Saturday, June 7, 2014

Fr. Tim Wyciskalla - Mass of Thanksgiving

And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.

Brothers and Sisters, with our celebration today we have come to the end of the Easter season. Perhaps you did not realize that for the past 50 days we have been celebrating the resurrection of Jesus even as the world around us has moved on to Memorial Day, graduations, weddings, ordinations, the Fourth of July, whatever.

Today we celebrate that day when the disciples of the Lord and his mother, once overwhelmed by grief at the crucifixion of their Lord, were empowered by the Spirit of God to boldly proclaim the Truth in his name.

And proclaim it they did. They proclaimed it in words, words expressing those groanings that only could be interpreted as divine. They expressed it in every language, foreshadowing the spread, of the Church’s message to every corner of the earth. They proclaimed it in deeds, sheltering the homeless, comforting the widow, consoling the orphan and of course, in the fullness of time, those apostles proclaimed the Truth of Jesus with their lives. And they did it without compromise wrapped in the reality of blood and ashes. In that reality that we celebrate today, there is a kind of wildness.

There is a wildness in that early Church, that account of the Day of Pentecost, a wildness that can only come from an inebriation in Christ, that fullness of the Spirit that gives us the courage and the conviction that our faith is something were fighting for, worth dying for.

Where is that wildness today? I wonder

I wonder if in our Church today we expect wildness, inebriation, danger?

I wonder if we have not become complacent, attached too much to the numbers, to the financial pictures of Church life, odd assertions of the viability of parishes..

I wonder if that spirit of adventure, that wildness played out on the day of Pentecost has become confined by the niceties to Church life, not too much Spirit please, it’s not polite. Have we become lost in the babble of our own tower building, erecting in our lives barriers to the spirit which transform themselves into barrios of mediocrity and, ultimately, desolation?

Where is the wildness?

I wonder if we have left room of the Spirit in our modern tower building, because I am sure that Spirit of God is as much ours today as it was for those disciples long ago.

The same Spirit that touched the lives of those frightened apostles and made them bold, that same spirit is still available for us today even as we strive to shelter ourselves from the fearsome powers of the world around us, a tower of Babel we have built.

That Spirit is there to comfort us in our weakness and in our vulnerability when we shed our banal facades in the shadow our own rooms and tearfully implore the God of ages to touch our age, to renew us, only to be “enlightened” by the light of day, a day that promises nothing but more of the same.

That Spirit is there to give us courage to face what we have to face, the breakdown of homes, the sickness of families, the desolation of communities, death, addiction, diseases, it is there even when we think we can do something on our own, even when we live into the damnable illusion of self-power, self-aggrandizement, and self-rule.

That Spirit is there for us hidden in the folds of our garments, the garments of industry turned to tyranny, the garment of ambition turned to greed, the winnowing garment of control turned to being controlled by money, power, drugs, sex, whatever it is

That Spirit is incontrovertible

That Spirit is dangerous and wild

And how do we get that Spirit? How do we get that Spirit back? How do we become renewed in our hearts and in our minds, in our families and in our world?

Brothers and sisters it is time to reform.  Because if that Spirit of God is a comfort, it is also a wrecking ball.

Reform our lives to live more purposefully into the deliriousness of the Gospel

Reform our communities to make them places of love, of compassion and of service.

Reform our families to make them true homes of God’s care for lives young and old

Reform our schools to make them true temples of wisdom

Reform our workplaces to create there works of joy

Reform our nation to make it a godly nation rather than a nation of wanton prosperity and delusory freedoms

Reform our world to make it a fit habitation for our children and ourselves.

If we reform in the Spirit of God what can we expect to find?

In that reformation we will find a necessary conduit of the Spirit of God, that Spirit will descend upon us mightily.

Do we expect it or do we wallow in the false comfort of a Spiritless world?

What will this Day of Pentecost be for us? Will it be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit?

Will we learn to speak new tongues or with the same old drivel dribble from our mouths?

Will we be bold or will we shirk the responsibilities of reform?

Will we be brazen or will we be endlessly apologizing for a faith that means nothing more than a place to show up on Sunday when we have nothing better to do?

