Category Archives: Homilies and Talks

Homilies

Homily – Feast of St. Matthew – Fr. James Conner

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.

 

Homily 8/31/19 – Fr. Seamus – Humilty

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 MysteryIt is the paradox of the Gospel itselfloss 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

 

Homily – Mary and Martha – July 21, 2019

The Gospel Luke 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village

where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.

She had a sister named Mary

who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,

“Lord, do you not care

that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?

Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply,

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.

There is need of only one thing.

Mary has chosen the better part

and it will not be taken from her.”

 

After the Gospel:

Most artists  put Jesus … center of the painting … seated,  one hand raised in teaching … 

in the background:  Martha … both hands carrying a jug or basket.

in the foreground:  Mary … sitting on the floor, hands folded on her lap, perfectly still.

Sometimes they add:  disciples … Jesus didn’t travel alone.  How many dropped in with Him  may help explain Martha’s predicament.

 

When you hear the story, do you take sides?

Hooray,  Mary, true contemplative!

Way to go, Martha, woman who gets things done…  the world needs more like you!

 

Do you hear Jesus’ words to Martha … as rebuke ….    or invitation …or both??

 

Do you pick up on Martha’s irritation … tension?

           Resentment of her sister for leaving her  all the work?

                    Angry enough,  she can’t even talk to her sister directly.

Does she breach hospitality…          

                   by embarrassing her sister in front of a guest,

                             asking her guest to intervene in a family dispute,

                                      even accusing her guest of not caring!??

 

Does she miss out on true hospitality by driving a wedge between her sister and herself,

between Jesus and herself?

 

Do you agree with the writer who says: Martha may have been lonely. 

Her busyness covered up  how lonely she was …  She only knew how busy she was.

She couldn’t see anger and resentment inside her. 

Poor Martha …  More ways than one  she missed out on the “one thing needed.”

 

Did you notice how Luke left the story open-ended?  We don’t know what happened next —

how  Mary and Martha reconciled,

whether they were   all      able to enjoy the meal Martha prepared, 

whether Martha was finally able to sit down and give full attention to Jesus.

 

Most important,  do you think of monastic life, built on a tripod –

          three legs:  prayer, work,  lectio divina … 

How our personal stability as a monk depends on this triple foundation,

how you can’t build up monastic life on just one or two of the legs, it has to be all three … equal…

Prayer, work,  lectio divina … Or things get a little wobbly.

 

Martha is exactly what monks  try NOT to be….

It’s not her serving …  that’s part of hospitality,

Homily for the Feast of St. Benedict – Fr. Michael Casagram- “Called to Serve” – 7/11/19

+CALLED TO SERVE                                                           St Benedict, 2019

The last words of our gospel this morning, seem to me a wonderful summary of the life and Rule of St Benedict. Jesus saying: “I am among you as one who serves” describes the kind of person Benedict sought to be his whole life and the kind of community he hoped to realize through his Rule.

In this month’s issue of Give Us This Day, Robert Ellsberg in his short life of Benedict, tells us that “in place of an emphasis on fasting and mortification, Benedict substituted the discipline of humility, obedience, and accommodation to community life. Rather than envisioning a collection of individuals competing in the quest for perfection, Benedict stressed the role of community as a school of holiness.” Our gospel guides us toward a similar understanding of the Church when Jesus tell his disciples to “let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.” When one sees competing forces arise within the Church, one does well to question the origin of such voices.

And our gospel is not without humor today, it seems to me, when Jesus tells his disciples: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’: but among you it shall not be so.” Jesus flips the whole social system of his day and ours, showing us that what truly builds an authentic society is not power, but service.

Jesus and his faithful disciple Benedict are inviting each of us to open ourselves to God’s loving presence so that it pervades the whole of our personal and communal lives. St Paul envisages as much in the selection of his letter to the Ephesians we just heard. For the Ephesians to be worthy of the calling they have received, they must do so with all humility and gentleness, patiently bearing with one another through love. Only then will they “preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace.” Our religious communities, our Church, our society has never been in such need of this “patiently bearing with one another through love” for then the transforming work of God is able to act freely. The talents of each are put to use for the good of all.

