Thursday, April 19, 2018

From the Beginning

Certainly the horizon of the reign of God is immeasurable; God's revolution also eliminates death and leads in the end to an eternal life with God. But it begins here, on this earth, and it is about this world because from the very beginning God's intent was nothing other than the world. From that point of view the "world" of resurrection can be nothing other than the perfected, healed and sanctified world in which we now live. To misuse or deny this is to slander Jesus' message and corrupt it.

Photograph by Brother Casimir. Lines from Is This All There Is? by Gerhard Lohfink.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Stephen

Today and tomorrow in the First Reading at Mass, we hear the story of Saint Stephen's martyrdom. Clearly in these passages from the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen is presented to us as one like Jesus his Master. Like Jesus, he works great wonders and signs among the people and, he is full of wisdom in his teaching. And as happened to Jesus, Stephen is condemned when false witnesses testify against him, denouncing him as a blasphemer. Finally as Stephen is being stoned to death, like Jesus in his agony, Stephen hands his over his spirit. And as he is dying, Stephen falls to his knees forgiving his persecutors, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Looking at Jesus

God is forever full of holes, the marks of his love and compassion and mercy. It may be difficult to look at him, for we see ourselves too clearly: utter human fragility joined forever to resurrected divinity. In him we see our reality as individuals, as Church, as monastic community. It takes courage to gaze upon the passion-gashed Jesus. For he shows us who are and who we are meant to become more and more - never poor victims of our sin and bad choices, never mere hapless victims of our sin-filled histories and misery, never ever wounded wounders, but wounded healers, wounded forgivers like him. Our wounds are meant to make us more compassionate.

Jesus has been wounded by his loving us to death. To become his body now, we must go and do likewise, break the cycle of hurt by continually being vulnerable and compassionate - pain and sin and hurt-absorbers for one another. As we look upon Jesus, he reveals who we are - his beautiful wounded body. No wonder that Saint Bernard will say to Christ: “When you gave me yourself; you gave me back myself.”

Friday, April 13, 2018

God's Intention

The resurrection of the dead "...is giving form to that for which creation was intended from the beginning: to be a world before God, created out of incomprehensible and unjustifiable love, and always meant to find its way home to God. The resurrection of the dead...is the consequence of the world's creation, its coming forth out of pure grace. And above all it is the consequence of the raising of Jesus from the dead...he is the prototype and firstborn of all creation."

from Is This All There Is by Gerard Lohfink.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Peace



Fear and shame hang heavily over the scene in the upper room. The apostles have much to regret. Everything’s just about fallen to pieces, and now they’re hiding out. And then very quietly Jesus sneaks in to be with them. “Peace,” he says, and they are filled with joy. Jesus is neither boastful nor grand but almost shy and self-effacing. The very unpretentiousness of his presence is overwhelming. Jesus is obviously very physically present - disarmingly familiar to them - but also totally Other. He walks through the door and shows them his wounds, the deep scars in his body. The wounds confirm his “drastic physicality,” it’s really Jesus alright, but there is also mysteriously something much more. The apostles are filled with joy and utterly bewildered.

At this point we can imagine all the things Jesus might have said to them: “You fled. You left me. You denied me. How could you?” But he’ll have none of that. He simply breathes on them his own Spirit, the Spirit of forgiveness. And he says, “Peace.” No recriminations, just his warm breath, his peace and the instruction to forgive - to forgive even as he is forgiving them. Jesus’ resurrected presence allows them, first of all, to grieve the loss of their identity as perfect disciples and forgive themselves for all they have failed to do. And so he shows the apostles his wounds, for it is from this place of woundedness and vulnerability that they like him will be able to forgive others. Without vulnerability grace cannot happen,* without vulnerability any forgiveness we offer will be only cosmetic. Jesus has returned as the forgiving victim.

Photograph by Brother Brian. *from notes given by Dr. Patricia Kelly.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Annunciation

She did not cry, 'I cannot, I am not worthy,'
nor, 'I have not the strength.'
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Annunciation by Fra Angelico. Lines from the poem Annunciation by Denise Levertov.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Forgiving

Like Jesus, we are invited to remember without bitterness. That’s what forgiveness means – to remember without bitterness. Forgiveness does not mean nothing happened; too much, very much has happened to Jesus and to each one of us. Jesus has been wounded by our sins just as we are, indeed seeing his body wounded by sin makes sin and its consequences undeniable. But his wounding accomplishes our transformation, for his open wounds allow for the unending availability of his mercy. Jesus will be forever full of holes, those marks of his love and compassion and mercy. Jesus is not embarrassed by the intimacy of baring these wounds. He shows us his hands, he most willingly opens his pierced side, his broken heart for Thomas, for each of us, for it is the radiant sacrament of his compassion, the floodgate for his mercy. “Come touch me,” he says. “Put your hand in my side.” His wounded body holds the remembrance of his passion and suffering but without bitterness only love and the longing to console us.

