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Homily at Loretto – Susan Classen 2/23/20

Susan Classen

February 23, 2020

Disruption.  That’s the word that came to me as I reflected on our readings.  A disruption is a break or interruption in the normal course of events. On a personal level, we know the disruption caused by illness… or the death of a loved one….  or by an unexpected turn of events like what we are experiencing here at the Motherhouse.  Sometimes disruptions are pleasant like when life is turn upside down by falling in love or the birth of a baby.  On a larger scale, some have started referring to climate change as “climate disruption” because normal weather patterns have been interrupted.  And disruption is a strategy used by activists as a way of interrupting the status quo and making an issue visible.

Jesus was a disruptor.  He interrupted normal life with surprises like miracles and with strong words calling out religious leaders for their hypocrisy.  And he expected his followers to embrace disruption.  When he said, “Come and follow me”, he meant immediately!

In our Gospel reading, Jesus disrupts the worldview of the times regarding status, wealth and power. Far from encouraging passivity like many of us have been taught, Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek, give up a cloak and go the second mile are actually powerfully subversive. I’m drawing on the work theologian, Walter Wink, for this reflection and grateful for his interpretation.

First “turning the other cheek”.  Status and social order were everything in that context and  everyone knew where they were in the pecking order. Because Jesus specifically said, “if someone strikes you on the right cheek”, the crowds would have immediately pictured a scenario in which someone who believed themselves to be superior was using a backhanded slap to strike someone beneath them. Picture me as the person of wealth who is hitting another.  I have to use my right hand because the left hand was for unclean tasks but how can I hit another’s right cheek with my right hand?  I would really have to contort my arm to give an open handed slap or strike their right cheek with my fist.  It would only be feasible to use a backhand slap which is how someone high on the pecking order would hit someone beneath them.

Jesus brought to mind a common humiliating occurrence and then made a surprising statement. “Turn your other cheek.” Everyone in the crowd knew that peers would fight each other with a right fist to the left cheek.  When Jesus tells someone who has just been humiliated with a backhand slap to turn the other cheek, he’s offering a powerful way for them to say, in effect, “I have dignity and worth so hit me as a peer.”  Jesus disrupted the assumption that social status was important and revealed the truth that all are equal in the eyes of God. Can you imagine how confusing that would have been to the one who felt superior and how liberating to the one who had been demeaned?

Jesus then gives a second example, this time the setting is a court of law.  When he mentioned a court of law and a tunic, his followers would have known that the situation had to do with a debt collector demanding collateral from a peasant farmer caught in the unjust economic system.  With that familiar picture in their minds, they would have been shocked with Jesus’ next words, “Give your cloak as well.”  Actually, they would have guffawed because they understood that Jesus was saying to literally strip themselves naked right there in court! The wealthy were stripping the poor of their land, their rights and their dignity so Jesus was suggesting that they expose the truth of an oppressive economic system by stripping off their clothes!

Jesus goes on to give yet another example. “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles.”  Roman foot soldiers routinely forced people to carry their heavy packs but they were only allowed to force someone to carry their pack for a mile.  If their commanding officer found that they had pressed someone into service for more than a mile, they could face punishment.  So now, picture a Jewish peasant who has been forced to carry soldier’s pack.  They have walked a mile and the soldier reaches for his load but the peasant ignores him and just keeps on walking. Fearful of punishment, the soldier hurries after him now literally begging for his pack. The assumption that the solider held the power and the Jewish peasant was powerless was disrupted!

The poor listening to Jesus’ teachings would have welcomed the disruptions he offered. We aren’t told how the wealthy responded to Jesus’ teaching but we can guess that most would have reacted with anger or blame. They probably would have shut down, withdrawing into the safety of conventional wisdom which our second reading declares to be “foolishness in the eyes of God.”

As I prepared this homily, I found myself unusually sympathetic to the powerful and wealthy because I’m starkly aware of the challenge of staying open to the pain and confusion that arise when confronted with situations that reveal that things are not as we thought them to be. It’s tempting to shut down and try to get on with “normal” life and “business as usual”.  But Jesus disrupted the lives and assumptions of all he encountered in order to call forth truth and freedom.  As his followers, may we open to disruptions as opportunities for growth and may our longing for truth carry us through the pain and confusion so that wisdom and humility may be fostered in our lives and in our world.

