Category Archives: Homilies and Talks

Homilies

Homily – Easter – He Has Been Raised – Fr. Michael Casagram

+HE HAS BEEN RAISED                                                        Easter Vigil, 2020

This vigil celebration takes on a unique significance as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds all over the world. This is evident from the fact that only we are gathered here for this Vigil. The reality of death is daily before our eyes as we are faced with what is happening among every people and Nation, in hospitals, nursing homes or among the poor on our streets. Intense as all this is, the angel telling the women in our gospel that Jesus is not in the place of his burial but has been raised from the dead, cuts through it all and speaks to our world like it has never done before.

People of all Nations are being reminded that physical death is not the end of human life but only the passage to something far better, to a fullness of life that is without end. Might we like the women in our gospel, be overjoyed. As persons of faith I wonder if this isn’t exactly what we are being called to, despite the fear and angst this pandemic is creating all around us.

For the Christian and all the more for us as monks, this is no surprise for day in and day out our lives are immersed in the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising to new life. Paul tells us that having been baptized into Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death. We have been buried with him so that “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” What is happening in our world today has been going on spiritually every  day of our lives as we die to sin, allow our old selves to be crucified with Christ, “so that our sinful body might be done away with” so as to be alive for God in Christ Jesus.

Might God in our time, especially in these last two months, be calling the whole human family into a firsthand experience of what is in store for those who believe in Christ risen from the dead. Though hidden from sight, our faith assures us that Christ has overcome the power of death so that it no longer has dominion over us.

We hear of the growing number of deaths due to the virus but this is nothing compared to the virus of sin that can take hold of our lives. The whole world is imposing restrictions on travel, gatherings of all sorts, liturgical celebrations etc. How is it that we don’t impose far stricter limits on human selfishness, places of human trafficking, luxurious living, the waste of our natural resources, on those who profit by facilitating addiction to drugs and alcohol? Often these are far more destructive than any virus will ever be. Is God helping us at this time to get our priorities right? Jesus overcomes death in all its forms as we allow faith in his risen life to fill our hearts.

What is happening in our world is drawing out the best in us. Countless nurses and doctors are risking their lives to serve the afflicted and suffering. Our own life takes on all the more meaning as it reveals the countless opportunities we have for giving witness to Christ’s risen life to all of the human family. None of us lives or dies for himself but for all of the human life on this planet. Gathered here we are one with all our afflicted sisters and brothers who are going through this time of suffering and uncertainty. As our hearts are cleansed, each of them is encouraged to be faithful.

When the angel has the women to go quickly and tell his disciples that Christ has been raised from the dead, he tells them that they are to go to Galilee where they will see him. Galilee is where Jesus first began his ministry but now they see it in a whole new light. Each of our own lives is now seen in a whole new light as Christ’s risen life lives in us. Like the bread and wine placed on this altar, we are transformed by the gift of the Holy Spirit into living members of his sacred Body. May we be such for one another, for all who are suffering today throughout the world.    Amen

Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-10

Holy Thursday 2020 – Fr. James Conner

Holy Thursday – 2020

 Jesus, having loved his own, he loved them to the end

Jesus began to wash the feet of his disciples, and wipe them with the towel.

Take this and eat – Take this and drink

A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.

In these brief verses, Jesus sums up his very life and the message he leaves with us. We are to love one another, as He has loved us. We are to give of ourselves to one another, as He has given Himself to us. We are to be willing to give even our very lives for one another, even as He has given His life for us.

All of this is the parting message of Jesus Christ to His disciples at table and to us here in this place. But surely we cannot fully do as He has done. We are weak and poor. We are sinful creatures, who depend on Him when He tells us; “Apart from Me, you can do nothing!”

But He has also promised us that “I will be with you all days, unto the end of the world”. He remains with us in the very sacrament which we are privileged to celebrate here today. He gives Himself to us as our food and drink to sustain our very lives. This sacrament is the very soul of the Church – the Mystical Body of Christ. It is the manna which is given to us to nourish us on the way.

