Posts Tagged ‘Advent’

Ascending the Mountain of the lord

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

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

Deacon Larry Brockman

Two mountains; two feasts; and the mercy of God.  That’s what we heard about today in both readings today.   

The gospel story has both a literal and a symbolic meaning.  In a literal sense, we see that Jesus shows an incredible amount of mercy and compassion.  Not only does he heal all the blind, the sick, the deformed, the mute, and the lame brought to him; but he meets the bodily needs of the whole crowd whom he senses is famished after following him for days.  Jesus was always thinking of others, not himself.   

Just imagine how exhausted Jesus must have been.  After all, he was faced with a constant stream of desperate people for days; and yet the further away he travelled to get some peace; the more crowded it got; the more individuals he had to heal.  Finally, he ends up on the mountain with nowhere to go!.  Even after all that, His focus was on everybody else, not himself.     

Now human beings are limited in their capacity to show mercy and compassion.  And since Jesus was fully human, he was under those limitations   But this story gives us just a hint at the breadth and depth of the mercy and compassion of God.  Jesus, God made fully human, demonstrates mercy and compassion almost beyond human capacity in this story.  And yet God himself has no such limits.  That’s what the literal part of the gospel tells us.  It tells us to rejoice over the unlimited mercy and compassion of God.   

The gospel also has a symbolic meaning.  And that meaning is foretold in our first reading from Isaiah.  Isaiah has been called the Gospel of the Old Testament because it foretells so much about Jesus life and mission.   

Today’s first reading is an apocalyptic vision of “the mountain of God”, that is, the Holy City of Jerusalem in the Kingdom of God.  The feast with fine wines and rich foods is the heavenly reward of all those who enter its gates.  When the Lord Comes again, we are all hoping we will follow him into this final place of rest and satisfaction.  Death will be destroyed there, yielding everlasting life for its inhabitants.  There will be no tears, and all nations will live in harmony.  The reproach of the people will be removed; so, all sins will be forgiven.  And as Isaiah himself says “Behold our God to whom we looked to save us!”  So, we will all be in the presence of God.  This is the ultimate vision of the mercy and compassion of God; a vision of salvation and happiness for all those who are saved.  

Today’s gospel has all the same symbols-  the mountain symbolizes the Kingdom; the healing of all the infirmities symbolizes forgiveness of any and all of our brokenness; and the bread and fish symbolize nourishment for all by God himself.  Jesus is God made man and symbolizes our presence in the Kingdom with almighty God.   

We are in the early part of Advent.  We are all being called to joyful expectation of the Kingdom like the crowd in Jesus’ time,  We need to be desperate for healing; humble and contrite in our approach; and hungry for what really satisfies our hunger.  If we are, then we can joyfully anticipate the limitless mercy and compassion of Jesus when he comes; and the rich feast in the Holy City of Jerusalem will be ours! 

Advent is Like Being in Prison

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman

Expectation!  Advent is the 4 week long season of joyful expectation before Christmas.  So, the question is, what are we joyfully expecting?  What are you all charged up and waiting for in these four weeks?

Are you waiting for the arrival of a relative, perhaps Mom and Dad from Chicago or some other distant place, for a Christmas and New Year’s visit?  Perhaps you’re waiting on your son or daughter coming home from College?  Maybe it’s the latest doll or lego toy set or video game you’re expecting under the tree; or a new IPAD; or a new dress; or some designer Jeans?

But as nice as all of these things may be for us to expect, Advent and Christmas are not about waiting for any of those things.  Tonight we have carefully selected readings to guide you through the real meaning of what we are waiting for.  They tell the story of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  That means, they tell the story of how God sent His only son, Jesus, to become man, and take on our human nature.  And Jesus became intimate with us, living and experiencing life as we do.  He, though God, was not and is not, some distant, remote God who we cannot identify with.  No, He lived as one of us, suffered through life like all of us do; and died like all of us will.

Only he was resurrected, returned in glory, and promised all of us who believe the same glory.  That’s what is so special about Advent and Christmas- the realization that we will not just live this life; but, we will live forever with Jesus in glory if we believe and follow the Gospel message.

So, just what should our experience of this expectation for this four weeks of Advent really be then?

Some of you may be familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He was a Lutheran minister imprisoned and executed by the Nazis because he spoke out, and acted on his convictions.  This is what Bonhoeffer once wrote about Advent while in prison:  “Life in a prison cell reminds me a great deal of Advent.  One waits and hopes and putters around; but in the end, what we do is of little consequence.  The door is shut and it can only be opened from the outside”.

Amazing, isn’t it, how clear things can be when we are forced to reflect on them.  Bonhoeffer had no choice- he was imprisoned.  He had the time, and he took it, to reflect.  Bonhoeffer recognized that while we live this life, it is like we are in prison.  We are imprisoned by our limitations- our body constrains us in many ways.  But our minds constrain us even more.  We are constrained from recognizing the magnitude, the complexity, and fullness of the love of God and what He has in store for those who love him. So, the question is, when, and if, the door opened to the Kingdom of God.  Will you be ready for it?