LCG Lenten Reading Suggestions for 2020

LCG Lenten Book/Digital Suggestions:

 

  • Bishop Robert Barron’s Daily Lenten Reflections can be sent to your email by going to LentReflections.com and signing up.

 

  • A Way other than Our Own: Devotions for Lent: Walter Brueggemann: Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Way-other-than-Our-Own/dp/0664261698

 

  • In All Seasons for All Reasons: Praying Throughout the Year, by Father James Martin. A collection of short reflections from his “Teach Us to Pray” column in Give Us This Day, focusing on different ways one can pray. The total reading is about 70 pages so it’s a good size for the Lenten season.

 

  • To Know Christ Jesus, by Frank Sheed. This modern spiritual classic is brought back into print for the benefit of new generations of readers to develop a deeper, more profound knowledge of Jesus Christ. Sheed’s concern with the Gospels is to come to know Christ as he actually lived among us, interacted with all the various people he encountered from his infancy to his passion and death–the God-man who was like us in all things except sin. Sheed has tried especially to see Our Lord in his effect upon others–seeing how they saw him, trying to see why they saw him so.

 

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Below are Fr. Michael’s reflections on this practice and how it is practiced at Gethsemani.

+LENTEN READING, the Practice and Gethsemani
Every year on the first Sunday of Lent, each member of the Gethsemani community

receives a book at the end of the morning Chapter, that he is to use as his Lenten reading. A couple weeks before this day the Abbot will announce that each of us should select a book for Lenten reading and put it at his office door. This gives him a chance to be sure it is appropriate and if nothing has been given him, he himself will pick a book for the brother as Lenten reading. A few prefer the abbot to pick something for them. These are placed in various piles around the Chapter room and a few designated brothers distribute them when asked to do so. There as the old custom of bowing to the person who gives you your Lenten book as a sacred gift.

Regards the practice, it is brought up in the Rule where Benedict gives a chapter on the Daily Manual Labor. St Benedict is obviously putting it into this context to remind themonk that it is important for him to maintain a balance between prayer (public and private) manual labor and lectio divina. In Lent Benedict allows extra time in the morning for the monks to read. He knows well the power of the Word to change our lives, to aid the ongoing conversion that is given extra emphasis during this season. To designate a book as “to be read the whole of it straight through” is saying more than we may first realize. It is to move us into a sense of the sacredness of the reading that will expose us to the Word of God whom we will meet in the reading. We are not to jump around at whim but read it straight through so that we are being the ones who are being read as much as doing the reading. Effective lectio divina is where the word comes off the page and reveals us in the eyes of God, enabling us to take a close look at the values we hold or aspire to and how we are living them. Before beginning to read there is the custom of saying a prayer so as to be disposed to this presence of God’s Word.

Designating a time for this each day gets us to stop our normal routines and being in control of our lives. It gives us the time to sit and reflect, to let a sacred book inspire us in such a way that we personally taste more of Christ the living Word of God. Lectio early on was done mostly with the Scriptures as texts. In fact, Benedict’s community had few books to start with, mostly being various books of the Scriptures or commentaries on them. So any book we choose today should have content that comes out an in depth experience of the Scriptures, something that will challenge us like the Scriptures themselves will do. A favorite Lenten book early on around Gethsemani was the Life of Christ by Romano Guardini, the ideal was to give us a fresh look at the living Word of God.

Let me add one further thought about Lenten reading in regards to our practice at Gethsemani. As a community we do this of an evening, every evening except on Sunday when one is free to do as one likes. The other days, the Lenten reading begins at 6:45 of an evening and lasts until 7:25 when we head off for Compline. If one likes, he may stop the reading at 7:15 and go pray with it until Compline time. Most stay with the reading until Compline. How one does the reading is again up to the individual, we are free to stop and reflect anywhere along the line or just pray where one is seated as the Spirit moves. The time honor “technique” of Lectio is the reading, meditating, prayer and contemplation. The most valuable way of doing it is to allow any combination of the four aspects as the Spirit leads one.

