+THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD 5th Sunday of Lent(C), 2019
Our lives as Christians get intensified during Lent as we seek to be more attentive to grace in our lives. This 5th Sunday would have us consider with St Paul to accept all things as loss for the sake of Christ so as to “be found in him, not having any righteousness of [our] own based on the law but that which comes through faith in” Christ Jesus. To do so is to already experience the power of the resurrection.
As Christians, our faith brings about in our hearts the working of Christ’s very own presence within and all around us. Is this not what the prophet Isaiah foretold in our first reading when he says: “remember not the events of the past… see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Through Baptism water is not only poured over our heads but the living water of the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts, making of us a people after God’s own image and likeness.
This inner change happened dramatically to the woman presented to us in the gospel. She has been caught in adultery and made to stand before the Scribes and Pharisees in the presence of Jesus and all the people whom he had been teaching. The Scribes and Pharisees are setting Jesus up so that they can bring a charge against him. Jesus sees right through what is happening so he bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. As I read this, I must admit, the first thing that came into my mind was why is it that the woman is made to stand there and not the man who probably initiated the adulterous act in which they were caught? No one questions this in our gospel though today we are more likely to raise the issue of injustice.
Jesus bending down and writing on the ground with his finger speaks volumes to us all. In doing so he is communicating what is actually going on within the hearts of those gathered at the scene, and of all of us. Jesus is really interested in what is going on deep down within us where grace, given room, is able to work and make all things new. Jesus is ever helping each one of us to find our true selves so as to become honest about what is actually unfolding in our lives. As we truly own what motivates us and surrender to the Light of his presence, God’s own righteousness is able to take over and become the guiding force of all we are and do.
When the Scribes and Pharisees insist on a response from Jesus, he simply says to them: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He then continues to write on the ground. It was a great awakening for those seeking to find some charge to bring against him. How easy it is for any of us to condemn a brother or sister for some sinful act out of our own prideful thinking and self-righteousness. To be able to own this and turn for help from God’s loving presence, we are given a whole new awareness of others and the world around us.
To do so is to open ourselves to the power of Christ’s resurrection. It takes a lot of courage to allow this awakening to take place for it means a death to self and thus a sharing in Christ’s own suffering. But isn’t this what this season is calling us into as we see what happened to Jesus after he revealed what was going on in the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees. Unwilling to open themselves to this inner transformation, they sought to put Jesus to death.
Each of us as Christians is asked to die daily to self so as to live to God. This is wonderfully symbolized in the Eucharist as often as we celebrate it. The bread and wine that we bring to this altar, that are consecrated, broken and shared are our own lives as well as that of Christ. Let us be forever grateful for what God is bringing about here in this celebration and each moment of our lives.
Fourth Sunday in Lent – Year C
The gospel today is one that is universally known and acclaimed as a powerful symbol of a loving God who is willing to take us back as His sons and daughters, even after we have betrayed Him in many ways. But the parable also tells us even more about the God who calls us to be one with Him in His Son, Jesus Christ.
The Word made flesh, the son of God, is Himself that younger son who asks for his inheritance and then goes to a far off country. In becoming flesh, Jesus Christ undertook that journey far off. As St Paul tells us in the epistle to the Philippians: “He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. And being found in human form, he humbled himself.” In being reduced to tending swine and yearning even for their food, he expressed that Son who humbled himself even to death on a cross. Yet by the power of God, the Son rose on the third day and after forty days returned to His Father.
Yet the Son did not return to the Father alone. He came as that total Christ who now contains in Himself all humanity of all time. As our second reading from 2 Corinthians tells us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold the new has come.” That son who returns to the father is the total Body of Christ. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation”.
Christ returns to the Father bearing in Himself the whole of humanity and even the whole of creation – that same creation which God looked on at the sixth day and saw that it was all VERY good! But it still remains for us to complete that task. It is a task of reconciliation. This is why Jesus repeats over and over in His ministry the call to “Love one another”. The Love of God has come to us embodied in the very Son of God, and His will is that we recognize all humanity and all creation as part of ourselves, because it is all part of the total Christ.
