Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (C)
Fr. Alan Gilmore, OCSO
Dear Brothers and Sisters, today is the 34th Sunday in Ordinary time. It is also the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year. The end of the year points toward the end of time when ALL creation will be culminated in Christ, when his kingdom comes, when God’s will is done.
With the following words, in 1925, Pope Pius XI introduced the beautiful “Solemnity of Christ the King “ to the Catholic world.: (Quote):
“People are taught the truths of the faith and brought to appreciate them more effectively by the annual celebration of the sacred mysteries – than by official pronouncements of the Church….pronouncements speak once; feasts (Solemnities) speak every year. The Church’s teaching impresses the mind primarily, while her feasts influence both mind and heart, affecting the whole of the person.”
The Pope did this also to guard against the extremes of laicism of the time and the clericalism of previous generations. With these words and for this reason he established this great Solemnity, now know as -The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
As today’s celebration points out – Christ is Master, Shepherd, King and Lord of all. Our selfishness, our lack of vision, fails entirely to destroy or distort the truth of the Christ. He remains the beginning and end of existence. He is our universal King! Paul’s words to the Colossians today – sums up beautifully the “Christic” nature of the Son of God, the Son of David, ‘explaining’ even gravity’ – ( as – “In him all things hold together”.)
This celebration provides us with what is perhaps the most multi-faceted theme in all of salvation history: “Kingship”& “Messiah”. This is witnessed to by the richness of the texts for this Liturgy. The tendency of most of us would be to treat the coming of Christ’s Kingship in a highly dramatic way. But that is not God’s way! Instead, the King of Kings comes to us very simply, even on the foal of an ass. Some throne he had!: a cross. Some crown: of thorns; Some subjects: all sinners. Today he comes to us again, Jesus our Lord and God, our King; He is delivered into our hands. We may receive him with our open hands…but most of all – and this is what he wants from us above all else – he wants us to open our heart to him! He wants to be the King and Center of our heart! He wants to enter the deepest depths of our heart. He is the only one who can enter that ‘holy of holies’ as it were, where he makes us mutually present with him and to one another!
Listen to how Jesus describes his coming in the Gospels: “I will come to you. In that day you will know that I am in my Father – and you in me – and I in you.” “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” “Because I live, you will live also.” Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” All throughout, this is a personal relationship! He comes to give us his Spirit – that we may be able to love one another- as he has loved us. That is the Kingdom we are called to, as the members of his Body, the Church. This is the Kingdom we are called to participate in now; This is ‘not yet’ heaven, but it is the beginning!
The response we are making to that Kingdom? We are called to be ready and willing to confess him to follow him, to do what he commands – just as he responded to his Father in Gethsemani. “Not my will, but thine be done”. “If you know these things, blessed shall you be – if you do them.” This is what our Pope Francis keeps talking about!
To love the King – is to love his kingdom. – that is – all our Brothers and Sisters – all for whom he has made the great confession, laying down his life for all of us. It is only in doing this, in demonstrating this love, that we show ourselves to be sons and daughters, members of the Kingdom of Christ.
Only the Lord, the King of our Heart, can teach us and help us to love as he loves. Through his Spirit, his Word, and His Eucharist, he empowers us, gives us the initiative and courage to love one another effectively and selflessly. To do this constantly – involves a death, a death to self! Shortly before his own death Jesus reminded us of this: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone…..he who loves his life, loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If any one serves me, he must follow me.” The Lord comes to us personally and corporately. He gives us full power, to love, as pleni-potentiaries”, as it were! He has plans and gifts for each one of us! “Go into the whole world!”
On this Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, let’s pray – that our hearts may be touched, and the quality of our allegiance to Christ our King be purified and strengthened!; that we may always prefer absolutely nothing to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – in whom everything continues in being. May our lives reflect the gratitude we owe Him, without whom we, no thing, no Universe could exist. May we confess and glorify his name now and for all eternity Come Lord Jesus! (2 Sam. 5:1-3, Col. l: 12-20, Lk. 23: 35-43)
by Sr. Maureen McCormack – Sisters of Loretto
I chose to give the homily on this day because it is my baptismal feast. My parents wanted to have me baptized on this day because the Feast of Christ the King was a rather new feast in the Church. They wanted me to be baptized on a special day, not just a day or so after I was born, so that I would remember. The feast was celebrated in October in those days. When the Church leaders decided to move it to November, I remember saying: “O no, they can’t do that. That’s my baptismal feast. I was born in October.” Nonetheless, I am happy to celebrate each year the occasion of my baptism, the day I was brought into the Church.
