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Easter Homily – Abbot Elias Dietz – 4/21/19 – Doorways Into Hope

Homily – Easter Sunday – April 21, 2019
Doorways Into Hope
I have always loved the moment in this gospel when “the other disciple”—presumably John—sees the way the cloths are laid out in the tomb and believes. Something about what he saw spoke to him of Jesus’ living presence and deliberate action. A small roll of cloth allowed him to make a big leap of faith.
We might learn a lesson here from John. There is no doubt that this great saint, evangelist, and author of the Book of Revelation sought “the things that are above,” to use Saint Paul’s phrase. But he was at the same time attentive to the smallest of things that are here below.
Looking back over the last several days, it is worth noticing how many little items it takes to celebrate Holy Week and the Triduum. We need palms for Passion Sunday; oils for the chrism Mass; pitchers, basins, towels, and aprons for the Holy Thursday washing of the feet; a special cross, all sorts of candles, and extra vessels for Good Friday; as for the Easter Vigil, we need all the paraphernalia involved in lighting a fire; then there is the Easter candle, the dozens of little candles for everyone, the holy water; and the list could go on—not to mention all the detailed preparation needed for the music, the readings, and the ritual.
More important still are the many little things noted in the scriptures we hear during Holy Week. There are the vessels and dishes at the Last Supper; the sword in garden; the scourge, the thorns; the cross, the nails, the soldiers’ dice, the sponge, the spear; the burial spices and cloths; the tomb and its stone.
The deepest truths of the faith are only conveyed to us through things we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. No wonder the practice of honoring relics developed over time: a deep instinct in us wants to see and touch objects and even bodies from our Christian past.
It is thanks to the Incarnation that basic matter and primitive human experiences can convey to us the sacred. The Word became flesh, and it is through the flesh that we perceive the Word. The Exsultet expresses it well: “O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human.”
It interesting to recall in this connection Saint Benedict’s admonition to monks that they “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected” (RB 31.10–11). If we open our hearts and minds and become attentive like John in today’s gospel, the smallest details of domestic life, work, and our natural surroundings can all become little doorways into the sacred.
Just as Holy Week is full of small things that convey big meanings, so too Easter offers us many reminders. Besides the Candle—the work of bees, as the Exsultet recalls—and the Candle’s light and the water of the baptismal font, the gospel accounts of the Resurrection contain an abundance of details: the pre-dawn and early morning light, the garden, the stone set aside, the empty space of the tomb, and the cloths; not to mention the closed doors, the fish, Jesus’ wounds, and his breathing the Holy Spirit on the disciples.
Attentive observation seems to come naturally in Holy Week, as some hymns testify: “Were you there, when they crucified my Lord…?” or “Come and see where Jesus lay.” But Easter should find our senses just as keen to notice whatever small signs the Lord might use to spark our faith. With John we can sense Jesus alive in the very emptiness of a room or in the fold of a cloth. With Mary we can return again and again to the garden. Because of the Resurrection, even emptiness and grief can become doorways into hope. The quality of light, the abundance of spring, the sound of running water can all remind us of the Lord’s rising and awaken in us the joy of Easter. Instead of singing “Were you there…”, Easter should have us repeating over and over again “Taste and see how good the Lord is.”

Homily – 4/7/19 – Fr- Michael Casagram — The Righteousness of God

+THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD                     5th Sunday of Lent(C), 2019

Our lives as Christians get intensified during Lent as we seek to be more attentive to grace in our lives. This 5th Sunday would have us consider with St Paul to accept all things as loss for the sake of Christ so as to “be found in him, not having any righteousness of [our] own based on the law but that which comes through faith in” Christ Jesus. To do so is to already experience the power of the resurrection.

As Christians, our faith brings about in our hearts the working of Christ’s very own presence within and all around us. Is this not what the prophet Isaiah foretold in our first reading when he says: “remember not the events of the past… see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Through Baptism water is not only poured over our heads but the living water of the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts, making of us a people after God’s own image and likeness.