The Father still desires that the elder son, the rest of humanity who have not yet accepted Christ, be drawn into one in Christ. As Paul says again: “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” The full banquet will not be celebrated until the whole of humanity is united in love. As Jesus said in another parable: “Tell the servants to go out and bring those in from the highways and byways that the hall may be filled”. This is the process of reconciliation which is given to us as ambassadors of Christ. “Love one another, as I have loved you!”.
This is why it is such a tragedy to see humanity so divided today
Not only throughout the world, but even within our own nation. And the problem is accentuated by the fact that even our government does not foster reconciliation, but rather fosters resentments and hard feelings toward one another.
This is why it is so important that we begin this ministry of reconciliation in our own immediate surroundings – or communities, our homes and families our surroundings. We can begin this by refusing to allow division and hard feelings to abide in our hearts. We begin this by praying as Jesus taught us: ”Forgive us our sins as w e forgive those who sin against us.” We pray this just shortly before receiving the Son in the Eucharist, which is itself a call to “Go forth and proclaim the message of God to the whol
So, the takeaway from today’s Gospel is this: If you find yourself knee-deep in manure, don’t worry, it’s just God fertilizing you. It’s true, though, that life is full of trouble. This has been said many times by many people. It’s even in the Bible. Psalm 90 says, “Our years are 70 or 80 for those who are strong / and most of these are emptiness and pain.” Shakespeare has Macbeth say, “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / creeps in this petty pace from day to day / to the last syllable of recorded time; / and all our yesterdays have lighted fools / the way to dusty death.” And we’ve all heard somebody say at some point, “There are only two sure things in this life, death and taxes.” According to this way of thinking, life is quite simply full of trouble, and we have to accept it.
And this may be, at least on the surface. We usually don’t choose the sort of trouble and sorrow that comes our way. One thing is certain, though, aside from taxes and death, we usually receive just about all the trouble and sorrow we can handle. All of us have experienced major tragedies in our lives. Those we have loved and have depended on have died. Friends and family have suffered debilitating illness through no fault of their own. We ourselves might be facing pain and chronic illness. And when we look around the world we see suffering on a scale that blinds us. People are gunned down in their places of worship. War destroys peoples’ lives and homes. Every day, children die of hunger and preventable disease. Life is certainly full of trouble and sorrow.
And we will do almost anything to avoid it. In our first reading today, Moses is curious about a strange sight he sees in the desert. He says, “I must go over and look at this remarkable sight.” He almost immediately regrets his curiosity. God has chosen him, and that’s not good news to Moses. He knows that he is in for a heaping share of trouble and sorrow, and so, in another passage, tries to convince God that he’s not the guy for the job. God doesn’t agree, and guess who gets his way.
In the Gospel today, Jesus mentions two tragedies that were in the news. One should be immediately familiar to us – a group of people were killed while attending worship services. And we have certainly heard of incidents like the second – a building collapses and kills those inside. The crowd are wondering what these people did to deserve such tragedy. Jesus says – they didn’t deserve it. Deserving has nothing to do with it.
But how desperately we want to believe that it does. Bad things happen to people who deserve it. Which means that they can’t happen to us. Someone who smoked for 50 years gets lung cancer. We feel bad for the person, but at some level we think, “Well, they should have known better.” Or at least, there’s a reason why they are suffering, a reason we can point to and feel secure in knowing that because we don’t smoke, the same thing is not liable to happen to us. If someone gets in a car wreck because they were driving too fast, or talking on a cell phone, we can think that we are insulated from car accidents because we obey the speed limit, more or less, and know the dangers of talking on cell phones while driving. This reasoning can extend to a kind of magical thinking. I have a friend who was outraged when she was diagnosed with diabetes as a young, fit woman. It wasn’t because she was otherwise healthy that she was mad, though, it was because for most of her life she had been a hypochondriac. She felt that by worrying so much about getting sick that she was inoculating herself from actually getting sick. Most of us make bargains like this. It can be as simple as a superstition – if I break a mirror, I will have seven years of bad luck. Outwardly we scoff at such nonsense, but still, we probably avoid breaking mirrors, or if we accidentally do break one, we might think, “Uh oh,” if only for a minute. For the most part, such thinking boils down to the idea that if I am good, if I follow the rules, even sometimes self-imposed rules, then nothing bad will happen to me. It’s as if we try to pile up credits in some sort of spiritual bank account as a protection against tragedy. Even Lent can be twisted in this way. We may think that by giving up chocolate, or coffee, or meat on Fridays, by accepting some small burden or trouble now, we are building a wall against future, more serious burdens and troubles.