In the hymn the Te Deum which we frequently sing at Vigils, one phrase tells us that “you did not shrink back from the chaste virgin’s womb”. Likewise He does not shrink back from our own sinful flesh, in order to become to very source of our life, in order to continue His life and message in and through each one of us.

And yet we are left with the strange anomaly that on this very day when Jesus says “Do as I have done”, the majority of the Church is left without this very sacrament. What can the Lord be saying to us? Perhaps He is telling us that His Love for us is greater even than this Sacrament – that just as He continues to love us even as we depart from Him by our sinful ways, so He continues to be with us even if many are unable to share in the Sacrament. That His Love is greater than any poisonous virus that might be released on our world, and that He wants us to continue to spread His Love through our mutual actions as we strive to live out each day as His disciples. Certainly many are showing Christ’s Love in their willingness to sacrifice even their very life in order to help others in myriads of ways. And we are left powerless to do any more than living our monastic life in the simple ways of loving one another – even as He has loved us, knowing by faith that that is how we are to show that we are truly His disciples, that the power of His Love is truly present in our very lives as simple monks, and that that is the way we are to wash the feet of one another,  that is how we are to give our lives for one another in our limited daily existence.

Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end!

 

Fr. Michael Casagram: How to Keep Holy Week and Easter Week When Shut In

Opening Prayer:

Come Holy Spirit, Souse of the Virgin Mary, you 
who overshadowed her so that she conceived in her
womb the Son of the Eternal Father. Come overshadow
our minds and hearts, our bodies, our whole being so 
that we too in all our thoughts and prayer, words, desires
and actions, we too may bring forth the same eternal Son
for he lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of your 
love One God forever and ever. Amen 

THE SUGGESTED TOPIC FOR THIS PRESENTATION IS A QUESTION: HOW TO KEEP HOLY WEEK AND EASTER HOLY, WHEN SHUT IN, AWAY FROM CHURCH COMMUNITIES?

My first response to this question is from some Zen practice I did years ago. It is this: “Just do it!” There is a way that all that is happening is like nothing any of us have ever gone through before. We cannot really anticipate what these coming next two weeks are going to be like but we can be sure that God is right in the midst of it all and if our hearts are open, we will have no trouble keeping Holy Week and Easter holy as we let Christ’s presence pervade it all.

In making the following remarks I am aware that my situation is unique in that I have more access to liturgical celebrations than most of you. We still have the Divine Office in full and Eucharist each morning just for the community. We are secluded from a number of thing many of you have to deal with.

I’m sure you all have been aware of what’s going on and how it lends itself to keeping this Lenten season. We are seeing countless people making great sacrifices, even of their own lives, for the good of others, especially in hospitals.  Work places are strapped for help or shut down and facing limits as to what can be done to maintain their businesses or to assist the jobless. When the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo was  praised for the sacrifices he makes in dealing with crises in New York, he told the public they were nothing compared to those made by doctors and nurses and other hired help in the hospitals dealing with the burden of this epidemic.

In recent years it has often been said that entertainment and the many distractions provided by our culture have prevented many of us from facing the real burdens of life. They have stood in way of our seeing the mystery of the cross as it touches our daily lives. Many of these have been removed in recent weeks as you are well aware.

My Lenten reading this year has been Ronald Rolheiser’s book Wrestling with God that has the subtitle: “Finding hope and meaning in our daily struggles to be human.” I had just written the above paragraph when I sat down to continue my way through this book and ran right into the following. Within a section on “Naming the Struggles with Faith Within Secularity,”p. 167 ff, Rolheiser writes of the major faith struggles of our time, especially in the highly secularized parts of our world and lists some of them. The 5th of those listed is: “The struggle for interiority and prayer inside a culture that in its thirst for information and distraction constitutes a virtual conspiracy against depth and solitude, the eclipse of silence in our world; the struggle to move our eyes beyond our digital screens toward a deeper horizon.”

In some ways the coronavirus pandemic has made us more susceptible to digital screens but at the same time, it has freed us from many distractions by asking us to stay home which means sharing more intensely with family and friends. It is also inviting us, it seems to me, to take more time for interiority and prayer, to be alone for sacred reading and for communion with the living God. One thing I have always appreciated about the Lay Cistercians, is your owning of a deep longing for silence and interior listening in your lives. One of the most effective ways you will keep holy these final days of Lent and then the Easter season is just this, taking time for quiet, centering prayer and pondering the Scriptures during this holy time.

