All posts by Jane

Homily – Fr Carlos Rodriguez – Feast of the Assumption 8/15/22

It is interesting that God did not raise up man and make him a God to be saved like the myths of old but God lowered himself to become like us a human being in Mary to bring about his plan of salvation.

There is no honor given to any human being like the honor given to Mary, that her body and soul, that is Mary herself, becomes intimately united with God even while the world is still existing.  If the body of Mary is also the body of Christ and Christ is sinless, then it is logical that the body of Mary should not see corruption just as the body of Christ did not see corruption for Mary too is sinless.  It is the same flesh.   This is all fine and logical but many objections can still be raised , as was raised then, against the assumption.

To really appreciate the Assumption one must look at it from the point of view of God’s love for human beings as we see in Scriptures.   His first attempt to create the first human beings who would love and serve him faithfully in freedom. He was disappointed.  Then He raised up among them patriarchs, judges, priest and leaders who might serve Him with all their hearts and mind but mostly they failed Him…. even the great David and Solomon the apple of his eye.

His patience throughout those millennia bore fruit when from a lowly woman in an insignificant village the Lord God found His true love still very much of the human line, Mary.  Remember Abraham bargaining with God not to destroy the town of Sodom and Gemorrah if he could find finally at the end even one just man.  In our sinful world today, we could be like Abraham and ask God to spare sinners.  Those who believe in God’s love will know right away the answer.  God already did find someone after his own heart.  He will do everything to save sinners through Mary the refuge of sinners.

With this honor and glory Mary does not forget the reality of everyday human life.  After the message of Gabriel she goes to help her cousin Elizabeth.  She was worried about the safety of her son, she was worried when he was growing up about the strange power he had and the mission he claims to have from God.  She agonized at the cross with her Son.  To be very close to God, to be much loved by God does not mean we are exempt from suffering.   On the contrary one is close to suffering for the sake of others.  It was completre trust in God that carried Mary through all her sufferings in life.  It was through her obedience that she has become our intercessor when we have difficulties in life.  She will not take away our sufferings but she will make us strong to carry them.  As she carried the lifeless body of her son in her lap.The Assumption points to a promise of God given to all of us when she gave Mary as our Mother.

But of course the Assumption of Mary is unique in the sense that she joined her Son in heaven body and soul even before the Parousia.  Hail full of grace was the greeting of the angel not Hail Mary full of grace.  The significance of this is that it defines who Mary is in her very person, in her very being.  She was the work of God par excellence.  In this way we cannot compare our going to heaven like Mary.  Mary was forever present in God.  Therefore in reality we cannot apply death to her as human beings experience it nor for that matter that the death of Jesus does not have a qualitative difference compared to our death.  Our death is due to sin. However theologians call it, dormition or death, or passage, the fact remains that the assumption of Mary is in the realm of grace, an act of love of God and not  the process of punishment and redemption.  From the human realm stands a woman in whom God is enamored and would do everything to honor her.  God’s will  was her will absolutely.  She personified how God wanted his people of old to relate towards him.  In filial love, in faithfulness. In her, the image of a perfect gracious woman has been recovered since Eve fell.  She is the femininity of God.  She is God’s love in perfect human form.  She has lived a perfect human life.   She has to be assumed into heaven for there is nothing in her that would prevent an Assumption.  It would be bad form not to honor one’s mother.  With God that is unthinkable.  He would not be God.

Homily for the Funeral of Fr. Seamus Malvey, August 3, 2022

Homily for Funeral for Fr Seamus Malvey
By Fr James Conner

August 3, 2022

“The mercies of the Lord are renewed each morning –
So great is His faithfulness.”

                        These words might be seen as truly a summation of the life and spirit of our Fr Seamus, whom the Lord has now called to Himself. He was one who was truly aware of those mercies of the Lord and who strove to express that same mercy toward all whom his life touched.

            He was born in Ireland and there quickly learned the extent to which the religious wars separated one from another. He responded to this with openness of mind and heart to all, but especially to any who might be seen as the under dog of society. This sympathy and openness to all extended throughout his life, in all of his varied ministries and vocations.

