Category Archives: Homilies and Talks

Homilies

Homily – Fr. Seamus – Baptism of the Lord 1/10/21

BAPTISM OF THE LORD (B) + Jan 10, 2021 + (RDNGS: Isaiah 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11)

A voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (MK 1:7-11) Is there a more important message than this identification of Jesus? We are told “It is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.” (CC 535)

But why did this important message come through a voice from heaven? A voice from heaven can be heard only by those who are there then (in that place and at that time)“Only Jesus saw that the sky was rent in two; only he saw the dove descend; and the voice spoke directly to him. There is no indication that anyone else saw or heard anything. This appears to have been a private affirmation of his messianic importance.” (Bergant, Dianne, Preaching the New Lectionary, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1999) What about everybody else? Isn’t it important for everyone to know that Jesus is God’s beloved Son with whom God the Father is well pleased?

This same sort of puzzle arises from Isaiah who says the Messiah will open the eyes of the blind; and the Gospels testify that Christ really did so. But he opened the eyes of only a few blind people – those blind people who were there then (in that place and at that time). What about all the other blind people, in other places, in other times? Why didn’t Jesus heal all blindness everywhere with one impersonal command: e.g. “Let all the blind people of the world be healed.”?

Perhaps this is what we can learn from today’s readings: In the voice from heaven and in the miracles of Christ, God shows that he is committed to the good of particularity, i.e. … of each particular person. God does not send the news about the Messiah as an impersonal message directed impartially to all humankind. He identifies Jesus as his Son by a voice from heaven heard by a particular person at a particular time. Similarly, Christ does not issue an impersonal decree about nameless blind people taken as a group. Christ heals some particular blind people who happened to be at a particular place at the particular time when Christ was there also.

And this is where we come in. Sometimes, on our community bulletin board we see group photographs on some of the Christmas Cards from other communities throughout the world, or when we surf the web sites of some Cistercian communities, we might feel that, as an individual monk we are also just an unnoticed, nameless member of one Cistercian community. But as far as the Lord is concerned, each one of us stands out as the particular person he/she is. God does not relate to us as nameless members of a community. He calls and he heals one particular person at a time … as each individual monk/nun comes to him.

But then you yourself – not as another member of the Order, nor as a member of this community, but you, the real you – need to come to the Lord, to face him, know him, love him, and let him heal you. Come as yourself, as you are, here and now.  (SOURCE: Stump, Eleonore, SLU, 2018)

“Each one of us has been sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection. Each of us must enter into his death and resurrection. We must enter into humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father’s beloved son in the Son and “walk in newness of life.” – Rom 6:4. (CC 537).

_______ END _______

Homily – Fr. James Conner – January 1 – Mary, Mother of God -‘21

January 1 – Mary, Mother of God -‘21

Today we begin a New Year, leaving behind us all that transpired in the past years, and heading into the new life which God in His Love and Mercy bestows upon us, as a mark of the extent to which truly His Face does shine upon us! And as proof of His shining upon us He gives us His own Mother to be our Mother.

“Woman, behold your son. Son behold your Mother”. In these simple words, Jesus bestows upon us His Mother to be our Mother. She is Mother of God in as much as she has given her own human nature to the very God Who created it. But she is equally our Mother in as much as she gives to us that divine nature which she possessed from the moment of her Immaculate Conception. And it is in sharing in that divine nature that we truly become sons and daughters of God and can address the very God as “Our Father”.

It is through the gift of the Holy Spirit that Mary became the Mother of God; and it is through the same gift of the same Holy Spirit that we become sons and daughters of God. In this, the original plan of God at creation is fulfilled: “Let us make man and woman in our own image and likeness.”

And Mary is our Mother because it is through her that we receive that Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit Who came upon Mary, making her to be truly the Mother of God.

