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Homilette – Fr. Lawrence – On the Consecration of St. John Lateran Church 11/9/21

Dear Brothers and sisters –

At the end of the 1942 movie Mrs. Miniver, having endured the horrible blitz of the German bombing, with tragedy and loss of loved ones, the people stand in their ruined church, the roof gone, the walls barely standing, and pray. The church is not the walls and roof of the building. The basilica of St. John Lateran has been burnt and pillaged and rebuilt any number of times over the centuries. St. John Lateran and all its children are not the walls and roof of the church. Instead, it’s walls are built of the bodies who have stood in it praying, and the roof is built of their faith. There are over a million bricks in this monastery, but the bricks do not make up Gethsemani. The thousands and millions who have gone before us and the thousands and millions who will come after us, and we, here today, praying together, we are the bricks and stones of the Church.

 

Fr. Lawrence

Reflection for 11/7/21 – Fr. Michael Casagram – The Faith of a Mustard Seed

+The Faith of a Mustard Seed:

When I first read the gospel for today I found myself convicted by these words of Jesus, wondering about the kind of faith I have. Real faith as small as a seed would say to a “mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

If someone wrongs me seven times today, will I have the faith that enables one to easily forgive if the person is sorry? Such a faith will enable any of us to do far more than this, for it will open our hearts to the living and loving presence of Christ all day long, the presence that we celebrate here at this altar.

Is there any limit to what Christ will accomplish in us if we allow our faith to grow from the size of a seed to that of a full grown mulberry tree?

(Wisdom:1:1-7; Luke 17:1-6)

 

Homily – Sr. Eleanor Craig, S.L. 11/7/21

November 7, 2021
1 Kings 17:10-16     Hebrews 9:24-28     Mark 12:41-44

Widows are the heroines of today’s readings.  That’s an odd reversal of scriptural stereotypes.  Widows are poor and rarely noticed except during days of jubilee, when the righteous are exhorted to remember the widows and the orphans.  Or as in today’s gospel, when Jesus calls out the hypocritical who parade their holiness while preying on defenseless widows.  Poor and powerless, widows are not very likely heroines, yet the two widows in today’s readings give us powerful examples of spiritual action.

In the first reading we have a widow with an orphan, and a prophet who insists that the widow provide for him.  ‘Bring me some bread and water,’ he says; ‘Do it before you take care of yourself and your child.’  And she does as he says, scraping the bottom of her pot to give from the little she has.  Then we have the widow in Mark’s gospel, dropping her few coins in the temple treasury.  Jesus watches her from a distance and points out to his disciples how she gives much from what little she has.

This story in Mark comes immediately after the passage we heard last Sunday, in which the scribe asked Jesus which is the greatest of all commandments.  Jesus answered: “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength…and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love is the command.  The widows show us what love looks like in action:  give from whatever you have, whatever you are;   give your whole livelihood;   give all.

ALL?  Really?!

When the command is joined with the example of the widows, ‘love God with all your heart…” takes on new meaning, makes a stronger claim, reaches deeper into what is mine.   I would have said of course I will love God without restraint, without reservation.  But will I respond to a request that stretches me thin?  Reach into my pocket or my heart and hand over the last little bit I have?

It does seem like too much; it seems so total!  I’m glad to contribute, to do my part; but I stop short of giving all.  I hold back a bit, give only some, or not all at once.  I keep something for myself of my time, and my energy.  I do my giving gradually, even reluctantly.

What do today’s readings have to say to a reluctant lover like me?  What does Jesus say?  Start with your poverty, not your wealth.  Maybe you have a lot of stuff or a lot of time and energy, but if you are poor in willingness, start there.  Trust, as the widows trusted, that your poor store will not run out if shared; willingness can stretch and increase with exercise.  Give the love you can give, and love will increase.  Risk action and do not be afraid.  Action will strengthen love.

 

–Eleanor Craig, S.L.

 

Homily – Fr. Anton

The Gospel          Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,

Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,

sat by the roadside begging.

