+Being called to be a Christian we will experience at least occasionally misunderstanding and persecution. Our way of living our Christian lives will inevitably run contrary to the values of the world around us. We are faced today, both within the Church and political life a lot of conflict and division but need not be afraid so long as we are being true to our faith. In fact it is a time to realize that Christ is especially near us and need not worry about what we are to say or do for he Himself will give us just what to say so that our adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. Any persecution becomes the very occasion for encounter with the living God. It is perseverance that secures our lives. All of life then becomes the occasion, as Eucharist reminds us, for joy and gratitude
CHRIST THE KING – NOV 25, 2018 + RDNGS: Dan 7:13-14; Rev 1:5-8; John 18:33b-37.
“My kingdom does not belong to this world … I came into the world to testify to the truth … Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
The Kingdom of God is found in every home where parents and children love each other. It exists in every country that cares for its weak and vulnerable, that welcomes strangers, “huddled masses yearning to breathe free;”
God’s kingdom is in every church, synagogue and mosque that reaches out to the poor and needy regardless of race, color or creed.
Dorothy Day put it well when she wrote, “I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.” Then she quotes Christ the King himself, “Inasmuch as you have not fed the hungry, clothed the naked, sheltered the homeless, visited the prisoner, protested against injustice, comforted the afflicted, etc. you have not done it to Me.” “Christ,” continues Dorothy, “identifies Himself with the poor.” (The Catholic Worker, November, 1949, as quoted in CW, Nov, ‘18) Then, in one of his twenty-nine letters to Dorothy Day, our own Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, wrote, “If there were no Catholic Worker, and such forms of witness, I would never have joined the Catholic Church.” (Hidden Ground of Love, p. 151) Both Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, in their own way, reflect today’s gospel: As Christ the King within us says to the Pilate within us: “I came into the world to testify to the truth.”
Normally kingship is associated with power, prestige, and wealth. Christ’s presence and kingship are found in his suffering and death for our sakes and in the tension within our own lives as we struggle to align ourselves with the truth of the kingdom of Christ our King.
Today we celebrate Jesus Christ as our King, but St Bernard of Clairvaux reminds us, that … “Just as Jesus is Lord and King, Mary is Lady and Queen because she is the Mother of the Lord, the Mother of the King. This entitles her to be ‘queen of the world’ … Mary is queen because her Son is King. “Our queen’s diadem,” says Bernard, is lit up with twelve stars and Bernard invites us to contemplate the ‘queen wearing the diadem with which her Son crowned her’. Sharing his glory, she is raised upon a royal throne. We are her serfs, and she is our ‘gracious queen.’ “The Virgin,” says Bernard, “is the road which the Saviour came to us, but she is also the means, the path, by which we are to go to Christ”.
The whole of the New Testament makes it clear that response to the reign of God and the kingship of Jesus has everything to do with how we live out our earthly citizenship – how we work, pray, pay, buy, sell and vote. In this we honor Jesus (to use the words of today’s reading from Revelation) as “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth.”
In other words, Mary’s Son, Christ the King, who lays down his life for us, will be known only through us, through our lives of self-sacrificing love. Only in this way will the world come to know and believe. This feast of Christ the King, then, is a challenge to all of us: Do we, or do we not, reveal the God who is Love?____________________________________
+A TIME UNSURPASSED IN DISTRESS 33 Sunday B, 2018
These words from the book of the Prophet Daniel tell of the last times, of when this world is coming to an end. Jesus, in our gospel, speaks of a great tribulation, when the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, the end of time. Our readings this morning are clearly apocalyptic as is fitting enough when we move closer to the end of the liturgical year.
There are many today warning us of indications of the end of this world, of conflicts arising all around us whether between Nations or within society itself. One thinks of the political polarization in this country, the growing divide between rich and poor, racial conflicts that go on. One sees the terrible effect of sexual abuse within the Church, the growing reluctance to be a committed member of a Church or believing community. As one listens to news of floods, of the terrible fires in California, we ask ourselves whether our earth a safe place to live? It is clearly a time to take stock of our lives, to realize that this life is passing quickly and we do well to keep in view Christ’s promise of everlasting life for those who believe in him.