It is because of this that our Father St Bernard can remind us that no matter what trials or temptations may afflict us in life, we need only to “Look to the Star. Call upon Mary” It is in simply calling upon Mary that we are assured of receiving an ever-greater share in that divine life which she brought into this world and which she bestows upon each one of us. It is this which makes her to be truly “Our Mother”. Even if we may have never known our earthly mother, yet we are assured of fully knowing our heavenly Mother who is constantly interceding for us and by that fact constantly bestowing upon us an ever-greater share in that divine life which she received in her fleshly Son, Jesus Christ.

Mary received that Holy Spirit by constantly reflecting on the Word of God – both that found in the Scriptures and that which she heard from the angel. We also are to grow in that same divine life by similarly reflecting on that same Word of God which comes to us through the Scriptures, through our spiritual reading and through our prayer – simply being attentive to that Word of God present and
speaking within our heart. That is the ever-new infusion of divine life within our being, a life which she watches over and nourishes by her own attentiveness to what the Spirit is doing not only within herself, but within each one of us, her children.

It is she who, as our own Mother and as Mother of God, is the first to bestow on each one of us that same blessing which God gave as His special blessing on each one of us as we begin his New Year:
“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine
upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance
upon you and give you peace”.

He gives us that peace as we receive the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in these Mysteries today and each day. And in receiving that Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we also share in that immaculate nature of Mary, our Mother and the Mother of God.

Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – Epiphany 2021

+YOUR  LIGHT HAS COME                                       Epiphany 2021

“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” For me these words are loaded as they address us today. To rise up in splendor is an invitation to own our dignity as children of God. We are to be a holy city, a place where God dwells and in fact, this is what this Solemnity reveals as it calls us to see the work of grace taking place in our lives. Our Light has come, Jesus is in our midst, the glory of the Lord shines upon us.

We may not feel this but Jesus is within our hearts and leading us all day long to live the lives given us. We fall and fail but we are constantly getting up again and letting Him shine in and through us for the good of others.

Darkness covers the whole earth! Perhaps more than ever we are aware of what’s happening as the pandemic continues to spread, as new strains that are even more contagious are taking their toll. We live in a world where climate change is giving rise to worse storms, hurricanes, flooding and fires than we have known in the past. And yet we are told: “nations shall walk by your light and kings by your shining radiance. Christ is ever the Light of the world however flawed and subject to destructive forces, offering a way through and beyond all that is harmful.

Where do we see God being manifested in our world of today? This is a challenging question that has stayed with me as I prepared these few reflections. I’m sure the answer to this question is different for each one of us and it would be fascinating to hear how each of you would respond.

What our Scripture readings bring home is that God taking on our human flesh and then visited by the Magi is to show that he is not only the Savior of a chosen people but of every Nation. The Incarnation is the manifestation of God’s love and care for every human being. As often as we in turn show the same love for each of our brothers and sisters, we bring to fulfillment the divine plan.

No matter where we are, what we may be asked to do, we have the opportunity of being living signs of that Light that has come to transform the human family into a wonderfully gifted entity. We are one with the Gentiles spoke of in the letter to the Ephesians we just heard who “are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

The star that guides us as it guided the Magi is the light of faith so let us become overjoyed as they were at seeing its light. It will guide us as it guided them to enter into our own life’s setting and there to find the Child with Mary his Mother. Each of us gathered here is ever entering into the simplicity or complexity of our own lives so as to see where we find God become flesh, find God sharing in all that is a part of our own human lives.

Might this be one of rich stores of meaning we find in the Eucharist each day when the very simple elements of bread and wine are changed into Christ’s own Body and Blood. As we let the Light of faith shine through our lives, we become one with him in his glory. Then it is that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us, He who is the Light of the world.

Christmas Eve Homily – Sisters of Loretto – Eileen Custy

CHRISTMAS EVE

December 24, 2020

Who are you, God, she asked,

And God replied: “I Am. I am who I am.”

“I am the origin of all life. I am the energy that drives everything in the universe. I am love.” Tonight, we celebrate two incarnations. The first took place somewhere around 13.7 billion years ago when God shared God’s self with the whole of creation. The book of Genesis describes it in this way:

            In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth                                 was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and                           the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,”      and there was light.”

