Archive for November, 2019

What Does It Mean for Christ to be King?

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Christ The King

2 Sam 5: 1-3; Col 1: 12-20; Luke 23: 35-43

Deacon Larry Brockman

Christ the King!  That means Christ is not the President; not the Prime Minister; not the Emperor-  e is none of these other things.   Rather, He is a King.  You see, He is not elected by either the people, like a President, or by the leaders, like a prime minister; nor is He the leader by virtue of conquest like an Emperor.  Rather, He is chosen and anointed by God the Father.   

Now at first blush, the difference may not mean a lot to you.  But when you really think about it, well, being a King versus any of those other things is quite profound.    You see, being the King means that Christ is sovereign.  He is above all else and first and foremost as Paul says.  No one else either compares to Him nor can they ever compare to Him.  Rather, He is all of the things that Paul talks about in the letter to the Colossians. 

Christ is not King by virtue of acceptance by the people or the leaders of the people or by conquest.  That’s why David was anointed King.  But it is different with Christ.  He is the absolute King not subject to any other authority- not to the people, the leaders, or conquered slaves.   

The fact that Christ the King is above everything else implies that God’s creation is a hierarchy.  We know that there are angels and that angels are in a hierarchy.  We don’t know what else God created outside of our universe.  But the rest of creation in our Universe has levels within it; it is a hierarchy.  To drive that message home, God created hierarchies all over the place for us to see.  The animal Kingdom is a hierarchy; the plant kingdom is a hierarchy.   Even the Universe is a hierarchy of galaxies with dependent stars with planets subject to them.  So, we know the Kingdom of God to be a hierarchy as well.  

Now we are used to the phrase that “All men are created equal”.  But you know what- that is not really true if everything is a hierarchy, is it?  What is true is that God created each one of us as He saw fit.  God does not create junk; so everything He created is good, and everything he created was created for a purpose.  God uniquely “gifted” each of us with the life that we have in the times that we were born into; we are all pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle that is in God’s mind.   

We are all of equal value to God; but that doesn’t mean that we are all created with equal value in our frame of reference because God made some of us more talented than others in the eyes of our peers.   

You see, the reality of who we really are is only known to God.  We are like icebergs floating on the sea to the world.  To God, he sees all of us, including the potential we will have in the Kingdom of God; the only thing the world sees is the part that sticks above the surface.   God sees the part below the surface as well.   

Now I mention all of this because we need to be good subjects.  We need to recognize Christ as the King, like the so-called good thief in the Gospel rather than scoff at God and his ways like the bad thief did.  Good subjects submit to their King without question.  They do the will of the King at all times and they accept the role they were given without coveting something more for themselves.   

In return, like any good sovereign, the King will protect and serve His loyal subjects and provide for their common good.  But God is so much more than the best of benevolent Kings from of old, that His subjects will enjoy everlasting happiness and joy.

Life is about learning to live the life God intended for us; to be happy with the gifts and blessings that we have; learning to avoid comparing ourselves to others; and learning to share for the common good.  Life is about becoming loyal subjects of Christ the King.  If we trust Him and submit to Him; ultimate happiness will be ours our forever. 

The Wisdom of God is the Spirit!

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

Wis 7: 22b-8:1,Luke 17: 20-25

Deacon Larry Brockman

Some people say that the Holy Spirit is not in the Old Testament.  But today we hear more about the nature of the Holy Spirit than in any place else in the Bible.  We hear about an “intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, agile, and clear” spirit.  Isn’t that just magnificent!

And the author goes on and on with other attributes as well.    We would all do well to read and reread this first reading.  It would greatly assist all of us in understanding when we are influenced by the Holy Spirit as opposed to other spirits which are constantly attacking us, suggesting how we can feed our desires and self rather than get close to God.  Daily we are accosted by these evil spirits who urge us in various ways.  They tell us; “If it feels good, do it”; “What about something just for me”; and “Don’t be bothered by that” when our conscience haunts us.   

But the Wisdom that the Holy Spirit infuses in us helps us to be in harmony with God.  And harmony with God brings joy, an everlasting joy.   

Now this reading is paired with Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees on the Kingdom of God.  Jesus has been talking about the Kingdom of God as he journeyed through Galilee and Judea.  But the audience didn’t get it   Even after all the parables on the Kingdom of God, parables we have been hearing for the last several weeks, they just didn’t get it. The Pharisees didn’t get it either.  They all just didn’t get it.  I’m not sure we all get it.   

