Category Archives: Homilies and Talks

Homilies

Homily – Fr. Anton – Solemnity of Our Holy Founders – 1/26/20

January 26, 2020           Solemnity of Our Holy Founders        Gospel:   Mark 10: 24b – 30      

Today we give thanks that, in the year 1098, God  brought  together  three men to do Him a specific service He committed only to them. 

Robert, Alberic, Stephen –

different ages, nationalities, temperaments …   no one of them could have done it alone.

                                       

Robert, a monk at age 15, a dreamer, always moving around, looking for greener grass.

But at age 70, a spark ignited within him, enabling him to lead 21 monks 

from their monastery at Molesme

to begin a reformed monastery at Citeaux, eighty miles south.

 

Alberic, his invisible partner,  a caretaker,  “lover of the brethren,” elected Second Abbot.

He provided  consistency  that became a foundation for future growth.

 

Stephen, the Englishman, called Stephen Harding, a perfectionist, an organizer, Third Abbot.

He set  up the Scriptorium to copy Bibles and hymnals, producing the most authentic texts and hymns possible.                                   

 

Word spread about their reformed lifestyle … new monks joined … eventually hundreds…

causing  more than a dozen daughterhouses  before Stephen’s death… 

thus, the Order of Cistercians was born.

Ironically,  they never intended an Order…. one good monastery  to live out their monastic life

would have been enough.

 

The first growth came when that 22-year old looked over the wall at Citeaux,

stayed     to visit, live, pray, work with them,

talked to  Stephen Harding, the newly-elected  Abbot, then went home.

 

But Bernard returned, followed by – some say –  30  others … all asking to join.

 

The question is:

What so attracted Bernard, what testimony was so irresistible that not only did he come back … but convinced  his five brothers, two uncles, cousins, friends  to join a monastery??

 

He could see the monks had one common goal:  to turn their lives over to God.

Prayer came before anything else, accompanied by silence and solitude. 

It was a life of saving their souls,   where selfishness was brought into line.

They  rose in the middle of the night to pray, with a real thirst  to pray,

to taste and see how good God is.

Their community prayer centered around celebrating the Divine Office, the way the Rule of Benedict laid it out.

 

Another thing was their simplicity and poverty.

They chose to live poor, like the poor Christ:

No gold in their church… only  wrought iron candlesticks and plain undecorated vestments.

Even their clothing:   Good black dyes… which didn’t wash out or fade … were costly..

so,  instead of black robes, they wore  whatever wool came off the sheep … undyed … labeling them  ‘the White Monks’.

 

They shared simple meals:  each had a pound of bread, a pint of drink, two dishes of cooked vegetables,  enough to keep the body fervent in worship of God … but no meat, because meat was for tables of the rich.

 

Brotherhood was all-important.

Having left behind whatever riches, lands, or titles they had,

nobles got merged with servants into equality in Christ,

    with  no part of worldly rank or hierarchy. 

Per the Rule of Benedict, they were brothers gathered around one father, the Abbot,

the only mark of exception being a greater sanctity, achievable by all. 

 

Work and silence were essential.

They chose to do the work themselves, manual labor, raising animals, because Benedict had written:  “They are truly monks when they live by the labor of their hands as did our Fathers and the Apostles.”

 

They lived in a world of Silence, using  speech and music  only to praise God.

There were no hawks or  hunting dogs, no tournaments or games, only what led to prayer.

 

But external disciplines like these weren’t enough to attract Bernard  … They were  the means,

man-made tools to prune back human appetites. 

 

The main attractiveness was the monks’ fervor and dedication to saving their souls …

    getting to heaven … which they couldn’t do alone …  they needed each other.

 

In a world  of knights and armor and liege lords,

     the monks were Soldiers of Christ, robed in white,

united — one army   lined up  for spiritual warfare, ready to fight  their sins and failures.

 

They admitted being individually weak and vulnerable,

                 but  they were welded together  by bonds of charity.

They were mutually willing to accept each other and help each other,

    because  they got healed as  they healed others.

They forgave each other because their own forgiveness flowed  from forgiving others.

    They were willing to live together in love, even tho they might not be loved back.

 

As monks, they were willing to do battle with whatever might  destroy monastic life.

They  vowed personal conversion … to  be changed  through love …

and they proved how serious they were about observing  Christ’s   Golden Rule.

 

Their test for love of the unseen God                 

was   love of the  neighbor,  who can be seen..       

                neighbor defined as  the monk next to them.

