Sunday, February 26, 2017

Consider the Lilies

An alternate translation of today’s Gospel reads in part: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. ”

Clearly Jesus is teaching us about the place that our material well-being should occupy in our lives. At first blush, it would seem that he is offering a stark choice between two, mutually conflicting alternatives: God or mammon. You cannot serve both; you have to choose one. And to choose God, we need to stop worrying about how to provide for ourselves. As a solution this seems suspiciously simple and, as a life plan, a little naive and even foolhardy.  Rather than presenting us with a simple choice, Jesus is saying something more profound.

He is warning us against adopting a fundamentally flawed view of the world, warning us not to put God and our material needs on the same footing.  He is reminding us that God is not just the greatest of all beings; he is totally beyond all created reality. He brought everything that is into being and he holds everything that is in existence.  God is not a part of creation; he completely transcends all space and time.

If we were to “serve” both God and wealth, that is , if we were to give the same importance to our material needs as we give to God, we would in effect, be diminishing God: we would be reducing him to the level of the material universe. Conversely, by trying to serve both God and mammon, we would be elevating the material world- our own well-being and ambition- to  the level of the divine.  We would be usurping the role of Providence by making ourselves masters of our own destinies, and if we were successful at it, we might very well convince ourselves that we have no need of God.

But in this passage Jesus places us firmly in the created world.  By comparing us to birds and flowers, Jesus reminds us that we are creatures just as they are – even if we are of a more privileged variety - and that we are equally dependent on divine providence for all our needs.  

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father William's homily at this morning's Mass.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Like a Child

Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.

If we are honest, any or all of us can probably recall a day or two at a playground or schoolyard, when we were a bit nasty and competitive. Jesus is not romanticizng childhood. But maybe he is pointing to the reality of openness and a kind of naivete in little children that makes them receptive to what is new.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Faithfulness

A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds...


But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate."

Both the First Reading from the Book of Sirach and today's Gospel reading from Saint Mark call us to be faithful as friends, as spouses. As in any family living in community can be challenging. So many personalities, and we often bump into one another no matter how hard we try to be kind and deferential. Still even when we feel hurt, we promise not to give up on one another, imitating God who is always faithful no matter how we may fail.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Saint Polycarp

As Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, "Be strong, and show yourself a man, O Polycarp!" No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, (the proconsul) sought to persuade him to deny (Christ), saying, “Have respect to your old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom…But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven said,  “Away with the Atheists.”  Then, the proconsul was urging him and saying, “Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ.”  Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

The martyrs are our holy forebears in our struggle to hold fast to Jesus amid all dangers and temptations to do otherwise. Pray for us, Saint Polycarp that like you we will be faithful unto death.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Peter

Simon Peter said in reply, 
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, 

but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 


Even after Peter denied him, Jesus did not give up on him, and he won’t give up on us. He is a relentless rescuer, the God who saves us, even chases after us. He rescues us from all our distress over and over again, because he loves us. And even when we are dead in our stubborn sinfulness; he brings us to life, not because of our virtuous deeds but because of his tender mercy. All is grace, not merit but graciousness, a love that reaches down to every human misery. We do not feel humiliated, but restored, transformed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Servants

Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
"If anyone wishes to be first, 
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."


Some of the older monks tell us that years ago a list of assignments for various duties in the monastery was posted each week near the entrance to the refectory. And at the top of the list was this phrase: "To serve is to reign."

Photographs by Brother Brian.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Our Prayer

When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
"Why could we not drive the spirit out?"
He said to them, "This kind can only come out through prayer."


Jesus reminds us that our prayer is efficacious, it works; it dispels evil, draws the world closer to him, who is all holiness, beauty and peace.

Photograph by Brother Brian.