Having been asked to be the principal celebrant at Eucharist yesterday (Tuesday morning) I was again surprised by how the Word of God came alive in new ways as I pondered the texts for the day, namely the Book of Numbers 21:4-9  and then John 8:21-30. I had read the texts a couple times and was going to draw a parallel between Moses telling the people to raise up a saraph on pole so that those looking at it might be healed of harm done them by serpents and the gospel where Jesus says that when he is lifted up, then the people would know who he is as the Son of God.

As I was going to Vigils Tuesday morning it suddenly dawned on me how the serpents in the desert biting and killing the people is exactly what is happening in our time with the spread of the virus. Then the gospel came alive in a new way when I realized how Christ is being lifted up on a cross today in the lives of thousands struggling to breath or dying from the virus. So when asked how to keep this season holy let me suggest, that you let yourselves be aware of all the suffering around you and to do what you can to assist those in need and to stop the spread of this harmful plague. You will do this by being with your sisters and brothers in their pain when possible and certainly by constant prayer for an end of the pandemic.

Pray for the medical scientists that they find a means for undoing the terrible effects this virus can have on human lungs and that they come up with a vaccine that will stop its continual spread. A medication for this could well be something very simple but it needs to be discovered and quickly applied.

There is a whole part of me wondering if God hasn’t allowed all this to happen so that the human family might come together in a much more caring and loving way. Every human person on this planet has been make in the image and likeness of God as St Bernard loved to remind his monks. We have lost our likeness to God because of our selfishness and sins but as we acknowledge these failings and ask for divine assistance, we regain our likeness to God, our original innocence and live a life that prepares us for an eternal dwelling with God.

Lent and refection on all that Christ has suffered on our behalf, has a way of freeing us from our self- centeredness, freeing us from those habits of sin that alienate us from our true selves. We keep this season holy by doing all we can in the ordinariness of our lives out of love for Christ Jesus, letting his love live in us amid the simplest tasks we may have.

The other day in the fudge department something went wrong that caused a mess and I started to get angry and upset but then I realized I was part of the problem. I had failed to communicate well with the person involved. Everything changed when I saw this, allowing me to move out of my anger, disturbance and confusion and continue with what needed to be done. I’m sure this is a familiar scene for many of you as we run into troublesome moments of the day. If we can stop and own our part of the problem, the way through the conflict or disturbance is easily found. For me, this is how we own the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising to new life. It is never far from our everyday lives.

While recently reading Richard Rohr’s The Universal Christ, he speaks of how Buddhists see suffering in their lives. They see it “as the practical and real price for letting go of illusion, false desire, superiority, and separateness. Suffering is also pointed out as the price we pay for not letting go, which might be an even better way to teach about suffering.” The italics are Rohr’s.  What the Buddhist have to offer is a valuable insight into the suffering that is built into each of our lives. We will not escape it however hard we try and the more we try the more we become caught in what alienates us from our true selves and causes the suffering.

I don’t know what the future is going to hold but if we allow ourselves to enter fully into it with Christ, it will it lead to a very profound experience of the Resurrection. We will become a new creation even as we pass through this one.  I wish each and all of you a profound and blessed coming two weeks.

 

Homily by Fr. Carlos – 3/25/20 – The Love of God

In a small insignificant town of Nazareth, in a humble house of a poor carpenter, an angel from Heaven came to Mary to tell her that she will be the mother of the Creator of the Universe!  John said that everything was created through Him (the Logos) and nothing exists that did not exist through Him.  What  divine irony!   The most important message ever delivered to  a human being and for the sake of all human beings happened quietly in a small poor obscure looked-down- upon town of Nazareth and given to a young woman who did not even understand what is being told her and its full implication; a maiden who cannot even determine whom she wants to marry.