Going through St Gregory’s Dialogues, his Life of St Benedict, I was captivated by his words that: “Blessed Benedict possessed the Spirit of only one Person, the Saviour who fills the hearts of all the faithful by granting them the fruits of His Redemption.” As Benedict became more attentive to God’s presence within and all around him, everything he did began to reflect the work of God. The prayer that he and his monks carried out during the Divine Office spread through the whole of their day.

By turning our ears to wisdom, inclining our hearts to understanding, as the Book of Proverbs suggests, our lives become fully attuned to the working of divine grace. Wisdom enters our hearts and a knowledge that pleases the soul. The Rule of Benedict is known for its discretion, so much so that many have believed this to be just the reason for its long and pervasive influence. It is a wonderful reflection of his own inner growth.

The role of the Eucharist in Benedict’s time seems to have been less central than for us today. This is probably so because the whole of their day was Eucharistic, an invitation to allow Christ’s presence to feed them all day long. Through our reception of the Eucharist, the consecrated Bread and Wine, we are made sharers in God’s own life. We experience the initiating love of Christ for each of us. Benedict assures us that as we progress in the monastic way of life and in faith, “we will run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”  Amen

Prov 2: 1-9; Eph 4: 1-6; Luke 22: 24-27

Homily – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. James Conner

The words of Jesus in today’s gospel might seem quite harsh at first sight: “If they do not accept you, go out into the streets and say: ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you’”. However in the context of the whole text and readings today, we see that it is done only as a last resort/

Jesus is primarily sending his disciples into towns to proclaim the message of God’s love and care for all peoples. The primary word that He wants them to proclaim is: “Peace to this house!” It is a peace which only God ca give, but a peace which is promised by all the prophets for the mission of the one sent by God.

Jesus comes among us as the fulfillment of the promise of the coming of one who will be Prince of Peace. He comes to proclaim peace which comes from God’s loving care for each one of His children. Isaiah compares the peaceful person to a child on its mother’s breast. “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you”. That child is each one to whom the Word of God is proclaimed. It is each one of us who have received this message that God will care for us as a mother cares for her infant.

But we don’t like to consider ourselves as infants. We want to see ourselves as self-reliant and competent to take care of ourselves and our world. We all too often act as if we did not need God’s help and protection.

But Paul tells us in the second reading that “the world has been crucified to me and I to the world”. The world that must be crucified to each one of us is the world of deceit and selfishness – a world of power and prestige. But by that very fact it is a world of lies. Jesus calls Satan the “father of lies”. The lies which Satan sows in the world and in our hearts is the lie of self-sufficiency – “I do not truly need God – I can care for myself and my world!”

It is such lies which lie at the root of all the evil and deceit in the world today. All too often, even leaders of nations are known more for their lies than for fostering truth. Such actions only sow dissent and division within a nation and in the hearts of those who follow him. It serves to divide the nation from other nations and even beget division within the nation itself. And Jesus said also: “A house that is divided cannot stand”.

In contrast to this, Jesus sends his disciples – he sends each one of us – to spread the true message of God’s love and care for every person. We may object to world leaders sowing dissent and division, but do the very same thing in our dealings with one another in daily life.

Each time that we encounter another person, it should embody the message: “Peace to you!”. The Christian should be a person of peace. Above all, the monk should be a man of peace – peace within himself and peace with others with whom he lives. The injunction of Jesus does not extend merely to mssionaries. It extends to each one of us – whether in the monastery or in our homes and places of work.

That is why we express the sharing of Peace before receiving the Prince of Peace within Communion. That brief moment cannot be simply a distraction from the Eucharist – but a call to each one of us to heed the message of Jesus and truly live as men and women of peace, knowing that our names are truly written in heaven.

The words of Jesus in today’s gospel might seem quite harsh at first sight: “If they do not accept you, go out into the streets and say: ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you’”. However in the context of the whole text and readings today, we see that it is done only as a last resort.

Jesus is primarily sending his disciples into towns to proclaim the message of God’s love and care for all peoples. The primary word that He wants them to proclaim is: “Peace to this house!” It is a peace which only God ca give, but a peace which is promised by all the prophets for the mission of the one sent by God.