Each year the Church offers us in the liturgical year a way to check our lives, evaluate our discipleship.

What will it be today?

O my brothers and sisters, look at the news. Hundreds of children’s bones are discovered on the sight of a Catholic orphanage in Ireland. Little girls attempt to murder their classmate at the behest of a video specter. Terrorists steal the lives of hundreds of children in Africa in the name of God and religion. And we continue to fight our internal struggles in the Church with no regard for the mandate of love given by the Spirit of God.

We need examples of love. We need examples of courage. We need examples of those willing to witness with their lives, not so we can admire them but so we can be inspired to act as they do, to make our lives as theirs are.

And today we have an example for us, the example of our new priest, Fr. Tim.

As it was for the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, the advent of a new priest is a time of expectation

What will HE be today and in the years to come?

Fr. Tim what will you be?

Will you be a man of courage and a man of faith who is able to accomplish the complete annihilation of the spirit of this age, a spirit of compromise, a spirit of cowardice, a spirit of degeneracy?

Will you be a man of faith, a man who prays and thus casts down the demons of ease and comfort which threaten with their base simplicity the demands of a God of justice and complicated truth?

Will you be a man who cultivates a love for the Church, not separating yourself from the people you are called to pour out your life in service for, not setting yourself a part in the isolation of your commitment to celibacy, but seeing your celibate life as a freedom, a means of gaining access to the unloved and the unwanted.

Will you

Father, here are some words I spoke to you just  a few weeks ago: I want to repeat them today because on this Day of Pentecost I would like for these words to form a contract of the Spirit between you and these folks that you are called to serve, between you and the God you are called to serve.

Here we go:

Tim, ask God to make you a man of love and compassion:

Ask that of God and you will find in a world of doubt and confusion what is really important. You will find the love of all because you want to love. Love in the name of Jesus, love in the name of His holy Church. Love in the name of the misunderstood Christ. Love in the eyes of the old and the dying seized with mortal anguish at the threshold of the awesomeness of eternity, love in the sparkle of the new parent, love in the forceful embrace of little ones, in the handholding of the housebound, the trembling grasp of the grieving. Love without compromise and without cost. Love the unlovable, the stranger, the unbeliever, the prisoner, the street-person, the defiant one. Love the lukewarm and the mediocre. Dare to love in the face of the world’s gross indifference. Dare to love when all skill for love has been eroded. Be a prophet of love, a priest of love.  Love with all your heart and you will never be lonely, never lacking in friends. His love, as you give it away, will be sufficient for you. Love with the conviction that God alone will turn our sorrows and our sense of being outcast into gladness, into the fullness of joy, so ask Him.

And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.

The threshold is before us today, here and now and strengthened by the power of the God which comes to us in the form of bread and wine, but is the Body and Blood of Christ, strengthened by that power, with the leadership of our new priest, we go forth today to proclaim the Glory of God to a world.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fr. Zach Greenwell - Mass of Thanksgiving

Today we celebrate the solemnity of the ascension here in Prattville. I have to say that I am a bit self-conscious about the homily today for a few reasons. First, being truly back in the South makes me aware that a certain homiletic energy is necessary for any real success. I think I would rather preach in St. Peter’s basilica than in Prattville, because I have confidence that you folks of Prattville know a thing when you see it. Secondly, I was at a conference in Grand Rapids Michigan this week composed of Protestant teachers of homiletics, very nerve-wracking. Finally, this is Father Greenwell’s first time to preside at the liturgy in his hometown, We know how all of that ended up for Jesus. I am prepared for the quick and perhaps necessary escape.

Nevertheless, here we are in Prattville and I am happy to be here. In reflecting on my time in Grand Rapids, I have to admit that I have very little idea about what makes preaching interesting, even less so after talking to the experts. I do know this however, when we read, or hear the Scripture passages for today I wonder, in fact I know, that we are caught in a dilemma, the dilemma of being at a major theological juncture, that is the ascension of Jesus into heaven and nobody really caring.

Jesus went up. Today’s feast reads to the modern mind like a fairy tale. Jesus said some wise things and then he flew away.