So, Jesus tries again.  He says “The Kingdom of God is not something you can see”; and “The Kingdom of God is amongst us”.  How can both of these be true? 

Indeed, we live in a world that is shared by the people of God and the people of this world.  The two factions don’t live in harmony but are in constant friction.   

For some, life is all about themselves; it’s all about getting whatever satisfaction they can out of this world while life lasts.  These people are inspired by the spirit of evil that rejects God’s spirit and urges folks to live for themselves.  They are rewarded by comfort, pleasure, money, power, things, whatever the world has to offer. Their goal is always to be happy and avoid suffering in this world.   

Others are honestly trying to listen to God.  They are looking for God’s will for them and they are prompted by true “Wisdom”, which come from the Spirit of God, the kind of Wisdom we hear about in the first reading.  These people are rewarded by a feeling of satisfaction infused by God when they are in harmony with God.  That satisfaction is something that lasts forever.    They suffer, work, sacrifice, and love unconditionally. They experience feelings of joy and satisfaction instead of comfort and the world’s happiness, like the feeling you get from nurturing your children, helping someone else in need, or taking care of an aged parent  despite the pain and discomfort one incurs in the process.   These are the “Holy Moments” that Matthew Kelly talked about in the book we all got last Easter.   

And so, the Kingdom of God is amongst us, and co-exists with the World as we know it.  It is not something that can be seen.  But it is something we can all experience.  

When that flash of lightning occurs when we pass from this world to the next the sheep will be separated from the goats,   And we will follow Jesus with the rest of his flock into the Kingdom of God, all those who are filled with the Spirit of God. 

The Beatitudes As a Way of Life

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

Westminster Towers Ecumenical Service

Matthew 5: 1-12

Deacon Larry Brockman

Well, did all of you enjoy your Halloween last Friday!  Was this place full of carved pumpkins, pumpkin spice latte, spooky skeletons, and costume parties?  Did you know that Halloween is now the second largest holiday in the US?    But do you also know what Halloween is really all about? 

Well more than a thousand years ago, in the 600’s, Pope Boniface IV decided that Christians needed a day to honor the dead saints.  He called it “All Hallows Day” and it began the night before on “All Hallows Eve.”  That morphed into Halloween.    In the 900’s, the date was moved from May 13 to November 1st by Pope Gregory III.  That’s because the Europeans were used to honoring the dead at the beginning of the Winter period.  Originally, the people were encouraged to dress up to look like the different saints in the church.  These were the original Halloween costumes.   

But there were still a lot of pagans around and it seems they also honored their dead around the same time.  On or about that time of the year, they believed that the ghosts of the dead arose and they could walk about amongst us.   

So society has unfortunately merged what was a wonderful tribute to the saints with some of these old pagan customs including dressing up like witches and ghosts and heaven knows what all!   

Today, I want to talk to you about the saints, not all the hype about Halloween.  Because that’s what all All Saints Day is really about and that’s what all of us are interested in, right.  Like the famous song, “When the Saints Go Marching In”, says: “I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in” \ and I’m sure all of you do too.   

It happens that when our different churches celebrate All Saints Day on November 1,they all pretty much use the same bible readings.  Our Gospel reading today is one of them, the Beatitudes.  But one of the other readings is from Revelation 7,which describes the gathering of all of the saints in heaven in these words:  “After this I had a vision of a great multitude which no-one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb’”. 

Yes, all the saints are gathered around God and his throne in heaven.  And I am sure all of us want to be in that number when we die.   

But let me ask this.  Just what is a saint?  We have Saints like Joseph and Peter and Paul and all the Apostles.  They were all called to a very special life directly. And we have Saints like Francis, Ignatius of Loyola, Dominic, and Anthony of the desert; and Saints like Theresa of Calcutta and Theresa of Lisieux and Catherine of Sienna.  They heard God’s call; gave up everything, and I mean everything, and dedicated the rest of their lives to God.  And we have Saints like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Jerome who did wonderful things in preaching and teaching and putting the bible together.  The Church recognizes all these people for their special holiness and they were all honored by being named saints.   