Zifarelli, the Italian director, many years ago made a movie, entitled Jesus of Nazareth.  There he made the best version of the Anuncation acted out.   Mary was sleeping and suddenly she hears the voice.  She was not dreaming.  Zifarelli used light in a dark dingy little house.   Not a direct light but a light softly shining on Mary. It was as if God was caressing her with the soft life.   Mary looks at the light and the dialog begins.  Zifarelli used the technic of “thinking out loud” in movie monologues.  It happens in her innermost being.  She was not dreaming as Joseph was addressed by an angel to take mother and child and flee to Egypt.  Zifarelli understood the heart and person of Mary.

Most important and significant things happen best in silence and simplicity of the heart, in complete trust in God.  I used to smile when priests giving homily on the annunciation waxed dramatic:  “And there was Mary humbly kneeling in front of the angel Gabriel waiting for her answer.  And the whole inhabitants of heaven, the universe were waiting in suspense for her answer.   Nice, but not close.  With Mary there is no answer but yes. Not by constraint but out of love.  She dedicated herself body and soul to God her Beloved.  That is why she was a virgin by choice.

It is the belief that if God wants to do something with us He can and God should be allowed to do so freely.  The Annunciation is first and foremost about a God whose very essence, whose very being is a self-Sharing Being, God is Trinitarian;  Mary is not a favorite of God.  God’s favorite is humanity, God’s children, all of us.  As a matter of fact she played a role in God’s plan of salvation.  But he found favor in  Mary because she is the perfect human born of human.  Mary is at the center of God’s purpose.  She is immaculate because she will be conceiving an immaculate son.  Mary was immaculate not for her own sake, she became the mother of God not for her own glory.  Her fiat is an assent to God’s plan of salvation.  It was a fiat to her Beloved. That God’s son will live and die and resurrect among humans.  Mary’s fiat is a complete trust in a God who wants only the good for his children.   The Annunciation therefore is the first Christian Trinitarian revelation on the nature of God – God is Love and Love has to be shared.  God is love and therefore is passionate about human beings.  God is a loving saving God.  Mary is God’s realized plan of what all human beings should be.  But since there is no one to be found among human beings that would win God’s favor  therefore He graced Mary by freeing her from sin through the merits of His and her own son.

The great passion of God is not Mary, it is us, human beings, all human beings.  Mary by her fiat joins God in His loving plan and therefore she loves us as her Son and the Father loves us.  The great passion of God is to save humankind through Mary.  But even God’s saving act  has a purpose.  It is not simply to forgive sins.  If it was only that then it would for us a kind of Paradise Revisited, or a One-More-Time-But- This- time –with-feeling thing, or back to the future.  Forgiveness leads to a share in the very nature of God because we are united in God if we join ourselves with His Son Jesus our Lord in his passion and death and thus resurrection.  The life of resurrection transforms human beings into children of God.  Not simply a cleansed humanity.   The relation of Adam and EVEN before the fall is strictly God to creature.  If they obey they will benefit the generosity of God.   Mary is much more than Eve.  Mary is daughter of the Father and spouse of the Holy Spirit.  We have become sons and daughters in Christ.  This is not said of Adam and Eve even before their fall.   God’s love for us is absolutely free.  God is not obliged to save us in the way He did.    It is simply that God is acting out his very essence.  Love essentially shares.  This should be the spirit  of all human actions –  an attitude that is based on the LOVE of God for all.  Christians are at the forefront and are the  missionaries of this LOVE – to love, nourish, defend all human beings and if they need to die then they must die for others.  Wouldn’t it be great that if  one day a huge announcement is made to  all peoples of the world who have not heard of God’s love – who are lost to explain the evil and sadness in the word – the Christians are coming, the Christians are coming.

Homily – Fr. Anton – Feast of St. Joseph

The Gospel:  Matt 1:16, 18-21, 24A

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.

Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

 

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.

When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,

but before they lived together,

she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.

Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,

yet unwilling to expose her to shame,

decided to divorce her quietly.

Such was his intention when, behold,

the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

“Joseph, son of David,

do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.

For it is through the Holy Spirit

that this child has been conceived in her.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,

because he will save his people from their sins.”

