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Homily 19th Week in Ordinary Time, August 12, 2018. Fr. Michael.

+THE BREAD THAT I WILL GIVE IS MY FLESH        19TH Sunday (B) , 2018

John’s gospel on the Bread of Life has a way of completely engaging our lives, calling us into the mystery of the Incarnation it so faithfully upholds. This is a great scandal to the people of his time as it is to ours. Unless our lives as Christians reflect the very life of Jesus, can we hold that we truly have the faith, that we believe in the person of Jesus Christ around whom the whole our Christian lives are centered?

From the very beginning of our gospel this morning we see the people of his own time scandalized by the person standing in front of them. Jesus, saying that he is the bread that came down from heaven and therefore is of God, is immediately questioned. They know who his father and mother are so how could he possibly claim to belong to God, to be God’s special messenger? Jesus goes so far as to say that: “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.. I am the bread of life.” Anyone, he tells them, who claims to have a real relationship to God comes to him.

There is something wonderfully earthly about Jesus being the bread of life. It resonates with our first reading from the book of Kings where Elijah is visited by an angel in his sleep and told twice to get up and eat. He’s told this, for his journey will be long, all of forty days and forty nights until he reaches Horeb and meets God. For us, Jesus is the “bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat of it and not die.. [Indeed] whoever eats this bread will live forever” for the bread that he gives “is his flesh for the life of the world.”

What does this mean for us, to eat this bread that has come down from heaven? St Paul helps us with this in the letter to the Ephesians. It is to become imitators of God as beloved children and live in love even as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God. To eat this bread, is to have our innermost being transformed into Christ, to let ourselves to become “kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven [us] in Christ.”

To eat this bread is not so much to transform it into our bodies but to allow it to transform our bodies into becoming his, free of all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling, free from all malice. As often as we do this, our very own lives become bread that is taken into Jesus own hands, broken and given to all in need. And don’t we experience this again and again in our own personal lives with loved ones, whether in family or community. If we look carefully at our lives, what is it that gives them the most meaning, makes us creative and initiating, leaving us with a lasting happiness. It is precisely our loving relationships, as often as we experience the selfless love of others, or care for them in a selfless and loving way.

Each one of us has been destined to share in the Trinitarian life of God, going out of ourselves as a selfless gift to the other. This is taking place as often as we eat this Bread from heaven, as often as we allow the Christ life that has been given us at Baptism, to grow and mature in our daily relationships with one another. To do this is to have our lives become one with the Bread of life consecrated at this altar, one with Him who is the Life of the world.  Amen 


Chapter Talk August 12, 2018. Fr. Michael. St. Benedict’s Use of Sacred Scripture

+ST BENEDICT’S USE OF SACRED SCRITPURE Chapter Talk Fr. Michael 12 Aug. 2018

Since Fr Elias has been giving us an ongoing commentary on the Rule of Benedict, I thought to touch on an aspect of the Rule not often addressed but important for our daily lives as monks. This is St Benedict’s use of Sacred Scripture as the basis and foundation for all that he is seeking to convey in his Rule. Benedict is clear from the beginning in his prologue, how he is seeking to arouse the monk from sleep, giving him a lively sense of God’s presence and action in his life. He saw clearly as the commentary RB 1980 puts it “the value for one seeking to live by the Gospel, of a practical compendium, an abridged version, containing those precepts that applied most directly to the organization of monastic life.”(1) The scriptural quotations Benedict uses are not embellishments but are normative for all that he wishes to convey.

The reason for my touching on this aspect of the Rule is a book I have been going through called Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers by a Chistopher Hall. He does a wonderful job at showing the freedom with which early authorities in Church had in going about scriptural interpretation. They developed four levels of meaning a scriptural text may have: the literal or historical sense, the allegorical or Christological sense, the tropological or moral sense and finally the anagogical or eschatological sense. These levels are based on how writers like St Paul and the gospel of John had already approached the text. These various interpretations were then developed by Origen, one of the earliest and most learned of all the early fathers. They were further developed with varied emphasis given by the different schools of thought, especially the Alexandrian or Antiochene schools. These were all familiar to John Cassian who was to be such a formative influence in the life and thinking of Benedict.

St Benedict was not at all confined in his use of scripture as we so often are in our day by the great emphasis in most of our own lives, on the historical critical method or approach to scripture. For Benedict, the Word of God was living and active, sharper than any two edged sword. He experienced first hand the way Scripture speaks directly to the reader or hearer of the Word. As was true of so many of our early Cistercian fathers after him, Benedict thought biblically, the inspired Word shaping the very pattern of their thought. I have found this most striking in the thought of St Bernard, to where it is not easy at times to distinguish between his own thinking and that of the scriptural writers themselves.