But is that what it means to be a saint?  Is that what we have to do to be in that number, something truly exceptional?  Do we all have to give up everything and dedicate our lives to prayer and the Lord.   

Now I know that all of us here are making an honest effort to seek and live by God’s will, but that’s not what I mean.  I mean do we have to be people who separate from society like the people mentioned above did, giving up family and everything else, in order to be saints.    And then consider this.  Do any of us feel a little uneasy or guilty when you read about some of these saints because you have not done something exceptional?  Especially all of us here who are a little older and most of our life has happened?     

Well, you should know that a saint is any person who lives a holy and righteous life.  All those in heaven are saints, not just those our churches honor with the special title.  Saints hear the will of God for themselves and live their lives accordingly.  Most saints are regular folks just like you and me.   

In fact, I think it is important to recognize that man’s primary calling on earth comes from Genesis.  It was given right after man was created and right after the first man was blessed.  In Genesis 1:28, God said “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.”  That’s what almost all of us are called to do.  We are called to married life, to have children, and to be fruitful.   

Most of us don’t have any problem at all with the multiply part, do we?  But what does it really mean to be fruitful?  Well, fruitful is the means by which we “subdue the earth”.  We are fisherman, farmers, soldiers, policeman, engineers, teachers, nurses, caretakers, musicians, artists, whatever.  We are what makes the world go around and provide for food, water, shelter, entertainment and the well-being of our brothers and sisters.  The world cannot exist without us; neither can God’s will be accomplished.  We are responding to the specific talents and gifts and interests and environment we were born into.  That’s what most of us were called to do.   

Sometimes we feel inspired to pursue things of interest to us, and we do;  God fills our lives with circumstances that we must deal with; and we do  But most of us have not heard a special call like the ones the named saints above heard.  And that is OK.   

You see, God doesn’t make junk.  God lovingly formed each and every one of us.  It was his will to place us in this time and place, and with the people we were placed with.  And God showed no favorites in his creative mode.  He gives each of us our unique talents, and judges each of us one-on-one based on what we have done with them.  We are not compared with anyone else.   

And that brings us to our Gospel today.  You see, just like there will be a great crowd gathered around the throne in heaven as in the description in Revelation; there was a great crowd gathered around Jesus in our Gospel reading.  Jesus gave all of those folks in the crowd, the ordinary people, the saints in the making, their marching orders.  We know those marching orders as the Beatitudes.  They instruct us on what we should do rather than should not do, which the Mosaic law emphasized.  Let’s look at each one carefully.  

Let us recognize that the words blessed and happy are both used, depending on the translation.  So, when one is blessed, they are truly righteous with God, and at the same time, they are happy.   

First, we hear, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  Now it is easy to focus on the word “poor” here.  But it is “poor in spirit”, not financially poor Jesus is talking about.  All kinds of commentary has been written about this.  And the general sense is that Jesus is referring to people who defer in spirit.  The poor in spirit are those who recognize their own limitations. Their focus is not on letting their own spirit dominate them as if they were a god unto themselves.  Rather, we must all come to recognize that our life force is a free gift from God.  And so we need to defer our spirit and our inclinations to the will of God to fully experience that gift.  We will be happier if we defer to God’s spirit because we will not lust after the things of this world.  They cannot bring us ultimate happiness; only God can do that.  For those who are poor in spirit, the kingdom of God is theirs.  And that is the happiness we all ultimately seek.   

Next, “Blessed are they who mourn”.  This seems strange at first but think of it this way.  Virtually all of us strive for the right thing, but somehow fall short.  That is something to mourn about.  It is a recognition of our own humanity; our own limitations.  Try as we might, we fail in some ways of weakness over and over.  But it is important that we recognize that, and so mourn over it.  Jesus is telling us that if we are sincere in our mourning, we will be comforted.  It’s the same as our relationship with children, isn’t it?  No matter how many times they mess up, we are there to comfort them and tell them it will be OK.   

Then, “Blessed are the meek”.  Those who are meek quietly submit to the will of the Lord.  When God points them in a direction, they go that way- like the person who must care for a sick child or an elderly parent.  Such people may be besieged by lots of influences and temptations along the way, but they quietly hold fast to their calling.  They will inherit the land,  This is as if to say that even though some of the things of the world seemed to pass them by   while they held firm to their purpose, ultimately they will inherit “the land”, a place with the Lord.  And that is what is really important.   