When Joseph awoke,

he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him

and took his wife into his home.

 

After the Gospel:

 

Happy Feast Day, Br Giuseppe, Br Joseph, as we join in celebrating your patron saint!

 

Twenty-four  years after arriving here, our founding monks certainly weren’t living thru The Good Old Days!   In fact, they faced  an uncertain future.

The years surrounding  the War Between the States had been filled with troubles,

they were begging and borrowing money, two dozen monks lay buried in the cemetery,  and there were no new monks … all of which  was wrapped up in their prayer.

That’s when the community chose St Joseph  as  the Patron,   Protector, and Defender of the Monastery of Gethsemani, asking him to increase the merit  and number of the brethren … 

They were confident that the one who had preserved the Christ Child from the plots of a wicked Herod  was  able to protect Gethsemani  from dying out.

The big stone tablet  on the front porch  bears witness that since 1872, St Joseph has protected Gethsemani.

 

Of all the saints to choose from in an hour of need, why did the monks pick St Joseph?

 

Because of all men to choose  from, God had selected Joseph for one special service:

to be Husband of Mary, Head  of the Holy Family.

For the Son of God  to become Man,

          a human Mother was needed,

          a foster father was needed to protect them both.

Without Mary,   without Joseph, the whole thing would have fallen apart. 

 

The monks saw how Joseph was the Silent Partner through it all,

not a single word from him recorded in the Gospels, his language is silence.

He paid attention to angel voices in his sleep;

prompt and generous obedience was asked of him;

and his manual labor  earned Jesus the reputation of being “the son of the carpenter.”

 

But about  Joseph himself, there’s little else …

So,  what is it that made him such a good friend of God and of our monks?      

 

Joseph was a “Righteous Man,” that’s how St Matthew describes him.

In the dictionary,  “Righteous”  means

consistently acting in accord with divine or moral law,

free from guilt or sin,

honorable and fair in dealings with others.

 

They chose him  because Joseph  believed  God was present in his life,

he wanted  to follow God’s law and live a life of faith,

was content to be behind the scenes,  hidden,

an ordinary craftsman with no personal greatness to make him stand out,

not always in control, not always making the decisions,

following along quietly, always silent and obedient,

remaining in the shadow of the mysteries of Jesus,

seeing a little heavenly light thrown upon the mysteries every so often by an angel.

 

They chose Joseph because he  trusted the Lord  enough to allow Him to be his Shepherd,

guide him through the hardships …

 

Hardships which came  one after another…

Starting after  his engagement  in Nazareth… discovering his intended wife was pregnant,

but coming  to believe it was God’s work, and  accepting it. 

 

Then forced to go to Bethlehem…

          – 90 miles –  walking in winter with a heavily pregnant woman…

a birth in a cave because there were no welcoming relatives or friends with a spare bedroom…

a second forced march to flee a killer…

         – 430 miles –  walking  to Egypt, with a woman and her young baby,

                             carrying their own provisions… Skins of water, a lot of bread.

 

In Egypt … living as refugees,

treated as foreigners by an alien people  of strange language and religion and customs,

then, after three years, walking all the way back  to Nazareth …  500 miles …. having to start all over again back where they started from.

Somewhere under those adversities, many of us would have given up and quit…

 

Joseph, however,  didn’t.   Nor did he ask how the story would end: 

                                                           How would Jesus save his people? 

Most of us would’ve had questions ….WHY ..  HOW ???

or requests ..  to help things work out…

A Midwife.

A big house for the mother and child to live comfortably… …

Servants to help with the chores, the garden, the food, to fetch water and firewood.

Protection  from sickness and troubles …  

A few coins each month for safe measure  …

          After all, this is the Son of God we’re talking about…

 

Joseph’s story, however, isn’t about  perks and privileges,

it’s about a God who has a  plan,  and needs co-operation …

a God willing to stoop down to become like us…   in all things but sin …

however, but He needs a Yes.

 

Joseph  was willing to work along with God’s plan, whatever that plan might be.

Willing to be a carpenter and work like everyone else in the village to support a wife and child,

live through troubles and sickness like everyone else,

not  knowing  what tomorrow would bring.

