Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Perfect

Today once again Jesus invites us to be perfect - complete like God - with no gaps in our loving. And when we hear him say, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” we realize he is inviting us to be as compassionate as he will be on the cross. Our initial shudder at such a daunting invitation softens as we understand that his call is to a place of real freedom, the freedom to love because we know ourselves truly loved and beloved of God, beloved of our Father, just as Jesus himself is.

Understanding himself as so beloved, Jesus can lovingly, courageously, even joyfully suffer the shame and horror of his passion and cross. He freely goes down to this lowest, most painful place out of love. And his experience as victim of his passion is not a place where he gets stuck. He neither curses his oppressors nor relishes his victimhood. He forgives the perpetrators of his own execution. He is perfectly free to suffer, free to suffer because he knows it does not define him; it’s not his truth.

We too can afford to love as God loves; Jesus shows us our hearts are big enough. Our love can be perfect and complete because we are beloved like him. He empowers us to be lovingly vulnerable with him, in him. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Small












A small voice calling to us  - 
the still small voice of conscience 
to make the grace-filled choice.

A brief gesture -  
smile or kindness offered in time. 
Or short prayer.

Or outside 
the smallest flower, 
the tiniest bug or bird or blade of grass
is sudden hope and joy.

Doing a bit more this time,
going a big further, 
sitting still and listening a little longer,
doing the opposite - offering a smile 
instead of despondency and ill-temper.

Little choices. Small deeds that matter.

All good things, choices made
confident in his love, 
with us always, 
so ordinarily.

Then the kingdom happens:
God's way, 
God sway 
over the sad earth 
through us, for us, beyond us, within us.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

This Day

Oh, feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with
the fragrance of the fields and the
freshness of the oceans which you have
made, and help me to hear and to hold
in all dearness those exacting and wonderful
words of our Lord Christ Jesus, saying:
Follow me.

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Lines from a poem by Mary Oliver.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Blessed Gerard

Living in community with brothers of different backgrounds, gifts and talents is, indeed, a gift but it also stretches our hearts open. And we recall the words of one brother some years ago, who said something like: "You know you pray and work with a guy and you get to love him as your brother, even though maybe he's not the kind of guy you'd want to go duck hunting around the world with."

Small wonder that the monastery is called a school of love, for we all need to keeping learning how to open our hearts to one another. We are especially mindful of our fraternal connectedness today, as we celebrate the memorial of Blessed Gerard, blood brother of Saint Bernard. Gerard followed Bernard to Clairvaux where he became his cellarer. He was Bernard's confidant and assistant. Deeply grieved at Gerard's death, Bernard lamented his passing in these tender words: 

... a loyal companion has left me alone on the pathway of life: he who was so alert to my needs, so enterprising at work, so agreeable in his ways. Who was ever so necessary to me? Who ever loved me as he? My brother by blood, but bound to me more intimately by religious profession. Share my mourning with me, you who know these things. I was frail in body and he sustained me, faint of heart and he gave me courage, slothful and negligent and he spurred me on, forgetful and improvident and he gave me timely warning. Why has he been torn from me? Why snatched from my embraces, a man of one mind with me, a man according to my heart? We loved each other in life: how can it be that death separates us? And how bitter the separation that only death could bring about! While you lived when did you ever abandon me? It is totally death's doing, so terrible a parting...How much better for me then, O Gerard, if I had lost my life rather than your company, since through your tireless inspiration, your unfailing help and under your provident scrutiny I persevered with my studies of things divine. Why, I ask, have we loved, why have we lost each other? 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Lines from Sermon 26: On The Song of Songs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

On a Hillside

Once upon a time on a verdant hillside in Galilee, a little boy's picnic lunch of five loaves and two fish was transformed by a Word of love into a huge banquet with baskets and baskets of leftovers. This is a story of the overflowing abundance and the immeasurability of God’s love and compassion. And as Jesus feeds the multitude with bread and fish, God's dream of the kingdom is enacted. The reign of God has become a reality in Christ Jesus. In him heaven is wedded to earth forever, and so a banquet is definitely called for. God's Promised One is presiding at the banquet in the kingdom, feeding the poor and lowly with as much as they want. He has invited us to join them. 
Photographs by James O'Kane.




Sunday, June 10, 2018

Following


Absolutely focused on his Father's will, Jesus leaves behind the love and security of family, as well as a good-paying job as a carpenter. He launches out on his own with a ragtag collection of friends to preach and wander the countryside. Small wonder that when he comes home for a short visit, his relatives fear he has gone out of his mind. 

And one day as he begins to preach in his own neighborhood, someone whispers to him, "Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you." It is then that, most amazingly, Jesus gazes at those around him, those who follow him and listen to him and take his words to heart, and he names these people his mother and brothers.

Following Jesus and seeking to give ourselves unreservedly to him and his way, we have become his blood relatives, even members of his own body. Jesus has inaugurated the kingdom of God, a place where we are to live always, as if God were in charge, a place of new interrelationship and mutual compassion. 

Recent photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation inspired by Father Peter's Sunday homily.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Two Hearts

The loving heart of Jesus is opened up for us by a cruel spear, a spear wielded by a soldier whom Christian tradition calls Longinus.  When he was given his orders that day, crucifying a man was probably just a routine part of his job as a Roman soldier assigned to keep the peace of the Empire - a task like polishing his armor.  It is possible to imagine that his own heart had been hardened to the point of the ultimate inhumanity it is to crucify someone, torturing a person to death.   Yet, what Longinus would have then called Fate and we would call Divine Providence had placed his hardened heart and the divine-human heart of Jesus just the length of a spear apart from one another.  His hardened heart is literally near to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and near to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.   The Tradition tells us that when he thrust his spear into the side of Jesus to insure he was dead, a flood of blood and water flowed out upon him from the heart of Jesus. Thus, Longinus, already starting to be moved by what he was witnessing around him, was, as it were, baptized in this bath of salvation flowing from the side of Christ.  The traditional story says the bath healed him of an eye disease so that his full vision was restored, and, more importantly, healed his hardened heart so much that he eventually became a Christian missionary who would himself die in witness of his own love for Jesus, the Son of God and Man, who loved him and all of us to the end.

The cleansing and enlightening waters of Baptism in which all Christians, like St. Longinus, have been bathed call us now to drink from the chalice of salvation filled with the precious blood that flowed from the side of Christ—flowed from the wound caused by Longinus' spear.  Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  We might notice our own spiritual vision becoming more acute.  We might notice our own wounded hearts healing and becoming ever softer, more human, and, therefore, more divine. 

Saint Longinus, Gianlorenzo Bernini. Excerpts from Father Luke's homily for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.