Jesus comes among us as the fulfillment of the promise of the coming of one who will be Prince of Peace. He comes to proclaim peace which comes from God’s loving care for each one of His children. Isaiah compares the peaceful person to a child on its mother’s breast. “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you”. That child is each one to whom the Word of God is proclaimed. It is each one of us who have received this message that God will care for us as a mother cares for her infant.

But we don’t like to consider ourselves as infants. We want to see ourselves as self-reliant and competent to take care of ourselves and our world. We all too often act as if we did not need God’s help and protection.

But Paul tells us in the second reading that “the world has been crucified to me and I to the world”. The world that must be crucified to each one of us is the world of deceit and selfishness – a world of power and prestige. But by that very fact it is a world of lies. Jesus calls Satan the “father of lies”. The lies which Satan sows in the world and in our hearts is the lie of self-sufficiency – “I do not truly need God – I can care for myself and my world!”

It is such lies which lie at the root of all the evil and deceit in the world today. All too often, even leaders of nations are known more for their lies than for fostering truth. Such actions only sow dissent and division within a nation and in the hearts of those who follow him. It serves to divide the nation from other nations and even beget division within the nation itself. And Jesus said also: “A house that is divided cannot stand”.

In contrast to this, Jesus sends his disciples – he sends each one of us – to spread the true message of God’s love and care for every person. We may object to world leaders sowing dissent and division, but do the very same thing in our dealings with one another in daily life.

Each time that we encounter another person, it should embodythe message: “Peace to you!”. The Christian should be a person of peace. Above all, the monk should be a man of peace – peace within himself and peace with others with whom he lives. The injunction of Jesus does not extend merely to mssionaries. It extends to each one of us – whether in the monastery or in our homes and places of work.

That is why we express the sharing of Peace before receiving the Prince of Peace within Communion. That brief moment cannot be simply a distraction from the Eucharist – but a call to each one of us to heed the message of Jesus and truly live as men and women of peace, knowing that our names are truly written in heaven.

Pentecost Homily by Fr. Seamus 6/9/19

PENTECOST HOMILY + GETHSEMANI + 6/9/19

We have a birthday today! Pentecost is our liturgical celebration of the birthday of the Church: Our Paschal Candle, which we lit at the Easter Vigil, is still here: symbolic of the Light of Christ … Happy Birthday everyone!

Thomas Merton put it well, “Our life is a powerful Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit, ever active in us, seeks to reach through our inspired hands and tongues into the very heart of the world. (Search for Solitude, 86) . According to Merton, “the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit takes place through those in whom the Spirit dwells. Life in the Spirit is a life of hope and freedom and love.” Merton was inspired to see the Spirit active throughout the world, especially in the work of his contemporary, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker.

In fact, in the last nine years of his life, Merton wrote 29 letters to Dorothy Day, a woman he admired very much for her strong commitment to social justice, her deep concern for the poor, and her uncompromising pacifist attitude toward war.

In her book, Houses of Hospitality, Dorothy Day wrote, “Love and ever more love is the solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light the fire of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of others, and it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us … I cannot worry too much about your sins and miseries when I have so many of mine own. I can only love you all, poor fellow travelers, fellow sufferers. I do not want to add one last straw to the burden you already carry. My prayer from day to day is that the Holy Spirit will so enlarge my heart that I will see you all, and live with you all, in his love.”

In a letter of December 29, 1965, Merton wrote, “If there were no Catholic Worker and such forms of witness, I would never have joined the Catholic Church” (Hidden Ground of Love, p. 151).

 

Through their writings, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, were both “Beatitude Catholics:” i.e. peace-makers. They emphasized that the Christian is not only to witness to the presence of the Spirit to those outside the Church, but also to look for and to find the Spirit already present in other cultures, other religious traditions, and other human beings all of whom are made in the image and likeness of God. “The Holy Spirit,” Merton wrote, “certainly inspires and protects the visible Church, but if we cannot see the Spirit unexpectedly in the stranger and the foreigner, we will not understand the Spirit even within the Church. We must find the Holy Spirit in our enemy, or we may lose him even in our friend. We must find the Spirit in the pagan or we will lose him in our real selves, substituting for his living presence an empty abstraction “(384).

