Monday, August 22, 2016

Mercy in the Church

God is the great gatherer – whatever our backgrounds, whatever our talents, whatever our weaknesses, whatever separates us and scatters us, whether it be our own fault or the fault of others, God wants to gather us together to experience his overwhelming goodness, tenderness, and fidelity, in other words, his mercy.

In yesterday’s Gospel Jesus utters a warning: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” Jesus’ warnings have a purpose: they are meant to keep us from hardening our hearts. Hardness of heart is the one thing that can block mercy, because it refuses mercy to others. Jesus uses the sharp edge of mercy; he speaks the truth in love– to gather us back from the dead-end of self-sufficiency and into the company of those who realize their need for mercy.

And it is the Spirit’s task to make the face of mercy present in our midst. In the Church the Word of God punctures our hardened hearts to soften them up; in the Church the Spirit makes a new start possible in the Sacrament of Confession; through the Church the Spirit gathers the most diverse set of human beings imaginable so that he can smooth out our rough edges.

But for those who still may have difficulty finding God’s mercy in the Church, the Spirit brings forth another face– the face of Mary. In her we see what the Church is meant to be and will be. This humble woman entered through the narrow gate of mercy, enduring the trials which are part of being merciful. She is blessed, because she was merciful, first to her son, even to the cross, then to the frightened disciples, and finally to all of us in our every need. She continues the gathering of God’s children, as a merciful mother but also as one who knows and tells us the demands of the cross.
Photo by Br. Brian. Excerpts from Fr. Vincent's homily for the Twenty-first Sunday of the Year.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. 

Which of us, knowing the truth of who we are, feels really comfortable hearing Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world.”? But he has noticed the glimmer of our desire, the flicker of our lovingkindness, the incipience of our compassion; and he assures us, it is enough, we are enough, enough to light the way for him, for God’s people; for he will make the flickering into a blaze of light.

Where does Christ’s light come from? For Saint Bernard it is clear. The light shines out most all from Jesus’ wounds. The light is his mercy, his compassion expressed perfectly through his passion. This is what he says, “The man who said: 'My sin is too great to deserve pardon,' was wrong. As for me, I take whatever I lack from the heart of the Lord which overflows with mercy. They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds, I can suck honey from the rock. I can taste and see that the Lord is good. The lance pierced his soul and his heart, so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weaknesses. Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of his love and mercy. Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy.”*

The light we are called to be is always reflected, refracted light from the wounded, mercy-filled Christ Jesus whose open heart and wounds blaze with light of his compassion. We are called, invited more and more into a becoming that is cooperative. It’s not about us. We have only to be transparent, reflective, compassionately vulnerable, then we will be light in him.

* Saint Bernard, On the Song of Songs6i.



15the words of today’s Gospel are part of the Sermon on the Mount, and they come right after the Beatitudes. These are words spoken to the anawim of Galilee, those lowly and insignificant who look to God for everything. These are the ones who follow Jesus around, and hang on his words. They have experienced that life isn’t fair; they don’t expect their rights to be respected. They have nothing; and they are nothing. These live on the fringes of power and prestige. The world pays no attention to them, because they can’t be exploited for anything.[1] Their one advantage- they desperately know their need for God. Is this who we are, who we are meant to be?
Which of us, knowing the truth of who we are, feels really comfortable hearing Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world.”? I want to respond, “Excuse me, my Lord, you’ve got the wrong party. Try a couple of cells down the hall. I’m not light; it is you who are my light. I’m a mess; it’s pretty dark in here.” But Jesus insists, “Yes, you are light.” He has noticed the glimmer of our desire, the flicker of our lovingkindness, the incipience of our compassion; and he assures us, it is enough, we are enough, enough to light the way for him, for God’s people; for he will make the flickering into a blaze of light.
Where does Christ’s light come from? For Bernard it is clear. The light shines out most all from Jesus’ wounds. The light is his mercy, his compassion expressed perfectly through his passion. This is what he says, “The man who said: “My sin is too great to deserve pardon,” was wrong…As for me, I take whatever I lack from the heart of the Lord which overflows with mercy…They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds, I can suck honey from the rock…I can taste and see that the Lord is good…The lance pierced his soul and…his heart, so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weaknesses. Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of his love…and mercy. Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy.”[2]
The burden is on God; for the light we are called to be is always reflected, refracted light from the wounded, mercy-filled Christ Jesus whose open heart and wounds blaze with light of his compassion. We are called, invited more and more into a becoming that is cooperative. It’s not about us. We have only to be transparent, reflective, compassionately vulnerable, then we will be light in him.




