Category Archives: News

Homily – Fr. Alan Gilmore – 26th Sunday of the Year

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As a youngster I remember well my habit of saying “No” to my dear Mother (not my Father!)- when she requested I do some chore or errand.  I knew well, each time, that I intended to do it – but I received a certain perverse satisfaction in that initial “NO”.  Such a disposition, was not uniquely mine  (I hope!), but one can see it in its adult form in the person of the 2nd son described by Jesus in today’s Gospel.
The Gospel we just heard – places before us two attitudes towards God and
his Kingdom.  From time to time, our attitude toward God may resemble one or the other, unless our  response is – a saint’s enduring and unqualified :Yes”,- or is the definitive “No” of the confirmed sinner.  Jesus, in this Gospel, describes the differing attitudes of  two sons.  From the context, we see that one represents the ’righteous’ people – the chief priests and elders of the people – who faulted Jesus for eating with tax collectors and prostitutes.  The   second – represents the outcasts who initially refuse to join the kingdom, but then repent.
It’s important that we understand the context of today’s Gospel.  Jesus was speaking these words to the chief priests and elders of the people,  the guides and leaders.  As such,  they were the ones least inclined to accept changes in the interpretation of the Scriptures or of its moral code.  If  we, on the other hand, regard ourselves as concerned and generous Christians,  as upright persons who know what the Lord expects of us and feel sure that we are faithful to his demands – we have a disposition similar to those to whom Jesus directed the words in today’s Gospel.
When we are so sure we know and accept God’s demands,  we remain where we are and what we are!
In today’s second reading (Phil.) Paul is telling us that the only way to free ourselves from bondage to the inconsistancies in today’s Gospel , is to grow in love!  We become free and participate more fully in the Kingdom  – to the extent that we develop our love within the community of believers ,as a member – with the members of Christ.  Paul’s words to the Philipians contain a message the Church is in vital need of today,  that its members are in need of unanimity, in need of possessing one love, in need of being united in spirit and ideals.
As members of Christ through our Baptism, we are rooted and grounded in Christ, called to share in his redemptive love, his ‘kenosis’ (self-emptying).
We believe this, we confess this.  In itself, this is not sufficient; we must also put our faith into practice.  We must do good, not simply talk about it!

What is this good we must do? Again, Paul spells it out for us.  We are never to act out of rivalry or conceit, rather, let all parties think humbly of others as superior to themselves, looking to others’ interest rather than one’s own .              What is good? In the word’s of the prophet Micah: “What does he require of  us – but to do justice,  to love kindness,  and to walk humbly with your God!”
What the Lord requires of us – he enables us to do.
To know the greatest act of self-denial the world has ever seen – or will see –
we have but to look at the Cross!  The words of Jesus –  to those who would be his disciples…”Come follow me!”
Let our “Yes” to Jesus be – to follow Jesus on the way of self-denial, constant and progressive self-denial. (A good description of our monastic vow of ‘Con-
version of Manners’!) – to let God use us and resurrect us when and as he chooses. Amen.

Homily – Sr. Eleanor Craig – Every heart can change when touched by the love of God

Ezekiel 18:25-28        Philippians 2:1-11        Matthew 21:28-32

I have my own version of the gospel story:  My mother would say to my sister, ‘Please wash the dishes’ and my sister would say an emphatic, belligerent ‘NO!‘   It was clear she would not change her mind without confrontation.  My mother would then sigh and say to me, ‘Eleanor please wash the dishes’ and I would say (perhaps piously, perhaps really meaning it) ‘SURE.’

I hated washing dishes and I would put it off late into the evening—forever, if I could manage to “forget.”  If I finally did the dishes, it was because my conscience nagged me, not my mother.

I didn’t think I was being disobedient—I just didn’t want to wash the dishes.  In other words, I was attached to my own interests; I didn’t much think about my mother’s “will.”  And of course, compared to my sister, I was far less disobedient; at least I didn’t belligerently say NO!

In the gospel story Jesus tells about two sons who act pretty much like my sister and I.  One flat-out refused to do what his father asked, then later changed his mind.  The other agreed but didn’t follow through. Jesus asks the religious leaders which of the sons did his father’s will. They reply (perhaps piously, certainly legalistically) that the one who eventually complied did his father’s will.  Considering my girlhood experience with the dishes, I’d say that neither son did his father’s will; both followed their own inclinations.  Even the one who reconsidered was likely not thinking of his father’s wishes.  Maybe he thought about the consequences: possible punishment, or what others would think of him or loss of his father’s regard.  Maybe he was ashamed of his behavior.  My childish self would conclude if the son was doing his father’s will, he would have done it to begin with… wouldn’t he? 

That was my childish thinking, a bit like the legalistic thinking of the religious leaders in the gospel.  Jesus saw it differently, and said so.

In the second half of the gospel passage, Jesus challenges the religious leaders to walk the talk.  They affirmed the possibility of change of heart, but in practice they held wrongdoers irrevocably bound to their wrongs.  They resisted the good news, proclaimed by both John the Baptist and by Jesus:  wrongdoers can change; repentance and conversion are possible; the good news is that no one’s failure is permanent, no one’s blindness is forever.  Whether one refuses or delays, one can always change, there is always another chance to do the Father’s will.