            His life might be divided into periods of more or less twenty years. At  the age of 17, he joined the Irish Christian Brothers and was a member of that Order for almost 20 years. After receiving his own education, he was sent to South Africa to assist in the ministry to that area. There he witnessed the conflict between the native Africans and the whites of the area. He sympathized with the oppressed of that society, particularly as he shared in the ministry of teaching those young men.

            In due time, he returned to the States and continued in teaching. However, he felt the need to minister more directly to the poor and needy of society. “What can separate us from the love of Christ? If God is for us, who can be against us”. Accordingly, he felt called to the priesthood. He was ordained as a priest of the diocese of Palm Beach, Florida. He served in various ministries, including several years as rector of the Cathedral of St Ignatius. But such a ministry to the more affluent of society did not fully satisfy him.

            However, while still in high school he had read the life of Thomas Merton and felt a call to the monastic life. And so, after twenty years as a Christian Brother and another twenty years as a diocesan priest, he applied to Gethsemani. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”. By this time, he was already about 65 years old and was aware of the fact that most communities would not even accept a person of that age. However, he said to himself: “What do I have to lose? If they refuse me, at least I will know God’s Will.”

            The Vocation Director was more hesitant about considering someone of his age. But Fr Damien, who was Abbot, felt that he would be a good possibility and accepted him. When the time came for him to be a novice, they asked him by what name he would be called. He said simply: “James”. But they explained that there was already a James. He told me later that he felt that I should simply give him the name and take another myself. But such did not occur. He was offered the name of Seamus – which is Gaelic for James, and he seemed satisfied.

            During his years as monk, he filled a number of positions in work. For a time, he was Infirmarian. With his patience and charity, he fitted in very well. It was during that time that he became good friends with Bro. Giuseppe, who served also as Infirmarian. His care for the sick was marked by his charity and patience and understanding. Later he worked in the Laundry and then in the Gift Shop in the new Visitors Center. In that position he worked with Bro Camillus, who had also entered religious life very young. His artistic abilities made him perfect for that position. He was also very good in dealing with the many visitors who came.  Later he was also Guestmaster and again made use of his ministerial abilities in dealing with the retreatants.

            During his free times, he loved to indulge in artistic endeavors.  He was no Lavrans, yet I suspect that if he had had the opportunities that Lavrans had, he would run at least a close second. Some of his artwork will be seen in the 2023 calendar.

           In general, he was an excellent member of the community. He was one whom you could ask to fill in and he readily agreed. He will be sorely missed. He was one who exemplified the words of Jesus: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” He truly radiated this Christ in his person and his mannerism. He will be sorely missed.

            We can now turn to him in prayer, asking him to send us more men to take his place, whether young or older. and to serve Christ with love and humility. That is what is needed in every monk who strives to express his love of Christ through his love and service of his brothers.

            Fr. Seamus, we thank you for your twenty years of service to our community. You show us that age is not the first criterion for a monk, but rather humility and willingness to serve all for the love of Christ.

Homily – Fr. Anton — Sunday 7/31/22

The Gospel: Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,

“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”

He replied to him,

“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”

Then he said to the crowd,

“Take care to guard against all greed,

for though one may be rich,

one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.

“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.

He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,

for I do not have space to store my harvest?’

And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:

I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.

There I shall store all my grain and other goods

and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,

you have so many good things stored up for many years,

rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’

But God said to him,

‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;

and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’

Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves

but are not rich in what matters to God.”

After the Gospel:

This parable can make  people squirm,

but Jesus isn’t knocking working hard for bumper crops,

or the acquisition of wealth,

or  having an IRA  to retire on.

Then what did the Rich Man do wrong, so we can learn from his mistakes?

The problem is, it’s all about him:   my crops, my barns, my surplus grains.

gloating  about how well he’s provided his own security and future,

patting himself on the back about all those goods  stored up for years to come.

He’s isolated in his own world,  a completely closed ecosystem where he’s in control.

He can do what he pleases with his life, doesn’t feel obligated to anyone.

He never mentions God, or offers a word of thanks for his bounty,

he has no thoughts for others – helping a neighbor, a family, who might need something for today’s meal, just  to survive today.

He doesn’t need anything from anyone, doesn’t need help from anyone, including God.

One thought, for sure,  never enters his mind:  being rich in what matters to God.

Unfortunately, all of that is going to change.

This night, only what’s stored up with God will count,

only being able to call on God for help will be important.