Richard Rohr, reflecting on Franciscan spirituality remarks that Christ is not just Jesus’ last name. He writes: “I want to suggest that the first incarnation was the moment described in Genesis I, when God joined in unity with the physical universe and became the light inside of everything.” He is suggesting that the Christ is God’s presence among us from the very beginning. The Christ figure is not limited to the human person of Jesus but rather “Everything visible, without exception, is the outpouring of God.” The Christ is God’s plan from the very beginning. The Christ is God with us with us from the outset of creation.. Another way I have found helpful to think about this is that we have God’s DNA in us. Why did God create us in first place – was it not to share life and love?

The gospel of John picks up on this theme in its opening – a passage I have always loved.

“In the beginning there was the Word: the Word was in God’s presence, and                           the Word was God. The Word was present to God from the beginning. Through                                the Word all things came into being, and apart from the Word nothing came into      being. In the Word was life, and that life was humanity’s light – a Light that shines in the darkness, a Light that the darkness has never overtaken.”

Word, Light, the Christ – all descriptions of God’s presence from the very beginning. God spoke, it came to be, and God saw that ii was good. This is God’s first incarnation into our world.

But that was not enough to satisfy God’s love for us. Tonight’s first reading from Isaiah says: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” Going back again to John’s gospel, he announces: “And the Word became flesh and made a dwelling among us.” God has chosen to enter even more deeply into our humanity, living as we live, a helpless baby, growing, learning, playing, dancing, teaching, walking the desert paths of Israel. Through Jesus, God shared our emotions, our frustrations, our hopes and dreams, and our suffering. God knows and understands our loneliness, our joys, our sorrows, our temptations, our moments of peacefulness and surrender through the experiences of the human person of Jesus.

Richard Rohr writes:

We do not need to be afraid of the depths and breadths of our own lives,                  of  what this world offers us or asks of us. We are given permission to                                            become intimate with our own experiences, learn from them, and allow                                ourselves to descend to the depth of things, even our mistakes, before                                   we try to quickly to transcend it all in the name of some idealized purity or                superiority. God hides in the depths and is not seen as long as we stay on                  the surface of anything – even the depths of our sins.”

It is this second incarnation that we celebrate this night in the midst of intense suffering all around us. For many it is truly a night of darkness. Some will experience loneliness and mourn the loss of loved ones this Christmas. Some will be very sick or dying, perhaps at this very moment. Many will be bone-weary in their attempts to care for the sick and save lives. Parents will be separated from their children and refugees crushed together in unhealthy camps. The homeless may be shivering in the cold. Others may be wondering if they will find food for their family. It will not be a happy time for many people. And yet, we have hope. It was the very poor and suffering that Jesus sought out.  Our God has not forgotten this planet, this people, this blossoming of divine creation. Emanuel, “God with us” is in our midst, in our very DNA, in our minds and hearts. With the angel we can say:

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that                             will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been                        born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: that you                             will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Who are you, God, she asked?

And God said: “I am. I am who I am.

In you, God, a light will shine in our darkness.

In you, God, we will find love.

In you, God, we will discover who we truly are.

In you, God, we will find peace.

Eileen Custy

Homily – Christmas Midnight Mass 2020 – Fr. Alan Gilmore

CHRISTMAS MIDNIGHT MASS 2020 + Gethsemani

Human words can hardly express what GOD – who is LOVE – has done for us. Who can ‘translate’ the Word of God, the very Son of God, but God Himself?

The Readings we just heard during this Vigil, and all the readings, hymns, and antiphons provided by the Church and our Brother Luke – during these four weeks of Advent, have sought to create in us a deep sensitivity, a greater love – for the Mystery of Christmas, the Nativity of our Savior Jesus, the Son of God.

