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Homily – Fr. Seamus – 10/14/18 – “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

TWENTY-EIGHT SUNDAY: Cycle B 2018: + WIS 7:7-11; HEB 4:12-13; MK 10:17-30

When offered the choice between true knowledge or riches, Solomon prays for wisdom. When given the choice between following Jesus or remaining attached to his riches, the man chooses his possessions. God’s word challenges us to be attached to Jesus, and to him alone. Seems our readings are about choices.

Let’s take a closer look at today’s Gospel. A rich young man asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In response, Jesus, after looking at him with love, says to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor.”

Selling what you own is a pretty radical thing to do. Just think what you own: a house, a bed, a car, … and that’s just the beginning …. there’s also a computer, a cell phone, a T.V. , etc. etc.

Early in Christian history, people who sold everything they owned set up religious orders so they could live together and share what they needed. ..e.g. St Francis. As a result, Jesus’ exhortation to sell what you have and give to the poor is usually interpreted as a call to the religious life. Understood in that way, Jesus’ advice to the rich young man is one of the evangelical counsels of perfection… poverty, chastity and obedience. It explains what we have to do to be perfect in this life.

But here’s a puzzle worth noticing: You don’t have to be perfect to go to heaven. You don’t have to be a member of a religious order to go to heaven. The rich young man was asking Jesus about going to heaven: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer Jesus gave him should have explained to him what you have to do to get to heaven. A counsel of perfection is by its nature not an answer to the rich young man’s question.

Or to put it another way. If selling all he has and giving it to the poor is what the rich young man needs to do to inherit eternal life, what about everybody else? Does everybody have to sell what he has in order to go to heaven? If we don’t sell everything we have, are we going to hell?

The answer to this puzzle is to think about Mark’s description of the young man asking Jesus the question: we don’t even know his name … (we know the name of the tax-collector whom Jesus called … “Matthew” … we know his name because he chose to follow Jesus immediately … and became one of the four Evangelists!) But all we know all about this young man is that he is richIn other words, his gift lies in his wealth!

But aren’t there many types of gifts? … each peson here has many gifts: gifts of education and learning, musical gifts ( Speaking of which, at LAUDS this morning I couldn’t help but notice that the music of the hymn we sang was composed by Fr Chrysogonous back in 1976. Fr Chrysogonous passed away in November, 2008, app 10 yrs ago, but the gift of music he shared with us is still being given to us in service to this community. Then there are also mechanical, electronic and computer gifts, … organizational and leadership skills, etc. But whatever a person’s gifts are, they are meant to be given back in service to the Lord. We cannot bury our gifts or our talents in the ground and hope to please the Lord.

So, here is what we need to do to inherit eternal life: we need to follow Jesus and use our gifts to the full by serving others when we do.

Or, if we don’t want to do that, like the rich, young man, we can go away sad.

 

Chapter talk by Fr. Michael Casagram 10/14/18 – Our relationship to Christ

+SOME REFLECTIONS ON OUR RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST      Chapter 14 Oct.’18

When Fr Eugene Hensell was with us this last time and spoke to us about Christ being a Messenger of Divine Wisdom, he mentioned Dom Columba Marmion as also one who communicated this Wisdom within our Benedictine tradition. Having had a respect for Marmion in my own early monastic formation I thought to pick him up again and share some of his reflections with you this morning.

We have most all of Marmion’s writings in our library and I found a small one that was unfamiliar and have spent some time going through it. It is called SPONSA VERBI: The Virgin Consecrated to Christ.  The book was quick to renew my appreciation of Marmion and to provide what I feel to be, worthwhile material to share with you this AM. Most of you are familiar with Marmion from your own reading so no need to give you background other than to say he is an outstanding Benedictine writer from the early part of the last century, dying Jan. 30th in 1923.

His book, SPONSA VERBI or Spouse of the Word draws heavily on the writings of our own St Bernard, especially his conferences on the Canticle of Canticles. It is not easy for us as a male community to speak of ourselves as Spouses of Christ but if one is familiar with the vocabulary of St Bernard, the relationship of the soul to Christ cannot be better expressed if one is going to captivate its true depth. For Dom Marmion:

“The greatest gift made by God to the human creature is that of his supernatural adoption by grace into Jesus Christ the Word incarnate. The sovereign Being, infinite in all perfections who neither depends on or has need of anyone outside Himself, allows His immeasurable love so to flow over and permeate His creatures that they are elevated thereby to a participation of His life and Felicity. This gift exceeds the demands, surpasses the powers of nature, makes man the child of his Heavenly Father, the brother of Christ, the temple of the Holy Ghost.”