It leads us to a couple of questions. The first of which is who is Jesus? Is he merely a nice man who talked about sheep and children, someone who forgave sinners, whatever that might mean, or was he something else, someone else, someone whose presence in our world was not only nice, but needful. And reflection on that issue might lead us to another question

Where is Jesus? If I went back to my Protestant teachers of homiletics we could come up with a very succinct answer: Jesus is in heaven. He remained here for 40 days after his resurrection. He talked to the disciples. He cooked some fish. He was wise and then … up, up and away! And today, according to our sisters and brothers across the divide, there he remains, waiting for the rapture, the second coming, the parousia, or what you will. It doesn’t mean much, but it is safe.
It is safe for us to think about Jesus as somehow removed from our daily discourse. We can refer to him and his teaching but it’s not as though he is standing there looking over our shoulder.

It is safe for us to think of Jesus, just out of sight, just out of earshot of our tired personal dramas, our beleaguered rhetoric.

It is safe to imagine the Son of God entangled in the worn out language of our Church chat, be we Protestants or Catholics, or whatever. It is interesting that I heard a Protestant minister say recently how much he admired Pope Francis because he sounded like a preacher and not a professor.

It is safe to keep Jesus neatly locked in the promise of the parousia so that he doesn’t threaten the nice delineated patterns of life we have set up as idols of worship.

It is safe to keep Jesus in heaven, out of sight and out of mind. Heaven is like a great safe deposit box. You can access it when you need it, but really it’s not needed every day.

And so Jesus is safe, but in being safe, ultimately, not very meaningful.

What would it be like for Prattville if Jesus returned today?

Well, I have news for Prattville. He is returning. He has returned.

On that day so long ago, our Lord did ascend into heaven but the question heard by the apostles remains for us as well. It is our question:

Men of Galilee, why do you stand there looking up into the skies?

The very asking of the question seems to make everything clear. The eschaton, the rapture, the second coming can take care of itself. It WILL take care of itself. The message of Jesus needs to be proclaimed here and now. The question of the mysterious men seems to be this: What do we have here? Even without reference to his future coming. How is Jesus among his people now? Because Jesus is among his people and his Holy Spirit fills both the halls of so-called authority and the beleaguered embarrassments of the human condition.

HE is here in the Church. He is here in the brightness. Here in the joy and He is here in the darkened corners of the human condition. Here in Prattville.

Jesus is among his people and his love fills the lives of those who mourn, those who suffer and his gladness overflows in those who rejoice, those who celebrate in Prattville and around the globe in little places in Korea and Vietnam and Africa

Jesus is among his people in the sudden intake of breath in the new born baby and in the sighs of relief of his exhausted parents in Alabama, throughout the world

Men of Galilee, why do you stand among his people looking into the skies?
For Jesus is among his people in the tragedies of infantile longing and infatuation and in the tyranny of innocence lost, in the dramas of childhood and the anguishes of adolescence. He’s in the triumph and in the trash.

Jesus is among his people even now in the vows exchanged by married couples, in their ups and downs, their heartbreaks and joys, their getting together and their drifting apart

Men of Galilee, why do you stand among his people looking into the skies?

When Jesus is among his people in black eyes and barroom brawls, playground scuffles, in cool cloudless nights and heat oppressed days, in every season, when we need him and when we ought to need him

Jesus is among his people as we jolt our way through the mundane tasks of life, in dead end jobs and hopeless relationships, he fills our days with this presence, his silent presence, his love, his powerful love when we fail, when we drink too much, when we gossip too much, even then.

Jesus is among his people in the power of his word, his mighty word that thunders over the rhetoric and privations of the politics of this town, this country, this world.

It is a word that breaks hearts, that opens our ears to the cries of the needy and shuts the mouths of the proud and the ignorant, the word whose syllables are themselves the awesome dynamism of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Jesus is among his people here in Prattville, in his Word that meets the conceit of men on the battlefields of the human psyche and announces boldly and without compromise a word of peace and reconciliation,

Jesus is among us for all who need him, the threatened, the unborn, the marginalized, the outcast, the despised, the old, the forgotten.