I want to reflect for a moment on what is modeled for us as we enter into membership in the Church. We are invited to imitate Christ’s kindness, never saying an unkind word about anyone. We are invited to follow the way he lived his life, his openness to others- men, women, and especially the children. We are so fortunate to have Christ’s beautiful example of how to live our lives.
So today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. There was such joy among the people as Jesus made his entry into Jerusalem. They shouted: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of our God.” (Luke 19:38)
I was in the midst of preparing this homily when there was a knock at my door. It was Barbara Schulte bringing me communion. Someone does this on days I am unable to get to Mass. The moment was poignant, as though Barbara was saying to me, instead of “Body of Christ,” “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of our God.” I was barely able to get back to preparing these remarks, after that.
After all of this joy and celebration by the people as Jesus entered into Jerusalem, we learn from the gospel that much later things had taken a terrible turn for the worst. Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death. What? Where were we? We heard shouting: “Crucify him” “We have no king, but Caesar.” Did we join in the shouting and jeering? “If you are the king of Jews, come down from the cross. Save yourself.”
Where do we stand? There was a different voice that day from one of the criminals crucified with Jesus. He rebuked the other criminal who asked Jesus to save them. With these words: “Have you no fear of God? We have been condemned justly. This man has done nothing wrong.” Then he turned to Jesus and said: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” Jesus replies: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
I ask again. Where do we stand as all these events unfold? How do we hope we would have the courage to be, to align ourselves in difficult or challenging circumstances? There is much to ponder, to think about.
One of the ways I hope I would be is reflected in the quote about The Essence of Compassion which Alice Mattingly has framed in the physical therapy room: “Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and wrong, because sometime in your life you will have been all of these.”
Dear brothers and sisters – We live in perilous times. Nations are turning against each other. Old alliances are falling apart, new ways of fighting wars threaten fragile peace. Children are killed in their schools by other children. The gap between rich and poor is growing. Minorities are demonised as threats, are profiled and used as scapegoats. Immanent environmental disaster which threatens all life on the planet is recognized by everyone except those with the power to stop it. These are perilous times. Perhaps this is what the end times look like. In the 1960’s, everyone was worried that we would blow ourselves up, but now it looks like we will just slowly suffocate ourselves. T.S. Eliot may have been right – “This is the way the world ends / not with a bang but a whimper.”
Then again, at least some people in every generation since Christ have been sure that they were the ones living in the end times. This era looks dire, but what about the 14 th century when war and the black plague wiped out about half the population of Europe? And we don’t need to go back that far – the first half of the 20 th century saw war on a scale unimaginable before then. Dictators directed the deaths of millions of their own citizens. The Spanish flu of 1918 carried off about 50 million worldwide. Throughout human history, when have there not been wars and insurrections? When have there not been plenty of “earthquakes, famines, and plagues?” And every time a comet appears, some sect or other claims that here are “mighty signs… from the sky.” Many other eras have looked like the end of the world.
As Christians, we believe that the end of the world as we know it will coincide with the second coming of Jesus Christ. The prophecies about this time, including Jesus’ own, have the good and the evil separated out, the sheep from the goats, with the evil going to eternal punishment, and the good joining Christ in heaven. Most folks who think that the end time is approaching likely put themselves into the “good” category, among those who will be saved. Malachi the prophet belongs to this type. He warns us that the day of the Lord is coming, with recompense for those who fear God’s name, but with punishment for evildoers. “The day is coming,” he says, “blazing like an oven.” For evildoers, this day will feel like excruciating heat, burning them up, but for the righteous, it will feel like the sun’s “healing rays.” Both are fire, but are felt differently depending on the virtue of the recipient. It is clear that Malachi expected this day of the Lord to be immanent, to come within the lifetime of those listening to his words. He firmly believes that he is living in the last days. We, however, have a different perspective on his prophecy. Malachi is placed last by Christians in the order of the books of the Old Testament because his prophecies are taken to refer to the coming of Christ, and beyond that, to Christ’s second coming. The book of Malachi, then, immediately precedes Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus. Naturally, therefore, we read Malachi as Advent approaches.