Willing to  become a partner in God’s plan of redemption,

even though he couldn’t see what the whole plan would look like,

even though he might not live long enough to see it happen.

He was a man filled with faith,

he loved God,  trusted God enough to say Yes,

           because he knew how faithful God was.  

 

It was his “Yes”       that brought down  God’s blessings:

Joseph  became the legal and foster father of Jesus,

able not just to see God and to hear him,

but take him in his arms and kiss him, wash him, clothe him,

show him to people      or hide and protect him.

 

Eight days after the birth of Jesus,

it was Joseph  presiding over the Jewish rite of circumcision

that made the new-born child one of the chosen people.

 

When the Magi arrived,  Joseph was not only present but  the one who received them

as Head of the Family.

 

This year’s feast of  St Joseph is certainly bittersweet,

with the world  facing  an uncertain future, with so many churches shut down.

We’re blessed to be able to celebrate Mass as a Community,  to bring all our concerns wrapped up in prayer.           

 

We’re blessed  to gather in honor of our Protector, 

the Joseph whose  “Yes”  enabled Jesus to come into our world and save it, 

the Joseph who saved the Christ Child from the plots of a wicked Herod,

the Joseph  who has protected Gethsemani over the years.

 

Saint Joseph,  Pray for us now!  Be our Patron,  Protector, Defender in 2020!  Amen.

What We Can Do In Troubles Times – Talk by Fr. Michael Casagram 03/18/20

(Audio version)

This is a talk that Fr. Michael Casagram gave to the LCG members and friends on 3/18/20 in light of the coronavirus.

___________

Text of Fr. Michael’s Talk:

+Some Reflections on:  Things we can do in troubled times?  How to pray in troubled times? How not to be afraid in troubled times?

There have been various ideas and worries about what is going on because of the coronavirus pandemic. Let me share with you what I find meaningful but hopefully this will also give some of you a chance to share out of your own experience.

A few days ago I asked Dr Emily Cash, a psychologist who works with St Luke’s Institute in Louisvile: “What is a healthy psychological response to what’s going on in our world today in regard to the virus?” Her immediate response was that “it is good to remember it is temporary.” It is something passing and I would add that it is good to remember too, that God is right in the midst of all that is going on.

It is so important I think not to get caught up in the fear or pre-occupation this is creating for a lot of people. One wants to know what’s going on and what to do in the face of interacting with someone with the virus but here too, you don’t want to be overcome with anxiety at what might happen.

The monastic community must be ready to face the possibility of one of the monks getting the virus and what we might do. As someone said to me, it could even be one of the nurses who cares for our infirm who would introduce us to the illness. One can worry endlessly but this really doesn’t help and will only makes things worse.

I have often thought that sooner or later most of us probably, are going to get the virus and hopefully, even if over 60, our immune systems are going to be healthy enough to resist serious illness or death as the result of it.

Jokingly I recently said something to Dr Jane Thibault who occasionally comes to the abbey to speak to any of the elderly who would like to meet with her for advice. She has written a number of books on how to make the best of one’s later years in life. She obviously has a wonderful appreciation of how God is at work at all stages of our human development. Kidding about the danger of the virus, she said to me, though not her exact words, this may just be a good way to pass from this limited world into one much more rewarding. We laughed but she is right on. There is a way of seeing all this in a larger context, as part of each our journeys to our lasting place with those we love, as part of a divine design.

I suspect there is more here than just God’s permissive will and that it is an awaking call for all of the human family to work together for our common good. We are capable to something far more creative and life-giving if we just move to a more loving care of one another. All our lives are deeply interdependent on one another. This is so true of the Church as well, there are wonderful resources available for the building up of the Body of Christ if we will only make room for them, allow them to prosper. Part of what I am hoping from this session is that others here will be able to voice what they find as meaningful with all that is going on and enrich the whole community gathered here in this zoom sharing.