And so, Christians throughout the world believe and celebrate that the risen Lord, who has ascended to his rightful place next to God, the Father, has sent the Holy Spirit to teach us, to inspire us to reach out to the poor, to fill the earth with God’s power, to recognize our oneness with creation, to see everything is creation as subjects rather than objects. There is no Feast called “The Ascension of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit will always be with us. We must never forget that the earth is renewed each time rivalries are resolved, distinctions are recognized as merely expressions of diversity, peace is restored, comfort and solace are offered, and forgiveness is expressed. We have all been baptized into one and the same Spirit … a Spirit who teaches us every day … a Spirit who strengthens us to go forth in the name of the Lord … “to renew the face of the earth.”

This evening, after Vespers, we will extinguish our Paschal Candle … and remove it from the sanctuary … a liturgical reminder for each of us … that we are to be the Light of Christ, the Easter Light, people ready to welcome all with the words, “Peace be with you.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY EVERYONE! 😊

 

Homily by Fr. Carlos for 5/5/19 – Union of our will with God’s will

The gospel today, on Jesus making Peter the head of the church is not exclusively for Popes or Bishops who are in such high positions, but it is also meant for us because most of us, in one way or another are placed in authority over others.  The Holy Scriptures addresses the hearts of all.  Therefore, it would benefit us to know what this requires from us.

It is required of Peter to love the Lord with utmost love (having asked 3 times) –  if he is to be in charge.  Peter was always the first to assert himself; he suggested that it would be good to build booths when they saw Jesus transfigured before them, that he would lay down his life for Jesus even if all will deny him.  He was so sure of himself and appears to be bolder than the other disciples and yet it was he who denied Jesus 3 times.  He was distressed when asked by Christ three times if he loves the Lord.   That was certainly a lesson in humility by virtue of which qualified him to be head of the church.  Jesus knew that in Peter’s betrayal he would not repeat the same mistake.

If it were left to us, we would certainly doubt to put someone in charge, with good reason, because of his dishonesty and fickle mind.  Christ did not change His plans.  Peter in spite of himself,  became head of Christ’s church.  The real reason is Peter realized that he could not betray Christ again for Christ loved him even during the betrayal, even when he was still in sin.  Sin gets a good hold on us when we focus on it and we are almost obsessed with making it up with God.   We constantly feel guilty in front of God. and could not bring ourselves to meet him when we are still in sin.  The publican approached God in the temple as a sinner.   We are not comfortable with His mercy or we can be presumptuous about it.   We would rather face God with a clean slate, as if, it were possible..  Psychologically, Catholics feel better to face God after confession but would hesitate to face God in sin.  It IS the love of God that makes us repent not because of  our effort to reconcile ourselves with God.  It is his grace that makes us go to confession.   He loved us  while we were still in sin and that is why we go back to him.  It’s called grace.   Only when we realize the great love another one  has for us would we most likely not offend the one who loves us..  We keep on sinning because we have not gotten in touch with the love of God and how much that love cost him to the extent of dying for sinful humanity.   But there were some conditions and qualities  Christ could not dispense with.  That quality is love,  Here the demand of Christ of love from Peter could not escape our attention.  Christ laid out to Peter what loving the Lord means.  If you love me he says feed my sheep.  At first glance it sounded like a utilitarian love.   It’s like when we were young Mom, it’s usually the Mom, who will say, son if you love me study hard or clean your room or some other task and we of course would obey with a grudge.  But with Jesus it is different.  It speaks about the nature of his person and mission.   Peter must do what Christ must did for all humanity.   Christ did only what he saw the Father was doing – the will to save the whole of humanity.  It was his mission to call the lost sheep of Israel and by extension the whole world.  True love is to behave like the father and the son in their passion to save all of God’s children.   It is in the union of wills where true love is found.   Peter must love Christ not as if Christ was an object but that he must allow or conform his will to be taken up into the intimacy of love within Father Son and Holy Spirit.  When this happens then Peter would behave like God,  namely, having a burning passionate desire to save and care for all God’s sheep no matter what it costs.

He must not waver nor be distracted from this mission.  He should not ask whether John will not die until Christ comes again.  He will have a hint of what would happen to him in his old age.  He too will die like Christ but he does not know how he will die.

