Thursday, February 21, 2019

Who

And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.” Mark 8


In the end it’s always about letting ourselves be mercied. And so with Peter we listen as Jesus whispers this hauntingly beautiful question to each of us, “Who do you say that I am? Who am I for you?” Perhaps when we come to understand ourselves as sinners desperately loved by Christ, we can say with Saint Peter, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. To whom else shall we go?” And with Saint Paul, “All I want is to know you, Lord Jesus and the power flowing from your resurrection. Everything else is rubbish. You are all that I desire. You are my love, my fortress, my stronghold, my rescuer, my rock, the God who shows me love."

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Bread

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat...  Mark 8


Translated literally today's Gospel reads something like this: "The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one bread with them in the boat." The bread the disciples have with them is Jesus himself. And so they have all they need. He is the one who has fed the multitudes; he is the one who satisfies all the longings of our hearts.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Poor

Scripture scholars tell us that to be poor in Jesus' day was to be stuck where you were. There was no possibility of "bettering  yourself" with a new job or position; the poor were poor, and that was that. In addition, to act in way that was not congruent with your social status was to invite derision. So it is that when Jesus heals the sick there is wonder and awe and then often also a reaction of rage and resentment. As if to say, "Who does he think he is? He's only the carpenter's son after all."

In any age the poor are those who have no choice, no choices. Jesus proclaims the poor blessed and happy. Why? Because he relishes their downtroddenness? Certainly not. He longs to be longed for. And it is the truly poor who know their real need for God. How to embrace our own poverty, whatever we cannot change, whatever reveals our desperate need for God? 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Be Opened!

He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” - that is, “Be opened!” And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished, and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.” Mark 7

Whose fault was it? Whose sin was it, his or his parents? The eerie possibility was that, he himself maybe even while still in his mama’s womb, had done something really horrible. Sickness, deafness, blindness were, after all, the direct consequence of sin; everybody knew that; all decent Jews in Jesus’ day believed it. Sin leaves its mark; sin causes sickness. It had to be someone’s fault. Case closed. Dead-end. Today Jesus comes to this dead-end and says, “No! I won’t have it. God won’t have it.”

Friends bring the deaf and speech-impaired man to Jesus. And undoubtedly roused by the  man's predicament as well as the faith of these good people, Jesus’ heart overflows with compassion. Quietly he takes the man off, away from the crowd and groans from the very depths of his heart his desire for the man’s freedom and healing. He shouts out in Aramaic: “Ephpha’tha! Be opened! - Open to me, my Beloved. Let me hear your voice.” And breaking boundaries of good taste, discretion and formality and way beyond the parameters of good hygiene, Jesus boldly sticks his finger into the deaf man’s ears and then touches the man’s tongue with his own spittle.

Jesus’ vibrant touch; his warm saliva are sacraments of God’s healing. God’s own spittle restores fluency to a tongue once thick and speechless; God’s finger pokes its way into ears now deaf no longer. Jesus’ groaning to heaven expresses God’s impatience and frustration with all illness, all the unfreedom and isolation and pain we know and experience.

Now physicians, parents of little ones and even lovers or spouses would perhaps dare to touch so familiarly, so sensually; discarding all boundaries, putting their finger in ears and mouth. And so fittingly enough Jesus, who is for us Mother and Father and Bridegroom and kind Doctor, reaches out to this once deaf and babbling man, marking the radical in-breaking of God’s regenerative intimacy with us. Jesus breaks boundaries, because God’s love is in fact boundless.  Jesus is God’s Word in opposition to all sickness and evil and pain, - down to his very fingertips.

Photograph by Brother Brian.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

God's Way


From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile. 

The Lord Jesus Christ reveals the truth of who we are; he has looked deep into our hearts and seen our truth. But how do we hear these words of Jesus this morning? Perhaps as a kind of indictment? Do these words of the Gospel sound like good news to us? Is Jesus trying to stop us short, call us to attention? Is he arrogant and self-righteous? Certainly not. What Jesus offers us is not a smug assessment of our sinful nature but a compassionate understanding of how we get pulled and deceived, a very real look at our tendencies toward sin. His gaze tests our hearts, scrutinizes, but it is always a gaze of love and longing, a gaze of understanding. And if he reminds us of the evil that can take root in us, it is only for one reason, one reason only - because he longs to be merciful to us.