 

No matter his dialect or village,  

noble-born or peasant,

    he was called by God,     an equal,   a brother to be respected and loved. 

 

The test was simple:   Do I  treat my brother as I want to be treated?

 

Not the brother I like … what reward’s in that?

    But the one I don’t like …   How do I treat him?

 

Am I rude to him … walk away …  mumbling something?                 

                                   

Do I  speak well of him, or open my lips in gossip? 

 

They fought trading in gossip, saying:

‘Meat is forbidden,’ but less a sin to chew on a roast than chew on a brother.’

 

They struggled against judging others,   

being the  Pharisee who condemns and murmurs:  “He’s not a good monk!”

‘Garments of fur are forbidden’, they said, 

‘but far less a sin to hide fur clothing under the cloak,

than to wear  God’s robes and judge another.’           

 

They asked themselves:   Which brother is it  I don’t  want to travel with, 

            have   sitting next to me in the wagon   

         all the way to market  … and back?

That’s where my  conversion is stalled.       That’s where I  have work to do.

 

When Bernard saw how intent  they were on building a community of love,

how  they would welcome anyone truly seeking God, 

how could he   NOT return to join them  …

how could his 30 friends NOT follow  him to see if all this were true??? 

 

Our Father Raymond called them “Three Religious Rebels,” Robert, Alberic and Stephen.

They were more dreamers,  dreaming the dreams of God.

They didn’t so much  build a monastery,

        as build up a patrimony passed down to us,  900 years later.

 

If we’re really thankful, and want to honor them,  they would ask us

to allow God  to kindle a spark within us today,

to continue on   living  the vows we’ve professed in their  Order,

to help each other live    lives of love and prayer…

 

And may God bring us all together to life everlasting!  Amen.

Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – This is My Beloved – 1/12/2020

Homily by Fr. Michael Casagram:
+THIS IS MY BELOVED                                    
The Baptism of the Lord, 12 Jan. 2020
What are we celebrating today? If we say the Lord’s baptism, the words of John the Baptist quickly come to mind: “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” And then we are told after Jesus was baptized that “he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.” I find myself asking for what purpose was this, for how could Jesus not have been filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his conception in Mary’s womb?
And then there is the voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” and I began to see the reason for our gathering to celebrate this Feast. It is about both who Jesus is and who we become by reason of his presence among us. With and through him we become the “beloved” of God. Our Baptism immerses us in Christ’s own Body, become his living members. What began with John’s baptism in the Jordan, is fulfilled in us as we allow his Holy Spirit to live in us and govern our lives.
Through our Baptism we have not just become a special society of human beings but the very Body of Christ. “By one Spirit we were all baptized into the body” St Paul tells the Corinthians. Being “baptized into Christ” we “put on Christ” he tells the Galatians. We have been baptized “into his death…so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” he tells the Romans. In a letter to the Colossians he tells them: “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God.” This gift of our Baptism sustains us as Christians and comes to full fruition in a life that never ends. “If we have died with Christ,” we are assured by Paul, “we shall also live with him” forever.
We cannot appreciate enough the grace of our Baptism! To be conscious of it, is to let its power permeate the whole of our daily lives so that they become a joyful celebration that never ends. It is said that the most fundamental aspect of our Baptism is that makes us living members of Christ’s Body, the Church. The news of sexual abuse in the Church, does not prevent for a moment, its true disciples from being living and life-giving members of Christ’s Body. Serious wounds have been inflicted on Christ’s Body but healing is underway. Its healthy members, remaining true to their calling, provide the very remedy that makes it stronger than it ever was. The recent crisis may well be one of the best things to have happened.
We celebrate the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan today, but it is above all our own feast day, the remembrance of the grace that has flooded our lives, the coming of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. It is a fitting way to bring this Christmas season to an end. God’s taking on our human flesh was an act of love beyond compare. It finds its full unfolding in each of us as we live from the grace of our baptism. Baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit opened our own hearts to a Love that is to fill the whole world around us, touch the lives of all with whom we live. We are all to be God’s beloved!
The Eucharist we are about to receive strengthens the presence and outpouring of the Holy Spirit within our lives. As Christ’s self-sacrifice becomes present at this altar and we partake of his Body and Blood, we are nourished in in the life begun at the moment of our baptism. Amen
Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mt 3:13-17

Homily – Epiphany 2020 – Fr. James Conner

Epiphany  – 2020

“We have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship Him”. With these words, the three Magi, coming from the East, make known to us and all peoples that great Mystery which Paul reveals to us in the second reading today: the Mystery made known now to all peoples of the world. It is not made known only to the Jewish people, the chosen People of God, but to ALL peoples: Jew and Gentile, who were originally called by God when the triune God declared: “Let us made man in our image and likeness”.