One of the thoughts I had was: is there a gospel episode that is equivalent to what is happening with the virus. It would be interesting to hear from you all where you see parallels in our gospels with what is happening to us today? The episode that came to my mind was that of Jesus out in the boat with his disciples and all at once there is a storm at sea and the ship is in danger of sinking because of the waves. Jesus is asleep in the boat and the disciples awaken him, telling them they are perishing and he tells them not to be afraid as the storm calms down. Right away I am aware of just how crucial in our own lives is this practice of faith at this point, that we remain confident that God is watching over us, is right in the middle of all that is happening.

I just read in the National Catholic Reporter of a woman who has been busy working with her children now that schools are closed. Her 11 and 12 year olds have lots of questions about all that is happening. “Could coronavirus be a punishment from God?” she asked her children. In no way, they said. In fact, my son argued that even a virus was God’s creature. Let me tell you, conversation with kids is rarely boring!”, the mother said.  How often the young have insight we elders fail to see and thereby enrich our lives.

They have a way of being connected, of seeing what is right in front of our eyes! And this would be my main offering to all of you, that what is happening all around us, has an element of mystery that we will only begin to comprehend if we are persons of faith and prayer, allow ourselves to see all that is happening in the light of a Divine Presence. God has not abandoned us, is not punishing us for our sins, but is seeking to open the eyes of our hearts to a presence and a reality the is larger than we can get our heads around. If we let ourselves become aware of the divine presence right in the middle of all that is going one, we will begin to see it in a new light, one that will enable us to respond in a wholesome and creative way.

Recently I came across this quote from St Teresa of Avila which I think to be very appropriate for this time of stress and I will end with this:

Let Nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things

Whoever has God lacks nothing:

God alone suffices.

(18 March 2020)

Homily – Fr. Seamus – Third Sunday of Lent 3/15/20

THIRD SUN. OF LENT – “A” + RDNGS: Ex 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42

St John’s Gospel tells the story of a woman who, by the standards of Jewish society at that time, was a worthless outsider.

Jesus had sent his disciples off for food, and he is sitting alone at a well … known to both Jews and Samaritans as “Jacob’s well,” situated on the border between Jewish land and Samaritan land. He has no cup or vessel of any kind, so he can’t quench his thirst. He’s alone when the woman comes to draw water. Now, according to the social and religious restrictions of his Jewish community, there are three good reasons why Jesus shouldn’t begin a conversation with her – or even greet her.

First, she is a woman. When his disciples return with the food, and find Jesus talking to her, without even a chaperone nearby, they are quite surprised … but don’t say anything because of their respect for Jesus.

Secondly, she is a Samaritan. She recognizes Jesus is a Jew, perhaps by the fringe on his cloak or by his Galilean accent. As she herself points out to Jesus, Jews don’t talk to Samaritans. Samaritans, from the Jewish point of view, are self-made outcasts. Self-respecting Jews stay away from them.

And, thirdly, this particular Samaritan woman has the sort of history that makes women outcasts even in their own communities. Jesus knows her status, and lets her know that he does. She has had five husbands – and she is currently living with a man to whom she is not married.

We might expect Jesus to start preaching to her, but he doesn’t, does he? No, he asks her to help him… to give him a drink, knowing full well that Jews would never use the same vessels as Samaritans. In so doing he is pictured as treating the Jewish religious and social restrictions as simply unimportant.

So he opens the conversation with her by asking her to give him a drink. Then we hear Jesus explaining the virtues of the well, or the wells, in scripture and, comparing the diverse waters, reveals the secrets of the divine mystery. For it is said that those who drink the waters of the earthly well will still be thirsty, but in those who will have drunk the waters given by Jesus “a spring of water will well up to eternal life” (John 4:14) In another Gospel passage, there is no longer a question of springs or well, but of something more important: “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38). And then, look how the story ends: she brings her belief in Jesus to her village, and the villagers come to Jesus because of her!

So she isn’t a worthless outsider, is she? On the contrary! She takes her place among Jesus’ disciples. She becomes one of them. The evangelization of her village is her accomplishment.

So when Jesus asked her to care for him by giving him a drink of water, he dignified her and started a process that brings her from being worthless to being the apostle to her village… from being an outsider, to becoming one of his disciples.