Jesus tells us that this isn’t so. We can’t protect ourselves from tragedy, from sorrow, from hardship by magically depending on our good deeds. Paul adds, in his first letter to the Corinthians, “whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” That’s not to say that good deeds are worthless. By no means! It just means that they won’t help us to stand secure in the belief that we will avoid the tragedies that life consistently brings to us. But Jesus adds something significant. He says that we must repent.
We usually think of repentance as feeling bad for something we’ve done, and it certainly does mean that. We feel guilt, remorse, regret, over something we’ve done or said which has harmed someone else, or ourselves. And this is not a bad thing. In the original Greek, the word behind the English “repentance” has the connotation of a change of heart, or a turning from one thing to another. So repentance, in its most positive sense is a recognition of our true nature, that we are broken in some fundamental way, and that we can’t repair ourselves, that we need to turn from ourselves to God for help. This is the change of heart, the change in perspective, that Jesus is calling us toward. Jesus says in the Gospel reading that if we do not repent, we “will all perish as they did,” that is, those in the tower or at the worship service. But how did they perish, what does Jesus mean? They perished unprepared. The Rule of Benedict asks us to keep death before our eyes every day. This may sound morbid, always thinking that we might die today, but it’s not. Think of this for a minute. If we truly believe that this might be our last day on earth, we will probably live it with extraordinary consciousness and attention. We’ll appreciate the gift of life, the beauty of nature, the love of our families and friends. We’ll be kind to others, we’ll try to do the right thing, not because of some future reward, but because it no longer seems important to think mostly of our own advantage. When tragedy does come, if it happens to us, we can accept it, with God’s help. If it happens to others, we can be really compassionate because we are not trying to protect ourselves from some future hypothetical sorrow and pain, as if tragedy were infectious. This is the repentance that Jesus is asking of us. Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea, saying, in God’s words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” This is where true repentance leads us, to mercy, to compassion, to love. And in this we can truly stand secure, since we are becoming like God – because God is love.
+FROM THE FULLNESS OF THE HEART THE MOUTH SPEAKS 8TH Sun.(C)
There is a lot of polarization going on in our society today and it seems to me that our gospel does a wonderful job of addressing just this thing. It is so easy for us to see the splinter in our brother’s or sister’s eye and not be aware of the beam in our own eye. We can even begin to define ourselves or others by what we find fault with them rather than by all the good that is in them.
The wooden beam in one’s own eye is the way we look for and condemn the faults in another rather than be honest about the effects, the fruits of our own words or actions. If we are truly loving, truly Christian and appreciative of our wives or husbands and children, or monks of their brothers, then we draw the very best out of them, we create a loving climate around them where they can truly become themselves as children of God.
When we fail to deal with the wooden beam in our own eye, then we create an atmosphere of fear and tension. When we spend time finding fault with others rather than see the good in them, we block their potential for living as children of God.
A good person, Jesus tells us, out of the store of goodness in his or her heart, produces good. And our mouths are what reveal what’s really going on deep down in our hearts. If we want to really know what’s going on inside us, we have only to be aware of what comes out of our mouths. As monks have learned to grow in a lot of self-knowledge if we are attentive to our speech.
If our corruptible nature is to clothe itself with incorruptibility, if we are to be fully devoted to the work of the Lord as St Paul invites us in the 2nd reading, then we must allow Christ life to live in us.
Of ourselves, the wooden beam blinds us to the work of God all around us and in our own hearts but as we allow Christ to live in us, our eyes are opened and we carry on God’s saving work in our families, in our communities, in every aspect of society or world we live in.