O, Men of Galilee, why do you stand among his people looking into the skies?

Jesus is among his people as we struggle with economic hardship, as we lay awake at night wondering how we will keep our families safe, in the wail of confusion, in lives tainted with the awful tincture of cynicism and doubt

Jesus is among his people as we struggle and as we sin, he holds out his reconciling hand to our lack of courage and our fear

Jesus is among his people as we make our mistakes, make friends, cling to our sons and daughters, work and study and live and work some more

And brothers and sisters, Jesus is among his people in the power of this sacrament, he shows himself in the bread and wine, his presence is known to us in simple things, his majesty is cloaked in the disguise of compromise, his greatness in the form of food which he offers to us, his body and blood offered for us. How more among his people can Jesus be than in our flesh, in our blood, in our bodies, in our souls?

Jesus is among his people in the Church, the apostles and preachers and evangelists the teachers. And He is among us in our priest, our new priest. Fr. Greenwell.

What are we to make of this new priest? He is a man called by God, not for convention, but to change the world. Father, you are called, not to serve meekly in the context of this local Church, but by your preaching, by your celebration of the sacraments, by your bold witness, you are called to change the world, to change this country, to change this archdiocese, to be a prophet from Prattville.

Now, father, do for us what you have been called to do. Do it boldly and without compromise for I know that the Spirit is within you. Give Christ to an expectant people, a waiting people, a people who even here, even now are called to the Glory of a Kingdom of peace in this sacrifice which we now accept from your hands. It is a sacrifice that gives meaning to our past, gives joy to the here and now and configures the future into the bright promise of beatitude here, today, in Prattville.

On that day long ago Jesus ascended into heaven. And now he is here among us. Blessed are we who are called to this altar, to this celebration of the Mass, to this supper of the Lamb.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Fr. Juan Guido - Mass of Thanksgiving

I am very happy to be here today to celebrate with our newly ordained priest what will be one of many masses of thanksgiving. This is the first however, and so, quite special.

I have been giving a great deal of thought to what I wanted to say today, it being such an auspicious occasion.

I certainly took a hard look at the reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the establishment in Sacred Scripture of the Order of Deacon and I thought to myself, that’s a bit too late. We have priesthood this weekend.

I looked carefully at the Gospel: There we find Jesus’ great commission to the apostles

I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.


Great Christological Implications but, maybe not, perhaps too much and then I turned to the reading from the First Letter of Peter and the immortal quotation from the prophet:

“Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion,
a cornerstone, chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame
.”

We know of course that the cornerstone is Christ, we know it well. But I would say that it also applies to his priest, to the man who was ordained for the priesthood and who celebrates this Mass for us today:

Today, by his presence here, Fr. Juan asks an important question of us:

What has God prepared for us? What do we experience of the revelation of God in the world?

Is that not the proclamation of Jesus in the Gospel?

Is that stone in Zion not the altar upon which Fr. Juan offers the Holy Sacrifice today?

Can’t we hear the invitation of our Lord today?

Come to this altar, for this altar is the throne of God, upon which Fr. Juan celebrates this mass of thanksgiving.

This altar is the habitat of humanity

This altar is the place where our cares and burdens are offered up and our souls refreshed and cleansed in the one sacrifice of the cross, that sacrament that keeps the world from flying apart.

This altar is the place where we unite our hearts with the sacrifice of Jesus and by the pure grace of God we become what we eat and thus unite ourselves to that heavenly reality of myriads of angels and archangels who approach with impunity the Living Light of Heaven.

This altar is the place where countless saints in festal array gather, although we look more like folk in our Sunday best. Our halos are hidden but at this altar we soar, we mount those heights of Zion upon which our forebears feared to tread.

At this altar we hear the voice of Jesus, his call: I am the way, the truth and the life

So on angelic wing we boldly approach, with fear of God and faith we approach, not to consume the bread that cannot satisfy, the mere panacea of divine food, but the living God, he who said to his disciples on the Mount Zion of the upper room in days long gone, this is my body, this my blood.

My friends, in the context of this sacrifice we are even now moving up to a higher position.