This inner change happened dramatically to the woman presented to us in the gospel. She has been caught in adultery and made to stand before the Scribes and Pharisees in the presence of Jesus and all the people whom he had been teaching. The Scribes and Pharisees are setting Jesus up so that they can bring a charge against him. Jesus sees right through what is happening so he bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. As I read this, I must admit, the first thing that came into my mind was why is it that the woman is made to stand there and not the man who probably initiated the adulterous act in which they were caught? No one questions this in our gospel though today we are more likely to raise the issue of injustice.

Jesus bending down and writing on the ground with his finger speaks volumes to us all. In doing so he is communicating what is actually going on within the hearts of those gathered at the scene, and of all of us. Jesus is really interested in what is going on deep down within us where grace, given room, is able to work and make all things new. Jesus is ever helping each one of us to find our true selves so as to become honest about what is actually unfolding in our lives. As we truly own what motivates us and surrender to the Light of his presence, God’s own righteousness is able to take over and become the guiding force of all we are and do.

When the Scribes and Pharisees insist on a response from Jesus, he simply says to them: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He then continues to write on the ground. It was a great awakening for those seeking to find some charge to bring against him. How easy it is for any of us to condemn a brother or sister for some sinful act out of our own prideful thinking and self-righteousness. To be able to own this and turn for help from God’s loving presence, we are given a whole new awareness of others and the world around us.

To do so is to open ourselves to the power of Christ’s resurrection. It takes a lot of courage to allow this awakening to take place for it means a death to self and thus a sharing in Christ’s own suffering. But isn’t this what this season is calling us into as we see what happened to Jesus after he revealed what was going on in the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees. Unwilling to open themselves to this inner transformation, they sought to put Jesus to death.

Each of us as Christians is asked to die daily to self so as to live to God. This is wonderfully symbolized in the Eucharist as often as we celebrate it. The bread and wine that we bring to this altar, that are consecrated, broken and shared are our own lives as well as that of Christ. Let us be forever grateful for what God is bringing about here in this celebration and each moment of our lives.

Homily – 4th Sunday in Lent – Fr. James Conner

Fourth Sunday in Lent – Year C

The gospel today is one that is universally known and acclaimed as a powerful symbol of a loving God who is willing to take us back as His sons and daughters, even after we have betrayed Him in many ways. But the parable also tells us even more about the God who calls us to be one with Him in His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Word made flesh, the son of God, is Himself that younger son who asks for his inheritance and then goes to a far off country. In becoming flesh, Jesus Christ undertook that journey far off. As St Paul tells us in the epistle to the Philippians: “He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. And being found in human form, he humbled himself.” In being reduced to tending swine and yearning even for their food, he expressed that Son who humbled himself even to death on a cross. Yet by the power of God, the Son rose on the third day and after forty days returned to His Father.

Yet the Son did not return to the Father alone. He came as that total Christ who now contains in Himself all humanity of all time.  As our second reading from 2 Corinthians tells us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold the new has come.” That son who returns to the father is the total Body of Christ. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation”.

Christ returns to the Father bearing in Himself the whole of humanity and even the whole of creation – that same creation which God looked on at the sixth day and saw that it was all VERY good! But it still remains for us to complete that task. It is a task of reconciliation. This is why Jesus repeats over and over in His ministry the call to “Love one another”. The Love of God has come to us embodied in the very Son of God, and His will is that we recognize all humanity and all creation as part of ourselves, because it is all part of the total Christ.

The Father still desires that the elder son, the rest of humanity who have not yet accepted Christ, be drawn into one in Christ. As Paul says again: “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” The full banquet will not be celebrated until the whole of humanity is united in love. As Jesus said in another parable: “Tell the servants to go out and bring those in from the highways and byways that the hall may be filled”. This is the process of reconciliation which is given to us as ambassadors of Christ. “Love one another, as I have loved you!”.

This is why it is such a tragedy to see humanity so divided today

Not only throughout the world, but even within our own nation. And the problem is accentuated by the fact that even our government does not foster reconciliation, but rather fosters resentments and hard feelings toward one another.