We need not live in fear if we are doing all that we can to be true to our Christian faith. St Benedict says that God is saying to each of us that “If you desire true and eternal life,…turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim. Once you have done this, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say to you; Here I am.” There is the story told of St Francis working in his garden. A friar asked him “What would you be doing now if you knew that Jesus was coming back today?” Francis replied, “I would keep hoeing my garden.” Francis felt that he was doing the best he could for that moment and needed nothing more.
Each one of us lives at a different point in life and knows that God could come at any time. If our lives reflect this awareness, we will do all we can to be prepared. What prayer does and what the Eucharist is designed to do is to help us live fully in this moment of Christ’s coming. Christ’s sacrifice, the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us “has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.” There is made present at this altar daily the one eternal sacrifice, the one perfect act of love that transforms everyone who believes in what God has done for us in Jesus.
This love is ready to become present and fully active in every difficult situation of our lives, for God knows far better than we that we can do nothing of eternal value without the gift of grace. And here is perfect freedom, to know the depth of God’s love for us and to allow it to be present each moment of our lives.
Dan 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13: 24-32
Dedication of Church – November 15, 2018
Today we celebrate the 152nd anniversary of the Consecration of our Church of Gethsemani by Bishop Spalding and the 52nd anniversary of the re-dedication of our church by Archbishop Kelly after the major renovations. It is a day which, as St. Bernard told us at Vigils, if we do not celebrate it, no one will. For it is a solemnity peculiar to ourselves.
But what we are celebrating is not just a building of bricks and stones. It is a celebration of that heavenly Jerusalem that we also heard about at Vigils. It tells us that in that heavenly city there is no temple, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. This shows us that this celebration is actually fulfilled in the injunction of St. Benedict that, in the monastery, we are to “prefer nothing to Christ.” This building is a sign and sacrament of the living Risen Jesus Christ, to whom we have committed our lives through our vows and through our Baptismal promises.
In actuality the consecration of this church is based on our original consecration in Baptism. There, we also were consecrated, we were anointed with chrism, just as the walls of this church were; we were given a candle just as the walls of this church are illumined by twelve candles, symbolizing the light of Christ which is given us through the twelve apostles. We were told by St. Paul that “the temple of God is holy, which you are”! Consequently this feast is a feast of ourselves as a people of God, consecrated to Him. Just as there is no temple in the heavenly city, so the true temple here on earth is ourselves.
Jesus expressed this also in the gospel today, when He told the Samaritan woman; “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The great temple in Jerusalem is no more; the church of Clairvaux is no more. And a day will come when this church of Gethsemani will be no more. But what will remain is ourselves as the full Body of Christ, the Lamb, so that truly “God may be all in all”. Or as Paul tells us in the second reading, “you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, … in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
But that is not destined for some day far in the future. It is to be lived out in our daily lives. St. Benedict also tells us that nothing should be done in the oratory except the worship of God. And our Constitutions tell us that the monastery is to be a place for contemplation – for truly seeking God. We are the living stones which are to be built into this temple of the living God. And our daily lives are to reflect this fact. We worship in spirit and in truth by living out our vow of conversion of manners, showing this in our dealings with one another, our dedication to the Work of God – to which Benedict says that nothing should be preferred.
In this way, our celebration of the Church of Gethsemani is to be carried out each day of our lives. By living each day with an awareness of the fact that we are the temple of God, that we are to form the full temple precisely by our relations with one another, binding us together in the one Body of Christ, which is the temple of the heavenly city.
+DEVELOPING A CONTEMPLATIVE CONSCIOUSNESS Chapter talk: 11 Nov. 2018
Recently I have been going through a spiritual biography of Henri Nouwen called “ God’s Beloved” by a Michael O’Laughlin that came out back in 2004. Many of us are familiar with Nouwen as a spiritual writer who was especially gifted at articulating what goes on in many of our lives. As Robert Ellsberg recently said in his lecture at Bellarmine:
“By the time of his passing, thirty-two years later [after coming to the States from Holland] in 1996, he had become one of the most popular and influential spiritual writers in the world. His popularity was only enhanced by his willingness to share his own struggles and brokenness. He did not present himself as a ‘spiritual master,’ but—like the title of one of his early books—as a ‘wounded healer.’ Those who knew him were aware of how deep his wounds ran.”