Advent is about preparing for the coming of Jesus into the world, both his first coming as a baby, the son of Mary, and his second coming at the end of all time. It’s understandable that Christians would long, in a way, for the end of the world. For us it means the beginning of the reign of God, the institution of a new heaven and a new earth, in which death will be no more, in which God will wipe away the tear from every eye. But Jesus tells us that we should not try to anticipate when this time will come. By the time the Gospel of Luke was finished, his prediction about the temple being razed to the ground had already come true. But that this was not a sign of the end of the world, Jesus warns, “See that you not be deceived,” since there is always someone who will tell us that the end times are upon us. Instead, he tells us that before that time comes, there will be suffering. This is not surprising. All of us have suffered loss and tragedy in our lives. We may have escaped persecution as Christians, though there are many in the world today who do suffer persecution for their religious beliefs, but we can’t escape the death of loved ones, personal injury or illness, broken-heartedness, or the many disappointments, great and small, that life brings. He tells us not to focus on the end times, but on the trials we will face before then.
I once saw a cartoon which had one of those raggedy prophets, with a beard, in a ragged robe and carrying a sign. These signs usually say something like, “The End is Near!” But in this case it said, “It just goes on and on and on.”
Paul gives us some sound advice on what is important in the time between Jesus’ first and second coming. He advises the Thessalonians to “work quietly and to eat their own food.” This is a far cry from beating one’s breast, or adopting some extreme behaviour in anticipation of the Second Coming. It is particularly good advice for us here at Gethsemani at this time of year. Advent for us is a time of anticipation of Christ’s coming into the world, and a time of reflection on Christ’s next appearance, encouraged by our daily liturgy, but it is also our shipping season, when we are frantically but quietly busy earning our own bread, and earning the right to eat it. Jesus tells us that he will certainly come again, that the day of the Lord is real, but he also tells us not to spend our time fretting about it or predicting it. He tells us that we should focus instead on the present. The virtue he recommends is not prophecy but perseverance. “By your perseverance you will secure your lives,” he tells us. The end times will come, that is certain, but it is extremely unlikely, given the track record, that it will happen within our lifetimes. More than likely we will simply die like every single person before us. But when we die, we will encounter Christ in some way, not perhaps in the full way which will happen in the last days, but in some way. And we will be judged for the way we have spent our lives, the gift of life which God has given us.
This should be our constant preoccupation, to spend our lives well, in service to our brothers and sisters, like St. Paul, in faithfulness and perseverance in the path God has laid out for us, whether that path leads to family or career or into the monastery. And of course we should do all we can to alleviate the evils of our time. We wait in hope for the day of the Lord, but we live in love in the present moment. This is the best preparation we can make for the end times, whether they come in the form of Jesus’ blazing appearance from heaven or in the form of our own small deaths, a life given to God through love of our very real and very present brothers and sisters.
Homily by Fr Carlos on the anniversary of the Dedication of our Church, Nov. 15th.
In the Old Testament whenever there is a God-event, its leader would erect a pillar of stone in order to commemmorate the power, magnficencen and the care that God showed to them. Like Joshua who told the leaders of the 12 to pick up stones from the Jordan as they cross on their way to conquer the nations or Jacob who set up a pillar where he wrestled with God. Moses also instructed the people Israel “to set up large stones and covered them with lime to write all the words of the law.” It is the presence of God, with his power and glory, that hallowed the place and His great providence for Israel.