And our priest, Fr. Juan is leading us there.

Here brothers and sisters we find ourselves in the assembly of the just made perfect. Not that we are perfect, far from it. But here we are in the company of the perfect, the Church militant entertains the Church suffering and the Church triumphant in a great cacophony of hospitality that is the paradox of the first becoming last and the last first.

And it is a paradox, for here at this altar we find Jesus, the living God who died upon the cross for us.

Here is Jesus, the same Jesus whose hands stretched out to save, to heal, to offer comfort to the hordes of humanity sinking in their sin. His hands outstretched on the tree to save the ones who ancient parents stretched out their hands to the serpent. And with those nail torn hands he beckons us: I am the way and the truth and the life. There is no other

Here is Jesus, the same Jesus, who though tried by the folly of human courts in the sham representation of human justice, now stands as the mediator of a new covenant, not forged on the anvil of human logic, but intermixed and intermingled, intertwined in the hot blood of the lamb flowing down from the altar of heaven over the littered landscape of the human condition. On that river of blood we rise and go up higher as he is the way and the truth and the life

Here on this altar is Jesus, the same Jesus from whose pierced feet trampled out the vineyards, the grapes of wrath, the wrath of the human condition, healing the sick, freeing the captive and raising a fallen world to new life and cries out to us, we who stand shamefaced in our own corruption to come up higher, to be greater, not on the merits we possess but by his gift, his grace. For he is the way the truth and the life

Here at this altar on this altar is Jesus, the same Jesus who rose from the dead and seated at the Father’s right hand will come to judge all the fallen hordes of humanity and in that dread judgment we pray that He will speak words to us of invitation, I am the way.

God is willing to give us so much, so very much

And yet these very reflections on the nature of this place, this sacrifice, this priest, ask us a more profound question: What am I willing to accept from God?

And what are we to understand?

That we must have a receptive spirit to receive what God has in store for us?

Indeed, as we know, we are the called and yet this open, this receptive spirit can so easily become entangled with the debris of worldly engagement.

We choke the Word so generously bestowed on us with thickets and brambles of our own fashioning

The brambles of personality, I am not fit for this discipleship, I am not suited for that

The thickets of our past, my life has been so .. it doesn’t matter, any excuse will do

The thorns of our present sinfulness, becoming self-fulfilling prophets of our own downfalls

The nets of technology and the trappings of progress

I can hardly expect to gaze unreservedly at the face of the expectant Christ when my neck is forever bent beneath the yoke of screens, pads, pods, phones. Heaven isn’t to be found in cyberspace but in the ever decreasing space between me and my brother in need, me and my sister in crisis. I think our new priest knows that.

I am the way. I have established a stone in Zion, not that rejected by the builders, not a stumbling block

Jesus reminds us that our lives must open up to receive this precious invitation. Our lives must themselves be inviting, forming that essential bridge between ourselves and our neighbors. The soil of our existence must be fertilized by the careful cultivation of what is true, good and beautiful and resist the temptation to become the mere dirt of a transient cultural wasteland and false understandings of the human person.

Are we open?
Are we willing?
Are we anxious to receive the fullness of His grace, his way, his truth, his life?
Or do we hesitate, holding back, forever giving in to the lie that all of this can happen without loss, without sacrifice, without the pinch of the negation of false selves?

Fr. Juan are you ready? Are you open? Are you willing” Will you help us to understand?

And what are we understand?
Are we to understand that we are the way, truth life, that you Fr. Juan are way, truth, life because you bring God to us?

That our lives are to be lived out in perpetual abandonment of our own projects for the sake of proclaiming the Kingdom, that same Kingdom of which we are both representative and recipient?

That Kingdom which proclaims peace in a world in which the din of war seems insatiable

That Kingdom which announces Truth in a time in which lies and half-lies permeate our collective consciousness

That Kingdom that teaches Love in a culture of Hate, life in a culture of death, liberty in a culture of false ideas of freedom and choice

That Kingdom that is bound up in the person of the savior, the man of Galilee who was the eternal God, that kenotic King whose Kingdom was our slavery to sin, whose ransom was not his own, whose saving action was always on behalf of the unworthy others.

