Friday, July 25, 2014

Hope

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 
2 Cor. 4

Paul's words from today's first reading tell us what it is like to live always in hope. Simply falling backwards into Christ’s compassionate embrace in our desperation is always disconcerting but an exquisite refuge and relief. This is because, as Paul tells us elsewhere, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Christ Jesus will never forsake us. And our dyings, daily defeats, disappointments and near despair are endless opportunities to trust and rely on Him, "so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." Each of us then becomes a finely detailed icon of the crucified and risen Jesus. Surrendering in hope to the contradictions that our lives present day by day, moment by moment, we can say with Paul, "I live now not I, but Christ lives in me."

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Magdalen

We love Mary Magdalen because of the way in which the boldness of her love for Jesus made her stare death down beyond all human logic or hope.  For her there is no question that the Messiah of Israel, sent to redeem all humankind, and the Beloved of her most intimate heart are one and the same person.  She perseveres in weeping at the entrance to the tomb because she perseveres in her love: the presence and actions of Jesus in her own life had taught her that love is indeed stronger than death.  Against all odds and logic, in a sort of sublime madness, she clings to her Jesus dead or alive; and she does not reason about a her relative physical strength when she says ironically to the man she thought was the gardener, “Tell me where you laid him, and I will take him away.” Because she loves Jesus so much, she is prepared to carry his body away single-handed.

Such passionate intensity surely was born from her gratitude at having had no less than seven demons driven out of her by Jesus.  As one transformed by the healing power of Jesus’ love, she becomes “the apostle to the Apostles,” since more than any of them she can easily believe in Christ’s Resurrection. For all time St. Mary Magdalen stands as the foremost embodiment of the soul thirsting for God, the soul passionately seeking God.  And in the end she does find him.  “He whom her heart loves” is also the Beloved of the Father who had first come seeking her.  Mary could find him because he first chose, in utter love, to put himself within her reach.

Reflection by Father Simeon.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Weeds

In this morning's homily Father Robert spoke of the interior garden of our thoughts and desires. The good seeds point to those loving, selfless desires planted in our hearts by the divine sower. They grow in the moist soil of our hearts and ripen into good and holy choices to be loving and selfless. It is then that we experience the Kingdom planted within us. 

Selfish thoughts are those weeds sown in our hearts by the evil spirit and need not worry us, for God the divine gardener will take good care of us. We are not our thoughts or temptations, we are known by our choices. We must be humble enough to live with the real admission of the existence within us of competing thoughts and real temptations. We let the weeds grow with the wheat. Faced with the reality of our poverty, in silence and simple faith we rely on God's unlimited and unconditional love. 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Clouds

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
And the firmament declares the work of his handsPsalm 19

The majesty of storm clouds reminds us of God's ways, which are "higher than the earth," so beyond our imagining. God is generous and loving to all, forgiving us over and over again. While I might often want to clutch a grudge, coddle an old hurt or cling to my sense of guilt, God's desire for me is much different. Clouds can teach us many things.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Childlike



At that time Jesus exclaimed: 
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

This morning Jesus invites us to view things from below with the “childlike” in a very low place called the kingdom. Accustomed as they are to their own fragility, the childlike are well aware of their need for protection, sustenance and nurture.  Jesus invites us back to this place of immense littleness, where with wonder and deep reverence, we will be one with him and so truly children of the Father, learning over and over how to reverence each other, reverence the earth as home and indeed all creation as kindred. 
Photograph of Virgin and Child in the Abbey library by Virgiinia Raguin.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Parable of the Sower

A sower casts seed on four kinds of ground: first, on the packed ground of a footpath, then on ground that is full of rocks, then on ground that is thick with thorns, and finally on good fertile ground. Depending on where they land, the seeds are eaten by birds, or spring up quickly and then wither away, or get choked by thorns, while only some of them, perhaps only a fourth, take root in good soil. Hearing all that, it is easy to start worrying about what kind of ground I am on with God—how many birds in my field, how many rocks, and how many thorns. How can I clean them all up, how can I turn myself into a well-tilled, well-weeded, well-fertilized field for the sowing of God’s word? It is easy to start worrying about how the odds are three to one against me—those are the odds in the parable, after all—and begin thinking about how I can improve on them by cleaning up my act.

It has been known for centuries as the parable of the sower, which means that there is a chance that we’ve got it all backwards. We hear the story and think it is a story about us, but what if it is not about us at all, but about the sower? What if it is not about our own successes and failures, and birds and rocks and thorns, but about the extravagance of a sower who does not seem to be fazed by such concerns, who flings seed everywhere, scatters it with holy abandon, who feeds the birds, whistles at the rocks, picks his way through the thorns, delights at patches of good soil—and just keeps on sowing, confident that there is enough seed to go around, that there is plenty, and that when the harvest comes at last it will fill every barn in the neighborhood to the rafters?

If this truly is “the parable of the sower” and not “the parable of the different kinds of ground,” then it begins to sound quite new. The focus is not on us and our shortfalls but on the generosity and strategy of our God—the prolific sower who does not obsess about the condition of the fields, who is not stingy with the seed but who casts it everywhere, on good soil and bad, who is not cautious or judgmental or even very practical, but who seems willing to keep reaching into his seed bag for all eternity, covering the whole creation with the fertile seed of his truth.

Of course, we would not do it that way. If we were in charge, we would devise a more efficient operation, a neater, cleaner, more productive one that did not waste seed on birds and rocks and thorns, but concentrated only on the good soil and what we could make it do. But Jesus seems to be suggesting that there is another way to go about things, a way that is less concerned with productivity than with plentitude—a sign of his Father’s mercy, of his holding nothing back for our good, for everyone’s good. The seed is the Word of God, and this surprisingly is how the divine Sower acts.

Vincent van Gogh, The Sower, (after Millet),  1881, pencilinkwatercolor, Rijksmuseum, Netherlands. Reflection by Father Dominic. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Little Ones

In the verses that precede today’s Gospel from Matthew, Jesus has pronounced woes on the cities where he has performed miracles, deeply disturbed, perhaps even saddened that so many have not been open to the breakthrough of the Father’s compassion revealed in his mighty deeds. They missed it all. Apparently God in Christ wasn’t big enough to meet their expectations.
But in this morning’s passage there is a lightness in Jesus’ heart, as he exclaims, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” These little ones are ne’pios, in Greek- infants, helpless little children. Jesus rejoices because they cannot depend on their own wisdom, sophistication or intelligence but know only how to love and depend on their Father.
To them the Father reveals- literally uncovers- the hidden mysteries of the kingdom. Their loving, indeed their need for love transforms them; their burdens are light, born out of love. Jesus is first among these little ones of the Father; he is the Littlest One, for he has emptied himself and taken the lowest place; his only food to do what the Father desires.
Jesus invites us back to a place of immense littleness, where with wonder and deep reverence, we will be one with him and so truly children of the Father. Perhaps he is even inviting us back to what we might call the anguish of littleness. Not to put us down, but because he knows the immense freedom that is hiding there beneath our frustrations and defeats and surrender. He points to a treasure hidden in that low place where we can only depend on God our Father to provide for us. He knows, because this is how he lived and died and rose. A treasure is there because God understands; God is waiting to meet us down there in a low place, welcoming our need of him.
During this coming week the community will be on our annual retreat. We promise our prayer for those who follow our blog. Please pray for us.
Photograph of the north road by Brother Brian.