Brothers, we are gathered here tonight to celebrate a Birthday to commemorate a birth – the likes of which the world had never seen before – or since – in which God became one of us. The Word, the Son of God, is made flesh; translated, his name is Jesus, Emmanuel (“God with us”).

How can we appropriately celebrate the event that bears witness to the marriage of God with human nature – that ” Wonderful Exchange” – as the liturgy refers to it? We can adore today the infant Jesus – together with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds in a simple child-like way. We can imitate Mary who treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. It is in pondering these things, in contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation, that we can come to know and understand, to some extent, God’s View of human nature, imperfect, yes, but by divine election made worthy of divine love. (The coronavirus ‘time to do this’)

Our Christmas faith, however, also needs practical expression. The birth of the Lord, the Word of God, as one of us, has become, yes, a “Wonderful Exchange”!. Understandably, Christmas has become a time for giving – and receiving – gifts. Yet, this exchange becomes meaningless if we withhold ourselves from the Lord and from one another.

Every one of us needs Jesus, and we, thanks to the great work of God that began with the Incarnation, are called to be Jesus to one another, and for one another. Like St Paul may we realize as he, “I live now, not I but Christ lives in me!” A “Christian” is one in whom Christ lives! The non- Christian can and does say – this is a bit much, how can this be?

Through divine election the Son of God has taken on our nature that he might live in us and we in him. Recall one iconic revelation of this – when St Francis met a leper! The Christ in Francis recognized Christ in the leper. Only sin can and does negate such a reality.

It is in giving Jesus to one another and in receiving Jesus from one another that the Incarnation continues in the world today. The Son of God desires to live in us today, just as truly as he desired to take flesh in Mary’s womb!

Here, in our Eucharist on this Holy Night – and every time this Eucharist is celebrated, there is another ‘wonderful exchange’:we offer gifts of bread and wine to the Father, and through the working of the Holy Spirit these gifts become the Body and Blood of Jesus himself! He became one of us to give us a new heart, a child-like heart that enables us to give ourselves to God and to one another; he comes to give us a heart that is continually open to, turned to the Father, disposed to do his will on earth, disposed to love one another as he loves us; an adoring heart that gives glory to the Father. With such a heart full of Deep Peace, Love and Gratitude let us celebrate this Birthday of the Lord . Amen!

Come Lord Jesus!

Isa. 9:1-6, Titus 2:11:14, Lk. 2:1-14 Fr Alan

Homily – Fr. Carlos -3rd Sunday of Advent

This 3rd Sunday of Advent the liturgy calls us to rejoice and this Sunday is rightly called “Gaudete” Sunday. The entrance song for some centuries was always from the Letter to the Philippians: Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

The evangelists in their respective openings used legal terms like witness and testifying.  It is as if the whole world is a court room.  John is, so to speak, the defense lawyer for the sake of Jesus and human beings are prosecutor.    Witnesses are called by virtue of their integrity and the truthfulness of their words.  That is why it is the task of the prosecutor to prove the reliability of the witness.  John was a reliable witness.  He has no ulterior motives.  He is clean of heart.  His testimony is true on the basis of his experience of God’s power,  It happened in the womb that he leapt for joy.  The joy stayed with him.  It was that experience of being cleansed and being born into the world sinless as our theologians say, that John awaited for him.  He came out from his hidden life when he heard about Jesus.  It was like his whole being was telling him that Jesus was the one.   The Pharisees and the Scribes sent delegates to see and ask John by what right he is baptizing.  Even with their knowledge and strict adherence of the law the Pharisees and the scribes would not dare baptize people.  This is an act that has to be ratified by God.  The people knew John was a prophet.  Jesus would ask the Pharisees and the scribes later who John was and they would not answer.  They feared the crowd because it believes John was a prophet.

