Archive for December, 2017

On Being Greater Than John he Baptist

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Thursday of Second Week of Advent
Is 41:13-20; Mt 11: 11-15
Deacon Larry Brockman

So, the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist!

But, you see, it was Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that opened the kingdom of Heaven to mankind. So, all the great Old Testament Saints- the Patriarch’s, Prophets, and the other figures of the Old Testament had to wait until Christ paved the way to the Kingdom of God in order for them to enter it. Clearly, all those who have entered the Kingdom of God are better off.

And so Jesus is continuing the theme of Advent that something new is about to happen. The days of Old Covenant are over; the waiting is over. The message of expectation of the Messiah is at an end; and with the coming of the Messiah, a better place will become available for all of us. John the Baptist symbolically fulfills the return of Elijah to announce the Lord’s coming and the day of the Lord. This prophecy came from the last lines in the very last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi.

And yet, elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is already amongst us! How can this be?

Well, Jesus the Messiah was amongst the people of his day. Jesus had eternal life living within him, and his death, Resurrection, and Ascension opened the Kingdom of God to all of us who follow in faith by doing God’s will. That opening was symbolized by the tearing of the veil from top to bottom in the Temple at the moment of Jesus Death. You see, the veil was used to keep everyone out of the holy sanctuary in the Temple except for one day a year when only the High Priest entered to offer a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people of Israel. But the veil was permanently torn at Jesus death. This symbolized the fact that all are now able to enter the Holy Sanctuary, the dwelling place of the most High God, by following after Jesus footsteps. We do that by believing in Jesus and by taking up our crosses and following his example of doing God’s will. Anyone who does this will be greater than all those who have not entered the Kingdom of God.

Notice that God has also told us that he will help us. Recall Isaiah’s words in the first reading. Twice he says: “I will help you, says the Lord.” He will give us the tools to break down mountains and crush them. Yes, Jesus gave is the Holy Spirit and the treasures of his graces in the Sacraments to help us combat whatever mountains get in our way.

Today we are being called to take heart, to listen to the prophecy of the coming of the Lord from Malachi, Elijah, and John the Baptist. We are called to take advantage of the spiritual help the Lord has made available to us because something new is about to happen- the Christ Child is coming, and the Gospel, the good news of Jesus life is about to be played out. In it can be found the way, the truth, and the light. And all those who follow it are guaranteed a place in the Kingdom of God. All those who follow have the potential to be greater than the Prophets, for our salvation is amongst us. Alleluiah

For Those Who Are Looking for a Change

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Second Sunday of Advent
Is 40: 1-5, 9-11; 2 Peter 3: 8-14; Mk 1: 1-8
Deacon Larry Brockman

Picture this scene in your mind. Israel has been ravished serially by Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, and Roman conquests over some 500 years. But now, there is a period of great calm in the Roman Empire and the Israeli provinces. The Romans are very tolerant of other Religions, and have even granted some local autonomy to the Jews. And so, with peace, prosperity has come to Israel. And yet, there is just something not quite right. People feel some kind of emptiness, lack of purpose, anxiety, or depression. They are looking for something else.

And so, as the Gospel tells us, large numbers of people from Judea and Jerusalem are going out into the desert to see and hear what John the Baptist has to say. He is a voice crying in the desert, He tells them to repent and make way for the coming of the Lord. His message must have resonated with the people who were looking for something better. because they went back and encouraged others to come out- hence large numbers came out

We are a people who have been ravaged by several world wars and other wars over the last 150 years. We have also enjoyed a period of relative calm and prosperity following those wars. We have a government very tolerant of all beliefs. And yet, there is something missing in our age as well, isn’t there?

There are many signs of the problem- people addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, Facebook, cell phones, TV, sports, gossip, you name it. And yet, none of these addictions truly satisfies them. Many folks tell me their time is fully occupied, and yet as soon as the fast pace lets up, they tell me they are bored or unsatisfied. And so, our society seeks out psychiatrists, self-help programs, new age religious movements and cults; They try miracle diets, physical and mental exercise programs and other movements all aimed at making a change for the better.

Doesn’t this means we are already essentially flocking to the desert to hear voices crying in the wilderness? We are looking for something new. But are we really feeling better? Have we found what we are looking for?

Well, it is time to come back, to come back to what has worked for nearly 2000 years- our Christian roots. Every year, the Church gives us that opportunity at Advent to the Christian voice of one crying in the wilderness, calling for repentance of sins, and making a place for the coming of the Lord.

Albert Einstein once said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. So guess what- more of the same won’t work. Perhaps that’s what was so attractive about John the Baptist to the first century Jews. The establishment taxed their prosperity and built a lavish new temple. But they went to the desert to hear a revolutionary preacher. They were tired of the establishment telling them how to keep the letter of the law, and things were very much about the world because of the secular emphasis of the Romans.

John told them that something new was coming, something that would change everything. A savior was coming who would show them the way to a new way of life, a way of life that would lead to everlasting peace and happiness in the Kingdom of God.

Now, we hear from Peter’s epistle this morning that the second coming of Christ could come at any time. Indeed, any of us could be called from this life at any time. We need to be ready; we need to be prepared for the coming of the Lord. And true happiness here can be summed up as an inner peace that we are ready for that second coming. That comes when we are focused on God’s will for us, just as Jesus was focused on God’s will for him.

So this morning, let us all resolve to take advantage of the next two weeks to get ready for the Lord. Set aside the things of this world that interfere with the voice crying in the wilderness, and seek out something new.

Perhaps a little prayer would help: “Lord, prepare a path in our hearts for the coming of your Word. Let his glory be revealed among us as we live that Word. Bring low the mountains of our pride, and fill up the valleys of our weaknesses. Break down the walls of hatred that divide us, and make level the paths to peace in our families and nation. May we change our lives to live your will, now and forever, Amen.”