But mankind failed to recognize itself as being in the image of God and tried to make all things in THEIR own image. In so doing, they created a world filled with pain and suffering right up to this present day. But God has not chosen to leave us in this way, but has come among us, as one like us in all things but sin. In this way He comes as the second Adam – the true image of God without sin or pain or suffering. He comes to free us from the suffering which we have inflicted on ourselves and one another throughout time and history.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is Himself the Star in the East, who makes known to us what our true destiny is to be. We also are called to be sons and daughters of God – in His very own image and likeness. He comes as the revelation that God is a God who is Love Itself, and consequently the only command that He gave us is to love one another as He has loved us. If this were to be realized, then the world would be a very different place.

Just yesterday our community had a communal dialogue on the issue of suffering in life and the ways to deal with it in daily affairs. Today gives us the full answer to that. We are to deal with suffering only by keeping our eye on the Star in the East – or in the words of St. Benedict, we are to “prefer nothing whatever to Christ”. If we were truly to live in the image of God in which we were created, then we would be like God and be the image of Love within this world. Then truly, as Isaiah foretold, all suffering would be removed from the world and we would realize the full meaning of God being one with us.

Then all humanity and all creation would be that true Image of God, that Star in the East, that manifestation of God within time and space. Jesus Christ has come among us and absorbed all the pain and suffering of all time I His own suffering and death. He has willed that now we should also share in His own joy when He prayed: “Father, glorify your Son – your sons and daughters – that your sons and daughters may glorify You. I have manifested your name to those whom You have given Me. I am praying for them whom you have given Me. I am no more in the world, but they are in the world. I pray that they may be one even as we are One, so that they may be that Star in the East which reveals our presence to the world and their presence to one another, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them and I in them.”

This is the full manifestation – Epiphany  – of God present in the world and in one another. Then there will be not simply a Star in the East, but the living presence of the living and loving God and all creation and all peoples in that same image and likeness.

Homily – Dec. 22, 2019 – Fr. Carlos Rodriguez – Mystery in Advent

Homily for 12/22/19
Fr Carlos Rodriguez

T’is a wonderful season – this Advent. We are waiting for a God who is Almighty and Creator of all there is, and He will come as a babe…He would not give up on us human beings who have transgressed his law innumerable times. He gave hope to his people through all the calamities they have experienced as a people giving them solace by the assuring words of prophets that He promised to send a Savior. Little did his people know and for that matter even us that God would bring about His saving plan playing brinkmanship, so to speak, by putting the feasibility of His magnificent plan for all of humankind upon the assent of two people: one a virgin named Mary and the other to whom the virgin was betrothed, a man named Joseph. Except for the prophets, Scriptures has made it known that His beloved chosen ones who were to carry out His his saving plan for His people failed Him miserably: Saul, David, Solomon the so called wiseman and the countless subsequent kings who ruled in His name were dismally inept at representing Him. Yet, God did not waver in His confidence and trust in human beings, that they will come up to His expectation. He was almost at awe with his puny creation like, he had a kind of Divine Naivete.

