Friday, January 19, 2018

Friendship

Scholars will remind us that in John’s Gospel, friendship is the ultimate description of what it means to be a disciple and the model he proposes for our relationships with each other.” “I no longer call you servants,” Jesus will say to his disciples, “rather now I call you friends, for I have made known to you everything, everything that I have heard from my Father.” Everything the Father has and is belongs to Jesus. And he tells us that he wants to give it all to us; this everything of God’s love for us. All he asks is that we stay, remain in his love; remain in him and allow his words to remain in us, to become the essence of who we are and how we act. Staying with him, we will take on his mind and learn how to love again. True friendship takes time. Just remaining is so essential, just to stay, in order to grow in confidence and familiarity with the mystery of who Jesus is. Staying with him we can begin to normalize the mystery of who Jesus is - totally Other and always totally ordinary.

Ultimately it is in and through the wounded and risen Christ that this friendship becomes real, for here we see and understand the depth of his desire to share everything with us. This everything of the Father’s love for us is unambiguously expressed in the self-offering of Jesus on the cross, there in his disfigured humanity. It is there best of all, in this transparency of God’s self-forgetful love, that God reveals his friendship - his deep, committed relationship with us. For only true friendship could compel a person to lay down his life for his friend. The laying down of one’s life then is an act of true love for one who is my “other self.” As disciples, we have become Jesus’ other selves. True friendship with God is ours, because, in the wounded Christ, God opens his heart to us, longing for our friendship.

Now as friends, we can marvelously exchange our everything with God’s everything - our need with the fullness of his loving mercy. Our friendship with God in Christ through the Spirit is ultimately fulfilled in our promise to love one another as we have been loved and to create households and communities of friends, where we try to love as God loves.
Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

His Mirth

Our Lord is full of mirth and gladness because of our prayer.
We came upon these words of Julian of Norwich and were reminded that Christ Jesus is of course always attentive to our prayer, never too busy for us. And even as our desire to praise and honor him is itself his gift, as he always makes the first move in our direction, he nonetheless rejoices in our response to his gracious invitation. 
Let us bless the Lord. And give him thanks.

Photograph of the abbey scriptorium window at sunrise by Brother Brian.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Friendship with Jesus

In this morning’s gospel, John the Baptist watches Jesus as he walks along and points him out as the promised One, the Lamb of God. Hearing this, two of John’s disciples decide to leave him and follow Jesus. Jesus senses their footsteps behind him; he turns and gazes upon them, "What are you seeking?" he says. "Teacher,” they say. “Where are you staying?" Jesus invites them, "Come, and see." A relationship has begun.

The scene takes place in Capernaum; some scholars believe Jesus had a little house there. Capernaum was after all Jesus' home base during his ministry in Galilee, and the Gospel of Mark will call it "his own town" and say that Jesus was "at home" when people came to see him there.1 And so these two go home with Jesus; now right beside him not behind him. And they see where Jesus is staying, and they stay with him that day. It is, the Gospel tells us, about four in the afternoon; an hour they will always remember.

What did they do at Jesus’ house? What did they talk about? Perhaps the typical questions – “You two are from around here right? Fishermen? I think I’ve seen you out there. The weather’s been decent for fishing, hasn’t it?” “Yes; and Rabbi where are you from?” “Nazareth, really?” (They glance at each with a bit of surprise; it’s kind of a nowhere place after all.) And then most probably there’s a meal. Maybe Jesus cooked; he was good at cooking fish. And maybe there was some warm bread from the woman next door. Some olives? I don’t know. But I’d bet anything that Jesus waited on them; their new rabbi serving them at table. It would have been unheard of at the time for a rabbi to do such a thing, but we can intuit that most likely Jesus would do something that. As he will remind the disciples later on, “I am among you as one who serves…I have come not to be served but to serve.”2

In the religious world of ancient Judaism a disciple always chose a teacher and followed him – a disciple followed, keeping a respectful distance behind his teacher, always listening and soon serving and caring for all his rabbi’s needs. With Jesus, it is all reversed; it’s all about his invitation. The disciples’ decision to follow Jesus and leave everything else behind is crucial of course, but it is Jesus who calls them to himself - not behind him but beside him. Jesus’ way to form new disciples is to make them his friends. And this morning we imagine his heart full of joy, for he has found friends with whom he can share his dream of God’s kingdom.

And so it is that these two new disciples stay with Jesus that day; they remain. It’s a compellingly beautiful word used often in John’s Gospel; in Greek, the word is meno - with so many connotations of intimacy, at-homeness, stability, and commitment. It’s what we say to those we love – stay, please don’t go yet. It’s what Jesus wants; he wants to remain with us. God in Christ has come down seeking our friendship - he wants companions as he creates the Kingdom. In John’s Gospel friendship is the ultimate description of what it means to be a disciple.