[1] Dennis Justison.
[2] Saint Bernard, On the Song of Songs, 6i.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Good Things

O God, who have prepared for those who love you
good things which no eye can see,
fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,
so that, loving you in all things and above all things,
we may attain your promises,
which surpass every human desire.


We were struck by the beauty of this week's collect for Mass. As we seek to love God in all things and above all things, we rejoice because we find the Lord Jesus in all things we see and experience and yet all we experience only whets our appetite for more of Him. We are reminded of an admonition of Saint Ignatius of Loyola for scholastics:

they should practice the seeking of God's presence in all things, in their conversations, their walks, in all that they see, taste, hear, understand, and in all their actions, since His Divine Majesty is truly in all things by His presence, power, and essence. This kind of meditation, which finds God our Lord in all things, is easier than raising oneself to the consideration of divine truths, which are more abstract and which demand something of an effort, if we are to keep our attention on them. But this method is an excellent exercise to prepare us for great visitations of our Lord, even in prayers that are rather short. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

With Our Lady

When we are tempted to get lost in our little human joys and pleasures, what we celebrate in Mary’s Assumption is like a beacon drawing us onward to the joy of the Kingdom. This is because real joy, the joy that rejoices to the end, is very deep-rooted and will strike root in us as a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work within us. It is infinitely more than our experience of pleasure, comfort, and delights of many kinds.

And so, as we celebrate Mary’s complete and perfect joy today, it is good for us who are still “on the way” to remember that joy is the seed-bed in which all life strikes root—without it, we cannot live. Joy is the mark of being alive and of progressing. The joy that is at the root of our being propels us ever onward. AndrĂ© Louf captured the great role joy plays in our lives when he wrote: “It is joy’s own task to pull us up to a better level of being than we now ‘enjoy.’ Only joy can do this. Joy is always in the process of surpassing its own boundaries. In a sense, our joy always lies a little beyond where we are today. It is a summons, a challenge. It anticipates the joy of further growth in our relationship with God, who alone makes it complete, perfect….”

Mary’s complete joy as she was taken body and soul into heaven is a cause of great hope to us. She is one of us and with us. In her, all God’s promises have been proved trustworthy. Enthroned in glory, she shows us that our hope is real; even now (in the words of the Letter to the Hebrews) it reaches as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” to where Jesus is seated in glory.
   
Reflection by Father Dominic.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Newest Novice

O God, in that unutterable kindness by which you dispose all things sweetly and wisely, you gave us clothing, so that a triple benefit might be ours: we are covered with dignity, kept warm and protected in body and soul. Father, pour forth the blessing of your Holy Spirit upon us this morning and upon these clothes which your son here before us has asked to receive, so that he may serve you faithfully in the Cistercian way of life.

Last Sunday August 7 during Chapter,  our Brother John Bosco was clothed in the novice's habit. We rejoice to have him in community. Generous, hard-working and truly kind, John came to us from South Korea. May the Lord grant him the grace of perseverance.



The novitiate: Observer Michael Rivera, Brother Richard, Brother John Bosco, Novicemaster Father Luke, Submaster Brother Daniel. 

Photographs by Brother Brian.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mercy

His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”   Matthew 18

Forgive us our trespasses, 

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Once again we are invited by the Lord to forgive, as he has forgiven us over and over and over again. God never tires of forgiving us, even though so often our sins and failings are the same each time we confess them. Let us be like God; let us go and do likewise, never tiring of offering the Mercy that is of God.

Photograph b y Brother Brian.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Saint Lawrence

As we celebrate the saints,we may sometimes imagine them smiling a bit sheepishly; their heads lowered. And as we chant in their honor, perhaps they are more than a bit embarrassed by all the hoopla. They point quietly to the wounded Christ. “It’s not about us,” they insist. “It’s all about Jesus, what his tender mercy has accomplished in us.”

The saints, like Saint Lawrence whom we celebrate this morning, ultimately know themselves as mercied sinners, who have been transformed by the love of Christ. 

No wonder then that even as he was being roasted over a slow fire, Lawrence could joke, "Turn me over. I think I'm done on this side." Love made him brave and self-forgetful and even silly.

St Lawrence, Limoges polychrome enamel plaque, late 16th century–early 17th century.