A hundred years ago, America was in a mood to celebrate.

The Great War was over, Spanish Influenza was letting up,

and they wanted to break from a strict Victorian past to a liberated future.

The Roaring 20’s ushered in something for everyone:

new freedoms for women,

radios,

jazz music from the Harlem renaissance,

automobiles.

And prosperity.    Everyone wanted to be rich, the rich wanted to get richer.

Chicago newspapers gave front-page coverage in 1923 to nine richly important men meeting at the Edgewater Beach Hotel:

Five  presidents of major corporations,

three tycoons,

and a member of President Harding’s cabinet,…..

Nine men in control, industrial giants, planning to get bigger and wealthier … men admired and envied.

Who wouldn’t want to be as rich as they were?

Tragically, within a few years, everything about them would come to nothing.

Charles Schwab, president of the largest steel company, died  bankrupt.

Samuel Insull, president of the largest utility company, died penniless.

Howard Hobson, president of the largest gas company, had gone insane.

Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange, was just released from prison.

Leon Fraser, president of the Bank of International Settlements, died a suicide.

Arthur Cutten, a Canadian who gained colossal wealth  as a wheat dealer in the United States, died penniless.

Jesse Livermore, a Wall Street trader who amassed a $100 million fortune,  died a suicide.

Ivar Kruegar, the “Match King,”   whose companies monopolized 3/4 of world’s match production,   died a suicide.

Albert Fall, Secretary of the Interior, convicted of taking outlandish bribes in leasing public lands, was given a pardon from prison so he could die at home.

With all the wealth and power in their hands, how many of these nine men, you wonder, ever thought about being  “rich in what matters to God”?     Or thought about  a world on the other side of the grave?

Pope Francis got labeled a “communist” when he preached on this Gospel, when he suggested that the “haves” share with the “have-nots.”   They forgot it was Christ’s teaching, it’s been the teaching of the Church all along, it certainly showed up when the Fathers of the Church preached on our parable:

St Augustine said:

“This poor man filled up with eating, drinking and merriment, as he quietly ignored  all the empty bellies of the poor. He didn’t realize that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than all his barns.”

St Cyprian warned:

“The property of the wealthy holds them in chains…which  choke their faith, and throttle their souls. They think of themselves as owners, whereas it is they  who are owned:

Enslaved as they are to their own property, they are not the masters of their money but its slaves.”

St Basil of Caesarea told his Church:

“The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man;

the extra coat hanging in your closet belongs to the man who has none;

the shoes rotting on the floor belong to the man who has no shoes;

the money which you put into the bank belongs to the poor.

You therefore do wrong to everyone you could help     but fail to help.”

Not even Monks get off the hook.

All monks are needy in some way, and the Rule of Benedict tells us how

we’re all brothers, called to be our brothers’ keepers,  to help each other,

Monks also do wrong  to those we could help     but fail to help.

No matter who we are, the night will come when we’re called to leave it all behind,

and we’re asked to show what we’ve stored up in riches   that matter  to God.

Until that night, St  John Chrysostom proposes a little self-examination:

“The next time you’re tempted to give up praying because you do not receive,

stop and  consider how often you’ve heard a poor man calling, but have not listened to him.”

Fr Seamus Malvey, OCSO has passed away

 

   Fr. Seamus Malvey, OCSO

Fr Seamus Malvey, OCSO
Born: 8/23/32
Entered Gethsemani: 1/21/02
Solemn Vows: 5/15/07
Died: 7/31/22
Fr. Seamus Malvey passed away during Vigils on the morning of July 31, 2022.
The monks had been praying with him through the night.  He passed away very peacefully.

From Palm Beach Post https://annunciations.wordpress.com/category/seamus-malvey/ written on  the day of Fr. Seamus’ final vows in 2007:

When Seamus Malvey takes his final vows as a Trappist monk today, he will be entering a third phase of his religious evolution.

The first phase consisted of 20 years in the Christian Brothers order. Then he became a priest in the Diocese of Palm Beach, serving nearly two decades at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens, in other parishes and in several diocesan appointments.

His imagination was captured back in high school when he read The Seven Storey Mountain, the memoir of Thomas Merton, probably the most famous Trappist monk of the 20th century. Merton’s combination of mysticism and outspoken political activism galvanized the post-World War II generation of spiritual seekers, many of whom followed him to the Abbey of Gethsemani in the hills of Kentucky.

