priorities wrong- political correctness trumps Christmas Joy.

And so tonight, we want to set the priorities straight.  That Jesus is the reason for the season and talk about why we spend the 4 weeks of Advent getting ready for Christmas.  It’s not because we need the time for cards and cooking and buying gifts; and not to give time for all the parties and get-togethers; but rather, we need the 4 weeks to get ready for the coming of Christ. In fact, we are going to consider a few things that were highlighted by the readings  To help us to see how God intends for us to get ready for His coming.

Imagine for a moment what it must have been like in Ahaz’s time in the setting of our first reading, thousands of years ago.  King Ahaz was content with life and had made political deals that preserved his country, Judah.  But he made those deals at the expense of keeping the Faith.  Despite many warnings from the prophets of his time, Ahaz and the people were ignoring God’s law and his commandments.  Ahaz wasn’t looking for a sign- he was content.

Isn’t the same thing happening today?   A lot of people don’t even call it Christmas any more, as we just mentioned.  It’s the Holidays for these people.  And aren’t most of us putting our spiritual preparation to the side so we can get all the other things done; all the secular things done, that we are expected to do?  Indeed, we do need time for our spiritual preparation- that’s the first message, that’s the first priority.

In the second reading, we are told to rejoice over the coming of the King- a King who will exact “Judgment and Justice”.  Is that what we are looking for, judgment and justice?  Or are we looking at the long list of gifts on our shopping lists; and worried about how we are going to pay all the bills.  Indeed, our spiritual preparation demands that we look for a different kind of longing.  Not a longing for “happiness” that is a short term high based on things and fleeting pleasures; but rather a long term joy, a joy inside that is immune to the trials and tribulations of life.

In fact, some of the things that we should be looking for are listed in the third reading:  “A spirit of wisdom and understanding;  a spirit of counsel and strength, and a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.”  That’s what our spiritual preparation should lead us to seek; qualities that will last in the long term in our spiritual lives-  Spiritual Gifts that will last forever.

And if you seek out and nurture those spiritual gifts; those abilities to understand and discern, to cut through the chaff that the devil throws at us through secular society; then you will recognize the real savior of the world at his coming.  And not only that, you will welcome him with joy.  You will recognize that God so loved us that he sent his only Son, born of a woman, to dwell amongst us and show us the way; and that this God-become-man lived and ate and worked amongst us, living as all of us do, living a humble and regular life for 30 of his 33 years.

That’s what the Nativity Stories we read really tell us.  That Jesus was of humble origins; that he lived an ordinary, not privileged life; and that he was obedient to his earthly parents and heavenly Father; and that he ate, slept, worked, and related socially to his family and friends, just like we do; yet he did all of that without sin.

All of us have the same calling- to live like Jesus did.  That’s the essence of the good news- the Gospel.  And woven into these Nativity stories are the stories of Mary and the Shepherds-  Mary, who is the example of how all of us are to live life;  Mary, who was fully human, yet never sinned;  Mary who accepted God’s will for her, despite the mental and physical pain and anguish that accompanied it; and  Mary who celebrated the joy of her first-born son’s coming.  Are we all ready for that?  Are we prepared to accept God’s way and live it, relishing the joyful moments of life; yet accepting the trials with dignity and grace?

Likewise the shepherd’s story is insightful.  These humble, simple people of the time accepted the story of Jesus at the word of the Angels.  They came, they worshiped, and they left.  They did not understand.  There are things we will never be capable of understanding.  But what was revealed to them, they accepted on Faith.  That is our challenge as well, to accept that Jesus is God become man, that he is our savior and that he promised all who believe and follow him, eternal life in heaven with his Father.

And then there is the last reading, the one about the Word of God.  It summarizes what we believe about the relationship between the Father and the Son and the doctrine we call the “Incarnation”.  The Incarnation is at the core of what makes us Christian because it says that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine.