What Marmion reminds us from the very start is how this is all about the movement of grace in our lives, its ability to transform our inner selves so that we begin to share intimately in the very life of God. There are levels or participation in this life or stages of growth before one reaches this sort of communion. We may start off as simple servants, following divine commands as well as we know them. Then we can become the friends of God,  experience something that is a mutual caring. From there we can experience ourselves as children of God, “their life is one of honor, obedience and love give to their Father.”

This stage can develop into something more intimate where one’s relationship to God is like that to a Husband where there are no secrets and the soul “shares with him the greatest intimacy of love.” At this point there cannot be a more intimate union. Monks, by reason of their way of life are drawn more and more into this deeper communion with the Divine life. In fact, I believe this is what draws most of us to the monastery, a sense that communion with the Lord is the only thing that will truly satisfy our deepest longing.

Marmion sees this notion of intimacy with the Lord as grounded in the Gospels. He writes:

“It is in the Gospels that the idea is expressed in all its plenitude; there is its real source; there it stands most clearly revealed. The Incarnate Word, unchangeable Truth, does He not give Himself to the spouse in person in front of whom come the virgins destined to form His court? Is it not from His lips that the most prodigious invitation ever fell that could touch the human heart? ‘All things are ready: come ye to the marriage.’”

Then there are those chapters in John’s gospel, namely 13-17 that speak so intimately of the relationship Jesus wants to have with his disciples, an intimacy that He Himself shares with the Father. A little further on Marmion quotes from one of St. Bernard’s sermons on the Canticle of Canticles:

“When you shall see a soul leave all things to adhere to the Word with all her strength, live by Him, all herself to be guided by Him, conceive what she should bring forth by Him; a soul, in short, who can say: for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain, then you can indubitably recognize her for a spouse of the Word.”

Marmion saw clearly that in seeking this communion with the Lord it demands a willingness to leave all things in order to adhere to the Word with all her strength. It is a matter of entering into that unfathomable love of God for us involved in the self-emptying of the eternal Word in taking on our human flesh. It seems to me that this is why the whole mystery of the Incarnation was so dear to the early Cistercians, the way it so effectively manifests the love of God for us. Marmion shows, (and with this I will close) the excellence of our religious state and asks:

“Will not the contemplation of your high dignity inflame your hearts with a generous love for Him, who without your merit has predestined it for you? I shall essay [write], in the first place, to show you how the sacred Humanity of Jesus is espoused to the Word; for it is there that we shall find the best model of the intimate union that the soul contracts with Christ… May the Immaculate Virgin, from whose fruitful virginity was born the King of Kings, aid us in our task.”

Homilette for 10/9/18 by Fr. Michael Casagram

+Even though we have the scriptural readings for Ordinary time for this morning as we off Eucharist for vocations, they are especially appropriate for the day. We have the moving account of St Paul about his own vocation, of when God “who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles..” God can call us amid unexpected circumstances.

Each one of us gathered here by reason of his or her Baptism has been set apart, called by God to give daily witness to Christ by reason of our Baptism and all the more so if we have taken religious vows. We may not realize this as personally as Paul did but this does not mean our calling is any less real and significant for the Church, the whole people of God.

Like Martha and Mary, we too are to welcome Christ into our homes, into our hearts daily so that he may find rest for himself and enjoy our friendship. Christ may have to say to us as he did to Martha, “you are anxious and worried about many things,” but there is only one thing that is really important and this is to sit at my side, at my feet and to listen. The listening heart finds his or her true vocation as St Benedict reminds us, for then our hearts are one with Christ’s own love and service.

Gal. 1:13-24;  Luke 10:38-42

Homily for 10/7/18 by Fr Michael – If We Love One Another, God Remains In Us

+IF WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER, GOD REMAINS IN US                    27th Sunday, 2018

Our readings this morning speak to us of two profound truths of our faith, the sacredness of marriage and of Christ’s own marriage with the human family. At the heart of both is a loving relationship, of God with us and of husband with wife. As St John tells us in his first letter to the Church, if we love one another, God’s “love is brought to perfection in us.”

Never before has it been so important within the Church and in the society of our time, that loving relationship be fostered and encouraged. It is within the close relationship of family life, above all in the love between parents, that children’s lives are so carefully formed and lasting values imparted to them. These are especially life changing and fulfilling when they are grounded in an awareness of being a people deeply loved by God in Christ Jesus.

This holds to be true for monastic community life as well. When our relationships are imbued with a living sense of Christ’s presence in our lives, of his self-giving love, the bonds among us are both firm and lasting, enabling each one of us to make the best use of our gifts and talents. The great gift of living in community is that it constantly shows us how to channel our individual gifts away from self-interests into mutual up building.

Our Genesis narrative of how Eve was formed from a rib taken from the side of Adam is a beautiful reminder of how close the relationship between husband and wife really is. It is also a reminder of just how close our relationship with one another can be as members of the human family. When, in Jesus’ time it had become all too easy for a husband to divorce his wife, he reminded his disciples and all of us, of God’s intent from the beginning of creation. Belief in the sacredness of marriage leads to a profound transformation in each of the partners as they allow love to overcome their differences and free them from their self-centered inclinations.