But it wasn’t until after his retirement from the diocese that Malvey finally made it to Gethsemani.

“I had always thought of being a contemplative, so I said, let me just write them and at least be rejected.”

The monks at Gethsemani range in age from 30 to 92 and usually do not take postulants as old as Malvey, but the monks of the order voted to accept him.

There is a decidedly egalitarian streak at the abbey, where a priest or a Ph.D. may be assigned to do manual labor and abbots are elected by a community vote.

Still, he was surprised when the abbot transferred him from working in the laundry to running the abbey’s busy visitor center and bookstore, where busloads of day-trippers and retreat-goers arrive year-round.

The abbey was established in 1848 by the French Cistercian order. From the beginning the abbey was self-sustaining, even built from bricks made by the monks. They still grow their own vegetables and make their own shoes and other necessities. The monastery does a brisk year-round business in its signature cheeses, bourbon-laced fudge and fruitcakes.

With 2,300 acres to oversee, the order even has its own forester monk.

Besides their daily duties in the kitchens and the fields, the monks chant the Psalms seven times a day, starting at 3 a.m., as they have every day since the abbey was founded.

Long periods of solitude produce interesting results, said Malvey.

“I can’t pretend I’m humble and holy,” Malvey says. “Eventually, it will break down and finally you become yourself. That’s when grace takes over. God calls a person, the real you, not the person you would like to be.”

 

When Seamus Malvey takes his final vows as a Trappist monk today, he will be entering a third phase of his religious evolution.

The first phase consisted of 20 years in the Christian Brothers order. Then he became a priest in the Diocese of Palm Beach, serving nearly two decades at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens, in other parishes and in several diocesan appointments.

His imagination was captured back in high school when he read The Seven Storey Mountain, the memoir of Thomas Merton, probably the most famous Trappist monk of the 20th century. Merton’s combination of mysticism and outspoken political activism galvanized the post-World War II generation of spiritual seekers, many of whom followed him to the Abbey of Gethsemani in the hills of Kentucky.

But it wasn’t until after his retirement from the diocese that Malvey finally made it to Gethsemani.

“I had always thought of being a contemplative, so I said, let me just write them and at least be rejected.”

The monks at Gethsemani range in age from 30 to 92 and usually do not take postulants as old as Malvey, but the monks of the order voted to accept him.

There is a decidedly egalitarian streak at the abbey, where a priest or a Ph.D. may be assigned to do manual labor and abbots are elected by a community vote.

Still, he was surprised when the abbot transferred him from working in the laundry to running the abbey’s busy visitor center and bookstore, where busloads of day-trippers and retreat-goers arrive year-round.

The abbey was established in 1848 by the French Cistercian order. From the beginning the abbey was self-sustaining, even built from bricks made by the monks. They still grow their own vegetables and make their own shoes and other necessities. The monastery does a brisk year-round business in its signature cheeses, bourbon-laced fudge and fruitcakes.

With 2,300 acres to oversee, the order even has its own forester monk.

Besides their daily duties in the kitchens and the fields, the monks chant the Psalms seven times a day, starting at 3 a.m., as they have every day since the abbey was founded.

Long periods of solitude produce interesting results, said Malvey.

“I can’t pretend I’m humble and holy,” Malvey says. “Eventually, it will break down and finally you become yourself. That’s when grace takes over. God calls a person, the real you, not the person you would like to be.”

The first phase consisted of 20 years in the Christian Brothers order. Then he became a priest in the Diocese of Palm Beach, serving nearly two decades at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens, in other parishes and in several diocesan appointments.

His imagination was captured back in high school when he read The Seven Storey Mountain, the memoir of Thomas Merton, probably the most famous Trappist monk of the 20th century. Merton’s combination of mysticism and outspoken political activism galvanized the post-World War II generation of spiritual seekers, many of whom followed him to the Abbey of Gethsemani in the hills of Kentucky.

But it wasn’t until after his retirement from the diocese that Malvey finally made it to Gethsemani.

“I had always thought of being a contemplative, so I said, let me just write them and at least be rejected.”

The monks at Gethsemani range in age from 30 to 92 and usually do not take postulants as old as Malvey, but the monks of the order voted to accept him.