That Kingdom that reaches out to us in the appearance of Bread and Wine, even as we stretch out hands to unworthy pursuits and idolatries

And yet it is that Kingdom that the King of Times and Universes has placed in our hands, within our care, in our sphere of influence

But our lives brothers and sisters can become so entangled. How will we regard that gift?

Fr. Juan, some words for you

Each of us is called to one thing:
The salvation of souls but you must lead us there

Brothers and sisters we are placed in this world for one purpose, to assure that the way, the truth and the life is not in vain and that the message is proclaimed, fully, totally, unreservedly in our lives.

Fr. Juan, remember this:

You have but one vocation, saving souls for God and everything else is nothing but straw and dross.

Nothing can separate you from this zeal for souls if you are to be authentic to who you are and why you are here:

So that it may never be said of you:
“I am laying a stumbling block in Zion”
Look and see now the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
Listen to his voice crying out to us today from the sacrifice of this altar
We are called
We caught up forever, irrevocably in the wonder of his Grace

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Monday Homily

And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.

It was clever wasn’t it? The story, I mean. It preyed upon a natural incredulity, a kind of desire not to believe the story of the resurrection. After all, how can a person be raised from the dead?

Tonight, we gather back here at Saint Meinrad. At this time of year I always remember my old pastor. He once remarked at the close of the Easter Sunday festivities: Jesus is risen, but we are half dead. True enough. In the past days we have worked, we have lauded and crooned. We have moved stuff around. We have practiced with the servers. We have tried to keep the incense from burning down the church and the candle from falling over.

Jesus is risen, but what about us? Perhaps not so much. That story of the Jews in Saint Matthew’s Gospel might just play upon our own lack of belief, a lack focused today on well, just being plainly worn out by the resurrection.  Before we give up though, let’s go back.

I wonder what it was like for those others, those characters in the Gospel?

What must it have been like for the disciples? They were so tired from the road, so exhilarated by the stories of Jesus, by his miracles. They were caught up in the fever of last week, of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. They were filled with joy at the Seder meal, the reception of his body and blood. And then, Judas and the garden, the mob, the crowds, Pilate himself. They ran. The disciples ran. The brave disciples who said: Lord we will follow you anywhere, cowered in the shadows, denied the accusations of a slave girl, brave Peter. The disciples of Jesus didn’t believe. They didn’t hold out. Their courage failed them. And this story has circulated among us to the present day. The disciples failed.

What must it have been like?

What must if have been like for the women? They had followed Jesus, they had risked more than the disciples. Nets and counting houses could be regained, but reputations could not, families could not. And yet they followed him, the served him, they laughed and cried with him, they went all the way with him, all the way, to the cross, to the grave. And in their loss they went that morning to the tomb, expecting one thing but finding another, finding that it had all been true. On that day, the strength of men failed but the faithfulness of women endured. And this story has circulated among us to the present day. The women endured.

What must it have been like?

What must it have been like for the soldiers? Perhaps they were cynical. Watch over a tomb? Really? And who in the hell could roll away this stone? Who in the hell, especially among these superstitious Jews would steal a dead body? Who in the hell would put up with the mess and bother? Who in hell indeed but one who had gone down to hell and ransomed those captives held fast by the hell of their own fantasies? The soldiers were afraid but they would be protected, protected by the very incredulity of the thing. And this story has circulated to the present day.

What must it have been like?

What must it have been like for the bystanders, the onlookers, the hangers around? The disciples were gone, the women endured, the soldiers were afraid and the bystanders, well, they stood by. They watched, they gawked, they cried out now and then, but they also must have wondered. They were caught up in the spectacle but they must have asked themselves: Could it all be true? Could these days through which we have lived have changed the world? Could it all really have happened? And this story has circulated to the present day. The bystanders, the onlookers looked on and wondered.

Disciples, women, soldiers, bystanders … Who are we?

The miracle of the resurrection, the possibility of the miracle of the resurrection renews us, even in our fatigue in this Eastertide. We may be tired but frankly brothers and sisters it is only the miracle and our complete belief in this miracle that raises our lives from the lowliness of destitution to the heights of meaning.