On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,

he began to cry out and say,

“Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.”

And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.

But he kept calling out all the more,

“Son of David, have mercy on me.”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man, saying to him,

“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.

Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”

Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”

Immediately he received his sight

and followed him on the way.

 

After the Gospel:

 

For many Christians, it’s a favorite gospel,

because it’s not just a blind man story – we know his name, which means he was well-known, perhaps important,  to the early church,

and because, even though he was physically blind, he had spiritual vision,

and because  he didn’t just ask for a healing – stop there – but first of all he asked for something else more important.

And lastly, because  he stayed with Jesus.

 

Jesus was leaving Jericho, on his final trip to Jerusalem, where He would die and  rise.

Which makes Bartimaeus one of the last miracles, and the last follower who joined Jesus along the way:

someone who  went from being a beggar along the road to Jericho, to a disciple who walked right alongside the others on the way to Jerusalem, and waved palm branches with them.

 

This story has echoes of the Good Samaritan, portraying Jesus as The Good Samaritan who stopped and helped and healed on that famous road from Jericho to Jerusalem.

The gospel begins with Bartimaeus sitting on the sidelines, blind, no one listened to him;

when he tried to speak, they got angry, told him to keep quiet.

Why would you “Hush!” a disabled man asking for help?

Because he was a nuisance to their plans, an obstacle to whatever designs they had for Jesus as King.  Their thoughts were different from God’s thoughts.

But Jesus heard his plea, called for him to come close, and let him speak, asking “What do you want me to do for you?”

 

His first words were:  “Have mercy on me.”    In fact, he repeated it.

Only later he asked, “let me see again.”

But twice:  “Have mercy on me.”   He was sufficiently in tune with himself to know that what he needed most was deeper than restoration of sight.

You don’t need  20/20 vision to be lustful or envious or covetous,

you don’t need good eyes to be angry

or  build up your hatreds over the years little by little,

or see only the worst in people.

You can do all that with or without good vision.

But you can be blind and see that your deepest need is for spiritual healing,  something far deeper than a need for physical healing.

Grace had somehow convinced Bartimaeus that Physical blindness will not keep you out of heaven, but spiritual blindness will.

He knew himself well enough to ask for spiritual healing, mercy for his sins,

and he no doubt received it,  since he also received physical healing.

 

Notice how Jesus acted …  as a neighbor.  He didn’t sidestep the beggar, didn’t throw him a coin to shut him up,  didn’t delegate someone,  but He stopped, and got personally involved.  “What can I do for you”

His actions showed He cared, it communicated His love, and changed Bartimaeus’ life.

Jesus brought new life to a broken man.

 

Before his eyes were fixed, Bartimaeus heard Jesus say, “your faith has saved you.”

Bartimaeus must have been more than a person who prayed only in a crisis to get what he wanted from God, he must have had a relationship with God, been a person of faith.

He considered his need for salvation  the deepest need of his life, something he needed far more than restoration of sight, and he heard Jesus’ assurance: “Your faith has saved you.”

What peace he must have felt!

 

Mark mentions one last thing about Bartimaeus:

Immediately,  he received his sight and followed Jesus on the way.

When the Gospel says someone followed Jesus,   they became a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus had twelve apostles and many more disciples, all of whom listened to his teaching and allowed it to change their lives.

Bartimaeus didn’t just pray to have his sight restored and then disappear.

His healing marked the beginning of his journey following Jesus,  his becoming a disciple of Jesus and learning from Jesus.

Afterwards his whole way of life was such that it revolved around Jesus,

and what Jesus stood for, and what He taught. That’s what a disciple, a follower, does.

 

This gospel also answers the question:

“Why should we pray for what we want, when it’s obvious, when God already knows what we want?”

It’s because praying for what we need is only part of our relationship with God.

Our whole life has to be a prayer to God, has to be about following Jesus, being a disciple of Jesus, listening to his teaching and allowing it to change our lives.

If we  pray only when we are in crisis, or need something,  are we really Christian?

