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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.