Trusting in the Eternal Rock

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Thursday of First Week of Advent
Is 26: 1-6; Mt 7: 21, 24-27
Deacon Larry Brockman

“Trust in the Lord Forever! For the Lord is an eternal rock.” Now that’s the kind of foundation we should all seek for our lives. It’s the kind of foundation Jesus is describing in his parable. It sounds very straightforward, doesn’t it? Trusting in the Lord and making God’s word our foundation.

But you know what? In the heat of the battle, we need to make decisions daily. And we are constantly confronted with uncertainties. It always seems that “It depends” and “it’s all relative”. But you see, in order to make good decisions in situations calling for discretion, our foundation just has to be rock solid, otherwise, we falter and don’t know what to do.

How do we make our foundation solid? Well, we not only need to know what is right and wrong, but we need to know them well enough to survive “it depends” and “it’s all relative” situations. And we need to know where we are going with our lives, and why. We need focus in order to eliminate our uncertainty.

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We all learned that in school. So what we are really talking about is making God the foundation for our edifice, our whole selves. And we need to make decisions with both our head and our hearts, that whole self. So it’s not just knowing the word of God and what the Church teaches that constitutes our foundation. We also have to feel what is right and wrong from the depths of our being. That comes with intimacy with God. We not only need to know about God, but we need to know Him like a friend.

Sounds pretty demanding, building our foundation on the Lord, doesn’t it? That’s why Jesus said we need to act on his words. Acting on his words is not just listening; and it is not even limited to taking them to heart. It means more than that. It means making a permanent commitment to the Lord. We need to be tied to him as any house is tied to its foundation.

These readings are so appropriate because Advent is our opportunity to make a difference in how we live our lives each year as we prepare for the two comings of Jesus Christ. Yes, we are preparing for the coming of the Christ Child. And that is important because the incarnation, the fact that God sent His son to live as one of us in a human body, is what distinguishes Christianity from other religions. God became one of us and showed us the way to eternal life through the story of his life- the Gospel. We need to be ready to follow him and seek the Kingdom of God as our focus.

But we must also be ready for the second coming. That will happen for all of us at the moment of death. And that could come at any time. So we can’t waver from our path; we need an even more rock solid foundation to our faith for that. That comes from a close relationship with God : through our prayer life. It comes from putting God’s will first in our life. It comes from building our confidence that we know the right thing to do.

Let me suggest that we get off the high speed rail of life for a couple of weeks, and to use some time to firm up our foundations. Make a plan for the coming year to learn more about your Faith and your Lord. And then put it into practice. Let go and trust in God’s mighty hand in the years to come.

Yes, trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal rock.

It’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

First Sunday of Advent
Is 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7; 1 Cor 1: 3-9; Mk 13: 33-37
Deacon Larry Brockman

Today, we are being called to a frame of mind in our scriptures, a frame of mind that makes you ever comfortable that no matter when the Lord comes, we are ready for the second coming of Christ. It is not so much a call to stop everything and get ready for the moment when He comes because the scriptures tell us we don’t know when that is. But rather, it is a call to be ready for any moment that he comes, now and for the rest of your life. So it is a way of life Jesus is asking us to live.

In the first reading, Isaiah longs for the coming of a savior who will do great works. He had this hope, because the Israeli people had not followed the Lord. He thought that if only people were sent a savior who did mighty works, then they would believe and follow him.

Then Isaiah said that the Lord is the potter, and the people are the clay. And that people need to let the potter form them. The potter forms each person into a specific role that complements the other believers in the community. They worship together; they reinforce each other’s faith and they evangelize others together.

Such a Messiah never came in Isaiah’s day. But he came in the person of Jesus Christ much later. Christians are the beneficiaries of that first coming, with the magnificent miracles worked by Jesus in the Gospel.

Paul praises the Corinthians for putting Faith into practice. For he tells them they were “enriched in every way” as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among them, and that “they are not lacking in any spiritual gift as they wait for the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.” As a result, He tells them they are called to eternal fellowship with Jesus Christ- that was their destiny. You see, the Corinthians were a community that heard the story of Jesus and believed in the miracles and the Resurrection. The Corinthians worked together to accomplish God’s plan. In their age, that plan was to spread the faith to the wider community through word and deed. They did that by showing everyone that they believed and they did it by mirroring the love and joy of Christ. And so Christianity spread like wildfire.

So it is to be with us. The Eucharistic celebration is a visible symbol of our commitment to the Church to be an active member of a believing community, a community that worships together, reinforces each other’s beliefs, and carries those beliefs to the greater community by evangelizing in word and deed.

We need to be formed by the Lord as a potter forms the clay to fulfill our roles in that community. We need to work together as the Church to mirror the joy and love of Christ to those around us. If we do all that, then we will be ready for Jesus second coming at any time because of the inner peace of doing God’s will continuously.

Advent is our time to prepare for the coming of Christ child, right. But our society has lost sight of what that means. Instead we have “Holiday Trees”; “Holiday Cards”; and “Holiday Parties” But this is Christianity’s feast- we are getting ready for a Christian Holy Day, one that rejoices over the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man. The Incarnation shows how intimate God became with us, and by following after Jesus through the Gospel, we have been promised everlasting life in heaven. Our role as a believing community of Christians is to celebrate and rejoice over the coming of Christ. We shouldn’t hide it or disguise it; we should actively show it.

And so let us celebrate Christmas the way it was intended to be celebrated, proclaiming to the secular, politically correct World around us, that it’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays; and that we are celebrating the great mystery of our faith, the joyful coming of God made man, Jesus Christ!

Merry Christmas..