Prayer isn’t some magic formula to be recited, which magically brings about the desired results.

It’s a way of living, a  way of  following Jesus on the road.

 

Jesus taught the crowds: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these other things will be given you as well.” Bartimaeus sought the kingdom of God first – God’s mercy – and the other things, including restoration of sight, were given him as well.

 

 

 

Chapter Talk – Fr. Michael Casagram – Monasteries and Hospitality today 10/24/21

+MONASTERIES AND HOSPITALITY TODAY   Chapter Talk 24 Oct. 2021

In last Sunday’s talk, Fr Elias shared some reflections on chapter 53 of the Rule on the Reception of Guests, pointing out the  two sections of this St Benedict’s thinking on the matter. I thought to stay with this theme this morning, drawing on a talk Fr Elias gave us four years ago. The talk he gave then was after he had read a 700 page book in French by a Daniele Hervieu-Leger called Monks’ Time, Enclosure and Hospitality

Our Br Frederic brought this talk of Fr Elias to my attention recently and though excellent, I did not remember its content and would like to present some of its content just in case your own memories need to be refreshed. The book of Hervieu-Leger, a sociologist, was written after she had visited many Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries in France. It was summarized in a few sentences by Fr Elias as seeing enclosure either as a threshold or as a fortification. Viewing enclosure as a fortification:

“emphasizes the timeless nature of monastic life, makes strong claims of continuity with the past, which is most powerfully expressed in an unchanging liturgy, and is determined to keep out harmful influences from contemporary society.”

This viewpoint down plays the ecclesiology of Vatican II and may even be critical of it, seeing “monastic life as a corrective for where the Church has gone wrong.” As many of you are aware this kind of thinking is not far from that of many in the Church today, a feeling that we need to go back to the Latin or Tridentine Mass and have much less participation by the laity in the Liturgy.

On the other hand, viewing monastic enclosure as a threshold takes on a very different view, one:

“based on claims of continuity with the past, but with a greater willingness to adapt to changing times and circumstances. In this view, enclosure is seen more as guardian of community discipline than as a protection from outside influence. The Liturgy may also be rooted in the past, but it keeps step with the universal Church and is accessible to visitors. Hospitality is open, ecumenical and perhaps even interreligious, makes minimal demands on guests, and receives them without seeking to influence them in any particular way. Monasteries with this vision are accepting of Vatican II ecclesiology, and while witnessing to traditional Christian values, do not espouse any particular political or social agenda.”

For many of us who entered before or during the Second Vatican Council, it is easy to recall the shifts that took place in our experience of enclosure. Some of us still recall how Gethsemani was considered a “powerhouse of prayer,” very special in the Church and separated from the rest of society. As Fr Elias further summarizes Leger’s book:

“…In an increasingly secular society, the traditional reasons for enclosed existence are no longer compelling, and this kind of religious status seems marginal and irrelevant. Even within the Church, which now emphasizes the universal call to holiness, monastic separation can seem more like isolation, and monks can be seen as exotic reminders of the past rather than experts or models for the present.”

One or the results of this new approach to enclosure is that we have come to experience our vocation in a whole new light. Our “approach is to stay in relationship with the changing cultural context and to acknowledge its positive elements, all the while remaining attached to tradition… Where a monastery’s liturgy falls on this continuum is probably a good indicator of its approach to this fundamental question of how it lives out its tradition in relation with modernity.”

Gethsemani has made an extra effort to include our guests in its celebration even in the face of Covid. Our show of hospitality is not without some risks but isn’t this what the Rule of St Benedict would have us do if we are going to see our neighbor’s needs as those of Christ! As Fr Elias asked four years ago, when the model of enclosure as threshold makes our life suffer from a loss of uniqueness, “what makes monastic life so compelling when its purposes can be met by people in all walks of life?”