 

 

Homily – Fr. Carlos – 2/16/20

At first glance it must have been confusing to Jesus’ listeners and his disciples what they heard Jesus say.  It would make the impression that Jesus is just one of the Pharisees and the Scribes who insists on the law to govern their life and, at this point, if not understood well, it could mean a life more stringent because of what Jesus said.  It is reminiscent of what Peter said: who then can be saved when Jesus said that it will be easier to enter the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heave.  But after his insistence that the law should be obeyed in its iota, they must have been more flabbergasted when Jesus said that their righteousness should surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees.  Is this the master who said his yoke is easy and his burden light.  Then Jesus continued saying that whoever is angry at his brother and call him fool is like killing forbidden by the 5th commandment, and therefore deserves the fiery Gehenna.  You cannot offer your gift at the altar if you remember that your brother has something against you, and you cannot even look at a woman with lust in your mind and that would be equivalent to adultery.  They are not even allowed to swear.  No divorce – whereas Moses allowed it. You could imagine how with open mouth they listened to Jesus and when they have recovered from the shock, life as they understood it, will be even more burdensome.  It is as if they could no longer breathe with the demands of the law guarded strictly by the pharisees and scribes and now the master telling us that we have to be better than the pharisees and scribes in obeying the commandments.  Life was like a straight jacket.  Their righteousness should even surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees.  In short, as they understood it, they should out shine them in faithfully following the Law.  Where is the Jesus whose  yoke easy and his burden light.  It is in the understanding of his counterpoints to the Law which the Scribes and Pharisees strictly adhere to.  It is a gradual revelation to the disciples of who Jesus was and his persevering effort to reveal who God really is.  The laws require the minimum – don’t break it.  The law decides if there is any transgression committed or not.  Jesus is saying that his commandment is to have respect, love, mercy and justice for one another.  Do not relegate your brother or sister to the extreme boundaries of your life or do not write him or her off as if they were dead.  It is equivalent to killing your brother or sister.   Relationship is not a legal matter.  At the core of human relationship is the fundamental truth that all are children of God.  The law does not mend relationships.  It decides who is right or wrong and the wrong must suffer the consequence of his actions.  The one offering the gift on the altar might just have won a case against his brother, but he cannot offer his gift if he knows his brother has anything against him.   Animosity remains even if so called justice is rendered.  Jesus’ disciples’ righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and pharisees because theirs is concerned with people, who are their brothers and sisters.    The P&S  are more concerned with the law as such.  They would tell Jesus that the Sabbath is more important than healing the sick.  It surpasses understanding, mercy and forgiveness.  P. and S. Are not concerned about mending relationships at all.  The woman was caught in the act of adultery therefore the law must be followed.  The Law does not promise hope nor future beyond human weakness and sin.  It simply metes out punishment and condemnation.  The is the burden of the law.  And the law can be manipulated as the common folks know even today.  The rich and powerful can make the law work on their favor.  Their righteousness must surpass that of the P. and S. because Jesus followers see others as God’s children as they themselves are too.  The law must do everything to help God’s children to have hope and confidence in God..  The Law of Jesus is love and this is the primary law, the normative law of every other laws.  To love God and neighbor fulfills all laws of Moses.  The law was power in the hands of the P. & S.  They interpret what they have added to the Laws of Moses.   It is one of control and not service.  For the spiritually astute, one could see Jesus preparing them to see his true relationship with God.  He was revealing the heart of God especially to the breakers of the law.  Jesus in the  eyes of the P&S was a breaker of the law, especially of the Sabbath, of his disciples disregarding the washing of hands, of associating with sinners tax collectors and let himself be touched by an ill-repute woman.  In short, to have the heart of Jesus, is to have the heart of God in relating to sinners.  There is no judgment, no condemnation.  So it is a lesson even for us today that those who live by the law will die by the law for in itself it does not give life.  The spirit of the law gives life.  What is the spirit of the law: the law gives way to love, for everyone are children of God.  Jesus said: on these two laws hang all the commandments and prophets.  It understands the sinner but not condone to the sin.  It is not a question of  sinners responding to our teachings or invitation to be upright.  The law of Jesus and his Father is that the very core of your being must have the heart of Jesus and His Father.  You never should condemn.  It is the sinner who condemns himself if he decides to stay away from God.  The P. & S.  Have this illusion that their righteousness makes sinners change.  Have you ever seen anyone whose rigid adherence to the rules make him or her attractive and convincing.  Jesus, the righteous on the cross was mocked by many. The P. & S.  the champions of the law were among the crowd that mocked Jesus.  This is a cautionary advice for the self righteous people.  Beware, that you look down on your brother or sister  because they do not keep the law as faithfully as you do.  As Gamaliel said: You might find yourself going against God.