DOM TIMOTHY KELLY, O.C.S.O.
Homily for Funeral Mass of Br. Patrick Hart
February 28, 2019
[Wis 3:1-9; Rev 21:1-5a, 6b-7; Jn 19:17-18, 25-30]
A Life of Service for Others
We have gathered this afternoon to remember Brother Patrick Hart. It is the appropriate thing to do because we know that Brother Patrick would remember each of us. Brother was always a most thoughtful and considerate person – looking for ways to make connections, to bring persons together, to develop a project to complete the publishing of Merton’s works; or just to have persons share interests and push their horizons.
The Gospel reading is very appropriate. Brother Patrick had begun his spiritual quest with the Brothers of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame. In that context, through Merton’s autobiography, “Seven Storey Mountain”, Brother Patrick’s heart was opened to the monastic way of living the Gospel. He entered the Choir Monk’s novitiate here at Gethsemani and transferred to the Lay Brothers a year later.
It is the last section of our Gospel which seems to touch Brother Patrick’s way of following the Gospel. The violence of Jesus’ solitary death for our salvation as presented in the first lines of the Gospel and is balanced, not softened, by the reality of the women and probably St. John and Nicodimus who were at the foot of the cross; who remained with Jesus; who wanted to care for him in his last hour. These persons were faithful to the one in whom they believed.
When I remember Brother Patrick it is in the context of serving others who were not necessarily deserving of such service. Brother Patrick was my secretary for twenty-seven years and so had many opportunities to practise patience and bear with the incompetence of his Abbot. After the example of the faithful followers at the foot of the Cross, Brother Patrick was always in the background doing what was necessary, making-up for the omissions of others.
I remember an incident when Brother Patrick was at the Generalate in Rome and there were six student-monks of Gethsemani resident at the Generalate. The seven of us would get together after the noon meal on occasion. After complaining about the meal and the Father Master of the Students the topic turned to the common source of our anxiety, our Abbot. On this particular occasion as we exchanged episodes that sounded a little like a game of “Can you top this?”, Brother Patrick abruptly left the group. Later I asked him about his sudden departure from the gathering. With a certain passion he pointed out the selfishness and the lack of respect in the conversation of the group. He acknowledged his gratitude not only for what the Abbot, Dom James Fox, had done for him but also the service of the Abbot to the Order and in particular the opportunity that he provided to each of us, the students. Brother Patrick did not think it possible for him to confront the students as a group but shared his position with us individually.
This is the Gospel witness-gift that Brother Patrick offers each of us – faithfulness to the person who had encouraged him; service to his Brothers in teaching by example and support of others just because they are Brothers and Sisters in following Jesus.
It was almost a mission that Brother Patrick took upon himself when Abbot Flavian entrusted him with the responsibility of the Merton Legacy and to work in collaboration with the Trust that Merton had established for his literary work, and with the archives housed at what is now Bellarmine University. This responsibility did have its perks since it meant working with Mrs. Tommie O’Callaghan and sharing her dynamism and culinary creativity.
Brother Patrick was untiring in locating new Merton material for publication, bringing scholars together on various aspects of Merton’s work. Brother even took responsibility for doing some editing of the Letters and Journals while he searched for competent persons to continue the work. Perhaps the most comprehensive and somewhat controversial work was the publication of the Merton Journals and Letters. There was a great deal of anguish about the amount of editing that should be done to these texts. The final decision was to publish them as they were written.
Granted, that in the midst of the worries and concerns there were opportunities that Brother Patrick relished; meeting with friends and colleagues of Merton’s and forging friendships that would support the Merton legacy and Merton’s message of Christian Peace and Justice for our world, and the call that each person live from the depths of the true self that is the foundation of contemplative prayer.
We are here this evening to express our appreciation for our Brother Patrick and his life of service for others. Be it to editors and publishers; University Presidents and archivists; a student with an initial interest in Merton and needing encouragement – serving in the monks’ refectory or cleaning the wash room or correcting an Abbot’s blunders. We remember our Brother who always remembered us.