Jesus points out to the religious leaders that their resistance to this good news is double edged:  they have been using their authority to hold tax collectors, prostitutes and other “sinners” bound, as though beyond hope of conversion.  But even worse, the religious leaders have hardened their own hearts, disbelieving the good news of the kingdom of God, and resisting God’s invitation to change their minds, to open their hearts.  Nevertheless, change is still possible even for them; Jesus’ very challenge is another invitation to change.  The Gospels show us Jesus never giving up on the possibility of change and conversion.

To grasp what it means for one to thoroughly do the father’s will, we have only to look at today’s second reading.   We have in the excerpt from Paul’s epistle the quintessential description of how to know and do God’s will.  Jesus didn’t cling to his privileged place at God’s right hand.  Surrendering to all the limitations and requirements of the human condition, he no longer had an inside track to God’s will.  Like us, Jesus depended on his very human sense of God’s loving ways.  He lived a life of humility, learning as we learn, faltering and falling, growing and changing.

Was Jesus ever wrong; did he ever fail to do his Father’s will?  We can hardly expect his disciples to tell us, but our own human experience suggests he probably did fail sometimes.   Using Jesus’ own criterion in today’s gospel, we can certainly conclude that if Jesus ever failed, ever resisted or rebelled, was ever wrong, he changed, was changed by the love to which he learned to surrender.  The Jesus of the gospels showed his followers—and shows us—how to seek and do God’s will in a way consistent with our human limitations.

Just this week, in the lives of three women we have loved in their lives and mourn in their deaths, we have strong reminders of the possibility of change, even in civil and religious leaders.  Our sister Maureen McCormack gave Intensive Journal workshops for decades to women in prison, women who many had written off as incorrigible. Maureen understood that self-understanding, self-affirmation are the path to change.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg, recognizing that the law reflects the culture, dedicated her life to the men who rule our courts, helping them to a new understanding of equality under the law.  And we have the touching story of our sister Susan Carol McDonald, impelled by her own heart to go to Vietnam.  She was sought out by President Helen Sanders who well might have stood in the way because Susan ignored the rules for getting permission or consulting higher authority. Instead Helen only asked “What do you need from us?” “How can we help?”

And again, just this week, in our national politics and national culture, and here in our midst we have strong reminders of the need for change, in the behaviors and beliefs of leaders, followers, and all of us.  Jesus challenges us to hold fast to the good news and live our days in the confidence that every heart can change when touched by the love of God.

blind obedience

instantaneous obedience

costly obedience

obedience at personal cost

acting contrary to one’s own will

following commands

following orders

jump to it obedience

regimented obedience

letter-of-the-law obedience

servile obedience

obedient to the point of death


living in sync with

being of the same mind

united in heart

with the same love

responding in love

anticipating needs

listening and following

desiring what the other desires

looking for God’s will

following the path of wisdom

emptying oneself

humbling oneself


responding to God’s invitation

doing the next right thing

following the shepherd

repenting and changing

following good example

noticing good in others

relinquishing resistance

converting to righteousness

look out for the interest of others

regard others as important


Compline on Zoom: Sunday, September 20, 2020, at 7:25 pm ET.

September 20, 2020, 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.

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 879 3883 8124
Passcode: 000005

You are encouraged to join at 7:25 pm when we welcome John Griffin-Atil (Spiritus) our meeting host who 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 John Griffin-Atil;
• 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


Fr. Michael’s Reflection for 9/14/20

+As we just heard, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” that we might believe in him and have eternal life. These words remind me of Fr Elias’ chapter talk yesterday and of something Pope Francis has given recently as coronavirus catechesis. Fr Elias reminded us of how our care for the sick is care for Christ, our reception of guests, a welcoming of Christ.

Pope Francis tells us, quote: “faith, hope and love necessarily push us toward.. preference for those most in need, which goes beyond necessary assistance. Indeed it implies walking together, letting ourselves be evangelized by them, who know the suffering Christ well, letting ourselves be ‘infected’ by their experience of salvation, by their wisdom and by their creativity. Sharing with the poor means mutual enrichment. And, if there are unhealthy social structures that prevent them from dreaming of the future, we must work together to heal them, to change them.”

The suffering Christ is never far from any of us. If we are attentive, we can celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross all day long.

(Num 21:4b-9; Jn 3:13-17)

Fr. Michael Casagram – 9/3/20 – Jesus with us

(1 Cor. 3:18-23; Luke 5:1-11)

+Today’s gospel shows us how Jesus uses the very circumstances of our lives to draw near to us and make them wonderfully fruitful. After preaching to the crowd, he tells Simon to put out into the deep water and lower his nets for a catch. Simon had a hard time with this because he and his partners had just done this all night long and caught nothing. We experience the same but this does not stop Jesus from using whatever work we may be doing whether in the kitchen, the Infirmary, the bakery, Liturgy, the fields, the administration of this place, to tell us to “lower our nets for a catch.’

Like Simon and his partners in the boats we feel often enough that we have worked the whole night and caught nothing. But then, if we are attentive to what Jesus is saying deep down in our hearts, aware of his presence and initiative, we too will find ourselves amazed at the great number of fish we’ll catch to where our nets are tearing and we fill both boats to the point that they are in danger of sinking.

If the love of Jesus fills us, if we realize he is right in the boat with us, our lives like that of St Gregory whom we remember today, become wonderfully fruitful even to the point where our boats are sinking.