Seeing the wounded Christ, and at the same time acknowledging my own stubbornness and stupidity, which is to say my own woundedness, how could I ever withhold forgiveness, or judge another. If Jesus could forgive in his agony his persecutors, forgive that poor thief writhing on the cross next to him, if he could take back his loser apostles after his resurrection, if he is always so ready to mercy me, who am I to ever withhold forgiveness or nurse a grudge? “Peace,” he says and he breathes on us. Too much has happened but forgiveness is worth it, love is worth it.

The Incredulity of Thomas by Caravaggio.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Alleluia!

The Lord Jesus is indeed risen from the dead. We rejoice in hope, as we celebrate the great fifty days of Eastertide. During this holy season, we chant over and over at all the Offices and at Mass, "Alleluia,"  which means literally "Praise God!" In the chant repertoire there are myriad variations. Some alleluias convey a quiet joy, a sense of joyful repose after a long ordeal. Others are more exuberant; so many ways to express the almost inexpressible. With our Alleluias we give voice to our joy and thanksgiving for all that the Father has given us in Christ Jesus our Lord, now risen from the dead. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Life of the Risen Lord

Realize that in you Christ lives his risen life, that he has already overcome death - died and risen from death and overcome it. If you will only realize that, you will soon be convinced that you will also come right up through the darkness into the light…let this seed of supernatural life fight its way out through darkness, just as an ordinary seed fights up through the darkness and heaviness of the hard, frozen earth. First it has to sharpen its own green blade in the night and cut through the ground or pierce the wood if it is a leaf on the tree, but suddenly it breaks into flower or leaf; and when it does that, it does not see its own beauty—the world outside it sees that; what it sees is the glorious sun that drew it up out of the darkness…So too will it be with you; your soul, your mind, will break into flower and you will find it is flowering in the midst of light, the light of Truth and Beauty and Life.

Christ is not in the tomb. He doesn’t seem to be anywhere, and yet he is everywhere. This week the Liturgy will recount various appearances of the Risen Lord to his disciples, events which are just as mysterious and elusive as the empty tomb itself. His Spirit moves us to turn in simple faith to him who now lives his Risen Life within us and among us.

Jesus came back from the long journey through death to give us his Risen Life to be our life, so that no matter what suffering we meet, we can meet it with the whole power of the love that has overcome the world. . . He has come back as spring comes back out of the ground, renewing the earth with life, to be a continual renewing of life in our hearts, that we may continually renew one another’s life in his love, that we may be his Resurrection in the world. We are the Resurrection, going on always, always giving back Christ’s life to the world.

The life of the Risen Lord is given to us to give to one another. To stand in awe before the fact of the Resurrection and the hope it carries does not mean to stand still or alone. It is through his risen life in us that Christ sends his love to the ends of the earth. The empty tomb has given each of us this mission - we who often struggle along the uncertain, dark, and mysterious journey of our own personal lives are sent forth to give Christ’s life to the whole world through the daily bread of our human love. 

Drawing by Brother Mikah. Meditation by Father Dominic with quotations by Caryll Houselander.  

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday

That Jesus is risen from the dead means that he is now present to us in an utterly new way, overcoming all the absences, distances, silences, misunderstandings and disloyalties that separate us from one another and from God. The Risen Christ is not “up there” or “out there” but truly rising in our own hearts.

Saint Paul testified to this intimate, accessible vitality of the Risen Christ when he exclaimed to the Galatians: “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.” He recognized with the certainty of faith that the Risen Christ in his very life was the greatest gift to celebrate and live from. This gift is not just what Jesus said and did but who he is - the Word who gives himself to us, and who speaks to our hearts simply by being. This is the Word spoken once into history and now eternally alive. He is the event of faith who gives us an experience of God.

As John of the Cross says in his Spiritual Canticle, the Risen Christ makes even the divine “always new and increasingly amazing.” (Cant.14:8)  The Easter experience is for us to arrive at the tomb of utter loss – the loss of Jesus, of God, of Life and Light and Love and Truth and sometimes ourselves and discover that this tomb is mysteriously empty of the deepest emptiness, of the most insuperable inaccessibility, empty of death itself. 

Ultimately, the Easter experience is to experience in our exhaustion, in our powerlessness, in our failure, that it is Christ who comes to us, the Risen One who lives and comes and finds us, enabling us to seek and find him.  This is what Peter with the other disciples experienced when the Risen Lord suddenly came to them behind locked doors in the upper room.  As we anticipate life beyond the empty tomb and our own locked doors, let us believe with deep confidence the Psalmist’s promise: “He himself will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in his presence, at his right hand happiness forever.” (Ps. 15:11)

Detail of The Resurrected Christ by Bergognone. Meditation by Father Dominic.