You and I are so fortunate that we have Advent every year to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and to get ready for the Coming of Christ.  The Christ child is one coming- the coming that brings us the hope of eternal life.  But the second coming of Christ is also heralded during Advent.  It is that coming that all of us simply must be prepared for.  And so, what really matters is whether or not you are ready when that door opens; and that coming will happen for each and every one of us.

We can hope for and kind of anticipate the joy of living in glory forever with Jesus.  We do that in joy every Christmas day with the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  That’s why we gather around with our families and celebrate at Christmas; and we share gifts with each other to show that we understand what God did for us- the fact that God shared such a very special gift with us, te gift of His son.  And so, we shower special gifts on others as God showered his gift on us.

But the cold, hard, fact is that we are imprisoned here until that door opens with the Second Coming.  And so Advent is really about reflecting on whether we are prepared for the Second coming of the Lord so we can benefit from the hope and the promise of everlasting life.

Just what is God asking us to do to get ready for that?  He is asking us to think about where we are going in our lives.  He wants us to find and root out the things that are hindering us from that goal; and then repent of anything that is holding us back before it is too late.  Repentance is what we are all called to do in this four weeks; repentance, a basic change in our lives.  So we can truly live to see the full glory promised us by the Lord.

And we need four weeks because we are always so busy- busy getting ready for the joy that only really comes if we repent.  Not only that, it is hard to face the reality of who we really are and change that.  The devil tries to mask, to shield, to hide us from facing that reality.  We need time to break through and think it through- all of us.

As you leave here tonight, take with you the great and unbounded joy that eternal life in the Kingdom is yours.  But also take comfort in the fact that God has given all of you time- time to repent and find your way to use this Advent season wisely; to get ready for the Lord’s coming.

The End of the World For Us

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Thursday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time

Rev 18: 1-2, 21-23, 19: 1-3, 9a; Luke 21: 20-28

By Deacon Larry Brockman


Sounds so ominous, doesn’t it?  Both of these readings describe terrible images of suffering- pregnant women in agony and running to escape; evil beings caged in their filth forever; people dying by the sword; people dying of fright; the powers of heaven shaken.

I think it helps to put all this in context.  We are in a transition between the end of the Church year and the beginning of the Church year, Advent.  Advent heralds the coming of Christ.  But there are really two comings of Christ- the Nativity, and the Last Judgment.  The readings during the transition emphasize the Last Judgment, because the end of the year symbolizes the end of life.

Many of our Protestant brethren claim this is a literal prophecy of the second coming of Christ.  They then try to predict when and where all this will happen.  But most of the Catholic interpretations are different.  For example, the early Church Fathers who analyzed the scriptures in the 3rd through 6th centuries were pretty well in agreement that the events predicted by Jesus here and some of those in Revelation, were already fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD.  These events, they say, only have symbolic significance for what happens to those who are not saved at the Last Judgment.

On the other hand, take note of what Jesus says in verses 27 and 28.  “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand”.  Wow!  This is a wonderfully optimistic message for all of us.  Yes, we, those who are confident at the Last Judgment should stand erect because we will be about to experience our redemption and heavenly reward.

Later on in Luke Jesus tells people not to be drowsy because of preoccupation with things of this world, rather, they are to be alert and aware.  Certainly, if our attention, our focus, our priority is on something other than our salvation while we are alive; and we are not in tune with the Lord in our lives, then if we die unexpectedly; we will be startled by the immediate prospect of Christ’s coming amongst the clouds and approaching us for the Last Judgment.  And that’s really what this is all about.

Notice particularly that we should stand erect when all these things begin to happen.  So those negative things are happening to those who are afraid of Christ at the Last Judgment right from the beginning of their after life experience either because they don’t recognize Him and run away to their own devices; or they who know they have done evil.  But to those who are confident Christians, they have nothing to fear.

So, we should take comfort out of today’s readings, rather than fear, because as our Psalm says today:  “Good indeed is the LORD,  Whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age.

Being Prepared for the Coming of the Lord

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman


Christmas Cards, visits to Santa Claus, Christmas Cookies, Holiday Office Parties, Erecting the Christmas Tree, Putting up the Outside Lights, Buying everybody a gift, wrapping the gifts, cooking the Family celebration dinners, and lots more.  It’s all got to get done.  We’ve all got to do it.     

But wait a minute, where is Jesus in all this?  Well, that’s why we are here tonight-  to put Jesus back into Advent and Christmas.  Where do we begin?  Let’s first ask the question- Why do we do all this Christmas stuff?  Is it because it’s just part of the secular ritual of the season, is it because it’s what everybody does?  Or is there a better reason?  Well, how about this reason?  We do all this because of the joy we feel over the fact that God loved us so much he sent his only son into the world in human form- God incarnate as man, fully human and fully divine. 