It was the beginning of , so to speak, locating the presence of an ubiquitous God.. Later on this God came down from the mountain and resided with them in tent to accompany them in their conquest of the land filled with milk and honey. And when it was done David built a temple because he thought that God deserves more than to live in a tent and that David lived in a palace. Gradually we see that the transcendent God who is everywhere and all powerful condescends to live among his people and made Himself accessible to His people. They worhsipped him not in any place in the desert but He can be found and addressed to in the temple. It is not so that from now on human beings can confine God but God chose to dwell in His house for human beings tend to forget easily. And so just like of old God in his goodness chose Gethsemani to be his temple , home and church where people may meet him in loving adoration and prayers. Once more He made himself accessible.
We are commemmorating the dedication of this church of Gethsemani humbly asking God to remain with us for we are his adopted children through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a proper home for his children with God as Father. There is a union in spirit unlike the temple where only designated priest
Can enter the holy of holies. In our church the holiness of God is shared among those who love and revere him. It is then a holy assembly and an assembly needs a holy temple to house them. This Church then is a reminder of what God has done for monks of Gethsemani. How they started humbly and in true poverty, trusting in the Lord, came here with very little financial source. The generosity of God came to them through the many people who helped them establish this monastery. The founding monks were like the Israel, exiles from the revolutionary storms that ravaged their country, France. They too were persecuted like Israel. So this church is the sign of God’s power and glory.
This building therefor is the locus of God’s presence, the place of the meeting of those who would speak with God, in knowledge and love of community united precisely by the love of God for them who brought them here. It is, as it were, a sacrament – an outward and visible sign of that gracious indwelling presence. God now resides in the building and more so in the temple of the hearts of those who worship him in love. Day by the day monks persevere in prayer, hallowing the hours of their days, giving thanks to the wonderful work of God – the redemption of the whole humankind. That is the monks concern to pray for the redemtpion of the world and they are joined who come here to pray with them. This feast is proper to the monks here at Gethsemani, for as St. Bernard said, if we do not keep it, if we do no celebrate it it will not be kept at all. Because the monks prefer nothing to God, they are made holy and therefore this house is blessed for their sanctified bodies in whom God dwells. This church is to make sure that holiness resides here. God is truly present here, all the more so, when everyday the Eucharist is celebrated and God is truly present among us. In this we did not make ourselves holy by our efforts but it is God’s presence that sanctifies us all. Let us pray that Gethsemani may always truly remain the house of God. A house of peace, silence and loving communication with God who is omnipresent but deigned to be immanent is us.
The Gospel: John 11:17-27
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,
and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him,
while Mary stayed at home.
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
After the Gospel:
Today we do one of the things that has always marked us as “Catholics” —
pray for the Dead… continually … hopefully, pray for the dead.
Customs have changed, but not the praying.
In the catacombs, the earliest Christians offered the Eucharistic right at the tombs,
to bring Christ, the resurrection and the life, to their dead, just as Martha had.
A thousand years later, when Saint Bernard wrote the life of St Malachy,
he included Malachy’s praying for his dead sister.
The two men first met when Malachy was Archbishop of Armagh, on his way from Ireland to Rome,
when he stopped by Clairvaux to meet the famous Bernard;
they became such good friends that Malachy obtained five monks to make a foundation at Mellifont, Ireland.
Later on, during a second visit to Clairvaux, Malachy fell ill, died in the arms of St Bernard, was buried at Clairvaux.
In Bernard’s history, St. Malachy didn’t get along with his sister, lost contact with her, then didn’t see her any more before she died. After she died, Malachy heard a voice one night telling him that his sister was hungry, she hadn’t eaten for thirty days. He remembered it was thirty days since he had offered Mass for her. So once again he offered Mass for her, saw her coming up to the church door in a black garment, but she couldn’t enter.
He continued to say Mass for her and the next time she was dressed in a lighter-colored garment. The final time he saw her, she came into the church, dressed in beautiful white, surrounded by blessed spirits.
Not much for historians to look at, but it points out the importance of praying for the dead, reminds us that one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to Pray for the Dead.
Especially nowadays, as they ask if Catholics believe in Purgatory anymore,
Didn’t the Church drop that doctrine?
Today is part of the answer.
If you want to know what the Church believes: Look at how we pray –
What we believe and our prayer are twins that go together.