This is why it is so important that we begin this ministry of reconciliation in our own immediate surroundings – or communities, our homes and families our surroundings. We can begin this by refusing to allow division and hard feelings to abide in our hearts. We begin this by praying as Jesus taught us: ”Forgive us our sins as w e forgive those who sin against us.” We pray this just shortly before receiving the Son in the Eucharist, which is itself a call to “Go forth and proclaim the message of God to the whol

Chapter Talk – Fr. Michael Casagram 3/31/19 – The Presence of God Through Reading

+THE PRESENCE OF GOD THROUGH READING         Chapter Talk 31 March 2019

This morning I thought to share some reflections on spiritual reading from a book on Discernment by Henri Nouwen that may have value for our lives. We are all dependent on others to help us clarify our path along the spiritual journey into divine life. Spiritual reading or Lectio Divina is one of the chief means we have for exposing ourselves to the wisdom or spiritual insight of others so as to enlighten our own paths.

We use reading in order to acquire knowledge or to master a field but spiritual reading is different. Nouwen tells us of a:

“reading about spiritual things in a spiritual way. That requires, a willingness not just to read but to be read, not just to master but to be mastered by words.. We can become very knowledgeable about spiritual matters without becoming truly spiritual people. As we learn to read spiritually about spiritual things, we open our hearts to God’s voice. Discernment requires not only reading with the heart but being willing to put down the book we are reading to just listen to what God is saying to us through its words.”

You may be aware of the fact of how Henri Nouwen came to learn the art of spiritual reading. It was from Fr Louis or Thomas Merton whom he considers “one of the important spiritual pioneers of the last century.” Nowen writes of Merton as one who “also witnessed to me about how to read the people placed in your path, as well as events and signs of the times. God is always speaking to us, but it requires spiritual discernment to hear God’s voice, see what God sees, and read the signs in daily life.”

God is continually drawing near to each of us and to our community amid the daily circumstances of our lives and of our life together. If we are spiritually attentive, if our hearts become interiorly free every day provides the means of becoming spiritually transformed into the living presence of Christ, for our own benefit and for that of all those around us. It is all about seeing deeper into the events that surround us, of opening ourselves to grace under whatever way it seeks to fill our lives.

Like Mary, the mother of God, each one of our lives is to be full of grace, as we too allow Christ to grow and come to maturity in us. Angels may be coming to each of us if we have the faith to recognize the divine visitors and are able to respond to the invitation they may have for us. I know that reading The Story of the Soul, the life of St Therese of Lisieux when I was in minor seminary was transformative in my life as it opened for me the meaning of contemplative life.

How many of us here have been deeply moved by what Jean-Pierre de Caussade called the “sacrament of the present moment.” His book assures us “that God is speaking and revealing his will in every moment of every day, and that we can discern God’s presence and guidance through simple prayers.. when, each moment becomes a sacrament of joy, gratitude, and loving acceptance of the will of God manifest in that moment.”

Thomas Merton was himself profoundly changed by his spiritual reading of the book called The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy by Etienne Gilson. There he learned to experience God for the first time as “pure being, non-contingent and independent of any act of existing.” As Merton wrote in his own words:

“.. I discovered an entirely new concept of God—a concept which showed me at once that the belief of Catholics was by no means the vague and rather superstitious hangover from an unscientific age that I had believed it to be. On the contrary, here was a notion of God that was at the same time deep, precise, simple and accurate and, what is more charged with implications which I could not ever begin to appreciate, but which I could at least dimly estimate, even with my own lack of philosophical training.”

We have been hearing a lot in the Liturgy these days about opening ourselves to the presence and power of the Word of God. We as monks are continually being exposed to the inspired Word in the Divine Office and Eucharist each day. We are in a privileged position but one demanding of us an inner quiet if we are going to hear with our hearts and be moved by the Holy Spirit. Only then does it have its full effect in our lives. One of the early desert fathers tells us: “Just as it is impossible to see your face in troubled water, so also the soul, unless it is clear of alien thoughts, is not able to pray to God in contemplation.

So whether it is our time spent at spiritual reading, at the Liturgy or whatever work we are asked to do, we have many opportunities to experience the presence of a continual and deeply loving God. God’s love for us uses every opportunity to become manifest so that ours may become one with his own.