The Savior, (detail), El Greco (and workshop), 1608-1614, oil on canvas, 72 cm x 55 cm, The Prado, Madrid. 1 James Martin on Facebook. 2 See Gerhard Lohfink, Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 72– 76.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

With Mary on Saturday

Mary offers us a new motherhood in a new superabundant fruitfulness in which she exercises her maternal care for the community as a whole and for each of its members. Mary’s fruitfulness is to make others fruitful in the Son. As spiritual mother, everywhere a person approaches her Son, everywhere a person is really seeking – whether faith, conversion, or vocation, she smooths the path. Because she has gone with the Son on all his paths, she knows all the paths that lead to him.

As we begin this new year, we commit ourselves to taking advantage of this maternal care, offered us by God who prepared Mary from all eternity to be his mother and then prepared her to be our mother, that her care and solicitude may shape our lives and lead us to her Son, who comes to us now to be consumed as bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist.

In his goodness, God not only did the incomprehensible by choosing one of our race to be his mother, but he has given her to be our mother also. Someone who knows, loves and assists us in our life with God with her maternal care and concern. Someone who knows God’s Son with an unmatched depth and intimacy and whose deepest wish is to lead us to him, accompanied by the Virgin Mother, let us renew our commitment to serve the Lord with a generous and pure heart.

Medieval statue of the Virgin and Child in a gallery at the Cloisters Museum, NY, sent to us by a friend. Excerpts from Father Timothy's Homily for New Year's Day.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Remembering Saint Aelred of Rievaulx

A God who is love would be inconceivable without the reality of the incompleteness that is love, the inner voice, the deep desire that says, “I cannot be me without you. And you cannot be you without me.”* This is the truth of who God is, A God who is Trinity, a God who is relationship, a God whom Saint Aelred names as friendship. In their mutual exchange, deferring to each other in love, Father, Son and Spirit utter these words endlessly to one another and to each of us.

Saint Aelred as pictured in the initial of an ancient Cistercian manuscript. *see Jeremy Driscoll, OSB. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Greatest Gift

The Christmas season ended officially yesterday with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We share here thoughts from Abbot Damian's homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany. He invited us to reflect on all the characters and scenes that were part of the Christmas story.  

Throughout Advent, Isaiah offered his prophecy and vision of endless peace.
The angels offered their songs of praise and message of good news.
The shepherds offered their wonder and curiosity, as well as their status as homeless field workers and outcasts.
The heavens offered a star, a guiding light.
The inn offered a closed door: no openness, no welcome, and no vacancy.
The earth offered a manger and a feed trough.
Mary offered her “yes”, her “Let it be with me according to your word”. She offered her pondering and treasuring.
Joseph offered his presence and his guardianship and protection; along with a home and security, as well as his silence and listening trust.
King Herod offered his fear, anger, and violence.
The parents of the slaughtered innocents offered their grief and sorrow, their brokenness and unfulfilled futures.
The Magi, along with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they offered their searching, longing, and desire for something beyond and greater than themselves.

The whole world has been moved and affected by Jesus’ birth.  All of creation has offered something. We cannot exclude ourselves. We must have the courage to own and offer our own “stuff” – good, bad, indifferent. Whatever we bring to the Child and his Mother is our means of participating in the divine birth. What we offer speaks the truth of our own life, which is now God’s life. And the greatest gift in the whole story is the one this Child offers us – Himself.

Photograph by Brother Anthony Khan.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Down in the Jordan with Jesus

“I have witnessed the affliction of my people, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them.”  Ex 3

God in Christ is always, always with us. And today in this final scene of our celebration of his Nativity, we see him descend into the soggy truth of our sinfulness. Down there in the waters of the Jordan River, Jesus is baptized.

Why is Jesus there of all places? He has nothing to repent of? Why does he offer himself for a cleansing baptism of repentance and conversion of heart? Perhaps it simply that he who is Love could do no less. Only the logic of love can explain this action of Jesus, or any other one of his for that matter, for Love always lowers itself. So it is, that he who did not know sin became sin for our sake to rescue forever us from the trap of sin.

Let us go down then into the waters of repentance with Jesus. As we confess our sinfulness, we will hear the Father remind Jesus and us - “You are my beloved.”

Plaque with the Baptism of Jesus, ca. 1150–75, South Netherlandish, Champlev√© enamel, copper alloy, gilt, 4 x 4 x 1/8”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.