The Church deliberately puts All Souls Day right next to All Saint’s Day.
Yesterday, we remembered the Saints already in heaven; today, we’re praying for the dead
on their way to heaven.
The key is: On their way …
When we think of our relatives, friends, fellow monks …
they died like us … humans.. with all their bruises and scars,
with all their weaknesses and failings…
not evil, their souls condemned to hell,
but realistically, even though they died in God’s friendship,
still stained by the selfishness and sins of this life,
rendering them unworthy of entering immediately into heaven;
they’re in an intermediate state, a state of purification after death,
a purification that will achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven.
All Souls is a day that takes us back to our roots,
a day of memory, of hope, reminding each of us to expect the mercy and love of Christ.
A day that says: No matter what else changes, never lose your memories as a family, a people,
never lose hope that Christ will accompany us,
that He … the Resurrection and the Life … will be there, waiting with so much love.
Today is our best reminder in the Church year …
How many saints have said:
“All those we’ve known and loved, the ones now our ‘faithful departed’ …
let us not hesitate to help them by offering our prayers for them.”
29th Sunday of Year – Cycle C
The readings today speak to us about the importance and necessity of prayer. Like Moses, we are to pray for the needs of the world. But his arms grew tired, and so he was assisted by Aaron and Hur who supported his arms raised in prayer. Our vocation as monks is also to support the active arms of those who minister to the needs of the People of God. Our vocation is one of prayer. Like the widow in the gospel, we are called to trust in God for all of our needs. She persevered in asking for justice, and was finally heard. However it was not her repeated asking that was granted, but her continued humbling of herself before the unjust judge. Each time she came back was a further demeaning of herself before the judge. Our prayer is made to a Just Judge who is ready to hear us. But he grants our request only when we have true faith.
The gospel ends with a sentence which might seem not to follow from the parable. And yet in fact it is the key to all that was said. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Like Christ on the Cross, faith is that total abasement of ourselves before God. In a sermon, Meister Eckhart speaks of the danger of seeing prayer as something which we DO, which is heard by God and granted. Such prayer he calls that of the businessman. He does his good work in order to receive the goods that he needs. But prayer is not a business transaction. It is simply our self abasement before God in faith alone.
Even the prayer of Jesus was granted only when he had totally abased himself before the Father by hanging on the cross. His arms were held raised, not by other people, but only by the nails of the cross. And in that total self abasement before the Father, he gained a hearing for all of us before God.
We are called to follow in his path. As Paul says in the second reading, “remain faithful in what you have learned, because you know from whom you learned it.” We have learned the lesson from Jesus Christ, hanging on the cross, and yet in that total emptiness He was heard and we have been saved. Hence Paul also reminds us to “have that mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.
Prayer, then, is that emptying of our self before God with total trust in His mercy because the prayer of Jesus on the cross was heard, and we have been saved – not by what we do of ourselves, but by what He has done for us. This is the faith which God will look for when the Son of Man comes. It is a faith which must be activated each day and each moment of our life. It is such faith, such total surrender of ourselves to God, which will open the way that God “will see to it that justice is done for all speedily”.
In celebrating this Eucharist we are called to enter into that mind and heart of Christ Jesus as He renews His offering of Himself and of all of us to the Father. Like the poor widow in the gospel and like Christ Himself on the Cross, we are to come before the Lord with total surrender, total faith in His prayer for us and for all the world, knowing that we will be heard by the Just Judge so long as we come before Him with full awareness of our poverty, our emptiness before God, that He may fill that emptiness for ourselves and for the whole world.
+O GOD, BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER 30th Sunday(C), 2019
The words of Scripture this morning give comfort and encouragement to us all. We all sympathize with the tax collector who stands afar off, beating his breast and praying: ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ The words challenge us as well for we also have those moments when, like the Pharisee, we think ourselves better than others and easily judge her or him for their way of life. The lesson of humility is not an easy one to learn but it grounds us in the truth Jesus seeks to convey, opening our hearts to the continual gift of divine grace.
