Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Nicholas and Oscar

Today the Church celebrates Saint Nicholas remembered through the ages for his generosity to the poor. We recall these words of the martyred archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero, which we imagine the holy bishop Saint Nicholas would have appreciated.

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God — for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.

Photograph of the Abbey after our first snowfall by James O'Kane.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Fulfilled in Him

He said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” 

The heart of Jesus brims over with the most tender and efficacious compassion. He speaks and healing occurs. God’s love in Christ breaks through; God’s Word as in the beginning is fruitful and full of power. For the love of God enfleshed in Christ Jesus has no patience with evil and sickness. Jesus is opposed to all that oppresses and burdens us; his power is expressed in humble, loving, compassionate mercy. Jesus gives this once paralyzed man back to his friends, to his family, to his community.  And so the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled in Jesus:

Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.


Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci. Meditation on today's Mass readings by one of the monks.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Upside-Downness

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.


In this morning's First Reading the prophet Isaiah speaks of the wondrous upside-downness that will characterize the presence of the Messiah, the presence of the kingdom, the presence of Christ Jesus in our world.

Ultimately our work as monks, indeed as Christians, is all about attentiveness to the Lord's invitation to reconcile the opposites in our lives and in our world. We are invited to move away from a world of us vs them, good guys vs bad guys, holiness vs everything else. This does not mean relativizing moral distinctions, but seeking ways to bring healing and peace and forgiveness to situations that seem irreconcilable. We speak the truth in love while continuing in prayer, confident that with God nothing is impossible, for God is reconciling all things in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Drawing Near

No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher. 

One whom we long for, even though we may not always realize the depth of our desire for him, he himself longs to draw near to us. And so he will lower the heavens and come down, hiding in Mary’s womb. There in the bridal chamber that is her flesh, he will assume our flesh.

At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned.

God Most High has noticed our need for him, and God’s heart enfleshed in the pitying heart of Christ Jesus comes very near, revealing God’s intimate understanding of all that troubles us. We no longer need to be afraid.

Woodcut by Eric Gill. Meditation on today’s Mass readings by one of the monks.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Childlike

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, 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. Luke 10

Jesus' words in this morning's Gospel remind us of his words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” These are the "childlike" who know their need for God and look to God for everything. These were the ones who followed Jesus around, and hung on his every word. They have experienced that life isn’t fair. They have nothing; and they are nothing; but Jesus gives them hope. He calls them blessed, not because he’s trying to put them down, but because they are not self-sufficient, but desperately know their need for God. 

Jesus turns to them, to us, and says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” There is room in his mercy-filled heart for everyone, no one is excluded. But there’s a catch, we need to be aware of the truly good news of our insufficiency, our incompleteness, our sinfulness, our poverty, which make us available to receive all that Jesus has to offer us- which is everything, his entire self. In the end God does not want our virtue, he wants our weakness, our need which make us totally available to the mercy he wants to be for us.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Mercy

In this morning's Gospel we hear about Jesus coming to judge the living and the dead. But we need to know that his judgment will not be a judgment of vindictiveness, but a judgment of truth. Jesus is the truth. He knows us through and through: all the choices we have made for good or for bad; all the circumstances that influenced our decisions; all our efforts or lack of them to turn to his mercy. We already anticipate his judgment in the Sacrament of Confession when in his presence truth speaks to Truth. But when his truth meets our truth, judgment reveals mercy. Mercy is a close ally of truth, and when they come together, they give birth to hope. And hope does not disappoint us – it is the light of the Lord.

Isaiah has that wonderful saying, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks….” Our monastic life of vigils, fasting, silence, and especially the common life is designed to beat our swords – that is, our passions – into plowshares so that peace may be sown among us. Our goal is perfect charity, a charity that reaches out to those who might be left behind. The Gospel speaks of two men in the field and two women grinding at the mill. Let us not refuse to join those in the field or those grinding away at life’s daily tasks. May our charity become like bands of love, reaching out to make sure no one is left behind. This is what the Lord wants of us.

Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The Lord is near, especially in the Holy Eucharist. As we begin a new liturgical year, let us set out, following the Spirit’s lead, and walk in the light of the Lord – believing and hoping and loving – reflecting the light of Christ so that his salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed. 
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. 
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?" 
 Luke 17


Nine lepers celebrate new skin, one leper celebrates the Creator and Restorer of new skin. If gospel statistics are any indication, then ninety percent of us live life at skin level. Jesus offers us so much more. He desires more for us, than we often desire for ourselves. His final question in today's gospel: “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" is not a rebuke. It is an invitation. An invitation which Jesus extends to us today. Let us not hesitate to open our hearts in gratitude, begging his healing, peace and forgiveness.

Photo by Brother Brian. Meditation taken from Abbot Damian's words at this morning's Thanksgiving Day Mass.