Made like us in all things but sin, Jesus needed no one to tell him about the human heart, for he has taken our heart as his own heart. Can we say that Jesus knows from within his own heart all that tempts us and can drag us away? Does this sound blasphemous? You know what the Letter to the Hebrews says, that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are but did not sin - in every way that we are. Imagine the breadth of that statement. Think of all you go through, all you feel, all the ways you are tempted; and imagine Jesus feeling it all with you. It never ceases to astonish. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us: “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet apart from sin. Therefore, let us draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”



Jesus knows, Jesus understands. He shares our flesh and blood and knows well what yanks at our hearts because “he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy” all that threatens to draw us away from God. Jesus speaks to us this morning not from above, but from deep within, very near. If as we believe, Jesus is fully human, fully divine, like us “in every respect” but sin, then he knows well the vagaries of our human hearts. But unlike us, though tempted, his heart was always set on the Father’s will. May he continue to teach his way.
Photograph by Brother Brian.



Sunday, February 10, 2019

Like Peter

Like Peter in today’s Gospel, we may want to say to Jesus, “Leave me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But Jesus won’t leave us. Perhaps that’s the hardest thing but also the most amazing grace - to realize humbly, even joyfully, our inadequacy. We are called to imitate the wounded Christ and allow him to reform our hearts, so that they conform to his broken heart. This is the grace of true blessedness and joy - a way to imitate him, who is all mercy, all peace, all mourning turned to joy, imitate him in whom we are meant to become more and more like God. We are invited to take on the mind of Christ in our embrace of our own poverty and neediness and inadequacy. The saints would remind us, “Don’t be afraid. It’s not about you. It’s about him; let him transform you.”

This tender love and relentless rescue of Jesus make our foolish failures almost worth it. Almost. With Peter and all the saints, we are meant to be icons of this rescue, our very selves, revelations of what Christ’s ongoing merciful rescue can accomplish, if we give him the least bit if access to our broken hearts. We welcome him with our need for him. And as monks this means constant awareness of our foolishness; constantly, joyfully remembering that we are sinners outlandishly loved by God. And so our life of incessant prayer requires incessant awareness of our poverty.

Jesus invites us to step into that poverty and helplessness we need no longer fear and flee or deny - because we will find him and our brothers and sisters down there.  Jesus calls us to relationship - with him and with one another. We are invited to travel with him on the challenging road of humility, vulnerability and doing the opposite of what our first anger-fueled reaction might be. For when I finally recognize how poor and mercy-hungry I am, maybe, just maybe I begin to notice that I am not alone, that others need mercy just as I do; and hopefully my heart gets broken open.

In the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus, a revolution is happening, with vulnerability at the center. Vulnerability is the key to true holiness and joy. For when I am vulnerable, I realize that I desperately need God; I realize that I desperately need others. I come to understand that I am imperfect, inadequate and on the way along with my brothers and sisters, and so I am connected. (see BrenĂ© Brown) It is this loving connectivity that is true holiness.  

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by one of the monks.


Friday, February 8, 2019

Saint Josephine Bakhita

Stolen from her family and sold into slavery when she was only about nine years old, Josephine Bakhita suffered at the hands of cruel masters and mistresses. She was tattooed with the cuts of razor blades, severely lashed and one of her legs was so battered by brutal kicking that she limped for years thereafter. Children are great survivors, and Bakhita learned early on how to live as if death did not have the last word. She always lived in hope.

And finally years later when she learns about Jesus, she is magnetized, and she seeks baptism with a tenacity and conviction that astound us. She is transfixed as she gazes at the crucified Christ. He is the key to her self-understanding. Jesus, an innocent victim like her, gives her survival new meaning. She is drawn into the reality of his death-defying death. And so she calls Jesus Padrone– literally her “Big Daddy,” her Master; at last a Master she can serve with joy and freedom, one who will never, ever hurt or do any violence to her.