Benedict is said to have as many as 124 O.T. citations or references and 168 from the
New. This is partly due, no doubt, because of the fact that in those days they did
not have all the reading material available as we do. And when they read
Scripture back then, they often did so out loud so that the text left a more lasting
mark on their minds and memory.

We too are exposed to the living Word of God all day long whether through the
Divine Office, our participation in the Eucharist or in our private reading. We too,
may find it refreshing when a scriptural text suggests itself while we are dealing
with a difficult aspect of daily life, or when a text comes off the page in our
private lectio. Though there have been some real advantages that have
come through the use of the historical critical method of interpreting the
Scriptures, we have lost to some degree the deep sense of their sacredness.

Origin, as was true of many of the Fathers had a wonderful awareness of how all
of Scripture is inspired by God, every word of the sacred texts. Origin, Christopher
Hall tells us, insisted that” Christ, the Word of God, speaks throughout the biblical
narrative recorded in the Bible. His words are not only those ‘which He spoke
when He became man and tabernacled in the flesh; for before that time, Christ,
the Word of God, was in Moses and the prophets..’ The words of Moses and of
other prophets ‘were filled with the Spirit of Christ.’” All this is to say that the way
we approach the Scriptures makes a huge difference in what we discover there. If
we are caught in an overly rationalistic or scientific method we will miss the full
depth of their meaning and the many messages they may have for us in our
everyday exposure to them.

What Benedict and the early Fathers loved to do was to ruminate or ponder on
the sacred texts, open themselves to the personal and transforming message they
contain. We can constantly discover new meaning and relevance for our lives if
we let the divine Word come off the page and speak to our hearts. This means, of
course, bringing to them an openness for this kind of personal

Reflection at Eucharist, Fr. Michael Casagram 7/24/18

+(Micah 7:14-15, 18-20) At the heart of any of our Christian lives is our relationship to Christ Jesus. Our gospel shows us just how close Christ wants this relationship to be, one that makes each and all of us his very brother, sister or mother. The context of this episode in Christ’s life can give the impression that Mary is being turned away or looked down upon but it is really revealing what her true greatness is as one who not only gave him birth but one who gave her life entirely over to God.

As we truly seek to do the will of the Father in our own lives, we share in her very motherhood, become the very brothers and sisters of Christ, live in the closest communion with him. Dare we take his words seriously so as to realize the full potential of our lives?

We see how this happened in the life of St Sharbel,  whom we remember today in a special way. By simply living in his monastic community for 15 years and then as a hermit for 23 years his life he sought to do the Father’s will in everything. Many came to him in his solitude for spiritual direction and healing. After his death in 1898, thousands came to his tomb for healing of body and spirit, as many as 15,000 a day in 1950. Just so does Christ seek to become fully alive in each of our lives as we surrender to God’s will for us.

Homily by Deacon Lawrence for Sunday July 22

We live in a divided world. There seem to be two camps in just about everything, politics, religion, social media and so forth. Sometimes these are labelled, right and left, liberal and conservative, socialist and capitalist, idealist and fundamentalist. Few of us can avoid these categories; we may even wholeheartedly define ourselves by such labels. But mainly we use them to define and dismiss those who disagree with us. The word “liberal” in the mouth of a “conservative” is an insult, and vice versa. Nothing more needs to be said about a person. One word says it all. How can we overcome these divisions in our countries, in our communities and in our families? Only through the example of Jesus.

The divisions in the world reflect divisions within us. It seems to be the human condition that we are not entirely whole, that there are two sides or more to us. St. Paul tells us in Galatians [5:17] that the flesh is opposed to the spirit, so that we cannot do what we want to do. That does not mean that the body is bad and the soul is good, it just means that we often have contradictory impulses inside ourselves, and very little we do is done with a whole heart.

Ephesians tells us that Jesus reconciles those who are near and those who are far off. In a literal interpretation, this probably refers to the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus’ message is for both, and makes the two into one, one community of Christians. But we may also look at this passage as more personal. Jesus makes divisions between people into one but he also makes the divisions inside us into one. Our contradictory impulses are reconciled through him. He makes two into one, both in him and in us. How can he do this? Through his example.

In the Gospel, we see Jesus offering his disciples a respite from the work they have been doing, evangelizing and healing throughout the towns of Galilee. But when they arrive at what they expected to be a deserted place, it is already full of people. How might we react if we were in the place of Jesus or his disciples, expecting solitude and finding crowds of needy people instead? I can only speak for myself here, but you may recognize one or more of these reactions. There are at least three ways that I can think of.