This can only happen if their love for one another is grounded in Christ’s own love for the Church, God’s own love for the human family. Only if we see clearly “what God has joined together,” will we not attempt to separate. Again this brings us right back to the sacredness of all human relationships which Jesus is conscious of in all that unfolds during his mission. When children are brought to him and his very own disciples begin to object or rebuke the parents doing so, Jesus becomes indignant and upset. It is so easy to treat women and children in an undignified way and if we buy into society’s standards, great harm comes to both.

Jesus is reminding us constantly of the dignity and worth of every human being. This is the basis of authentic relationships, reminding us that unless we “accept the kingdom of God like a child,” we will not enter it. If God’s life is going to abide in us, is going to be brought to perfection in us, then our love for one another must be unfailing. Isn’t this what our participating in the Body and Blood of Christ at this altar is to bring about, learning to love even as he has loved us.     Amen

 

Gen. 2:18-24; Heb. 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16

Homily by Fr. James Conner for Sunday 9/30/18

26th Sunday of Year – B

The gospel today presents us with two different themes: the main one pertains to the fact that in Christ, we are all priests, prophets and kings. We have this as a result of our Baptism into Christ – the preeminent Priest, Prophet and King. Yet along side with this, Jesus realizes fully that the mystery of sin will remain among his followers. And hence he speaks in strong language of how important it is that we avoid all sin. It is better to enter the kingdom maimed and blind than to be cast into hell. In this way he highlights the fact that “whoever is not with us is against us. The gospel presents us with the theme of the threat given to those who cause one of these little ones to sin. This brings us to the theme of the sexual abuse of the young. This is certainly foremost in our awareness due to the scandals within the Church and also the current events in government with the issue of confirmation of one for the Supreme Court which has been brought to the fore this past week and will continue for at least another week.

In the mind of Christ, however, these two are closely related. Christ knows that sin will be present within his followers. And so he emphasizes the importance of making sure that we are with Christ in truth and in deed. If we are with Christ, then the gift of prophecy is active within us. The prophet brings an awareness of the nearness of the kingdom of God. He or she manifests the power of Christ over Satan and his enticements. The abuser and sinner brings only an awareness of the failure of truly living in Christ.

Both of these elements are present within each one of us. For this reason Moses said: “Would to God that all were prophets!” One who follows Jesus in his own path to Calvary will overcome the power of Satan within himself. And this is the struggle which is presented to each one of us today and every day. Am I truly with Christ or against Christ? Is society truly with Christ or against Christ? We are called to discern this on both levels – within our own heart and within society today. We claim to be with Christ – to be a Christian nation. But do our actions, our priorities, our aspirations show us as with or against Christ. It is not possible to be in the middle, even though each one of us vacillate between the two. Jesus presents it, however, as a determining factor as to whether we will find life in him or in eternal fire.

However if we draw on the gift of being prophets, then we will proclaim and strive to live out the message of the kingdom of heaven. Then we will truly be with Christ. But being with him is not an easy path. For him it led to rejection and to death on the cross. Hence if we are to be true prophets of the kingdom, then we also must face the possibility of being rejected by others, whether within Church or society. We are called to recognize that greatness in life does not consist in power and prestige, but in such a simple thing as giving a drink of cold water to one in need.

All too often today, however, it is a question of throwing water on the other rather than offering assistance to one in need. We are to recognize that the one we meet who is in need is actually Christ himself in need. This is why Jesus made the law of love so primary in his kingdom. And love means a willingness to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the other. This is what it means to be a true priest, prophet and king. Christ fulfilled all of these roles in his presence on the Cross, and he calls us to follow in his steps. It is only in this way that the Church can be a true minister of the kingdom of heaven and it is only in this way that society can present the image of Christ and provide true life, liberty and happiness to all. Perhaps we are fortunate in living in these days of such struggle and strife within the Church and within society. Because it throws light on what is means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, who came to glory only after suffering rejection, death but also resurrection. For now we truly realize that “whoever is not with us is against us.”

Reflection at Eucharist on 9/29/18 by Fr. Michael Casagram

+We live with a limited vision and awareness. Although the presence of the angels is all around us, it is so easy to be unaware and to ignore its impact on our lives, to feel their loving support.

We do have moments like Nathaniel does in our gospel, when we sense that we too are seen under the fig tree, special moments when we know we are part of a much larger world however hidden our own may be.

As we live in faith, our eyes are opened to see the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. As we live into faith, Christ’s own life is able to live more and more in our hearts. We begin to see God’s angels ever at work, through  unexpected persons and events that draw us ever deeper into divine love. They fill us with gratitude at the heart of the Sacrament we celebrate.