The miracle of the resurrection, the very possibility of that miracle raises us up.

It raises us up from our weariness and calls us into the joy of Easter, a joy unprecedented

It raises us up from our doubt and summons us into the confidence of God’s own sons and daughters

It raises us up from our cynicism and brings us into the pied beauty of a world of generosity and kindness

It raises us up from our fear and draws us into the braveness, the brazenness of those who walk with God

It raises us up from our past and shows us a bright future, filled with dreams made real

It raises us up from our hopelessness

The miracle of the resurrection is a promise and THIS story has circulated also to the present day.

This story is still alive. This story could not be contained. This story, this story of hope is our story. It has filled our lives, our dreams, our expecations until we are changed, transformed, as surely as those who went down into the waters of baptism over the weekend were changed.  Brothers and sisters we are called, called to a life that not only gives meaning to our dull existences but has the potential, the potential in our hands to change the world.

But lest we think that the miracle of the resurrection is nothing but sugared confection, nothing but pastel colored children engaging in an egg hunt beneath the budding trees of spring.

Let us recall the words of a great preacher who reminded his flock this past Saturday evening this important truth:

Resurrection is dangerous business.  How true these words are, and how we must drink them in if we are to be authentic to the promise of Easter.

The resurrection threatens our complacency, our sense of control and we love control. It threatens our ability to know, to lie to ourselves in knowing. It pops out at us with the suddenness of jonquils springing from the earth. It surprises us

But it gives us promise, the promise that there is one greater than ourselves and HE IS IN CONTROL.

Resurrection is dangerous business because …

The resurrection convicts our hollow confidence.

But itgive us strong confidence in the primacy of God’s word, God’s love, God’s presence

The resurrection enforces in us the desire for renewal and transformation

But it also gives us the spirit of renewal, a spirit that in the doubts of war, in the pain of domestic strife, in the harshness of our own damnable, withering judgment, it gives us hope that ---

Like Jesus, we can rise again to new life. It will cost us something, but we can rise again.

Listen again to the words of our first reading:

This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.

And now, impossible for us. What shall we do? Where shall we go from here?

The tomb is empty and its promise is yet to be fulfilled. We are the actors. We are the disciples, we are the women, we are the soldiers we are the bystanders. Brothers and sisters, that story has circulated to the present day and it rests now on us.

The Lord is risen. He is truly risen. And the song of his people is Alleluia.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Feast of Saint Benedict

Today we celebrate the transitus of our Holy Father, Saint Benedict. It would seem like a very straightforward historical feast, the passing away of the Father of Western Monasticism, the patron saint of Europe. It would seem like a very historically minded feast. It would seem.

But those of us who are more “in the know” know that it is not so. Discovering the historical remnant of this feast, indeed locating the physical relics of Saint Benedict is like a rather perverse game of “Where’s Waldo?” Is he at Monte Cassino or at Fleury? Is his arm, his hand here or there? And where is Walda? St. Scholastica? They are pressing questions, but ..

Perhaps that is not very important. Perhaps it is more important on this transitus feast to discover where Saint Benedict is right here, right now alive as he must be in this community, in this school of the Lord’s service, in the hearts and minds of his sons and daughters, laboring around the world under the guidance of his rule and in his honored memory. Where is Saint Benedict for us today?

And for that, perhaps we ought to turn to the Gospel.

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven. It is a passage with which I have been rather fascinated since I was a young child. First, I did not understand what the eye of a needle meant. Later I learned in Sunday School that in Biblical times, the eye of a needle referred to a small opening in the wall in Jerusalem. In some ways that helped my mental gymnastics and keep me from struggling to see how a camel could ever go through an actual needle, but then, I began to wonder how you might get a camel through a small hole in the wall. Would you pull it or push it? I have this image you see of a man pushing the back end of a camel and trying to get him through the little opening. And perhaps that is a good image of discipleship, laboring as poor camel drivers do under the continual threat of, well, you know what. Or pulling mightily on a stubborn object that no matter how hard we try, the thing just will not budge.