Before Vatican II it was a serious debate among theologians about the nature of mysticism that is, the actual experience of the reality of faith.  Some say it was a special privilege.  It was an exception to the rule that some people experience grace.  It was only for the mystics and visionaries.   We all fall in the category of believers by faith, that is what is told of us by authority, by believing another person who taught us what to believe ; parents, teachers, pastors and the church.  After Vatican II we have learned that God is Emmanuel and the grace that came along with it is our for the sharing.  As Rahner puts it:  Jesus is our experience of God and the gift of the spirit is the entry to that experience.   So to experience God is not exclusive for the mystics and visionaries.  Like John our own life or rather we should be witnessing to Jesus in our lives, to the world.  The credentials needed, is to live a life according to Jesus’, a peaceable person, a sacrificing person for the sake of others and a life of simplicity accepting life and in all the circumstances we find in it.  To be rich and happy from the experience of the Divine like John who went into the desert to enjoy that pristine experience of his in the womb of his mother when he lept for joy.  When he came back to testify that Jesus was their long awaited Messiah, he was unencumbered with the heavy load of the desire for wealth, power, fame which was sought by many.  That is why the authorities and the expert of the Law would like to know who he was and by what right he was baptizing, because if John was they have to reconcile themselves with the demands of the prophet.   They killed Jeremiah in his own time because he spoke harshly and he demanded too much from them to give up the gods they made for themselves. John knew who he was, his task was to announce that someone is coming of whose sandals he is not even worthy to untie (the act of a slave).  When I was young I often wondered why the Protestant prayer gatherings were always packed.  We grew up in an age where the expression of faith is frowned upon and Catholics associated such prayer gatherings as protestant, that is outside the catholic church.  Catholics could not experience God.  We relied on our faith, that is doctrines found in the book, the moral teachings we read in catechesis, the absolute authority of our pastors and bishops and the inerrant teachings of the church.  This caused so much internal psychological damage to many.  They led split lives: an external conformity to the faith, and a hidden personal life in quest for answers  to the pressing questions that affected their daily lives.  They did this without any guidance from their shepherds.   The sinner cannot experience God.  And so they did they best they can, making oftentimes bad decisions and going through life with a heavy burden in their hearts.      Had our faith in doctrines and truths been accompanied by the teaching that God can be experienced, that it was not the exclusive experience of those who are good and upright.  That sinners too can experience the merciful God through the forgiveness of their sins.  It is the experience of this loving God that makes us sin less.  The world will have been a better place for us, less schizophrenic because there is the experience of God’s forgiveness when we repent as John urged people in this own time too.  It was a cause for joy for the people to hear him say repent because the Messiah is coming to save them through the forgiveness of their sins.  Today is Gaudete Sunday meaning “Rejoice.”  Pure doctrines and regulations do not have the power to make us rejoice..Only the experience of the Messiah coming into our hearts has that power.

Homily – Fr. Seamus Malvey – First Sunday in Advent

ADVENT – 2020 – FIRST SUNDAY: ISAIAH 63:16-17; 64: 1-8; PS 80; 1 COR 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

HOMILY

The readings of this first Sunday of Advent focus on the world of human pain. The placement of these particular readings at the beginning of Advent helps our understanding of the entire season. Isaiah’s lamentation is a prayer of faithful people in the midst of suffering: religious souls lament the absence of God; tender hearts lament the fate of those who have been marginalized; broken spirits lament the suffering that touches the lives of those effected by war, climate change, poverty and the pandemic.

Isaiah, the prophet is longing for the love of God, but what he finds instead is what he cannot bear. God is angry and has hidden his face. How can this be? God angry? God gone? How can this be? Doesn’t God love us? Where is he? Why isn’t he here?

Isaiah answers these questions, but in the saddest way. The reason, the prophet says, lies in our sinfulness. God is not gone from us because he has forsaken us. Our sins, our weaknesses, our willfulness, our pride, our failure to love, our failure even to accept the love of others … all of these have made us wither. We are like fallen leaves, dried up and unclean; our guilt carries us away like the wind.

