Sunday, May 21, 2017

A New Reality

John’s Gospel is believed to have been written for the church of Ephesus at the end of 1st century; it addresses an emerging Christian community in transition, adjusting to their separation from Judaism. Many or all of these early Christians had in fact been expelled from the synagogue. Certainly they were disoriented.

And so appropriately John writes a highly symbolic text, which invites them to a radical reorientation and self-understanding. It is perhaps intended as a consolation for them, a reminder that as Christians they belong to a different reality, a new world that is hidden under the outer reality of things. 

And so John’s language is one of radical relationality: “I am in my Father, and you are in me. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,and I will love him and reveal myself to him." We are reminded that we are in radical relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit; we are embedded in the Trinity, for we have been born from above.

Still like those early Christians we too may experience the tension of a world not yet fully transformed, a situation that is ‘already’ and ‘not yet.’ And we monks have Saint Benedict to exhort us, “Your way of acting should be different from the world's way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” Benedict reminds us where we belong, better still to whom we belong. It is our love of Christ, but first of all His love for us that has changed everything.

Indeed only such love can reorient us. And so we live with eager longing for the in-breaking of love; transformative moments, when we can see that in Christ we are “out of this world”- out of the system that puts aggression and success first, the world of political discourse where one-upmanship takes hold, a world where ease and accomplishment grant status and prestige. We belong somewhere else; we have been called into a new order, a new cosmos named the kingdom- where Christ’s power over us is shown best in our weakness, where compassion overcomes fear, where the truth of Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection redefine any earthly notion of success. We are poised to notice glimpses of this new world.  
Photo by Brother Brian.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Free

We once heard the story of the little boy from Italy who comes to America with his father; they are going to live with relatives in New York. They are poor; the father has scraped together just enough to buy two tickets for passage on an ocean liner. And with the bit of money that’s left he has bought a wheel of cheese and a few loaves of bread. This will be their food for the entire trip. Then one day the little boy, precocious as he is, wanders all over the ship and discovers the grand dining room. Plates full of food, so many people. And he spots a family from his village. He goes to them and learns the amazing truth. Then he races back to his teeny cabin. “Papa,” he says. “We can eat as much as we want; it’s free, e gratuito. It comes with the ticket.”

God wants to regale us. "God is to be enjoyed," says St. Augustine. A banquet is prepared for us; he is the banquet. Maybe too often we lower our heads and come to him with bowls that are much too small. Maybe we don’t want to risk being disappointed. But Jesus wants to fill us up with himself. Fill us with an infinity of compassion and mercy. We need to think big, bring a bigger bowl. Perhaps this is what Isaiah is trying to tell us: 

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. For I, the Lord, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as ransom for you, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you and nations in exchange for your life. Isaiah 43
Photographs of  the Abbey in spring by Brother Brian.

Friday, May 19, 2017

To Bear Fruit

Jesus said to his disciples:
"This is my commandment: love one another 
as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

I see you dying on the cross, your heart gashed open. I sense myself at the foot of the cross, self-absorbed, trapped in my selfishness.

You are my friends if you do what I command you.


All I have to do is to love, be compassionate this day -to myself, to others. It is all you ask, a small thing. I can manage with your kind grace.

I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.


You never coerce but invite me to love as you love.

I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.


Though I feel unworthy to be called friend, I sense in the depth of my heart that this intimacy with you is my destiny, my truest vocation- to be love at the heart of your Church.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you


I am consoled to know that you have chosen me. I rejoice despite my foolishness and unworthiness.

and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.

If I can manage a small call for your help; it is you who will accomplish in me, through me, all that you invite me to do.

This I command you: love one another.


Indeed, O Lord, your yoke is easy, your burden is light. You bear everything with me. You do all through me. I want to be more and more available to do what I can through your power at work in my weakness and poverty.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Today's Gospel from John 15 with a meditation composed by one of the monks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Remain

Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
 John 15

Jesus remains in us,  like a vine which gives life to the branches.  He is awaiting our call, sending His Spirit, calling on His Father on our behalf. Jesus remains in us, going before us, accompanying us on the way,  preparing a place where He can bring us to Himself.

Jesus remains in us through the community of the Trinity. The Father plants His Son in us as a luxuriant vine and grafts us in as His branches. As a vine turns to the sun, we share in the Son’s constant turning to the Father. As the Spirit is the Gift breathed forth by the Father and the Son, so it becomes our life, keeping the branches alive.

Jesus remains in us as truth. He calls us forth to encounter this truth, especially through the witness of our conscience. Our conscience helps us to recognize what the Father must prune away. Through it we recognize the truth about ourselves. This truth does not lead to us despair, even when our hearts condemn us, because Jesus is both truth and mercy. His forgiveness is “greater than our hearts.” Jesus remains in us, actively seeking our good.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Vincent. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Awake

It is now time for you to wake from sleep; it is far on in the night; 
the day is near.
Keep awake, that the morning light may rise upon you, that is Christ, who will reveal himself as sure as the dawn.
Christ will enable those who keep watch for him to experience 
once more the mystery of his resurrection in the morning.

Then indeed you will sing with a  joyful heart: The Lord is God; he has bestowed his light upon us. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Blessed Guerric of Igny.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sentinels of the Dawn

On Saturday the one hundredth anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Pope Francis canonized Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta, two of the visionaries of Fatima. At the conclusion of his homily at the canonization, the Holy Father said, “With Mary's protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Savior, resplendent at Easter. Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love.”

Gazing upon the resplendent face of Jesus, who is for us "the way and the truth and the life," may we be "sentinels of the dawn" who help the world to rediscover the beauty of His Church.

Photograph by Brother Brian. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Good News

This morning's Gospel is taken from the fourteenth chapter of Saint John, the setting is the Last Supper.  Jesus tells his disciples that he will be betrayed and go to his father's house to prepare a dwelling place for them.  Then he tells them that they know the way to where he is going.  Thomas objects, “Master, we do not know where your are going; how can we know the way?” The answer that Jesus gives is considered by eminent Catholic biblical  scholars as as the highpoint of Johannine theology. “Jesus said to Thomas, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  For us who are the followers of Jesus Christ, this is indeed good news, but for the devotees of other faiths these words can seem arrogant and disrespectful of their religious experience. 

But Jesus is for us “the way, the truth and the life." When you love someone who loves you, you cannot help sharing this news with the people whom you encounter, especially when that love uplifts you and transforms your life. Thus the bottom line, according to Pope Saint John Paul is that, even as we respect other faiths, we as Church “offer mankind the Gospel, that prophetic message which responds to the needs and aspirations of the human heart and always remains Good News. The Church cannot fail to proclaim that Jesus came to reveal the face of  God and to merit salvation for all humanity by his cross and resurrection.”

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  We can think of this Good News as pointing to our going to our Father in heaven at the end of our lives. The words of Jesus today about going to prepare a dwelling place for us in his Father's house reinforce that notion of the other-worldliness of this statement.  Yet once the first disciples of Jesus hear about him from John the Baptist, they go to Jesus who asks them “What are you looking for?” They answer, “Rabbi, where do you dwell?” Jesus replies, “Come and see.” To be real disciples of Jesus we must dwell with him and live in him for he is our lifenot just the truth of our message. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father Luke's Sunday Homily.