The readings from Sirach and letter of St Paul to Timothy are beautiful instances of this divine working. God “hears the cry of the oppressed, ..is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.” In fact their voices seem to have a power over God until they are heard. In writing to Timothy, St. Paul is at the end of a life of labor and knows that in death God will reward him. But he too knows this is only because God has rescued him from the lion’s mouth and will rescue him “from every evil threat and will bring him safe to his heavenly kingdom.” To God alone belongs the glory forever and ever.
We have grown familiar with the story of the Pharisee and tax collector so that it becomes easy to ignore the call to each of us for a continual conversion. God is not all that interested in our exterior behavior but is very interested in our hearts, in what moves us to do the things we do. The divine judgement in our parable is all about whether our lives are self-centered or God-centered. It is not about out outward performance but our inner motive.
The Pharisee’s description of his religious practice is probably pretty accurate and his negative evaluation of the tax collector, accurate as well. Tax collectors in the time of Jesus, being paid little or nothing for their work would exact money from those from whom they demanded taxes to where they often became dishonest or greedy. The stance of the tax collector standing afar off and beating his breast is an honest one.
What Jesus shows us in the parable is the inner disposition of each of these men and in doing so reveals what God is really looking for in each of our hearts. Where the Pharisee claims superiority over the other because of his good deeds, the tax collector begs for mercy. The Pharisee has no real need but the tax collector prays out of a deep sense of inner poverty and is answered.
Just being poor, oppressed or brokenhearted does not necessarily bring us closer to God. But if we allow such experiences to lead or move us to turn to God rather than to ourselves we will be sure to know the power of grace. God is all merciful and strengthens us as often as we turn to God in our need. This is what St Paul had done throughout his life and knew that he would be forever rewarded for it. One sees here the basis of so much of what St Benedict wrote in his Rule about the value of humility so as to run in the way of God’s commands.
There is always the danger for Religious to fall into a kind of self-righteousness, attributing to themselves the good they do. And as brothers we know how easy it is to begin judging one another for failures to meet our expectations of how one should live the life.
God sees us in a clearer light, for God sees what’s going on deep down within our hearts. The one we see sinning may well be asking for God’s mercy while we, because of our self-righteousness, fail to see our dire need. Ironically enough, to presume righteousness through our own power is to fall into sin, the self takes center stage rather than God. When God is at the center of our lives, we know by experience that God’s merciful love endures forever.
To know our own frailty is to be continually open to the wonderful gift we are about to receive in this Eucharist. It is a sharing in the infinite love God has for us in Christ Jesus, a becoming one with his very own Body and Blood. To do so is not only to go home justified but to be exalted already here below as a bearer of God’s very own life and love.
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; 1 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14
Feast of St Matthew – September 21
Fr. James Conner
Today we celebrate the memory of St Matthew, the author of the first gospel. He tells us today the story of his own conversion. He was a tax collector. Jesus passed by his place of business and said to him: “Follow Me!”. Matthew looked down at his money. Spread out before him, and seemed to hesitate before leaving this means of security. But finally he left that security for a life of insecurity.
Every Christian is called by Jesus Christ to follow Him. Some are called to totally leave the securities of this world and follow Him in the call of the monastic life. But some are also called to follow Him by a different path – still one of total trust in Him, but a trust that calls one to manage the goods of this world rather than to renounce them. This is the path of the Lay Cistercians. You are called to remain in the world and provide for yourself and your family, but beyond that, to be conscious of the needs of the poor of the world. St. Paul reminds us: “What have you that you have not received? And if you have received it, why do you act as if it were your own?”
Part of the reason why the tax collectors were so hated by the people of that time is the fact that they not only collected the taxes of the Roman occupiers of the land, but frequently also took more than necessary for their own selves. They were acting as if the very people whom they were called to serve were actually servants of their own.
In other words, they were acting with injustice rather than mercy. And Jesus ends the gospel by telling us that God says: “What I desire is mercy and not sacrifice.” This showing of mercy begins with our own home and family, but must extend beyond that to our places of work and service.
Might there be a danger for each one to treat even their own family and relations as if they were simply their own? On the contrary, Jesus tells us that we are all called to be servants of one another, just as He came as a servant of all. We are to provide not only for our selves and those closest to us, but for all who are in need and who come within our lives.