 

Homily – Fr. Lawrence – 2/2/20

Dear Brothers and sisters – Today we celebrate – Groundhog Day. Some of us also celebrate Super Bowl Sunday, but I couldn’t work that into today’s homily. I don’t follow sports well enough to make a metaphor out of it. So Groundhog Day is it. The idea of Groundhog Day is that if a groundhog comes out of its burrow and sees its shadow, then there will be more winter. If it doesn’t see its shadow, spring is on the way. I’ve tried to put this together logically, and think that maybe it’s because on the very coldest days, the sky is cloudless, while on warmer days it’s more liable to be cloudy. I don’t know. At any rate, what’s important for the point of this homily is that it marks the end of something and the beginning of something else – the end of winter, whether soon or in six weeks, and the beginning of the road to spring.

            The fact that we mark Groundhog Day on the 2nd of February is not entirely arbitrary. This day, today, marks the exact mid-point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. If the days do not necessarily grow warmer right away, we at least notice that the sun rises earlier and sets later. Of course this has been happening all along, ever since the winter solstice, but now is the time we really start to notice it. So, in Western Europe, this day became a festival of light. A celebration of the return of the light. It used to be the custom to light candles in the windows of all the houses on this day, a sign that the light is overcoming the darkness. We ourselves continue this tradition, as is abundantly evident from the candles in our hands.

            Light overcomes darkness. Isn’t that the basic Christian message? Light overcomes darkness, good overcomes evil, life overcomes death. This is the reason Christ came into the world—as it says in the reading from Hebrews today, “that through death he might destroy the one who has power of death, that is, the Devil.”

            But of course, the main celebration today, the one announced at the top of your programs, is the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. As a side note, this is also known as the feast of the Purification of Mary. According to the law of Moses, each woman who has given birth must wait for 40 days to be purified. This is why we celebrate this day as a feast of Mary in our regular offices, skipping our regular Marian antiphons, since the whole day is dedicated to her. Anyway, getting back to the Presentation, according to the Mosaic law, a first-born son or daughter must be consecrated to God, or redeemed by a sacrifice. This is because of the events of the Passover, when God killed the first-born of every animal and family in the whole of Egypt, except the firstborn of the Israelites who had marked their houses with the blood of the sacrificial lamb. 

            This feast, the Presentation, marks a further epiphany of Jesus, a time when his true nature is revealed. There are several epiphanies in Jesus’ life – we celebrate some at the actual feast of the Epiphany, but there are others, including this one. They each mark the end of something and the beginning of something else. If we look closely at Simeon’s speech, we see that it falls into two distinct sections. In the first, he gives thanks to God for the end of his long wait, for the end of the darkness in which the world has lived up till now and the beginning of an era of light. He identifies the infant Jesus as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.” The end of darkness, and the beginning of light. In the second part of his speech, he moves into the future. This is not nearly as comforting as the first part. He says that Christ will be “a sign that will be contradicted.” Speaking presumably to Mary, he tells her “a sword shall pierce your own soul.” (Our translation reads, “You yourself a sword will pierce,” but the Greek says “Kai sou auths thn psyxhn” – psyche generally referring to the soul, and most translations keep this meaning). Not consoling at all. We know the meaning of these words, since we know the end of the story. Light will overcome darkness, life will overcome death, but not before great tragedy, the eventual suffering and death of this little infant.

            In order for light to overcome darkness, there has to be darkness in the first place. And the journey from darkness to light is not without struggle. In our first reading today, from the prophet Malachi, we read “Who will endure the day of his coming?” For “he is like the refiners fire….He will sit refining and purifying silver…refining them like gold or like silver.” The process of refining was time consuming and exacting. It involved melting the metal in question and then skimming off the dross, or the impurities, which either rose to the surface or sank to the bottom. This had to be done repeatedly, as we sing in Psalm 11 – “like silver from the furnace, seven times refined.” So, to extend the metaphor to ourselves, for us to be refined is a fairly painful experience, involving a lot of heat. 