First, we might simply be annoyed. We are trying to get away from these crowds and have a little well-earned peace and quiet. Jesus himself promised us. We deserve at least that much for all the good work we’ve been doing. Mark tells us that the disciples haven’t even had enough time to themselves to sit down and have a proper meal. They’ve been travelling around with no provisions at all, teaching and healing these people. Can’t they see we are tired? We may be tempted just to turn around and leave, or tell all these people to go home and stop bothering us for a day or two. We might be tired and annoyed.

There is a second way we could react. We might be flattered. So many people have come out just to see us. We have been doing a lot of good, and folks appreciate it. We must have been doing something right. In our old lives, very few people cared about us one way or another, and here great crowds are acclaiming us as miracle workers, and wanting to be near us. We might take their presence personally, as if we are now special people.

There is a third way, too. Although we are tired and really want some time for ourselves, we stay and tend to the people there. But secretly we hope that someone is paying attention, and noticing just how kind and generous we are. We don’t necessarily do these good things only to win approval, but if we do get other people’s good opinion as a kind of side effect, that’s fine. Our impulse is to do something good, but we also hope to gain something for ourselves at the same time. This doesn’t mean that we are bad people, it just means that we have contradictory impulses working in us at all times.

As I say, I can only speak for myself, but these are three ways I might react to such a situation. I know this because I actually have reacted in these ways to various circumstances in my own life. These reactions are at least partially grounded in my self-interest. I am tired. I am flattered. I want to be noticed for the good things I do. How can I overcome my internal divisions and self-absorption? Only through the example of Jesus.

Let’s look closely at how Jesus reacts. What example is he giving us to follow? You might have already guessed that he doesn’t react in any of the three ways above, with annoyance, feeling flattered, or for the good opinion of others. Instead he does something extraordinary. He sees these people. To him they are not there to bother him, or because of who he is or something he has done, or that he might do more good in order to gain more fame. They are not objects to him, they are people. He sees that they are there because they are lost. They are there because they are broken. They are there because they have a hunger in their hearts for love. He will not reject them or use them for his purposes. He has no need to do this. He is not divided inside, like us. He is whole. It says in the Gospel, “his heart was moved with pity.” The original Greek can be translated “pity,” but also as “compassion.” He was moved with compassion, right here, deep inside.

Jesus is truly moved by these people. He wants to understand them, he welcomes their problems and difficulties, their wounds and illnesses. He wants to care for them, to be their shepherd, all of them. He doesn’t ask what their political leanings are, he doesn’t ask if they are conservative or liberal Jews. He loves them all.

How can we overcome seemingly unbreachable divisions in our countries, in our communities, in our families and in our own hearts? Through Jesus’ example. Jesus does not judge on the basis of the labels we apply to ourselves and others. He is willing to listen to the true longings of each individual’s heart. He can see past our posturing, our squabbling, our self-absorption and reach and touch our true longing.

Real community means living with others who do not agree with us. We not only accept them, but honour their differences. We may argue, we may be short-tempered, we may even be dismissive at times, but deep down we understand that we don’t hold the exclusive rights to truth, that God alone is the final judge. In Christ, our divisions cease to matter so much. In Christ, labels fade to nonsense. In Christ, love triumphs over judgement. In Christ, we are shepherds of one another. In Christ, we are one person.

July 23, 2018: Fr. Anton

Reflections by Fr. Anton at Eucharist: July 23, 2018

Introit: O Lord, you have given everything its place in the world – and no one can make it otherwise! It is your creation – the heavens, the earth, and all they contain – You are the Lord of all!

My brothers and sisters, the poet Paul Claudel has famously said:
“God draws straight with crooked lines.”

Let us now say we’re sorry,
and ask God to draw in His one-and-only way with the lines of our lives.
I confess, etc…

The Gospel Matt 12:38-42
Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
He said to them in reply,
“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here.”