Discipleship is hard for us

It is hard for us if we are monks, struggling, praying to remain holy, remain stable, remain good, simply good in the face of many years of challenges and hardships, hardships usually bestowed on us by our confreres, let’s be honest even though the children are here. Sartre was right, absolutely right, hell is one another. But so is heaven. Monastic discipleship is hard.

But discipleship is also hard for us who are students, laboring as we do daily under the yoke of a completely irrational and demanding staff and faculty. Sometimes I am sure our students feel like those poor camels, or perhaps like those others in the Gospel who have to give up so much, fathers and mothers, lives and jobs to accept the hard yoke of formation under the stern taskmasters to whom they have been consigned.

Discipleship is hard

It is hard for us as oblates seeking desperately for some order in our lives, trying to follow a rule that was not necessarily meant for us, but one which is so powerfully attractive that we cannot help but be attracted by it. We strive in our prayers, strive to follow the rule, strive for perfection in a world that seems bent upon offering us no assistance whatsoever.

Discipleship is hard.

It is hard for us as Christian men and women, seeking to keep the reality of Jesus daily before our eyes when we are so lost, so confused by the thousands of conflicting signs that vie for our attention, seek our allegiances in a world in which the encroaching tentacles of secularism and secularity invade even the pristine halls of the cloister, the seminary inner sanctum or the domus ecclesia of oblation.

There can be no question that discipleship is hard. It is hard.

And yet, not impossible. God does not ask of us the impossible, even in following the Rule of Saint Benedict. Jesus does not ask the impossible of us in following the often allusive track of vocation. Jesus does not ask the impossible of us in our daily discipleship, our perpetual working out of salvation in the midst of the chaos of jobs and family life.

Today brothers and sisters we gather as members of communities, communities that more or less labor daily in the shadow of the spirit of Saint Benedict, as monks, as students, as oblates.

It is the spirit of Saint Benedict, non transitus, not going anywhere but enlightening and giving meaning to our way, his way.

We walk his way and what is that way?

I would say it is the way of small things, intimate gestures and signs that might get lost without the overshadowing of the trained and discerning eye. Small things, smiles and sighs that penetrate the silence of human isolation, for me that is Saint Benedict’s way

I would also say that it is the way of prayer, prayer that comes in listening, true listening to the Word of God, true listening to the groaning of the human condition which arrays itself around us.  True listening for those intimate words spoken to us in times of doubt and need, I love you. To me that is Saint Benedict’s way. And …

I would say it is the way of service, service in the minute, in the hopelessly mundane kerfuffle of everyday life. Service that hurts not so much because it is hard but because we must do it without fanfare and without hope of affirmation. Monks don’t give affirmation too readily, but then again, neither do teenage children and grandchildren. Service without fanfare, to me that is Saint Benedict’s way.And …

I would say it is the way of wisdom distilled from the daily, the way we eat, the way we sleep, the way we recreate as true followers of Christ. IT is devotion to life, not understood as the vague abstract of the vows or promises, but understood as something that is intimate and profound.

Something of that is revealed for us in the reading today from the Acts of the Apostles.

How do we move to that fellowship of believers spoken of so eloquently in the Acts of the Apostles

They devoted themselves to teaching

Are we committed in our place in life to continually listen for the syllables of the Word of God pressing upon us or are we only interested in studying the tomes of our own ideas, our unique personalities?

They devoted themselves to fellowship

Are we committed to finding fraternity with one another or are we just interested in how all of this involves me?

They devoted themselves to prayer

Are we immersed in the life of God through our participation in the Opus Dei or are we just critical of the prayer, the singing, the recitation, the reading, the presiding?

They devoted themselves to the breaking of the bread together in one place.

All of them were together in one place, as are we. Together in one place under the watchful eye of Saint Benedict, the patriarch, the legislator.

Wherever his bones may be, or wherever our bones may be.

Let’s see checklist ...

Gospel

Epistle

We might as well throw in Proverbs

For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and preserving the way of his saints

Please God, may the way of St. Benedict and all the saints be our way, our only way today and every day.