            This process is also known as testing – a small amount of a substance was melted in a crucible, and its purity was revealed. So to test a substance is to find its true nature, how pure it is. This refining or testing happens to all of us, whether we sign up for it or not. We may be used to thinking of a test as some unpleasant measuring process imposed on us by cranky teachers. But actually, the purpose of a test is not to see whether we are successful or a failure, but to see what we really know. At its best, a test simply tells us where we are, what we have learned and what we still need to learn. Tests help us along the way by telling us the truth about ourselves. Life itself is a crucible for testing us, which is why none of us can avoid it. At times this refining might seem like one long darkness, though of course the refiner’s fire also gives off light, though we may not be conscious of it. We all have to endure hardship, sometimes financial hardship, almost always hardship in relationships, and at some point or another, hardship in the form of the loss of loved ones. All of these experiences can make us better people, more compassionate to others whom we now know suffer as well. We are all of us in the same situation – everyone’s life has its share of hardship and tragedy. Our compassion toward others and our growing reliance on God to guide us through these dark times are the way we grow in this life. As it says in Hebrews, “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” We can rely on Christ, because Christ knows all about suffering. As we know, Christ himself was tested in the Garden of Gethsemani when he asked that, if possible, he might be spared the cup of suffering. As we know, he accepted this bitter cup.

            It may be difficult for us to see Christ in the middle of being purified, in the middle of our suffering. And in fact, it may not be possible without the help of the Holy Spirit. As we see in our Gospel reading, the Holy Spirit enabled Simeon to see the true nature of the little baby in front of him. In other passages, the spirit reveals Christ to others – at the baptism, for example, in the form of a dove. And the mysterious star that guides the wise men from the east to the newborn Christ – could that not be the Holy Spirit? We can rely on Christ to be with us in the midst of our suffering, whether we see him or not, and we can rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal him to us when we most need it. Often this will not be in the form of a star or a dove or a direct revelation, but in the unexpected kindness of a neighbour, a sister or brother, or even a stranger, a moment in which we can see Christ shining through another person. And we in turn can become Christ to others, by letting the compassion which we have learned through our own suffering shine through us.

            Today’s feast marks the end of the grip of winter, of darkness, on the world and the beginning of the spring thaw, the coming of the light. As we hold our candles, may we remember that we too can be that light to others, since Christ lives in us and we in him, that we can show Christ to others in the form of our own compassion.

Chapter Talk – Fr. Michael Casagram – The Grace of Community 2/2/20

+THE GRACE OF COMMUNITY                                                          Chapter Talk 2 Feb. 2020

In recent years there has been a growing sense of the value of community as the means of providing ambient or support for human growth and maturity. As a starting point, I thought to draw on Michael Casey’s treatment of the subject in this book GRACE, On the Journey to God. The topic deserves two or three sessions so I will touch on a few aspects of it here.

Casey begins by drawing on the thought of a professor of psychology, Nicholas Humphrey, who shows how:

“the emergence of creative intelligence in human beings correlates with community living… This is because essential tasks are shared, there is more leisure, more time to think of creative solutions, the possibility of pooling knowledge and experience, the possibility of collaboration on tasks too great for one, and the incremental growth of knowledge from one generation to the next.”

Again and again in recent years I have heard of how the young are in search of authentic community. Communication has greatly increased with the growth of modern technology but this does not necessary mean that it provides the caring and loving atmosphere in which the young are able to humanly grow and reach maturity. This I suspect is not just the case for the young but is the crying need of all who are searching for creative solutions for their own inner growth and the urgent issues of our time such as the effects of climate change, the growing divide between the rich and poor, the rising occurrence of violence in our society etc.

Pope Francis has often reminded us of the value of applying the gospel to our everyday lives, of carrying the gospel into our places of work and family life. For us living the monastic way vocation this means applying the Good News to every aspect of our lives. The Word of God to which we are exposed all day long is to resonate in us wherever we may be and especially in our relationships throughout the day.

This will inevitably demand some renunciation on our part both externally and internally. As Casey says of the newcomer to our life:

The recruit is required to abandon components of the lifestyle that was previously followed.. [like] relinquishing some of their opportunities for social media. Internally, there are other more fundamental demands: adopting means appropriate to the common goal of the group, cultivating appropriate beliefs and values, having a different attitude to sexuality, .. to authority, .. to self-assertion, ..to others. Underlying all this is the challenge of being open to the mystery of an invisible world, where the rules and expectations current in ambient society are not always relevant.