The remedy of love for what some consider human worthlessness is modeled for us in today’s Gospel. We will never be able to measure what our love for those who are considered “outsiders” may accomplish.

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Homily – Fr. Seamus – 3/7/20 “Prodigal Son”

SATURDAY 3/7/20 – SECOND WEEK OF LENT – Lk 15:1-32 + “PRODIGAL SON”

This parable is a high point in the revelation of the tenderness and mercy of God … it is a parable Jesus told to those who complained, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” It’s a parable that assumes its full meaning in the context of Lent. All the works of Lent have only one motive and one goal: the fatherly love in God’s heart and our love of our neighbor.

We can’t help noticing, that the father in Jesus’ parable … does nothing by way of looking for his son. Nothing!

It reminds us of those powerful words in one of St Augustine’s sermons:

“God created us without us; but he will not save us without us.” (CC 1848) Our salvation is up to us. We must take the initiative. We must cry out from the depths of our heart, ” Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.”

What’s stopping us?

God knows that we have free will; that nothing can stop us from returning to Him. Like the father in Jesus’s parable, He will always welcome us with open arms, and kiss us tenderly … we are – and always will be, his children.

As for the other son? Don’t be like him. On our part, and our love of neighbor, nothing should gladden us more than the return of our brothers and sisters from “far away.” Whatever they may have done, whatever the reason for their “conversion,” “Here I am, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father” – we must always be merciful, we must always welcome them without hesitation. Any comparison we make between our brothers’ and sisters’ behavior and our own would be complaining against God, who takes pleasure in forgiving sins. He’s telling us, “We must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he who was lost has been found.” Did the other son eventually enter the house and give his brother a warm welcome home hug?

 

Reflection by Fr. Anton

Introit: Like the eyes of slaves on the hands of their lords,

so our eyes are on the Lord our God, till he show us his mercy.

Have mercy on us Lord, have mercy!   

 

My brothers and sisters,

 

Lent always begins with readings of the Commandments, the Code of how we should act. 

And we’re struck by our failures,

we realize how we have offended our neighbor,

how we have  harmed and hated in our hearts.

 

But Lent is also “our Time Acceptable,”

the time to say we’re sorry,

to ask forgiveness and the help to start over.

 

I confess, etc….

 

The Gospel Matthew  25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,

and all the angels with him,

he will sit upon his glorious throne,

and all the nations will be assembled before him.

And he will separate them one from another,

as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right,

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.

Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me food,

I was thirsty and you gave me drink,

a stranger and you welcomed me,

naked and you clothed me,

ill and you cared for me,

in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him and say,

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,

or thirsty and give you drink?

When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,

or naked and clothe you?

When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

And the king will say to them in reply,

‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did

for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left,

‘Depart from me, you accursed,

into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food,

I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

a stranger and you gave me no welcome,

naked and you gave me no clothing,

ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’

Then they will answer and say,

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty

or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,

and not minister to your needs?’

He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,

what you did not do for one of these least ones,

you did not do for me.’

And these will go off to eternal punishment,

but the righteous to eternal life.”

 

After the Gospel:

 

Our Teacher just told us what’s going to be on the test,

He laid out exactly what to look for on our final exam.

 

It won’t be a True or False test,

won’t be a Multiple Choice,

won’t be an Essay test you can bluff your way thru …

It’ll be an oral exam…

 

One question:   We’ll be examined on love … nothing else.

 

He doesn’t refer to Commandments or rules, 

He doesn’t look for pious externals…

It’s very  simple: He says we’ll  be examined on how we treated others,

 if we treated them the way we would want to be treated.

 

For those of us who confess impatience and anger,

who get distracted in prayer,

who trip over  shameful  thoughts …

For those of us afraid we’re not  earning our  salvation by enough pious practices…

He tells us exactly what the Final Exam will be.

 

The only way we can prep for the exam  is to put on the mind of Christ…

See others the way God sees them … see  their need … reach out …

Walk the way Jesus walked,

do what He did…

 

It’s our FINAL EXAM, meaning: No repeat  or make-up is possible, you take it only once.

But we already know exactly what’ll be on the test.

He just  told us.