He is not be curious as to what will happen to others who follow Christ.  Nothing matters except to do what Christ asks of him namely, to behave like God – to be  passionate in bringing others into the kingdom of heaven.   The church has so much woes and agony in our present time.  Our shepherds lost the passion for taking care of Christ’s sheep.   The sheep served the shepherds.  Human love alone can cause us so much sorrow and pain.  When our will is not in conformity with God’s will then our will reigns supreme for others and we are the sole judges of what is good for us and for others.  Peace and security can only be found in a person whose will is in conformity with God’s wall.  True love is found in the union of our will to God.  It is here where fear vanishes and the following goes on in our lives.  Then that is the time when we can be in charge in order to serve.

Easter Homily – Abbot Elias Dietz – 4/21/19 – Doorways Into Hope

ABBOT ELIAS DIETZ, O.C.S.O
Homily – Easter Sunday – April 21, 2019
Doorways Into Hope
I have always loved the moment in this gospel when “the other disciple”—presumably John—sees the way the cloths are laid out in the tomb and believes. Something about what he saw spoke to him of Jesus’ living presence and deliberate action. A small roll of cloth allowed him to make a big leap of faith.
We might learn a lesson here from John. There is no doubt that this great saint, evangelist, and author of the Book of Revelation sought “the things that are above,” to use Saint Paul’s phrase. But he was at the same time attentive to the smallest of things that are here below.
Looking back over the last several days, it is worth noticing how many little items it takes to celebrate Holy Week and the Triduum. We need palms for Passion Sunday; oils for the chrism Mass; pitchers, basins, towels, and aprons for the Holy Thursday washing of the feet; a special cross, all sorts of candles, and extra vessels for Good Friday; as for the Easter Vigil, we need all the paraphernalia involved in lighting a fire; then there is the Easter candle, the dozens of little candles for everyone, the holy water; and the list could go on—not to mention all the detailed preparation needed for the music, the readings, and the ritual.
More important still are the many little things noted in the scriptures we hear during Holy Week. There are the vessels and dishes at the Last Supper; the sword in garden; the scourge, the thorns; the cross, the nails, the soldiers’ dice, the sponge, the spear; the burial spices and cloths; the tomb and its stone.
The deepest truths of the faith are only conveyed to us through things we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. No wonder the practice of honoring relics developed over time: a deep instinct in us wants to see and touch objects and even bodies from our Christian past.
It is thanks to the Incarnation that basic matter and primitive human experiences can convey to us the sacred. The Word became flesh, and it is through the flesh that we perceive the Word. The Exsultet expresses it well: “O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human.”
It interesting to recall in this connection Saint Benedict’s admonition to monks that they “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected” (RB 31.10–11). If we open our hearts and minds and become attentive like John in today’s gospel, the smallest details of domestic life, work, and our natural surroundings can all become little doorways into the sacred.
Just as Holy Week is full of small things that convey big meanings, so too Easter offers us many reminders. Besides the Candle—the work of bees, as the Exsultet recalls—and the Candle’s light and the water of the baptismal font, the gospel accounts of the Resurrection contain an abundance of details: the pre-dawn and early morning light, the garden, the stone set aside, the empty space of the tomb, and the cloths; not to mention the closed doors, the fish, Jesus’ wounds, and his breathing the Holy Spirit on the disciples.
Attentive observation seems to come naturally in Holy Week, as some hymns testify: “Were you there, when they crucified my Lord…?” or “Come and see where Jesus lay.” But Easter should find our senses just as keen to notice whatever small signs the Lord might use to spark our faith. With John we can sense Jesus alive in the very emptiness of a room or in the fold of a cloth. With Mary we can return again and again to the garden. Because of the Resurrection, even emptiness and grief can become doorways into hope. The quality of light, the abundance of spring, the sound of running water can all remind us of the Lord’s rising and awaken in us the joy of Easter. Instead of singing “Were you there…”, Easter should have us repeating over and over again “Taste and see how good the Lord is.”
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Homily – 4/7/19 – Fr- Michael Casagram — The Righteousness of God

+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.

Homily – 4th Sunday in Lent – Fr. James Conner

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