Archive for December, 2018

The Two Eve’s

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

Immaculate Conception

Gen 3: 9-15, 20; Eph 1: 3-6, 11-12; Luke 1: 26-38

Deacon Larry Brockman

I recently saw a painting by the famous artist Fra Angelico which showed the Annunciation scene taking place on a portico, one which overlooked a beautiful garden.  It would have been much like the Garden of Eden scene from our first reading! 

Picture these two women- the first Eve and the second Eve, each one sitting alone in the midst of a beautiful Garden.  Both women were approached and entered into a dialogue.  Let’s ponder their stories for a moment.   

The first Eve must have been deep in thought, maybe even prayerful thought; considering all that God had told her and Adam about the Garden of Eden.  And there it was too, right in front of her, the object of her musing- the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  God had told her not to eat its fruit lest she die.  Her visitor could read her mind and he cleverly lied to her;  And he did so in the way most evil is presented in this world- under the guise of something good:  “Oh, that fruit looks good to eat; surely you will not die”; and “God knows that if you eat that fruit you will be like him”!   

So clever- because in fact his answers were half-truths.  The fruit was good to taste and eat; she did not die physically immediately; and lastly, she did acquire knowledge that only God had before that- the knowledge of good and evil.  But what price did she pay for this act of disobedience?  Well, God the Father banishes Eve and her husband from Paradise.   

And all of us, generation after generation of Adam and Eve’s ancestors, are born into this world with the stain of that original sin- the sin of pride, of seeking self-sufficiency.  Because that’s what it was at the roots, wasn’t it?  The serpent, the devil, appealed to Eve’s sense of self- “you can be like God”.  Or another way of saying it would be “You won’t need God any more”.   

I suppose that it has been the same way throughout time.  Mankind would like to think that they have all the answers.  There are folks who believe we know how everything evolved and how everything works.  They say we can even clone ourselves, genetically alter our race; and decide who lives and dies and when.  It’s scary; but it is the logical extension of Eve’s sin.  And it is happening all around us in today’s world.  Our culture teaches us that we can control our own destiny, we don’t need God.   

The truth is, we are better off with God in control.  God made everything and He seeks our cooperation in implementing his plan for how everything evolves.  That’s what he had hoped for in the first Adam and Eve: partners who would help him with His plan.  But instead, sin entered the world through the first Adam and Eve.   

And then came along the second Eve- Mary.  We find her sitting outside overlooking a beautiful garden as well.  Mary was also probably in prayerful thought.  A young, vibrant teenager with the world an open door for her.  But along comes a visitor, the angel Gabriel.  His message is absolutely astounding.  Mary is told she has found favor with God!  Yes, Mary was born without the stain of Original sin- she was and is the Immaculate Conception.  Mary had not sinned to that point and was sinless thereafter.  And so Mary found favor with God.    

But even more than that, Mary was told she would conceive and bear a son; and that her son would be the Son of God. 

Imagine what any teenage girl’s response likely would be!  “What, me!  I want to become a doctor; or I want to get married and have a family; or wait a while, I want to go off and see the world first.”  But Mary agrees to do the will of God as she says:  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done unto me according to your word.”   

And there you have it, the very strong contrast between the first Eve and the second Eve- the difference between putting ones self first, and putting God first.   

Each of us is challenged with the same choice daily in our lives.  In fact, every time we pray, God is there first ready to talk to us about his plan going forward for us- never mind the past.  But are we ready to listen?   

Advent is that special time of the year when we are given time to pause and listen to God so that we will be ready for Jesus’ coming.  This morning, St. Paul summarizes our situation very well when he says: “…We were chosen, destined, in accord with the purpose of the one who accomplishes all things according to his will so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,  We who first hoped in Christ.”   

Remember that always when you pray.  You were chosen to do God’s will so that you might exist for the praise of God’s glory.  That’s what life is all about. 

Abundance in Need

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Is 25: 6-10a; Mt 15: 29-37

Deacon Larry Brockman

Well, it’s that time of year again, the “Holiday Season”.  Yes, our secular society has morphed our wonderful Christmas celebration into a “Holiday Season”.  And our holidays are characterized with an abundance- an abundance of good cheer, food, parties, cookies and presents.  It’s as if an abundance of pleasure is what the spirit of Christmas is all about.   

Well, believe it or not, today’s readings are all about the abundance of God’s blessings.  And that’s something we should all want- an abundance of God’s blessings.  However, our Christian concept of abundance is better matched to the real meaning of Christmas than the abundance we hear about in secular society.   

In today’s Gospel, we first hear about the working of many miracles- many of the lame, the deformed, the blind, and the mute are healed.  And then, Jesus feeds 4000 people with a few loaves and fish.  By the way, this is not the feeding of the 5000.  That incident came earlier in the Gospel.  No, this is actually a second incident of mass feeding of a crowd.  Clearly, Jesus abundantly heals, and Jesus abundantly provides food for the hungry- so much so that there were seven baskets left over; and that’s seven baskets more than they began with!  That is real abundance.   