There is a renunciation that continues throughout our monastic life. While this demands a lot of detachment, it is inspired and sought after because of a religious experience that has taken place in our lives. St. Gregory the Great pointed this out long ago. We are in search of God because we have been deeply touched by a divine initiative. We became willing to give up whatever because of something far superior having taken hold of us. The surrender may demand more than we ever thought possible at the beginning of our monastic lives, but with faith we are able to stay the course. Its end is eternal life in a divine embrace.

A lot of things may change over the years but there is real value in recalling from time to time what inspired our undertaking of this way of life.  God’s grace never falters, what moved us in our early years gathers momentum, penetrating every  aspect of our lives, some of which we only gradually become aware of. While this will be challenging, perhaps even threatening at times, it becomes wonderfully liberating as we allow God’s own love to heal all our wounds. We in turn, become messengers of healing love to all those around us.

Casey writes that:

“Because Western culture is individualistic and other cultures are fast becoming so, most of us have been formed in this way… The opposite of individualism is mutuality: living in the context of others. When individualism yields to mutuality, selfishness is replaced by sensitivity, conflict is replaced by harmony, stalemate is replaced by dialogue, obstinacy is replaced by adaptability, aggression is replaced by patience, withdrawal is replaced by participation, dysphoria is replaced by euphoria. Of course, this beautiful state is not achieved effortlessly; it demands a lot of self-denial on the part of all.”

What inspired so many of us in coming to the monastery is, I believe, this very desire to practice self-denial, confident that it would unite us to the living God. Community life gives us countless opportunities to do this very thing and as we do, we can be sure it will guide us to our desired goal, a participation in God’s own Trinitarian life.

Homily – Fr. Anton – Solemnity of Our Holy Founders – 1/26/20

January 26, 2020           Solemnity of Our Holy Founders        Gospel:   Mark 10: 24b – 30      

Today we give thanks that, in the year 1098, God  brought  together  three men to do Him a specific service He committed only to them. 

Robert, Alberic, Stephen –

different ages, nationalities, temperaments …   no one of them could have done it alone.

                                       

Robert, a monk at age 15, a dreamer, always moving around, looking for greener grass.

But at age 70, a spark ignited within him, enabling him to lead 21 monks 

from their monastery at Molesme

to begin a reformed monastery at Citeaux, eighty miles south.

 

Alberic, his invisible partner,  a caretaker,  “lover of the brethren,” elected Second Abbot.

He provided  consistency  that became a foundation for future growth.

 

Stephen, the Englishman, called Stephen Harding, a perfectionist, an organizer, Third Abbot.

He set  up the Scriptorium to copy Bibles and hymnals, producing the most authentic texts and hymns possible.                                   

 

Word spread about their reformed lifestyle … new monks joined … eventually hundreds…

causing  more than a dozen daughterhouses  before Stephen’s death… 

thus, the Order of Cistercians was born.

Ironically,  they never intended an Order…. one good monastery  to live out their monastic life

would have been enough.

 

The first growth came when that 22-year old looked over the wall at Citeaux,

stayed     to visit, live, pray, work with them,

talked to  Stephen Harding, the newly-elected  Abbot, then went home.

 

But Bernard returned, followed by – some say –  30  others … all asking to join.

 

The question is:

What so attracted Bernard, what testimony was so irresistible that not only did he come back … but convinced  his five brothers, two uncles, cousins, friends  to join a monastery??

 

He could see the monks had one common goal:  to turn their lives over to God.

Prayer came before anything else, accompanied by silence and solitude. 

It was a life of saving their souls,   where selfishness was brought into line.

They  rose in the middle of the night to pray, with a real thirst  to pray,

to taste and see how good God is.

Their community prayer centered around celebrating the Divine Office, the way the Rule of Benedict laid it out.

 

Another thing was their simplicity and poverty.

They chose to live poor, like the poor Christ:

No gold in their church… only  wrought iron candlesticks and plain undecorated vestments.

Even their clothing:   Good black dyes… which didn’t wash out or fade … were costly..

so,  instead of black robes, they wore  whatever wool came off the sheep … undyed … labeling them  ‘the White Monks’.