Now true Christians not only follow their instincts on what the Lord is calling them to do, but they also seek God, they are proactive.  So “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied”.  Indeed, those who seek God spiritually in prayer will be rewarded.  And this also applies to hungering and thirsting for justice.  So, we cannot be complacent in a largely secular world.  We have to be meek; but we also have to hold firm and seek justice for ourselves and others.  Jesus is telling us we will be rewarded for our efforts if we do.   

I am pleased that after the many years of right-to-life activity here in Orlando the proactive pressure worked, because the Planned Parenthood clinic on Tampa Avenue closed.  This was Justice for the most vulnerable members of society- the unborn.   

And in the midst of all of the trials of life, each of us has been hurt- hurt by family members, employers, neighbors and friends.  Just as we expect God to be merciful to us in the face of our failings, so also we need to be merciful to those who offend and hurt us.  Hence, “Blessed are the merciful”.  In a sense, those who are merciful achieve a special level of happiness.  Because they let go, rather than hang on to anger and hurt.  Holding on to anger and hurt never makes one happy.  Jesus says that merciful people will receive mercy.  Indeed, God is merciful to those who show mercy to others.   

Next we have “Blessed are the clean of heart”.  Ah, yes, the heart.  Where your heart is, so also is your treasure.  The heart is how we really feel about things.  It’s where our real relationship with God is.  We cannot hide or deceive God, who knows what is in our hearts.  And things that derail the purity of our hearts are lusts for things of this world like power, money, relationships, things.  If these are the focus of our hearts, rather than our relationship with God, then God knows it.  Also, people would be uncomfortable looking into the eyes of an all good God in the face of their own impurity.  But those who are pure of heart are ready to see God.  

 “Blessed are the peacemakers”.  That’s a really tough role, isn’t it, being a peacemaker.  We all tend to want our side; understanding how to defer to another is hard.  And for those things that go on around us, well, it’s prudent to just stand by and let other people deal with a situation.  Why get involved?  Well, because we are called to be peacemakers- in our families, in our jobs, in our community.    When people know you are the real thing; if they know that you are pure of heart and not biased, then they will honor you when you fill the role of peacemaker.  

Those who are peacemakers are truly the children of God, they are a reflection of God himself, projecting love and a true spirit of kindness., just like their Father.   

And lastly, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness” or “for my sake”.  Indeed, a real Christian cannot go through life without being attacked by the devil and his minions.  It’s a multi-pronged attack of ridicule, insult, avoidance, pain, suffering, and all kinds of evil.  Because when you are doing the right thing, you are an obstruction to the plans of those who run the world.     

But the reality of life is that all of us will suffer.  Jesus Christ suffered a horrible passion and death for the sake of his Father and for the sake of righteousness.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called and destined to experience the same.  But this life is only a stepping-stone to eternity.  And those who hold firm will be rewarded with the Kingdom of God.   

Earlier this week I visited a man in the hospital who had a horrible disease.  He was a man of great faith.  He was covered with festering sores all over his body and was in constant pain- pain that no medication could control.  This condition has lasted now for 2 years.  He knows he will not survive; but he is having a problem dealing with the pain and the effect on his family.  I could do nothing but pray for him, this modern-day Job.   But then I suggested he offer it up to God and told him he would constantly be in my prayers.   

In one way or another, all of us have to deal with pain and suffering.  It is part of life; and its duration can be indeterminate.  God tests those he loves; and sometimes we cannot know why.  But the Kingdom of God is there for all who endure this suffering with dignity and grace.  And that Kingdom will be ours for ever and ever.   

And so, the Beatitudes are a script for those of us who live normal lives.  Se are all called by God to do his will and to live life to the fullest.  God loves each of us.  None of us has been favored by God when he created us.  Rather, we were all created in his image and likeness, and each one for our own special life with our own talents and limitations.  Some people are called by God for special tasks.  But the overwhelming majority of us are called to “Be fruitful and multiply.”   

When Jesus Christ looked out over the massive crowd in Galilee, some 5000 families, He preached to them how they should live their lives.  He preached the Beatitudes to them.  It is Jesus’ script for how they could be happy and achieve everlasting life with him.  And it is just as applicable to us today.