Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Their Cry for Mercy

"Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
In this morning's Gospel, ten lepers beg to be cleansed, restored to  community and family. Jesus hears their pleading, heals them, brings them hope in the midst of despair; he makes outsiders, insiders. One wise, newly cleansed Samaritan knows enough to return and say thank you. The Spirit of Jesus binds up and joins us together. What do we say? What return can we make for all the Lord has done for us? 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Gift of Self

Mindful in faith and love, in wonder and thanksgiving, of our own being as gift we are to be moved to a reciprocal gift of self to others. Moreover, giving to others must hold as its pattern gift’s proper measure, which is totality. The total gift of one’s own being from nothingness calls for a reciprocal gift of all of oneself. Jesus himself alludes to this logic when responding to a scribe’s question about which was the first of all the commandments, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

We can get a better grasp of this total reciprocal gift of self, by looking at its archetype, which is the “vow”. When a man and a woman exchange vows at their wedding or a religious makes vows at his or her profession or a priest at his ordination, in each case it is a gift of all of oneself. It is important to recognize that this giving of self is made as a response in love and thanksgiving to the mystery of being given to oneself, it is not a claim to have the capacity to spend the rest of one’s life in a state of unremitting total self-gift. What the vow does do is gather up all that has gone before and all that is to follow in a person’s life into a unity with God; so that every other giving of oneself is now an expression of this totality; which is meant to unfold in the ordinary living out of our lives through our daily attempts to give ourselves to others.

The widow’s contribution of her two small coins is her attempt to live from within the totality of self-gift. It is her way of abiding as a traveler in the land of the gift, which is the realm of God. He is her dwelling place, where taking risks in love opens up pathways of never-ending newness and discovery, he is her joy, her place of the experience of fullness and peace, her home; and resting there in union with him as the mystery of the divine source of life, her eternal father, means reciprocating in her own way the totality of the gift that she has received, confident that as for the widow of Zarephath, “The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth."

What gives Jesus such joy, is that in her action, he sees a unity with his own action as only-begotten Son, making a total gift of self to the Father through taking on our flesh, and now moving toward his suffering and death in order to bring back to the Father all those the Father has given him. He summons his disciples and points her out in the hope that they too will know this union with him. May he enlighten us and strengthen us that we too may dwell with him, united with him in the offering of self, without limit, calculation or reserve. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Father Timothy.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Widow

Reflecting on this Sunday's Gospel, one monk recounts the following:

I am reminded of scene from my childhood. It’s the morning of my birthday, and I have just come in with the mail, anxious to open my birthday cards. I’m tearing them open. There is one from my Aunt Florence, recently widowed; two crisp dollar bills fall to the table. Spoiled brat that I am; I pay little attention. My mom is there in a flash, “Who sent you that card?” “Aunty Flo,” I say. “Oh, God. Call to thank her now, please.” “Hi, Aunt Florence, thank you for the birthday gift.” My mother snatches the receiver from my hand, “Flo, you know you shouldn’t have done that. You can’t afford it.” Florence was living on a wing and a prayer; she had worked in a little hat shop; her husband my Uncle Ralph had projected movies at the local theater. They had educated two kids. She had nothing. The gift was huge. My mother understood. Like my mom, Jesus really understands as he watches the widow this morning. Compassionate mercy is enfleshed in Christ Jesus. It is he alone who really truly understands each of us, our context, our stories, our own need to be mercied by him. Jesus is gazing on us with mercy and compassion right now.  He understands and he calls us blessed. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Scripture and Contemplation

A point worth pondering is the link between Scripture and contemplation. The Cistercian Fathers insisted especially on the link between Scripture and the Beatific Vision. And so Saint Bernard will say, “Reading is an anticipated vision of divine glory.”

Our understanding of Scripture is ordained to that supreme contemplation where we shall see its Author face to face. The journey begins with the reading of the sacred texts in the darkness of faith, which is a kind of incipient vision. To the eyes of faith, God’s face shines dimly in the shadows, but it is not yet revealed in all its splendor. And so, we must continue to seek it in the pages of Scripture. As Augustine said so beautifully in his commentary on Psalm 104: “When love grows, the search for what has already been found also grows.”

If perfect contemplation is reserved for heaven, it is also true, according to the Fathers, that to understand with our mind the mysteries of Scripture and to live them is already to live in the kingdom of God. Jerome went so far as to say: “The kingdom of heaven is knowledge of the Scriptures.” The premise on which such a conviction depends is that the Bible is not just a written book, but a living Book.

Abbey barn photographed by Brother Brian. Reflection by Father Dominic.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Without Reserve

Dom Thomas Keating's funeral Mass was a celebration of love and remembrance. And many  of his relatives and friends joined us in the Abbey church last Saturday. Abbot Damian presided at the Mass and preached movingly about Thomas' last days. He told us that Father Thomas frequently asked him to read the following prayer of Blessed Charles de Foucauld to him as he lay dying.

I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Friday, November 2, 2018

All Souls Day

Today we ponder the last things, and we mark this solemn day with our traditional procession through the cloisters and the blessing of the graves in the Abbey cemetery all in the early morning darkness. The dear departed, our brethren, friends, relatives and benefactors, belong to us and we pray that the Lord Jesus will raise them up to himself. With them we belong to God in Christ; we are filled with hope.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

All Saints Day

"Who are these wearing white robes?” says an elder in heaven to the narrator in today’s First Reading from the Book of Revelation. The elder then answers his own question, “Why, these are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” Now anyone who has ever tried to remove even a small blood stain from a piece of clothing can understand that it must have been a near impossible task in first century Palestine, long before OxyClean, Spray and Wash or Shout. And so we can only wonder at the perfectly ridiculous image of robes made radiantly white by washing them in lamb’s blood. But this is not just any lamb. And the offbeat beauty of these words reveals the truth of the dazzling, unprecedented victory of the Lamb of God, which he has “achieved not by domination and aggression” but by his loving acquiescence even unto death.* It is Jesus’ self-forgetful love that has created this radiance.

He is the radiant, blood-stained Lamb, who is seated on the throne at God’s right hand. We live now in the period of his sovereign rule over us. But it is a reign that is, nonetheless, far from complete. And ultimately the Beatitudes describe those who are putting his reign into effect, making the kingdom happen. And as all the saints would remind us, it’s all about Christ Jesus - losing ourselves for him, in him, and ultimately becoming transparent to him. Today is this great feast of transparency and transformation.

Jesus tells us, “How blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;” he invites us to recognize ourselves among the lowly and insignificant - those who look to God for everything. The Beatitudes are not Jesus' philosophy but his way for us to become kingdom, a way to live as if God were truly in charge, the way to live in him, who is our Beatitude, our way to true happiness.