But how are we supposed to be holy – clean and good – for the Lord, except by the Lord’s own doing? No one can make himself holy by his own efforts. Only God’s grace can make a person holy. And so Isaiah cries out to God, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways? … You are our father; we are the clay and you the potter; we are all the work of your hands … Be not so very angry, Lord, keep not our guilt forever in mind; look upon us who are all your people.”

There is an answer in today’s Responsorial Psalm. The Psalmist cries out, “Lord, make us turn to you!” This is a cry from a person who wanders from the Lord. He wanders because he wants to … that is the sad truth. But when he can’t find God in his wandering, he cries out to God, “Lord make me turn to you!” Then he wants fervently not to want the very wandering he is so prone to want.

It may be then that God lets us do what we want to do, including wandering from him, so that finally we at least want to want him. [Wasn’t it Augustine who said, “Sin is a punishment for sin.”?]  Maybe we will find God when we cry out with the Psalmist, Lord, make me turn to you!. . . . . . END

Homily – Fr. James Connor – Feast of Christ the King 11/22/20

Feast of Christ the King – Year A

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. This is the feast which is the culmination of the whole liturgical year. Christ is presented to us as the Good Shepherd, who cares for  as His sheep, as the one who is Himself the culmination of all creation being drawn into oneness with God – “that God may be all in all”. But we celebrate this year by bringing the remembrance of our two brothers – Fr Carlos and Br Gaetan – the gold and the silver which we bring to the King , in order that God may be truly all in all, as we heard in the second reading. We celebrate their fifty years and twenty-five years of service to the Lord. But in doing so, we call to mind our own lives and that relationship with the Lord and with all humanity that we have.

At Baptism we were each anointed with chrism, indicating the three-fold nature of what is taking place. By that fact we are recognized by God Himself as priest, prophet and king. But we are called to exercise those ministries in various ways and forms.

Baptism makes us conformed to Christ – the primal Priest, Prophet and King. But such conformity calls us to allow Christ Himself to exercise these ministries in His own way. This is the way that we grow in conformity to Christ Himself. We are to discover at the depths of ourselves that grace, peace, unity that God is – not the God that I have venerated as an object, but the God that is one with the very source of my being and ALL being.

This God exercises His priestly office, his prophetic and His royal kingly office. He does this by our recognizing that same Christ present in the hearts and lives of every person we encounter. It is on this basis that we will be judged at the end of time, as we hear in the gospel: Christ in me responding to Christ in you – the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner and every other way that He presents Himself to us. At the end He presents all this to the Father – that God may be all in all.

Today we give thanks to God for our Fr. Carlos and Br. Gaetan who have withstood the trials and hardships of fifty and twenty-five years. But their years are intertwined with our years – yours and mine – for we are ultimately called to be the one Christ offering ourselves and all creation to the Father. This feast and this Eucharist serves as a reminder to each of us of that Eucharist when we gave ourselves to God as His priests and prophets and kings , as His monk . This renewal of their commitment calls each of us to renew our own commitment to God as His monk, His priest, His sheep. He shares His royal duties with each one in order that we may truly take our place in building His kingdom and rejoicing in the work that God has done in our brothers and in ourselves.

Jesus Christ is to be the summit of all creation and all peoples. But He can be this only to the extent that we each allow Him to truly rule within our hearts and our lives. Then we will all be that gold and that silver that is offered to the Father with love and joy, knowing that we have each striven to allow Christ to shine forth in each and in all.