After the Gospel:

‘Give us a sign that we can see,
that would prove what You claim to be.’
That sounds like most of us, we’re fascinated by spectacular events.
How many Christians look for signs like miracles, voices from heaven, bleeding stigmata. I still treasure Mary’s image on a rose petal, the one I received at Brother Carmelo’s healing service, seven years ago.
But Jesus points us in a different direction, away from spectacular signs.
He has only one sign to give us – Himself after the Resurrection.
The Resurrection is not only His – it’s a gift He offers us … our own Resurrection… the gift of eternal life.
When we finally come to believe that Jesus loves us enough to give us that gift, it will involve a huge change of mind and heart,
a new way of seeing and feeling about Jesus, ourselves and others.
It’ll be a complete make-over.
Maybe that’s what St Paul means in Philippians, ‘I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse… that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection.’
It’s not that he doesn’t know the power of Jesus’ resurrection, of course he does… through personal revelations.
Rather he’s saying: ‘I want to know everything there is to know about the power of the resurrection. I want to experience it and have it change my life. I want God to transform me, take me out of the power of sin where death is, to the power of life, where righteousness is, so that I become a completely new person.’
The sign of the resurrection, greater than the sign of Jonah, that’s the sign the Lord Jesus promised to this generation.
It’s the sign of changed lives.
That’s what the power of the resurrection is all about.
So we have the courage to pray, “Yes, Lord, I will accept your gift, and I will work for it! I will suffer the loss of all things, count them as refuse… that I may know Jesus, and the power of His resurrection. Amen.”

Fr. Carlos’ homily for 7/15/18 – Living in the Light of the Coming of the Kingdom

In Jesus’ time in Palestine, people had five articles of clothing:  the long inner tunic, the outer cloak, the cincture or belt, the sandals and the oriental headdress.  In the gospel today we must remember that Mark has been emphasizing the signs of the coming of the Messiah and therefore also the end time.  In the context of the Messiah’s coming and His Kingdom, there is a sense of urgency that Jesus wants his disciples to understand.  With the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom they will have no need for anything.   In His kingdom they will not need anything.   So they should not worry about what they should bring. The most important thing is to tell the people to change their ways, to repent, to devote themselves to entering the kingdom and not to concern themselves with things in the world that will soon end.   Jesus even tells them not to discuss but simply preach the good news and if people do not believe them they should shake of the dust off their sandals.   This does not sound like Jesus who came to call sinners to save them, the Jesus who did not want sinners to die.  Remember however Mark is describing the end time where the last chance is to be given to everyone.

We may not be  missionaries but as Christians we are living in the end time.  Monks renounced everything from the world, we live an obedient life and we live in simplicity.  We support each other in life materially and spiritually.   This means we are people waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God.  If we have really have this spirit of urgency then the result would be a happy life for us.  But if we worry too much about ourselves, about how important our opinions should be, about our self importance, about our families and friends and so many other things that can occupy our minds, then it is a sign we are not waiting for the coming of the kingdom.  We wish to build a kingdom here on earth according to human designs.  We still are worrying about our kingdom here on earth.  We rely on the leadership of one person, on this or that party, the strength of our armed forces etc.  We have an idea who belongs to our society and those who are not.   We are short sighted when it comes to things that matter and are lastingl

There is also a reason for not having unnecessary things.  It is to free us from worrying about these things  and if we are free from worries then we should lead happy lives.  Worries makes people sad.   Christian life should be lived in the light of the coming of the Kingdom.  However, this does not mean that Christians deny the reality of everyday life.  What the disciples are saying is to change our thinking which will change our way of life.  In short repentance.  To participate in peace making, to render justice in our life, to forgive, to make others feel wanted, not to exclude anyone from entering the kingdom.  After all to think that we could exclude anyone from the Kingdom is only in our mind.  God does the judging.  If we heed the message of evangelist then demons will driven out of our lives and society, and many sick will be cured.   One wonders  why many Christians  are not happy,  what they are worrying about.  Is there something really worthwhile to worry about besides the Kingdom of God?  One wonders  what they are waiting for?

LCG Compline Sunday, July 15, 2018. Live videoconference with LCG sisters and brothers


July 15, 2018, at 7:25 pm ET/6:25 pm Central


An important element of the Cistercian life is regular participation in the Daily Office and Community. Come pray with LCG sisters and brothers at our monthly LIVE Compline service this Sunday. At the same time our monks are praying Compline at Gethsemani Abbey. Twenty inspiring minutes to help close your day with our monks and LCG members and friends. Haven’t tried videoconference?? Take courage! Give it a try; as many of our members have found: Almost as good as being at Gethsemani Abbey.

You are encouraged to join at 7:25 pm when Allen Thyssen (Spiritus) will lead a time of thanksgiving and prayer leading to the 7:30 Compline service:

• Prelude – visit and background chant music;
• Welcome, Affirmation, and Prayer by Allen Thyssen
• Compline begins at 7:30 – together we pray the Office with the Monks of Gethsemani using the Abbey video
• Depart to personal “grand silence” for the night

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