He sees Hervieu-Leger answering this very question as she “makes some astute observations on a deeper level.” She speaks of monks following a kind of “little way” which immediately made me think of St Therese of Lisieux who has had such a profound influence on the contemplative life. As Fr Elias goes on to describe this fresh approach to enclosure:

“The monks do not aspire to be or to be perceived as charismatic athletes of faith. They accept their minority status in the religious landscape. They do not experience a dichotomy between their grounding in tradition (as expressed by enclosure) and a willingness to relate to the world as it is (as expressed by hospitality”.

Hervieu-Leger then  pointed out, and I will end with this quote from Fr Elias’ talk:

“the significant impact the abduction and execution of the monks of Tibhirine had made on the monastic world. In a sense, the Atlas brothers embodied in an extreme way the basic choices at issue here… They chose to exercise an exceptional kind of hospitality that excluded no one, friend or foe, refusing to compromise their practice in this regard, even at the risk of their lives. The questions they dealt with in dramatic, high stakes circumstances are the same fundamental issues that all monasteries need to face.”

Homily – Eleanor Craig, S.L. – October 17, 2021

 

Homily, Oct 17, 2021

Isaiah 53:10-11          Hebrews 4: 14-16          Mark 10-35-45

For the last couple of months of Sunday readings, we have heard Jesus teaching his disciples about his true calling and theirs.  What he teaches is for us too.

In today’s readings we hear first through Isaiah that the one who is to come as savior and messiah, is to be our intermediary with God.

Next, in the letter to the Christian Jews, we hear that the messiah, Jesus the Christ, is a new kind of intermediary for the people, able to speak to God from the depths of daily human experience, from the experience of pouring his life out in service in our midst.

This is the image Jesus shares with his ambitious disciples as he clarifies for them what it will mean for them to take up his vocation, to drink the cup he is drinking and to be baptized as he is being baptized.

James and John are only the latest of the disciples to assume that Jesus’ vocation is leadership in the image of the Jewish priesthood:  he will speak for the people with God and will command the people in God’s name.  The two disciples are eager to have positions of prestige in Jesus’ coming regime.  In today’s gospel account Jesus seems to encourage the disciples’ ambition, asking if they are ready to drink from his cup and be baptized with him.  Assuming he means a cup of authority and a baptism in glory, they reply enthusiastically yes.

Surprise.  The glorious role Jesus was already playing in his earthly lifetime, the vocation into which he invites all his disciples—even each of us—is the part of the servant priest.  He is an intermediary, going back and forth from the throne of God to serve, bringing God’s own mercy in his service, advocating for God’s own mercy in his prayer.

Jesus is not one set apart, served by others as he goes about his priestly work.  No, he is one who can speak to God about our needs from his own experience; he goes before God as one who shares intimately in our personal and communal struggles. By drinking the cup of God’s will, by serving wholeheartedly in his own life and death, Jesus reaches in prayer for God’s mercy for those he serves and carries the mercy of God to each of us in his continuing service.

Like Jesus the Christ, James and John and all of us are called to be servant priests, interceding and serving.  Service is to shape our prayer and give it an urgency learned amid those whose circumstance we share.  Prayer is to shape our service, transforming our hearts and allowing us to bring God’s saving mercy to those with whom we live and work.

 

–Eleanor Craig, S.L.

 

Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – Entering the freedom o the heart – 10/10/21

+THE REFLECTIONS AND THOUGHTS OF THE HEART      18TH Sunday Ord. 2021

The words of the Letter to the Hebrews this morning, tell us of the subtle movements of the human heart: “The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” Our lives as Christians and monks are all about discerning what’s going on deep down within us, what’s lying under all our thoughts, desires and actions. As we learn to live with purity of heart, we become truly Christian.

To honestly face what is going on in our hearts takes a life time but in doing so we become the loving persons we are destined to be. It is the path to true wisdom that is “beyond health and comeliness,” for her path is to be preferred to light itself, to know a splendor that never yields to sleep.

We live in a world where it is becoming more and more evident that wealth and power so easily serve self-interest, are lacking in the love that enables us to seek the common good and a lasting peace. This is exactly what happened to the rich young man who came to Jesus and knelt before him. He knew that something was deeply lacking in his life though he had kept all the commandments. He failed to see how his heart was snared by all the possessions he had and Jesus brought him to see this.