Fr. Alan Gilmore – Homily – Dedication of the Church of Gethsemani 11/15/20

DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH OF GETHEMANI
The Lord did not intend to abide in Solomon’s Temple forever!
Dear “Living Stones”, it seems the older we get the more often our favorite
celebrations or Solemnities come around! I guess that’s a good example of the –
getting a bonus with an onus! A prime example of that is – today’s
Anniversary of the” Dedication (or Conscration) of the Church of Gethsemani”.
In today’s Gospel (The Samaritan Woman) a new Temple is promised that
has been fulfilled!
The word ‘church’ (like synagogue) can mean a physical building, or
spiritual community. The
word ‘temple’ can have similar meanings. The ‘church’, or spiritual
community of Gethsemani, began when the first monks arrived here in 1848.
Today we are celebrating the ‘official’ beginning of the Church building when
it was dedicated in 1866, and re-dedicated after its extensive renovation in
the late 1980’s. As St Bernard put it to his monks centuries ago- regarding
this particular Feast -. “If we don’t celebrate it, nobody else will!” Actually, if
today there was someone who would like to celebrate this Feast with us, we
could not invite them – for obvious reasons.!
Some time ago on this Feast, our Fr James now over 70 years as a monk of
Gethsemani, shared the following with us. “Actually the consecration of this
church is based on our original consecration in Baptism. There, we also were
consecrated ,we were anointed with chrism, just as the walls of this church
were; we were given a candle just as the walls of this church are illumined by
twelve candle, symbolizing the light of Christ which is given to us through the
twelve apostles. We are told by St Paul that “the temple of God is holy, which
you are”! Consequently this feast is a feast of ourselves as a people of God,
dedicated to Him.”
Our dedication, our consecration is an affirmation of the SACRED – of the
true character of the Church’s mission to our secular (post-Christian)
culture. We bear witness to the standards of moral life which are founded in
the sacred word of God. As a practical application of our dedication we are
called to continually build up within ourselves, as temples of the Holy Spirit, a
.a spirit of penitential adoration, through that same Holy Spirit won for us –
by Christ’s Passion and death.
. This church building stands here today as a sign, a reminder, a call to
remembrancer, a call to recognition of a sacred reality, a remembrance of the
holiness of God! In today’s very secular culture, with its secularized
institutions, this church is to be a continual reminder!: This building and all that
belongs to it, and all that goes in it, is to reaffirm the SACRED! All that takes
place here, day after day, the continuous recitation of common prayer, the
solemn celebration of the Eucharist, all the word and music of our liturgies,
should be reminders of the holiness of God That must be our dedication.

One final word…

Some years ago I met a man named “Livingston”. As we talked, I mentioned
the “Living stones”
St Paul said we all are. It turned out this person was an unbeliever and would
have none of that! But, thanks be to God – We are believers; grateful for it,
for being continually built up, a sacred work in progress!. AMEN! ( 2 Chron
5:6-10, 13:-6:2, Eph 2:19-22, John 4:19-24 ) Fr Alan

Fr. Lawrence’s homily for 11/8/20 – Yearning for God

Dear Brothers – November is a month for us to particularly remember the dead. Death is, for many, one of the more unfortunate side effects of life. Everything that lives will at some point die. Sequoias may live for thousands of years, but they do eventually die. Certain single-celled life forms may live indefinitely, but when their environment vanishes, they will perish. And no matter how long-lived anything is, it will certainly die in our sun’s supernova far in the future. Death is universal.

COVID-19 is plowing relentlessly through the United States, leaving nearly 240 thousand people dead in its wake. And the death toll is rising every day. Death has become all too common. But each death is a personal one, in which each unique dying person must confront the loss of their autonomy, the loss of control, and the emptiness that will swallow their very selves.

For the first generation of Christians, it must have been startling to have to deal with death in their communities. They likely expected Christ to return very soon, so hadn’t thought about the possibility of dying before that time. Perhaps this delay in Jesus’ coming was beginning to shake the faith of some members of their communities. They had been promised eternal life, and now good people were dying in front of them. What evidence did they have that what they had been promised could be true? The world looked a lot like it had before they converted, and death was just darkness.