 

They shared simple meals:  each had a pound of bread, a pint of drink, two dishes of cooked vegetables,  enough to keep the body fervent in worship of God … but no meat, because meat was for tables of the rich.

 

Brotherhood was all-important.

Having left behind whatever riches, lands, or titles they had,

nobles got merged with servants into equality in Christ,

    with  no part of worldly rank or hierarchy. 

Per the Rule of Benedict, they were brothers gathered around one father, the Abbot,

the only mark of exception being a greater sanctity, achievable by all. 

 

Work and silence were essential.

They chose to do the work themselves, manual labor, raising animals, because Benedict had written:  “They are truly monks when they live by the labor of their hands as did our Fathers and the Apostles.”

 

They lived in a world of Silence, using  speech and music  only to praise God.

There were no hawks or  hunting dogs, no tournaments or games, only what led to prayer.

 

But external disciplines like these weren’t enough to attract Bernard  … They were  the means,

man-made tools to prune back human appetites. 

 

The main attractiveness was the monks’ fervor and dedication to saving their souls …

    getting to heaven … which they couldn’t do alone …  they needed each other.

 

In a world  of knights and armor and liege lords,

     the monks were Soldiers of Christ, robed in white,

united — one army   lined up  for spiritual warfare, ready to fight  their sins and failures.

 

They admitted being individually weak and vulnerable,

                 but  they were welded together  by bonds of charity.

They were mutually willing to accept each other and help each other,

    because  they got healed as  they healed others.

They forgave each other because their own forgiveness flowed  from forgiving others.

    They were willing to live together in love, even tho they might not be loved back.

 

As monks, they were willing to do battle with whatever might  destroy monastic life.

They  vowed personal conversion … to  be changed  through love …

and they proved how serious they were about observing  Christ’s   Golden Rule.

 

Their test for love of the unseen God                 

was   love of the  neighbor,  who can be seen..       

                neighbor defined as  the monk next to them.

 

No matter his dialect or village,  

noble-born or peasant,

    he was called by God,     an equal,   a brother to be respected and loved. 

 

The test was simple:   Do I  treat my brother as I want to be treated?

 

Not the brother I like … what reward’s in that?

    But the one I don’t like …   How do I treat him?

 

Am I rude to him … walk away …  mumbling something?                 

                                   

Do I  speak well of him, or open my lips in gossip? 

 

They fought trading in gossip, saying:

‘Meat is forbidden,’ but less a sin to chew on a roast than chew on a brother.’

 

They struggled against judging others,   

being the  Pharisee who condemns and murmurs:  “He’s not a good monk!”

‘Garments of fur are forbidden’, they said, 

‘but far less a sin to hide fur clothing under the cloak,

than to wear  God’s robes and judge another.’           

 

They asked themselves:   Which brother is it  I don’t  want to travel with, 

            have   sitting next to me in the wagon   

         all the way to market  … and back?

That’s where my  conversion is stalled.       That’s where I  have work to do.

 

When Bernard saw how intent  they were on building a community of love,

how  they would welcome anyone truly seeking God, 

how could he   NOT return to join them  …

how could his 30 friends NOT follow  him to see if all this were true??? 

 

Our Father Raymond called them “Three Religious Rebels,” Robert, Alberic and Stephen.

They were more dreamers,  dreaming the dreams of God.

They didn’t so much  build a monastery,

        as build up a patrimony passed down to us,  900 years later.

 

If we’re really thankful, and want to honor them,  they would ask us

to allow God  to kindle a spark within us today,

to continue on   living  the vows we’ve professed in their  Order,

to help each other live    lives of love and prayer…

 

And may God bring us all together to life everlasting!  Amen.

Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – This is My Beloved – 1/12/2020