There is a decidedly egalitarian streak at the abbey, where a priest or a Ph.D. may be assigned to do manual labor and abbots are elected by a community vote.

Still, he was surprised when the abbot transferred him from working in the laundry to running the abbey’s busy visitor center and bookstore, where busloads of day-trippers and retreat-goers arrive year-round.

The abbey was established in 1848 by the French Cistercian order. From the beginning the abbey was self-sustaining, even built from bricks made by the monks. They still grow their own vegetables and make their own shoes and other necessities. The monastery does a brisk year-round business in its signature cheeses, bourbon-laced fudge and fruitcakes.

With 2,300 acres to oversee, the order even has its own forester monk.

Besides their daily duties in the kitchens and the fields, the monks chant the Psalms seven times a day, starting at 3 a.m., as they have every day since the abbey was founded.

Long periods of solitude produce interesting results, said Malvey.

“I can’t pretend I’m humble and holy,” Malvey says. “Eventually, it will break down and finally you become yourself. That’s when grace takes over. God calls a person, the real you, not the person you would like to be.”

Homily – Eleanor Craig, SL – God’s Loving Presence 7/24/22

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Genesis 18:20-32      Colossians 2:12-14     Luke 11:1-13

            Today’s readings are very familiar and each is rich in multiple meanings and deep, compassionate reassurance.

            The most familiar reading, of course, is the gospel which introduces the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, a blend of praise and petition to God as Father.

            In the Genesis passage of the first reading, Abraham challenges his God to be merciful, even in Sodom, known far and wide for its wickedness. In a series of requests that seem increasingly daring and impertinent, Abraham urges God to cast the cloak of mercy over the entire city of Sodom for the sake of a few innocents.  Abraham seems to be telling God ‘It will not look good if you destroy the innocent and the guilty indiscriminately.’  Abraham even shames God, saying “Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?” Yet at the same time Abraham couches his requests hesitantly and even apologetically.  Did Abraham doubt God’s mercy? Did he doubt God’s tolerance?   God answered each of Abraham’s requests in the same words, ‘If I find so many innocents, I will spare Sodom for their sake.’  We might suspect that God didn’t need to be convinced; mercy was God’s intent from the beginning.

            We hear essentially the same story, and also the moral for the day, in the passage from Luke’s gospel.  Jesus tells the parable of a friend at the gate late at night, persistent in his pleas for bread, while the householder within refuses.  Jesus concludes with the wry observation, ‘will not the householder relent because of such persistence if not because of friendship?’  The moral of the parable, however, is not that persistence wins out.  The moral is: ‘Even in your imperfection you know how to give good things to your children; how much more will your Heavenly Father give.’

            How much more?  “Everyone who asks, receives, and the one who seeks, finds and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” It doesn’t matter how earnestly we ask; God doesn’t need earnest pleas.  It doesn’t matter how anxiously or fearfully or timidly we ask; God is not deterred by barriers of doubt.  There are no limits to God’s willingness to be with us in all things, to throw the cloak of loving kindness over each and every one—the birds of the air, the snails on the land, the plankton in the oceans, and ourselves. God’s loving presence hovers over every bit of creation looking for opportunities and openings, responsive to our least desire for daily bread.

                                                                                                     –Eleanor Craig, SL

Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – Sunday, July 17, 2022

+CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY           16TH Sunday C, July 17.2022

These words of St Paul summarize the mystery of this Sunday’s celebration. The mystery that has been hidden from ages and from generations past is now manifest to those who have eyes to see. As we are gathered here this morning let us realize that to us has been given to know the riches of the glory of God in Christ Jesus who lives among us.

The first reading about Abraham and the three men visiting him speaks  of God’s closeness to the people of his time and ours. And I wonder if the three coming into Abraham’s tent are not meant to be a beautiful image of God’s own Trinitarian life. It has been pointed out how today’s gospel of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary was probably chosen because of its close link with Abraham’s own experience of divine visitation. We all do well to be attentive to those moments when God draws near to our lives, comes to us as to Abraham and Sarah with the promise of a whole new life to be born to us as to them.