In this Henri Nouwen was a lot like Merton who reached so many people through his Seven Story Mountain.Both had a living faith and a sense of their own vulnerability, weakness and sensitivity. As they shared their own experience, what was going on in the lives of countless readers was able to be articulated and understood perhaps, for the first time. There was a “down-to-earthiness” in both of them which takes on more and more meaning for our own time.
O’Laughlin quotes from Merton the following:
“Contemplation is not vision because it sees ‘without seeing’ and knows ‘without knowing.’ It is a more profound depth of faith, a knowledge too deep to be grasped in images, in words, or even in clear concepts. It can be suggested by words, by symbols, but in the very moment of trying to indicate what it knows the contemplative mind takes back what it has said, and denies what it has affirmed. For in contemplation we know by ‘unknowing.’ Or better, we know beyond all knowing or ‘unknowing.’
This is an experience that all newcomers to the monastery go through and in fact, what those who are long members of a community may go through again and again, this experience of unknowing. There is always a way in which we want to have some grasp on what is happening in our lives, want, in a way, to make sense of it but this is where real faith can take place. You would think that someone like Henri Nouwen with all his popularity and success as a writer or teacher, would have been satisfied or fulfilled but the opposite was true. We are told that he “was afflicted by an inordinate need for affection and affirmation; he was beset by anxieties about his identity and self-worth; there seemed to be a void within that could not be filled.” This, it is suggested is what led him to make several moves in his life, from one place or project to another. He moved from Holland to America, to Notre Dame and then to Yale, to our monastery of Genesee and then to Latin America, to thinking of becoming an affiliate of Maryknoll, then to Harvard and finally visiting a number of L’Arche communities in France and Canada, he settled down somewhat at one in Canada.
In the midst of all this Nouwen was drawn into a contemplative experience, like that of Merton in many respects but one that was uniquely his own: He writes:
“We are called to be contemplatives, that is see-ers, men and women who are called to see the coming of God.. The Lord’s coming is an ongoing event around us, between us, and within us. To become a contemplative, therefore, means to throw off—or better, to peel off—the blindfolds that prevent us from seeinghis coming in the midst of our own world. Like John the Baptist, Merton constantly points away from himself to the coming One, and invites us to purify our hearts so that we might indeed recognize him as our Lord.. Thomas Merton invites us to an always deeper awareness of the incomprehensibility of God. He continually unmasks the illusions that we know God and so frees us to see the Lord in always new and surprising ways.” (The Road to Peace: Writings on Peace and Justice, pp 196-97)
When Nouwen speaks of Merton inviting us “to an always deeper awareness of the incomprehensibility of God” there is something unsettling about this but also clarifying and freeing. The danger of any of us is the inclination to try to tie God down or to cling to a certain understanding of God that then puts limits on God’s way of acting in our lives and in the lives of others. Again, it is only when we approach God with faith that we are able to allow God to move freely in our lives. This can be a real challenge and it certainly demands of us a deeper faith or trust if God is to act pervasively in our lives. As they yielded to this mysterious divine presence, there continually opened new horizons in both Merton’s and Nouwen’s lives, horizons that allowed them to accomplish all that they were destined to do.
Any one of us becomes open to these new horizons to the extent that we allow faith, hope and love take hold of us. To do so is to come to realize our full potential. We are all invited to participate in God’s very own life and in doing so our lives are transformed. We allow ourselves to accomplish all that we have been destined to do during our brief sojourn on this earth.
+Our gospel presents Jesus cleansing the temple where he found those selling oxen, sheep and doves and the money changers. The temple serves well as the place where God resides. It may be a basilica, a symbol of the Church that is going through a lot of cleansing at this time due to the sexual abuse in its midst and it can represent what goes on in each of our own hearts. We all know how easy it is for any of us to become occupied with persons or things in a way that hinders our spiritual growth.
As baptized Christians, Jesus does not allow us to do this for he knows the harm this can do to our Christian life. Our participation here in the Eucharist is inviting him to cleanse the temple of our hearts. To truly enter into what takes place at this altar removes all that stands in the way of our being truly Christian. Just as Jesus spoke of himself as God’s temple, each of us is to be a living temple of God in our society.
There is to flow from us as members of Christ’s Body those living waters of which the prophet Ezekiel speaks in the first reading. Wherever these waters flow, “every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live.. and along its banks, fruit trees of every kind shall grow.”