In Mary and Joseph his trust and confidence on the goodness of human beings were vindicated. The assent of Mary and Joseph to the mystery happening in their lives has been unequalled. In them God’s loving saving plan is now in place. What is left was its unfolding in the lives of this couple and the Birth of a Son who is from God and who is God. Again the ineffable God involves humans in the divine life: the Father sent the Son and the Virgin conceived by the Holy Spirit. He would never let us go away from that trinitarian circle of love. And this is the beauty of it all. Mary & Joseph did not have an advantage that we have of the true interpretation of Scriptures, lessons of absolute truth about God, the correct understanding of all the prophecies or guidelines of proper behavior in life. They took tremendous risks, at the expense of possibly losing their sanity, the ire of the people around them and the strict demands of their culture and temple. God spoke to them in the most gentle manner, almost a suggestion; in a dream in the case of Joseph and the appearance of the angel which brought fright to the young maiden. Everything happened at the core of their being for that is where God is heard most clearly… not in the clarity of the mind. Besides what mind is clear when facing a mystery. Mystery stuns the mind but it enlarges the heart to receive and understand God. After the messages were given, there were no instructions given to them as to what to do. They waited for God’s voice or messengers and prepared themselves to listen and obey. So they lived an ordinary, hidden life in a village and waited for the voice of God within. They heard it several times more and then God was silent. Scriptures spoke little of Mary and Joseph. Yet something did change in their lives. They lived a celibate life. It is a bit strange to speak of celibacy at this point. No, this is not the canonical celibacy, this is not a religious vow not even a way of giving up something for the sake of God. No, this is a celibacy that flowed from their encounter with God in the inner core of their being. They were in communion with the Father through their Son and the Holy Spirit. They were in other words evangelized by the words of God through the angel. Their three levels of consciousness, the superego, the ego and the libido where all superfluous for they found themselves in God’s life which made all desires apart from God superfluous. Advent is the time to get in touch with our inner being; its deeper than mind and thought, it’s deeper than heart and feeling. It’s the only place in us where if want to hear God speak it is there where we should wait. It is not even praying, for oftentimes our prayer even blocks God from showing us His gift of love, namely, His divine life, his love which makes us lack nothing else. He wants to give us gifts and the greatest gift to us His son on Christmas day. We wait deeply in faith suspending all understanding through the mind and receiving the wonderful message as pure gift. Mystery befits mystery. The greatest human mystery is that place in our being where only God may enter.

Homily – Dec 8, 2019 – Judgement and Justice – Fr. Seamus

HE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT – A – DEC 8, 2019
JUDGMENT AND JUSTICE + READINGS: Is 11:1-10; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12
HOMILY by Fr. Seamus
The Second Sunday of Advent gives us the familiar scene of John the Baptist calling for people to repent and prepare for the Lord. Matthew’s gospel portrays John in the mode of Elijah, the Old Testament prophet who ascended into heaven and was expected to rerturn before the coming of the Messiah (2 Kgs 1:8, 2:11; Zec 13:4; Mal 4:5). Boldly, Matthew positions John in opposition to powerful religious and aristocratic authorities, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees. John directs them to produce good fruit, to do good works and to not rely merely on their ancestry for salvation. John’s critiques of powerful leaders ultimately lead to his death at the hands of Herod Antipas, a Roman client ruler in Galilee (Mt 14:1-12). John’s example can inspire modern readers to speak truth to power and can call on leaders to live righteously and promote a just society.
At the end of the Gospel, John describes Jesus as a judge who punishes those who have not lived well or repented for their actions. Jesus’ “winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Mt 3:1-12). Matthew uses commonplace agrarian imagery to help his audience imagine Jesus separating the good from the bad, or the valuable wheat from the useless chaff, actions that would have been routine on threshing floors.
It can be daunting to look forward to an unknown period of judgment. Many of us anticipate a final judgment that is in the far distant future. But today’s readings ask us: What can we do today to prepare for the Lord, as John proclaimed?
The first reading from Isaiah envisions a time when a leader will judge righteously. Caring for people who are poor and meek, the leader will be clothed in justice and faithfulness. This leader promotes harmony – so much that even natural enemies will be friends. “The wolf shall be aq guest of the lamb … the lion shall eat hay like the ox” ( Is 11:6, 7). While Isaiah’s vision may sem unlikely, his assertions that leaders must promote justice and protect the vulnerable are imperative both then and now.
Likewise, in the second reading. Paul advocates for a harmonious society in which people imitate Christ by being hospitable to one another. Paul calls on the Roman community to “live in harmony with one another … to glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:5-6). Paul reminds his audience that they were welcomed by Christ, so they should welcome one another. Hospitality is essential for creating a community based on love and respect.
As we continue through Advent and prepare for the Lord, let us remember to look for Christ in all people and treat one another with dignity and respect. Like John the Baptist, we should hold our leaders to high standards and urge them to promote harmony, not plant seeds of discord. Expecting leaders to create just societies should not be an idealized vision of the past; rather, it should be a goal for our current reality.
QUESTIONS:
What actions can I take or avoid to promote peace and harmony in my community?
Do I support leaders who promote peace in society?
Do I greet strangers and outsiders with hospitality?
(Source: Jaime L. Waters, an associate professor of Catholic studies, teaches Scripture at DePaul University in Chicago – America Magazine, p. 60) ______________________ END.

Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Fr. Alan Gilmore 11/24/19

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)

Fr ALAN

 

Homily for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – 11/24/19

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.”

Homily by Fr. Lawrence for Sunday, November 17, 2019

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.

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.

Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – All Souls

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.”