We all have reason to ask ourselves about our hearts, knowing that even in a monastery we can come to cling to possessions however small they may be. And “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” as Jesus reminds us. The first disciples of Jesus were exceedingly astonished at these words but this becomes the very moment when Jesus gives them the key to the kingdom of heaven. “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

It seems to me that again and again in each one of our lives, we are brought precisely to this all important moment when we become aware of how helpless we are to be free of our addictions, whatever they may be. It may be to food or drink, anger or sex, our pride or self-love, keeping up with the latest news, the need for entertainment or distraction of whatever kind. As we own our helplessness, our enslavement of whatever kind, God is all too ready to step in and guide us into freedom, into the promised land. Knowing where real freedom is to be found, is to gain a wisdom that is preferred to scepter and throne, to find the priceless gem.

To enter into this freedom of heart is to “receive a hundred times more in this present age; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions and eternal life in the age to come.” And this is true not only for religious but is the constant call of every Christian. Owning our dependence on divine grace is to hear Jesus say to each of us “all things are possible for God.”

This love of God for us could not be more evident than in what takes place at this altar again this morning. Here is make present that moment  when Christ died for our sins and rose again. And then we are given his very own Body and Blood risen in glory. What is impossible for us humans, becomes entirely possible for God as we are made sharers in God’s own divine life.  Amen

Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrews 4:12-13  Mark 10:17-30

Homily – Fr. James Conner – 10/3/21 – ALL of creation and ALL of humanity are Places of Prayer.

Dedication of Archdiocesan Assumption Cathedral

Today’s feast coincides with our Rule of Benedict, as we heard in chapter this morning. Both highlight the words of Jesus: “My Father’s house is a house of prayer”. But do these words apply only to the Church proper. Do they not apply equally to the whole of creation? When God finished creation on the seventh day, Scripture tells us that “God saw that it was VERY good”. It was very good because it was a manifestation of God Himself. Hence the whole of creation was intended to be a “place of prayer”.  Yet, as with the ancient temple. “we have made it a den of thieves”.

The Liturgy today tries to teach us anew what this House of God is and what all of creation is – and ultimately what we are ourselves.

In the second reading today, St Paul tells us bluntly “you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you”. We frequently hear this statement, and yet we fail to grasp its full import. It tells us that our greatness is not something which WE create, but something which God Himself has created, and we can add nothing to that greatness by our supposed virtues. We are to present God only with our nothingness in order that He may make it to be the perfect reflection of God’s Holiness – not ours.

A holy hermit in Africa said: “What I want for you is that you reach the point where you feel that, rich as the spiritual life is in joys, there is none so deep as this one: to be happy to find weakness in  ourselves, to delight in our weaknesses, to delight in knowing that we are nothing, to delight that God alone is and that we are not.” It is this nothingness of ourselves which God can fill with Himself and make us to truly be “a place of prayer”. But He wants to make ALL of creation and ALL of humanity into this Place of Prayer. He wants us to realize that this is not a loss but a gain – for,  as the holy hermit again said: “to be filled with Christ, to cease to be only ourselves and to have become Christ, to exchange the human for the divine, would you call this a loss?”  On the contrary, it is the meaning of Creation fulfilled by the Incarnation. Christ desires to dwell in each of us . Yet there are not two Christs – yours and the Christ of others. There is ONE Christ who does not want to be repressed but to expand into all humanity.”

This is powerfully expressed in the Postcommunion  for this 27th Sunday of the Year: “Grant us, Almighty God, that we may be refreshed by the sacrament which we have received so as to be transformed into what we consume”.