The visit of Covid to our Gethsemani community was not at all expected and at first, seemed to bring anything but new life or vitality. But hasn’t it been a call to share with St Paul in the sufferings of Christ, to fill up in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions on behalf of his body, the church? None of us could have guessed what we were in for a couple weeks ago! We have been asked at times to fill in for others like never before in our many years of monastic life. As demanding as it has been, it has brought forth generosity and even joy that must delight the heart of our Redeemer.

Much has been written about our gospel, Christ’s visit to the home of Martha and Mary. His words to Martha are certainly no condemnation of her generous hospitality, even less, any kind of criticism of apostolic activity within the Church. What Jesus criticizes is Martha’s anxiety, the way she let her work stand in the way of what Mary is doing as she sits at his feet. At the heart of our Christian lives is Mary’s careful, attentive listening to the word of God, letting Christ’s presence pervade the whole of our lives. His presence in us is our hope of glory. Everything else is secondary when compared to this sitting at Christ’s feet in all the circumstances of our lives, listening to the divine Word of as it wells up from down deep within our hearts.

Our Christian faith tells us that Christ is constantly drawing near to every aspect of our lives, so great is God’s love for us. At this very Eucharistic celebration God’s infinite love is made present at this altar, where the very moment of Christ’s dying for love of us is made present. Out of this great act of love, Christ gives us his very own Body and Blood to be our food for the whole of our daily lives. As we live by the strength it gives, His own Love becomes manifest to all who live in our world today.

(Gen 18:1-10a; Col 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42)

Homily – Fr. James Conner – Feast of St. Benedict – July 11, 2022

Feast of St Benedict – July 11, 2022

          The words of our first reading today from Proverbs sounds very much like the opening words of St Benedict’s Rule: “My son, if you receive my words and treasure my commands, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for understanding,” then be attentive to my words.  The whole Rule of Benedict gives us a path to wisdom. It strongly resembles the words of Jesus in the gospel today – words which He spoke at the Last Supper, just before He was to suffer and die for us:. Even then, after three years of following Him and striving to absorb the wisdom which He gave, – yes, even then “A dispute broke out among them: which of them was to be regarded as greatest”.

          One can imagine a Novice Master preparing a group of novices for First Profession. And a dispute broke out among them: which of them was ro be regarded as greatest”. The Novice Master could only cry out in exasperation: “So long have I been with you, and you still do not understand even the Prologue of the Rule. What will you do with chapter seven!? “ Jesus Himself must have felt some of that exasperation at His disciples, as Benedict must have felt when his early disciples offered him the poisoned cup. But Jesus went even further. He drank from the poisoned cup. And He even offers that poisoned cup to us as His disciples.

knowing that in death we will find life; in humility we will find true greatness; and in obedience we will find true fulfillment.

          The disciples of Jesus were truly slow to understand His message. And so now He must demonstrate to them in action that the greatest must be the least, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them. But it shall not be so among you.” Jesus will demonstrate on the next day that the greatest must truly be least. He who has come in order to show us that the way to wisdom and true greatness is the path of suffering and death out of love for the other.

          That final message of Jesus is given to us in the Rule of St Benedict. It is there that we are to find true life and greatness. It is there that we are to find true wisdom. It is there that we are to find God Himself, by preferring nothing to the love of Jesus Christ.

Homily – Fr Lawrence – Becoming a Sign for the World of God’s Kingdom – 7/3/22

Dear Brothers and Sisters –

In today’s reading, Isaiah describes a state of infant bliss. Israel is held in its mother’s arms, fed from her abundant breasts, fondled in her lap. Isaiah means us to imagine, or remember, a time when our basic needs were met, when we had no responsibilities, when we had no worries, when we were purely and simply loved. We were entirely dependent on others, we had no resources of our own, but we could rely on our parents’ love and care. But Isaiah is not presenting a picture of some ideal past, but of a future, the kingdom of God come down to earth. God is our mother who loves and cares for us. This is what the kingdom looks like.

When Jesus sends out his disciples to go ahead of him and prepare his way, he puts them in the same dependent position. He strips them of their usual means of support, money, a bag for food and incidentals, even their shoes. They are to trust entirely on others, not on their own resources. That they have to depend on others is important. It’s fairly easy to say, “I trust in God.” Trusting in God is somewhat abstract, and people often hedge their bets when they add something like, “But God helps those who help themselves,” which is my least favourite saying of all time. Over and over scripture tells us that God helps the poor, the lowly, the widow, the orphan, those who precisely cannot help themselves. Trusting in God therefore can be an abstract trust, which has no real consequences.