We remember our Brother Patrick as we celebrate the Eucharist, the mystery of Jesus giving his life that we might live in eternity. We realize like Brother Patrick, who lived from the example of Jesus, that it is only in giving our life for others that we will have life.
+LOVE YOUR ENEMIES 7th Sunday (C) 2019
Jesus calling us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us are some of the most revolutionary words of all time. He is inviting us to enter into God’s very own loving mercy toward all people. All our human calculations fail in the face of who God is for us and how we are to be toward one another.
To claim to be Christian and yet hold hatred in our hearts is hypocrisy, to live contrary to the faith we profess but we all know how easy it is to hold resentment or hurt toward those who have harmed us in the past. The story of David with King Saul is so revealing of the mind of God. Saul was seeking to kill him and it is easy for us to identify with the suggestion of Abishai that David allow him to pin Saul to ground with one thrust of the spear but David forbids him knowing that Saul is God’s anointed.
There is the earthly and the heavenly in each of us as human beings. The first Adam in us is a living being, the second Adam a life giving spirit as St Paul speaks of in his letter to the Corinthians. Through our baptism we are all destined to bear the image of our heavenly Adam, the Christ. Are we ready to carry about with us at all times this consciousness of the heavenly Adam, the living and active Word of God? This is what gives meaning and daily happiness to our lives as Christians.
What a world we would be living in if only we as Christians put into practice what Jesus is asking of us in our gospel today. It means loving at all times, especially when the earthly person in us is inclined to become defensive or full of ill feeling toward others. It means giving without hope of being repaid, of becoming generous at all times with what we have received. We look for spiritual transformation in our lives and Jesus shows us how to arrive there quickly. For to love our enemies and do good to them completely changes our lives into living images of God’s own inner Trinitarian life. We become as Jesus tells us, God’s very own Children.
To do all that is being asked of us is way beyond our own powers. We cannot begin to forgive, to show mercy, to give, to love as Jesus is asking us to do by our own efforts and exertion. But it all becomes possible through the working of grace. Humbly knowing our weakness and relying on the gift of Divine help, we are made into a new creation after God’s own image and likeness.
The Eucharist we take and break at this Altar is the very Body and Blood of the living Christ. It is His living presence in us that allows us to accomplish all that is being asked of us in today’s gospel. He wants nothing so much as to feed us with His own Divine life so that it is no longer we that live but the Christ living in us. What we receive in our hand or on our tongue is what we become. We have only to know our need and let this life come to maturity in us.
ABBOT ELIAS DIETZ, O.C.S.O.
Homilette – Presentation, February 2, 2019
The Light and The Glory
It is really only today that we complete the Advent-Christmas season. And it is clear that the church wants us to carry something with us from this time into the rest of the year. Just like our procession this morning: we carry candles as we go forward; we carry with us into the future the light and glory we have discovered in the Christ Child during the darkest part of the year.
Notice, too, how the liturgy reminds us each day of the Advent and Christmas seasons, grounding us daily in the events surrounding the Incarnation: we sing Zechariah’s song at Laud’s, Mary’s at Vespers, and Simeon’s at Compline.
In the case of Simeon, it is a song of gratitude and completion: “I have seen your promise come true; now I can go in peace.” To sing these words at the end of each day is to see our daily lives as the arena for these same deep and significant events.
Ideally the Lord becomes incarnate and grows in the hearts of all believers who recall him each day. If we are attentive like Simeon, God’s work unfolding in our lives will be as real as the warmth and weight of a Child in arms. And if we are as deeply grateful as Simeon, we will be ready at the end of each day to say: “Lord, I have seen your salvation; I’m ready to go in peace whether for this night or for all eternity.
HOLY FAMILY – (C) – DEC. 30, 2018 + RDNGS: 1 Sm 1:20-28; 1 Jn 3:1-24; Lk 2:41-52
(Optional Intro: The biblical idea of family boundaries could be quite porous. Blood relationships were important, but the second sense of being a family came from acts of love and loyalty. Blood brothers like Jacob and Esau could split permanently over acts of betrayal, while unrelated persons like Ruth and Naomi (Ru 1:16-18) of David and Jonathan (1 Sm 18:1-4; 20:14-17) could establish covenant relationships with each other that were even stronger than their ties to blood relatives.)