Our nothingness is to be transformed into His divinity and thus truly form ONE CHRIST. This is why we celebrate our diocesan Cathedral . It is a symbol of every church in the diocese and ultimately of every person who form the One Christ to the Glory of God. But in order for this to be fulfilled we must follow the example of St John the Baptist who said: “He must increase and I must decrease”. And also the words of St Paul: “I live now, not I, but Christ living in me”. That Christ is to live in us not simply during the brief moments that the sacramental presence remains in us. Rather, He is to live in all of us as the FULL Christ, making us to be that House of Prayer, that dwelling place of God with humanity to the praise and glory of God the Father.

Reflection – Fr. Michael Casagram +Feast of Angels and Archangels   Sep.29,’21

+FEAST OF ANGELS AND ARCHANGELS    Sep.29,’21

(Introduction)Today is the feast of all the angels and since each one of us has a guardian, watching over us day and night, it is a feast to be enjoyed by all the human family. But let us remember in a special way our Fr. Raphael that his witness to God’s loving care for us may continue to grow and prosper.

(Rev. 12:7-12a; Jn 1:47-51)       Reflecting on our scripture texts, I found myself more aware than ever of the spiritual warfare that is going on in our world today. I feel at time we are bombarded by the conflicts of our time and on top of this, as persons of faith we are aware of the conflicts that go on in our own hearts. As often as we turn to God in our need,  God’s merciful love assures us of victory.

Our gospel is an outstanding instance of this.  Jesus spotted Nathaniel coming toward him and knew him to be a true Israelite, that there was no duplicity in him. Jesus had seen him already while he was under a fig tree even before Philip had called him. Jesus is calling each one of us to an abiding faith in his love and care day long. He is not only at our side  but is living within our very hearts if only we may be mindful of his tender and loving presence. As often as we let his presence live in us, we too like the angels, become caring messengers of God’s love to all those with whom we live. To do so is to give delight to our holy Guardians, to become the Eucharist we celebrate here at this altar.

Homily – Fr. Alan Gilmore – 09/26/21 -Open-minded respect and love for all.

  9/26                                                            +
                                   26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Dear Brothers and Sisters, the theme for today’s readings might be summed up in the words: Open-minded respect and love for all. There seems to be an inborn instinct due to our fallen nature to mistrust and disqualify people who are different
from us. The more isolated  life is, be it geographically in rural areas or socially by self-imposed isolation, the more narrow-minded and biased  people become.  This very thing happened to our Lord, who came to his own “yet his own did not accept him”.  Jesus , being a Jew, today might even be refused  membership in many an elite club. Over the centuries, Christian denominations have isolated themselves  socially. (I am not referring to contemplative communities!)  Small wonder then that they mistrusted one another. The ecumenical movement, fortunately, to some extent has eliminated some of the“ghetto mentality” that has been with the Churches for a long time.  Since bias (whether social, racial, or religious)  is so subtle, there is real need to question ourselves in this area.
Granted, in recent years society has become more open.  But this openness
is very challenging for the Christian. Many issues that formerly were  considered
scandalous are now understood as OK or normal!.  Politics has long been referred to as the “art of compromise”.  Compromise is certainly not the Christian way!
Scandal can be provoked by fashion, or opinion, or laws and institutions. That
is the teaching of our Church.  Further defined – Therefore they are guilty of scan-
dal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals  and the corruption of religious practice, or to social conditions that intentionally, or not,
make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and prac-
tically impossible.  This is true also for business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, for manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from
moral values.
The Gospel reminds us, very forcefully today, that there is to be no compromise with what is evil.  What is morally evil, though legal, or ‘acceptable’  does not make it good! This Christian attitude is ‘scandalous’ for the worldly minded.
One last word on scandal: There is and remains – the Scandal of the Cross!   The Spirit of Jesus was gained for us through his unconditional surrender to that Cross. It is through that Spirit, far more powerful than the spirit mentioned in our first reading,  that we are to uncompromisingly live, so all who are unlike us, all receive through us-  the respect, the healing, the forgiveness and love that our God and theirs desires for them – through us.  AMEN! Fr Alan, ocso
Nm 11: 25-29, Jas 5:1-6, Mk 9: 38-43, 47-48