Our nation today is threatened by a spirit of individualism – caring for myself first. But Jesus calls us on another path – the path of the Son of Man and the path of those called to follow Him. “I came not to be served, but to serve, and to give my life for the sake of all”.
Being called to be a Lay Cistercian entails more than simply coming to the monastery a couple of times a year. It entails following Jesus Christ every day of the year, every moment of our lives, in seeking not what is for my own good, but what is for the good of all. Truly, as St Benedict says: “To prefer NOTHING to Christ”. On this way we are all called to follow Him = both those of us who are called to life within the monastery and those of you who are called to build your own monastery within the world. On this way we are all called to truly follow Christ in His mission to love and serve all.
Today marks the beginning of the fifth observation of the annual Season of Creation – from Sept.1 until Oct 4, the feast of St Francis of Assisi. This year’s Season of Creation is spotlighting threats to our biodiversity and focusing on “protecting the web of life in all its variety, because each species reveals the glory of the creator.” In a recent interview, Pope Francis called the loss of biodiversity among his greatest fears for the planet, saying, “devastation of nature can lead to the death of humanity.” To respond to Pope Francis’ words is not easy. Taking care of our planet, our “common home” – which is God’s gift to us, is a huge undertaking. This is a very humbling situation and well worth our attention. (ncronline … )
As we heard in today’s readings, “Humility and self-knowledge go hand in hand. Those who conduct their affairs with humility (1) shall be exalted, while those who exalt themselves shall be humbled (3). The humble shall rejoice and exalt before God (Ps) in the assembly of the heavenly Jerusalem (2).” – (ORDO)
These readings point us to our Holy Rule. St Benedict’s chapters on the steps of humility and the expressions of good zeal (RB 7 and 72) are rightly considered to be the heart of the Rule, the quintessence of its spiritual teaching. It is the main area of spiritual discipline which Benedictine life offers as a way to God. It is the heart of Benedictine and Cistercian spirituality.
It’s worth mentioning that it is important for all of us here this morning to see that the fundamental purpose of any monk (or nun’s) life is not essentially different from that of any Christian. On the contrary, we – that is – all of us, nuns and monks, lay women and lay men, by discovering the interior attractions and instincts written by grace in our inner heart, we all touch the heart of Christ, we become capable of reaching the inner heart of those in our community. Growth in the spiritual life is often experienced as a return to this center, to one’s truest self.
Benedictine and Cistercian humility is not a secondary Christian virtue, not simply a part of the virtue of temperance. It is more like a dynamic union of faith, hope and love that could be described as a loving trust rooted in the truth. Its source is the heart of Christ, who said, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” (Mt 11:29) It is humility that can and should guide us in this return journey, uncovering the false instincts in the human heart and finding the truth written there by grace. Humility unveils the true self, what the New Testament describes as “the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.” (RB 5; 7, 19-41)
The inner paradox of humility is the heart of the Paschal Mystery. It is the paradox of the Gospel itself: loss and gain of self, death and resurrection, “the last shall be first,” Mt 19:30; 20:16; Mk 10:30) “the one who humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Lk 14:11; 18:14; RB 7,1)
Humility is not merely a psychological act of the intellect and will, but above all, it is a movement of the Spirit. The Spirit of God centers both the soul and the body on the humble Christ, so that the inward movement of humility is not a matter of hiding within ourselves, but rather a liberation of what is truest and most permanent in us from what is passing and superficial. Eventually, as we become fully aware of our sins, we cry out with St Paul, “Miserable one that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24) Monastic tradition replies with conviction, “The humble Christ!” (cf. Centered on Christ, 2005, Augustine Roberts, OCSO)
Humility is recognizing that every good in ourselves is a gift from God and is meant to be given back to the Lord by being shared with others. Everyone who enters a community brings with him a gift that the community needs; everyone who enters a community receives a gift that he needs from that community. The development of nations, the preservation of our planet and the achievement of human community may well depend on humility.” (The Rule of Benedict, Joan Chittister, OSB, p. 74) _________________END