Paul writes to the Thessalonians to calm their fears and to remind them of the basis of their faith. He reassures them that Christ is indeed coming, and will raise up all the dead who are part of the body of Christ and, along with those left alive, join them to himself. Paul defines life for us as extending beyond the life we know on earth. Unlike those who only see what is material, he talks about a life beyond the material, beyond the merely physical. Death is not the end, but a transition to something else. We might have some trouble envisioning being caught up in the clouds, since we don’t really think of heaven as “up” anymore, knowing as we do that the earth is round and hanging in space, with no real “up” or “down” to it. But the idea remains. Life continues after physical death. This is the basis for the faith of the Thessalonian community, and Paul reminds them of this.

Paul’s message is startling. We no longer assume that death is the ultimate evil. Death is no longer opposed to life. Death has been overcome by the resurrection of Christ. Physical death is still universal, yes, but physical death no longer means the end of life. Certainly there is still darkness and mystery to death, but the darkness is no longer to be feared.

In our first reading, wisdom exhorts us to seek her. But she doesn’t make finding her too tough. “She is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.” This reminds us of Christ’s words, “Seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you.” But wisdom goes even further, “She hastens to make herself know in anticipation of their desire.” She actually goes out of her way to make herself available to anyone who wants her, even before they are aware that they want her. The only effort necessary on our part is desire. But we must have desire. “Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed.” It takes some doing to get up before dawn, as we know. “Whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care.” We watch and wait in the darkness.

In today’s Gospel, Christ tells us to “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” The parable to which this saying is attached doesn’t quite illustrate this point—all ten virgins fall asleep, after all, but in a roundabout way it does. Why are the five foolish virgins foolish? Because they didn’t bring enough oil for their lamps. But the reason they didn’t have enough oil is because the bridegroom was so late. How could they have anticipated this? Isn’t it the bridegroom’s fault rather than theirs? Perhaps the point is that they were acting from their expectation. They had an idea when the bridegroom would appear, and they weren’t prepared for anything else. They weren’t ready to wait, to “watch . . . at dawn.” We have just gone through a few days in this country where events didn’t move according to our expectations or our desire. The count went on for days and days with no end in sight. I’m sure most people in the country, on both sides of the political fence, were on pins and needles, waiting for the result. If events can be so contrary to expectation in mere human affairs, think of how contrary the kingdom of God can be, which in so many of Jesus’ parables, is contrariness in its very essence. We must wait in patience, in silence, in the darkness, with only our little oil lamps to give us light.

And what do we have for our flasks of oil, to sustain us as we wait for the bridegroom here at Gethsemani? Our flasks of oil are our monastic practices. Silence, lectio, our liturgy, our daily work, our love and compassion for our brothers, these are the oil that keeps our lamps lit during our long wait for the bridegroom. The psalms we sing each day remind of this. “My soul is waiting for the Lord, I count on his word,” says psalm 129. “My soul is longing for the Lord, more than watchmen for daybreak.” “In the morning I offer you my prayer / watching and waiting,” says psalm 5 and psalm 32 reminds us that “my soul is waiting for the Lord, the Lord is our help and our shield.” And of course today’s psalm says, “For you my soul is thirsting, my body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water.” Such a powerful image of yearning. Our need for God is as adamant and necessary for life as our body’s need for water.

This waiting and watching, this yearning has a function. Yearning reveals that there is something missing in us, a darkness, an empty space. Many people know about this empty space inside them and try to fill it with distractions, with ambition, with activity. Or they may try to numb their awareness of it with routine, or addiction. But this emptiness is not really empty. It is God. Our yearning opens up a space inside us which seems to us to be empty, but is really God, the deep well of God which we only perceive as emptiness and darkness. The bridegroom is already here, in our hearts, but as darkness. Our job, and it’s a difficult one for sure, is to learn to value this emptiness, to nourish our yearning, to nourish our love, to nourish this life-giving darkness, and resist the temptation to cover it over or fill it with something else. One day, whether we want it to or not, this emptiness will overflow from the center of our hearts to engulf us in its love, and this is how we will meet death. If we are afraid of this emptiness, we will be afraid of death, we will try to run from it, to deny it, but if we have nourished and grown this emptiness, have learned to value its silence and profound depth, we will welcome it like an old friend.