Think about that- I mean really think about it.  For thousands of years before the birth of Jesus, people believed in some higher being or beings.  But, they were transcendent- that is, distant and separate from us, unapproachable.  There was no way we could relate directly to God.  And then, Jesus was born into the world.  Jesus was born as all of us are- in relative obscurity, in an ordinary way (and in his case, among poverty).  But, Jesus was born as both fully human and fully divine.  Here was the image of the one true God, no longer transcendent, but visible and available in a way that all of us could relate to- as one of us.  Gone was the transcendence that separated us from becoming close to God.  In other words, God became immanent to us- as openly available as any other person at the time.  Wow! What a great cause for joy.  Because now, after thousands of years of mystical conversations with a transcendent God, here was a manifestation of God we could touch and feel and relate to- a manifestation of God that had the same likes and dislikes, habits and needs, temptations, and limitations  as all of us. 

f that doesn’t bring joy, it should, because there is nothing else like it; no other earthly religion that guarantees it,  That God loved us so much that he showed himself as one of us.  And showed us that we could live a life that was pleasing to him even with all our limitations.    How do we know all this? 

Recognize first of all the promise- the promise in our first reading that a savior would be born,  and His name would be Immanuel- God Saves.  And then we were told where it would happen- in Bethlehem, in our second reading.  In our third reading, Paul unlocks for us the mystery of the mission of God-made–man.  The mission is to dwell among us, suffer and die by fulfilling the Father’s will, and finally, His resurrection and coming to power.  And how does God send his Son amongst us?  Well, in our fourth reading we see that Jesus was born of a woman.  A woman who said yes to the will of the Father- a woman who had dreams of a normal marriage and family, but was called to sacrifice herself for the will of her God.  And she said “yes”.  This is a challenge we all face.  The challenge to say yes to whatever the Father sends our way, for better or worse, richer or poorer, or sickness or health. 

And then, in our fifth reading, we hear the incredible story of Jesus birth told in the Gospel- the promise fulfilled; the God-made-man a reality,  But it happened in the most humble of circumstances, as humbling as any of the circumstances of the least amongst us- so real; so earthly; so bazaar. 

But wait, it gets better.  Because the promise of the messiah was made to the Jews.  And Mary and Joseph were Jews.  So, in our sixth reading, we see the promise extended- extended to lowly shepherds who were the first to give testimony to the miracle of the incarnation.  This is a symbol of the universal gift- to all nations, not just the Jews.  And then finally, we hear what was called the last Gospel in the old Tridentine Mass.  John gives us a theological summary of the meaning of it all.  The Word existed from the beginning with God the Father, and became man.  That defines clearly that Jesus is both God and man.  And so, during the four weeks in Advent, we wait in joyful expectation of the coming of our savior

But why four weeks; why so long?  Because our role is not so much waiting for the coming  as it is preparing for the coming.  You see, the coming of the Christ child is something that happened,  and so we can relive it, we can remember it.  And we can experience the joy.  Thank you Jesus   

But, that first coming, the birth of Jesus, is a reminder that He will come again.  Yes, there will be a second coming of Christ.  And that second coming requires preparation.  Because with that second coming is judgment.  The chronicle of John the Baptist’s activity in the readings during Advent is our clue.  Because his message is clear.  Repent and “Prepare ye the way of the Lord”.  As Jesus said in Sunday’s Gospel, that second coming can come at any time for any of us-  It will most likely come when we least expect it.  Are you ready? Are you satisfied with the way you are living your life?  Or is there something about the pattern of your life that needs a change? 

What is it that gnaws at you and says “the track I am on is just not right”.  It may be because you are too harried with job and responsibilities, always cutting corners to get as much into the agenda as possible; but never having enough time to do things the right way and to put things into the right priority; or perhaps you spend too much time absorbed in your own world, immersed in video games or football or telephone marathons with your friends.  These are addictions of a sort.  Then there are classical addictions: addictions to food or alcohol or drugs or pornography; and as a result of your preoccupation with your interests or your addictions, your work or family or household affairs suffer the consequences.  Or perhaps you have settled into a pattern of withdrawal, of non-involvement, where days and weeks go by and all of your activity revolves around yourself,. Perhaps its because of depression or older age, and it is so much easier to just not get involved, and so you don’t extend yourself by getting out and relating to others. 

These are all patterns that can harbor sin in a social context, because the life styles that foster them ignore the responsibility we have to participate fully in the world in the context that God has planned for us.  We need to reflect on our lives, and do what we can to steer them in the right direction.   

And so, I’m asking you to do something a little different this Advent.  Do enjoy the season- the Cookies and Tree and Santa, and gift giving and all of that.  But set aside some time each day, just a little time each day, to think about the direction your life is taking and the impact it has on others- your family, your work associates, and society as a whole.  What can you do differently that makes a difference.  If you are harried; how can you slow down and feel the pulse of God urging you in His direction.  If you are in a slump; how can you respond to little urges to get involved or to make a difference.  If you are addicted, how can you clean up your act. 

In any event, don’t let this Advent pass you by.  Get ready for Christ.  He is coming.