Homily by Fr. Michael Casagram:
+THIS IS MY BELOVED                                    
The Baptism of the Lord, 12 Jan. 2020
What are we celebrating today? If we say the Lord’s baptism, the words of John the Baptist quickly come to mind: “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” And then we are told after Jesus was baptized that “he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.” I find myself asking for what purpose was this, for how could Jesus not have been filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his conception in Mary’s womb?
And then there is the voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” and I began to see the reason for our gathering to celebrate this Feast. It is about both who Jesus is and who we become by reason of his presence among us. With and through him we become the “beloved” of God. Our Baptism immerses us in Christ’s own Body, become his living members. What began with John’s baptism in the Jordan, is fulfilled in us as we allow his Holy Spirit to live in us and govern our lives.
Through our Baptism we have not just become a special society of human beings but the very Body of Christ. “By one Spirit we were all baptized into the body” St Paul tells the Corinthians. Being “baptized into Christ” we “put on Christ” he tells the Galatians. We have been baptized “into his death…so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” he tells the Romans. In a letter to the Colossians he tells them: “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God.” This gift of our Baptism sustains us as Christians and comes to full fruition in a life that never ends. “If we have died with Christ,” we are assured by Paul, “we shall also live with him” forever.
We cannot appreciate enough the grace of our Baptism! To be conscious of it, is to let its power permeate the whole of our daily lives so that they become a joyful celebration that never ends. It is said that the most fundamental aspect of our Baptism is that makes us living members of Christ’s Body, the Church. The news of sexual abuse in the Church, does not prevent for a moment, its true disciples from being living and life-giving members of Christ’s Body. Serious wounds have been inflicted on Christ’s Body but healing is underway. Its healthy members, remaining true to their calling, provide the very remedy that makes it stronger than it ever was. The recent crisis may well be one of the best things to have happened.
We celebrate the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan today, but it is above all our own feast day, the remembrance of the grace that has flooded our lives, the coming of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. It is a fitting way to bring this Christmas season to an end. God’s taking on our human flesh was an act of love beyond compare. It finds its full unfolding in each of us as we live from the grace of our baptism. Baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit opened our own hearts to a Love that is to fill the whole world around us, touch the lives of all with whom we live. We are all to be God’s beloved!
The Eucharist we are about to receive strengthens the presence and outpouring of the Holy Spirit within our lives. As Christ’s self-sacrifice becomes present at this altar and we partake of his Body and Blood, we are nourished in in the life begun at the moment of our baptism. Amen
Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mt 3:13-17

Homily – Epiphany 2020 – Fr. James Conner

Epiphany  – 2020

“We have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship Him”. With these words, the three Magi, coming from the East, make known to us and all peoples that great Mystery which Paul reveals to us in the second reading today: the Mystery made known now to all peoples of the world. It is not made known only to the Jewish people, the chosen People of God, but to ALL peoples: Jew and Gentile, who were originally called by God when the triune God declared: “Let us made man in our image and likeness”.

But mankind failed to recognize itself as being in the image of God and tried to make all things in THEIR own image. In so doing, they created a world filled with pain and suffering right up to this present day. But God has not chosen to leave us in this way, but has come among us, as one like us in all things but sin. In this way He comes as the second Adam – the true image of God without sin or pain or suffering. He comes to free us from the suffering which we have inflicted on ourselves and one another throughout time and history.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is Himself the Star in the East, who makes known to us what our true destiny is to be. We also are called to be sons and daughters of God – in His very own image and likeness. He comes as the revelation that God is a God who is Love Itself, and consequently the only command that He gave us is to love one another as He has loved us. If this were to be realized, then the world would be a very different place.

Just yesterday our community had a communal dialogue on the issue of suffering in life and the ways to deal with it in daily affairs. Today gives us the full answer to that. We are to deal with suffering only by keeping our eye on the Star in the East – or in the words of St. Benedict, we are to “prefer nothing whatever to Christ”. If we were truly to live in the image of God in which we were created, then we would be like God and be the image of Love within this world. Then truly, as Isaiah foretold, all suffering would be removed from the world and we would realize the full meaning of God being one with us.

Then all humanity and all creation would be that true Image of God, that Star in the East, that manifestation of God within time and space. Jesus Christ has come among us and absorbed all the pain and suffering of all time I His own suffering and death. He has willed that now we should also share in His own joy when He prayed: “Father, glorify your Son – your sons and daughters – that your sons and daughters may glorify You. I have manifested your name to those whom You have given Me. I am praying for them whom you have given Me. I am no more in the world, but they are in the world. I pray that they may be one even as we are One, so that they may be that Star in the East which reveals our presence to the world and their presence to one another, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them and I in them.”

This is the full manifestation – Epiphany  – of God present in the world and in one another. Then there will be not simply a Star in the East, but the living presence of the living and loving God and all creation and all peoples in that same image and likeness.