[AD LIB: It’s all about family – Mention Gethsemani’s Family Guest House: e.g. Br Raphael’s large extended family coming from MO every year .. by bus! … and Br Christian’s also … from NH, with his niece’s friend with them – a teenage girl … “No, I’m not family – I never met Br Christian before” she told me … whose own family, she said, “never does anything together” … ” ]
Finding one’s place in God’s household is the reality to which today’s first reading and Gospel speak. Samuel’s parents were not members of Israel’s priestly tribe, but because of Hannah’s love and loyalty, Samuel was welcome in God’s house. It took some time, however, for Samuel to find his place as the leader of Israel.
Jesus also needed time ‘to find his place’ in God’s house. He was God’s Son and, at age 12 he felt at home in the temple where he spent his time listening and asking questions. It is likely that the astonishment that his teachers showed came less from his display of supernatural knowledge and more from his intelligent, perceptive questions. (Home schooled? 😊 )
He had not yet discovered his role. Luke reminds his readers that Jesus still needed time to “advance in wisdom” before he found the place God intended for him. This is a great lesson for all of us who are searching for her/his place in God’s divine plan … for spiritual discernment … on what to do next on our journey of faith.
Jesus’ response to his distraught parents, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” are His first recorded words in scripture … and it’s a question … as was Mary’s first recorded words in scripture … also a question … to the Angel Gabriel, “How can this be since I know not man?”) Why is Luke connecting these? Perhaps this is the summit towards which today’s gospel moves? It has a profound meaning: Mary and Joseph’s complete incomprehension clearly point to this. Jesus, a child like others, obeying his parents, yet clearly possessing an incomparable wisdom, has a mysterious relationship with the Father. The mystery of his person is only revealed, little by little, through his obedience to the will of God. (And we say goodbye to Joseph … who has never been quoted … This Temple scene is/was his final appearance in scripture, he is never mentioned again … but Luke tells us he went home with Mary and Jesus … and we applaud all those parents who have also sacrificed their lives solely for the good of their children!)
Going back: We notice that Luke has Jesus travelling with his parents to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. We see here a spiritually-rich literary coherence: The next time Luke portrays Jesus on his way to Jerusalem will be for the Feast of Passover … again … and that will be Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem … the Jewish feast will coincide with his own “Personal Passover” … his death and resurrection … for each of us … love personified.
Going back again: The veil will not be completely lifted, however, until Easter, which is already on the horizon. We can’t help but notice that Jesus is found in the Temple – or we could say “reappears” – on the third day after his absence, as it will be three days between his death and resurrection. Also, the incomprehension of Joseph and Mary evokes that of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:25) whom the resurrected Jesus reproaches by saying to them, “What little sense you have!” … or as some translations put it, “Oh how foolish you are! Did not the Messiah have to undergo all this?” … or “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” These words clearly reflect Jesus’ words to his parents in the Temple: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Can’t help but realize how direct Jesus is … as he sometimes is with us (through others) as we look for Jesus in our lives.
Seems to me that at some point, each of us needs to follow a similar path. We know we are always welcome in God’s house, but eventually we need to discern the specific role we will play in the divine family. Isn’t this what Lectio is? Only by imitating Jesus’ extended listening and questioning will we be able to mature in the wisdom necessary to discern who we really are and where we’re going … to follow Christ. This process of discernment and our decisions may well mystify our family and/or those who know us best, but when we find the place God has made for us, we will know … and we will feel right at home. One thing is certrain: Each of us has a unique role to play in the divine family … It’s the on-going drama of the divine plan. I hope and pray we all believe this. Have we discerned what our role is? We may never fully know until we carry our cross – suffer – and hang there – naked in others’ eyes – and die to ourselves for the sake of all in God’s family … “to suffer these things and enter into his/our glory.”
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