That’s something all of us can relate to, that Jesus humbled himself by coming down and becoming intimate with us.  He is not some distant, unapproachable God.  God is with us (Emmanuel)- and we take him in the Eucharist every week.  If we think about that in our spiritual preparation, we cannot help but feel the joy.  It is the New Covenant joy that Jesus brings- through his sacrifice of self, He saves us and offers us everlasting life.  That is what the joy of Christmas is all about- that believers will live forever in peace and joy.

The devil has attacked the Incarnation in many and varied ways-   And the result has been the emergence of sects- Moslems, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and other religions that believe in one God, but sadly, don’t believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ or the Trinity.  It is easy to be misled by people from these other faiths.  Don’t let that happen to you.  Know your faith and be zealous in its defense.

Indeed, Jesus is coming soon.  He comes symbolically every year as baby Jesus.  We celebrate the joy that God’s Incarnation and New Covenant brings on that day.  But Advent also reminds us of another coming- the second Coming of Christ.  All of us will experience that coming as well when we die.  Will we be ready for that?  Will we welcome the second coming of Jesus with joy?  Indeed we will- if we are ready.  So use Advent wisely, get ready spiritually for the coming of Christ!  It could happen at any time.

You Are Greater Than the Greatest Born of a Woman

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

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?  How can the least in the kingdom be greater than John the Baptist, and the Lord be kind and merciful to us who don’t measure up to John?  What does it all mean?

It means we all certainly do have cause to rejoice.  You see, the coming of Jesus, our savior, changed everything.  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 then 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.  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 capability they just couldn’t imagine.  And so they show that the Lord’s coming will happen with such certainty and ease, that it is a sure thing beyond any doubt, and that with His coming, prosperity will follow- a land rich in fertility and flowing with life.

Well, they symbolize the same thing for us- a certainty that the Lord will come, and bring with him prosperity.  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.

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent

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

Dc. Larry Brockman

“Yes, but”.  Is our allegiance to the word of God characterized by “Yes, but” or a resounding “Amen”?  Because that’s the difference between building our foundation on rock or sand.

You know, there is a fallout associated with all the education we get these days.  In very blunt terms:  “A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing”.  And in the American society we live in, our level of education is so much more sophisticated than it used to be.  We are taught to question everything; we are taught to be critical thinkers.

And that is a good thing, unless…  Unless we try to second guess God’s law.  We can become so arrogant about our little bit of knowledge that we don’t listen to God.  You see, God thinks at a level that we cannot begin to approach.  His ways are totally beyond our comprehension.  And so, God has revealed His law to us through the prophets, Jesus and the Apostles, and the great doctors of the Church.  God’s revelation is slow, and doesn’t always seem to be provable or understandable according to man’s level of intelligence.  The Incarnation, the Trinity, the Resurrection of the body, the Eucharist; and some of our moral standards, like the right-to-life, and the dignity of a human person, are examples of that.  These are just a few of our beliefs that are challenged by secular society using sophisticated learning and reasoning today.

Consider some examples of areas where human “thinking” tries to second guess the aggregate teaching of the Church in today’s society.  Usually sophisticated arguments are used to consider the exception.  We say- marriage is the union of a man and a woman;  Society’s elite say- yes, but what about two people of the same sex who truly love each other.  We say- an embryo is a human being just like the parents.  But society’s elite say- yes, but what about the fact that the embryo cannot exist without the mother’s body;  And if that support can in any way danger the mother, than shouldn’t there be an exception  So the mother can make a choice.  We say- thou shalt not steal; but society’s elite say- yes but  those who have should be forced to pay for those who have not  because all are entitled to basic needs- it’s only fair.

It is important for all of us to remember that the truth is not relative- It is absolute.  There is black; and there is white.  It is possible to cross the line between one and the other.  In other words- there is sin.  Abortion is either right or wrong; marriage is between a man and a woman; and we cannot just steal from people who have, to give to the poor- the rich have to give of their hearts.  Right is right, and wrong is wrong.  And we must build our foundation on rock- that which is right.

That means we must take a position that some things are absolute, not relative.  The things that God has revealed to us as our foundation are things like the ten commandments and the beatitudes.  Otherwise, when we think that human beings can discern by the circumstances,  we are building our house on sand.