Archive for August, 2016

God’s Plan for Mankind

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sir 3: 17-18, 20, 28-29; Heb 12: 18-19, 22-24a; Luke 14: 1, 7-17

By Deacon Larry Brockman

Just what is God’s plan for mankind?  Well, today we hear about that plan straight from our readings.

Let me start by talking a little about Paul’s message in Hebrews.  It sounds quite confusing at first reading, doesn’t it, all of that talk about blazing fires and gloomy darkness and the rest of it?  But all of those references in the beginning of the reading were to the God of the Old Testament, who shrouded himself in a cloud at Mt. Zion as he revealed his commandments to Moses.  And in fact, everyone was very, very afraid.  The God of the Covenant with Israel evoked that kind of fear in order to command respect from the people.  His message was communicated to people indirectly, through messengers such as angels or prophets like Moses.  And fear off the Lord was the best way to get everyone’s attention.

Paul then goes on to tell the Christians that all of that has been replaced with something new in the New Covenant- direct access to God’s message through Jesus Christ, who lived, preached God’s message, died, was Resurrected and paved the way for the image of the new Zion- the Kingdom of God.  The image of the New Zion is our hope for the future.  Hence, we have the countless angels in a festal gathering that also includes the spirits of the just made perfect.

Guess what?  That second group is all of us who follow Jesus and do the will of God.  And so, plain and simple, that is God’s plan for mankind-  that all of us, when we finish life on this earth, enter the festal gathering in the presence of God forever and ever.  But just how can we best help to accomplish God’s plan?

Today’s Gospel is introduced as a parable about the Pharisees.  These people, the Pharisees, represent the Church.  The Pharisees invited Jesus to a banquet.  But they did it out of a social obligation rather than out of a conviction that they needed to listen to Jesus’ message.  At the end of the Gospel today, Jesus tells them not to invite friends, relatives, and the wealthy to such banquets; but rather, to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind”.  Why? Because their function as the establishment, as the teachers of Judaism, was to help all the people come to God, especially those who had lost their way.

This should sound familiar to us today because it is the same message that Pope Francis has been giving the Church.  Our Church needs to invite the poor- the poor in spirit as well as those who are of little means; the crippled- those who are broken, not just physically, but by virtue of crippled relationships or crippled values; the lame, including those who have been disenfranchised by job loss or health issues; and the blind- and in particular those blinded by today’s secular society along with all of its glitter and fast moving action.  We need to go out and invite all these people to our Church because God’s plan for salvation includes all of his people, not just those that come here faithfully week after week.  Indeed, the Church needs to go out where the people are who need God’s mercy.

Both the first reading and the first part of the Gospel carry a very strong message for all of us.  Quite simply: “Don’t disturb the plan that God has by letting our self- importance get in the way”.  Rather, these scriptures tell us how we can personally be more evangelistic in our every day lives.  First, Sirach says to humble ourselves and we will be loved more than a giver of gifts.  Indeed, whenever we interface with unbelievers, we need to send a message of love and acceptance to them, but done such that it is clear we love the person; but not necessarily the person’s behavior.  Second, Sirach says “What is too sublime for you, seek not”.  We need to accept the wisdom of the Church in areas that we are not qualified in, or for that matter, conversant in.  That’s what it means to have faith and to trust in the Lord.  When a person of faith acts with conviction, that commitment broadcasts a strong message to all of those he touches.  Both humility and trust in the Lord are great tools for us in our relationships with the unbelievers in our Lives.  Those relationships are the beginning of the path towards bringing such people into our Church.

Lastly, Jesus message in the parable addresses all of us who are invited to the banquet.  Rather than clamor for the seats up front, God will determine our place and our station in his kingdom.  If we have the humility and trust in him that Sirach teaches, then we will be invited forward at the banquet.  On the other hand, those late comers and sinners who truly repent may be invited to be seated ahead of us at the festive gathering.

God is truly a God of Mercy.  And it is his plan that all of us should be saved.  Our mission is to help God in that plan by being welcoming, kind, and humble in the presence of all of God’s people.

A Call to Vigilance!

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Thursday of 21st Week in Ordinary Time

1 Cor 1: 1-9; Mt 24: 42-51

By Deacon Larry Brockman

A call to vigilance!  Because the Lord may come at any time.  How true.

Last week, my wife had major surgery, some 4 hours long.  Many folks were praying for her- and we were most grateful because everyone understood that the operation could be life threatening.  She planned for it by having the Sacrament of the Sick before the operation.  That gave her a certain peace of mind that she was prepared, as indeed it should.

But the reality is that all of us are vulnerable all the time, not just when we face a crisis.  As I drove each day back and forth to the hospital, especially in rush hour traffic, I encountered many crazy drivers.  And I suppose that in my frame of mind, I might have been one of the craziest.  It wouldn’t have taken much to become one of the highway statistics.

And so, the thought occurred to me  Was I ready?  Was I prepared?  I certainly wasn’t off eating and drinking, or beating the servants like the steward in the parable.  But I was preoccupied, and maybe not as vigilant as the Lord was suggesting.

What makes us prepared for God’s visit at any and all times?  Well, Paul gives us a hint in his message to the Corinthians.  There he compliments the Corinthians for being responsive to their call; for their Faith in the message of Jesus Christ; for acting on the Grace that had been conferred on them as a result; and for being rich in “spiritual gifts”.  That’s what we all need to do too- to have faith, act on it, and to use the spiritual gifts that we have.

Then, we will be ready at any and all times for the coming of the Lord.