These gifts of healing and daily bread are signs of God’s intention to bless his people with abundance.  We have only to ask sincerely, as Jesus did, and God will provide for our needs.  Because, you see, God is the ultimate Santa Claus!  God always gives to others without expecting anything in return.   

Now notice that Jesus’ actions in today’s Gospel are characterized by one common factor-  Genuine Need.  The lame and deformed and blind and sick had a genuine need; and the crowd which hadn’t eaten for three days had a genuine need as well.  It is God’s will that His people be healthy and that their basic needs be met with abundance.  God will answer our prayers for such needs- and with abundance.   

But that is not the same thing as wanting something even if we ask for it in prayer.  Because there is often a difference between something we want and something we need.  In fact, God frequently gives us what we need rather than what we want when we pray.  That can be a real problem for us- because we think we know what we need and so, that is what we ask for.  But God loves us so much that he will respond to us with abundance for what we really need.  God is the best judge of that.   

I propose we all try something a little different this year for Christmas.  Let us compose our Christmas lists a little differently.  Let us ask God for what we really need, rather than what we want.   

Perhaps a little quiet time to reflect on how you can change your life for the better next year.  Or to help develop a skill that helps others.    Perhaps you can anticipate a real need by one of your loved ones, and that can be your gift to them.  Maybe some quality time together with a neglected family member.  Or Giving up time with the game controller and interacting with your siblings instead.   

Our first reading talks about God’s ultimate gift to all of us- everlasting life in paradise.  Then, we will be provided with a rich, never ending feast that meets all of our needs and wants.  But we’re not there yet.    While we live this life, our goal should be to love others as Jesus did.  God gave the world his only son, Jesus, at Christmas.  Jesus gave abundantly of his talent and fed thousands in the miracles.  His focus was on giving abundantly to meet real needs.  His focus was on fulfilling God’s plan.  And he achieved salvation for us all by doing so.  That is ultimate happiness and self-fulfillment.   

Maybe we should try the same thing- giving of ourselves.  It might make us happier than all the wants we can think of! 

The End of Our World!

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

First Sunday of Advent

Jer 33: 14-16; 1 Thes 3: 12 – 4:2; Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today Jesus talks about “Signs in the sun, the moon, the stars, and on the earth…”, and so on.   Sounds mysterious, scary, intimidating, fearful and so ominous.   It certainly gets our attention, doesn’t it?   And it begs the question, “what does it all really mean”?     

But then comes the punch line:   Because Jesus tells us that when we see these things coming, we should: “Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand”.      Well, rather than try to explain the end of the world with this passage, let’s narrow the scope a little, and just consider what could happen at the end of our own world.     

But first, let me tell you a little story.   I was coming home from Seattle last week and felt just fine when I got on the plane.   Shortly after the plane took off, I started to shake like a leaf, break out with a fever and sweat, and felt sore all over.   I was coming down with an infection, a UTI to be exact.   I put on my winter jacket, which had come to good use in Seattle.   But even that didn’t keep me warm.   And I was forced to make six or seven painful trips to the lavatory.   Suddenly, there it was, I was facing a miserable trip of 6 straight hours on a plane.   It felt like the sun and the moon and the stars and the whole earth were falling on me for all six hours.   I’m not sure how I ever made it through the flight.   It could well have been the end to my world.     

In fact, it has taken me almost a week of bedrest to feel better.   And I was actually checked into the hospital at one point.   It seems the infection caused me to gain massive quantities of water weight in my limbs and it was taxing my heart; a life-threatening condition.     

This incident reminded me of just how fragile life is.   At any time, everything can close in on top of you, just like the opening words in our Gospel today described.   At any time, life can be taken from us.   So, maybe these words of Jesus are a signal for all of us to consider our own journey. and to recognize when our own worlds are caving in on us, with seemingly everything going out of our control.     

So now, let us then ask the question that Jesus poses.   Will we be ready to stand erect before God when that happens?     

Jesus says we should “beware that our hearts do not become drowsy”.  I had never really thought about that before- drowsy hearts.   But our hearts, the seat of our emotions, our commitment to the Lord, and our spiritual awareness; they can become drowsy by preoccupation with the things of the world.   Things like “anxieties of daily life”- illnesses, food, our daily routine, our leisure; or “drunkenness”- really any kind of addiction, like TV or the internet, or gossip.   When our hearts are drowsy, then our sensitivity to the love of God and others becomes dulled.    

If our whole world were to fall apart suddenly then and we find ourselves face to face with God, we won’t be ready, we will be scared of standing before the Lord.   But we are the fortunate ones, aren’t we?   Because we are God’s holy people, his Church.   We have followed the advice of Paul to the Thesallonians.   We have increased and abound in the love for one another.   And we are committed to conduct ourselves in such a way to please God.   That is what is on our minds, now, and going forward; even in the midst of the “tribulations that are imminent” in each life.     

When we can do this, keep our hearts alive in Christ, then we can stand before the Lord when he comes to us no matter how suddenly or dramatically it happens because we have maintained our focus.   We know what our hearts are seeking.   They are seeking to rest forever in the Lord.