On the other hand, trusting in other people is much more difficult. We put ourselves at the mercy of others whom we don’t know, strangers whose motivations and characters are a mystery. God works through other people, though, that’s how it’s done. When we live by our own resources, trusting only in ourselves, then God’s grace can’t break through to us.

Only when we are vulnerable, needy, reaching out, can God come to our help, through the actions and words of other people. Only then are we living in the kingdom. The 72 disciples have placed themselves in this situation, dependent on the charity and kindness of others. So when Jesus tells them to say, “The kingdom of God is at hand for you,” the disciples themselves are the sign of that kingdom. They are already living in it by putting their complete trust in God’s providence and grace, without making plans or strategies of their own.

But it is still possible not to recognize the kingdom of God. Notice that when a town does not accept the disciples, the kingdom of God is still at hand. The kingdom is there whether we accept it or not. It is all around us, waiting for us to enter. We have the choice, though, to see it or not.

And what does the kingdom of God look like to us, as monks? There are some remarkable clues in today’s Gospel. First, they are sent out two-by-two, as community from community. Then Jesus tells his disciples to divest themselves of possessions. They give up money, clothes, and security. I struggled with Christ’s next guideline at first – why wouldn’t the disciples greet anyone on the road? If their mission is to evangelize, wouldn’t they want to talk to everybody they met? I’m not sure what Christ meant in his context, but for me, after I thought about it, his command is an exhortation to silence, to practice the discipline of silence. Then Jesus tells them to accept the hospitality of one house only. They are to maintain a sort of stability while they are in a town. And finally, they are to practice our own ascetic practice of accepting any food that is put in front of them. It doesn’t matter if you are not fond of turnips or hominy, be grateful for the meal. Community, personal poverty, silence, stability, ascetic practices: these should sound familiar to us. By following our monastic rule, we are fulfilling Christ’s injunctions to his disciples.

Of course Christ himself is our ultimate example to follow. His life, and particularly his death, are the path to the new creation Paul talks about. To boast of nothing but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul puts it, is to become utterly dependent on God’s grace, even, or perhaps especially, when it reaches into death. When it looks like we should not depend on others, because it is after all other people who crucified Jesus, we still must, because only then can grace become real, only then is it obvious that God, and not our own self-interest, is active in our lives. We are dependent on God, who works one way or the other through human beings.

When the disciples first approach a house, they say, “Peace to this household.” Jesus adds, “If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him” or her. Peace attracts peace and multiplies. Peace is in rare supply in the world these days, whether we look to relations between nations, political parties, or into our own hearts. But peace is the fruit of the kingdom of God. Paul says he has been crucified to the world and the world to him, and that peace is the result for anyone who follows this way. We here are privileged to have at least the opportunity to reach for this peace. We live under a rule and an abbot, and are dependent on our fellow monks for all our needs. However, we must admit that we are still capable of refusing to see the kingdom, although it is all around us. We can still curl in on ourselves, putting our faith in our own preferences and resources instead of becoming more trusting, more dependent. But if we can rest in our dependence on others, which is ultimately trust, or faith, in God, as an infant rests on its mother’s breast, then we too can experience this same peace, the peace of the kingdom. And like the disciples, we can become a sign for the world of God’s kingdom, a kingdom which is right here, right now, at hand for all of us.

Reflection for 7/1/22 – Fr. Michael Casagram

+Our text from the prophet Amos this morning is not an easy one to listen to. We are aware of the injustices in our own world, where the poor continue to be oppressed and where we are exposed very little to the plight of refugees or those without food to survive. The rich are in control of so much of the news and public thinking. And are we facing a famine for hearing the Word of God, facing a lack of inspired leadership among Nations?

Our gospel offers us some relief when we find Jesus sitting down to eat with tax collectors and sinners, reminding the Pharisees that God desires mercy and not sacrifice, that he himself has come not to call the righteous but sinners. May he have mercy on the sinful world of today and help us all to hear God’s word even now being spoken amid all the turmoil of our time.

(Amos 8:4-6, 9-12; Matthew 9:9-13)