If you were ever the new kid on the block, in the classroom, on the team, and remember how you just wanted to fit in... Or if you ever loved from afar and dreamed of being with a person who seemed too good, too beyond you and your clumsy efforts, and can remember how you just wanted to be close and somehow you just did not know how to do it... Or if ever you were all alone, far from home and had to eat in a restaurant by yourself at a teeny table and longed for family, someone familiar, a friend, the warmth of home and table, then perhaps you get a glimpse of what God is trying to do in the Incarnation. It as if for ages God had been trying to get closer, longing for intimacy with each of us, longing to be ordinary and hidden in our midst. Finally in Christ Jesus, God's desire for intimacy with humankind takes flesh. In Jesus God gives Everything, indeed His very Self.
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Let us go to this Kitchen always.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Monday, November 16, 2020
Andrea del Verrocchio, Christ and Saint Thomas, bronze, 1483, Orsanmichele, Florence.
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Photograph by Brother Daniel.
Saturday, November 14, 2020
We face adversity as we look ahead to the remaining weeks of 2020. We are so often disheartened by the divisions in our nation and our Church. And we are distressed by ongoing inequities based on race, ethnicity, and national origin. We have seen the dangerous impact of climate change in floods and fires. We are concerned about our sisters and brothers who have lost jobs and homes. We are frightened and distressed by the grim statistics of a surging pandemic – so much suffering, so many deaths. The tensions in the air have impacted us all even in the cloister. We try to continue in patience and charity. And we praise and thank God for the self-sacrifice of so many healthcare workers and people of goodwill everywhere.
May we all be attentive to the unexpected graces that God will bestow on us during these trying times. As we look ahead, let us be mindful that with vaccines and therapeutics progressing, there’s every reason to hope. On this Saturday of Our Lady, we entrust our cares to her motherly protection.
Drawing by Leonardo. Message adapted from a text by Joseph O'Keefe, SJ.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Monday, November 9, 2020
This morning with upturned tables, coins scattered and animals scrambling, Jesus points to the true meaning of the temple: it is never ever a place for business, but his Father’s own house, the sacred meeting place of God and his people. And so, Jesus is anxious to clear out what does not belong there. Above the din, they ask him, “What right have you to do this?” Jesus’ right is the right of Truth. His answer: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” We can imagine the indignation his interruption of the temple business along with his talk of destruction engendered. Small wonder that this scene in today’s Gospel is viewed by most scholars as the act that precipitates the decision of the authorities to kill Jesus. Still, it is important to remember that Jesus does not “condemn the temple cult; he intervenes because he truly understands and loves it” (Schneiders).
It is at this point in the narrative that we hear that most beautiful phrase, whispered to us by the Evangelist as a kind of mystical aside. “He was speaking of the temple of his body.” The temple of his Body. The temple that will be destroyed and raised up is not the temple of stone but the temple of Jesus’ own body. Jesus is the new gift of God that replaces the former. He knows this in his heart. The temple, the sanctuary, is no longer a place, but a person. Jesus declares himself now and forever the meeting place between God and his people, the place where God’s desire for us and our desire for God merge.
Jesus restores the meaning of temple as a sacred place of wonder and worship; the sanctuary where we may encounter God’s mercy. Jesus himself is God’s Lamb who will be slain once and for all. His self-offering in its bitterness and pain, in its immeasurable mercy and compassion, will fulfill all that the temple liturgy aspired to. Truly, Jesus’ sacrifice will reinvigorate the meaning of all liturgy. For the liturgy is always, always first of all God’s service of us. This is the true meaning of worship: our celebrating with gratitude and praise all that God in Christ is doing for us. It is not about us, our service of God, but God’s astonishingly humble service of us in Christ. Jesus as physician, healer, and messenger of the new covenant comes to serve us, to heal and feed and console us. It is his risen and wounded body that is our sanctuary.
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” says Jesus. He’s referring to his Hour, the Hour of his passion, death, and resurrection. For it is most of all in this Hour that he will truly become the place where we can encounter the most tender, self-emptying love and service of the Father for all creation. For when Jesus’ body, his heart, is gashed open and shattered by the horror of the passion, it becomes that wonderful leaky temple of Ezekiel’s vision in the First Reading, life-giving waters flowing from his wounded body, recreating the beauty of Paradise. For in his Hour death dies, for Jesus’ Hour includes his final lifting up, the resurrection accomplished by the Father’s love.
God is love. Love never ends. Love is never ugly. And God’s love is always creating beauty in place of brokenness. Jesus’ self-emptying love ultimately belongs to the phenomenon of beauty, because through his passion the beauty of God reveals the promise it contains (Von Balthasar). For devout Jews, the temple was revered as a most sacred place of great beauty. Now it is truly Jesus who is for us this most beautiful temple, our sanctuary, our place of prayer.
All of our praying takes place in him always, in his heart; for we can only pray in him, through him. We can only pray at all because he prays first, begging the Father incessantly on our behalf. And each time we step into a church, we enter Christ’s wounded heart, the sanctuary that he is for us. In our praying through him, in him, we are becoming more and more with him a most beautiful, leaky temple, a life-giving flood of mercy gushing from our woundedness as well. This transcendent beauty of the wounded resurrected Jesus is what we reveal as individuals, as a monastic community, and as Church. It is not ever neat, well-sealed, air-tight, and efficient but a temple that leaks, leaks a lot because it’s full of holes and cracks and wounds that need mercy and overflow with mercy.
We are his most beautiful body. He is our broken wounded Self, forever risen and pierced.
Manuscript painting of the Crucifixion.Belgium, possibly Tournai, ca. 1440. The Morgan Library, New York.
Sunday, November 8, 2020
So, who are these 10 young maidens featured in the parable? They are probably relatives or friends of the groom who, with lamps in hand, set out from the groom’s household to meet the return of the bridegroom with his bride. Matthew’s particular touch here is to set up a contrast between five foolish and five wise maidens, and their separation just at the critical moment in the story, the wedding feast. This is a familiar theme in Matthew, which appears also in his parables about the weeds and the wheat, the dragnet, and the sheep and the goats.
But there is one detail I’ve always found disturbing, perplexing: why are the maidens who have extra oil so heartless toward those who have none? Weren’t these women friends or relatives? How does this fit with Jesus’ command to love one another? Is a cruel trick for the wise ones to send the foolish to the merchants, who surely would not be open at midnight? Another puzzling detail: when the 5 foolish ones arrive late to the wedding feast, why does the groom not recognize them when they probably belonged to his household?
So, what is going on here? I believe the key lies in how we understand what the lamps and the oil symbolize. I remember a reading at Vigils a few months ago commenting on this Gospel in which the author understood the oil as “good deeds.” That would explain why the five wise virgins cannot “share” their oil with the five foolish virgins. Such an interpretation is reminiscent of Matthew’s conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus tells the disciples that they are the “light” of the world. Matthew concludes that passage by explicitly equating light with good deeds that are visible to others and that lead to praise of God.
A somewhat different interpretation is offered by the Dominican scripture scholar Barbara Reid, who suggests that “the lamps and the oil in this parable can be understood more generally as the steps that disciples need to take in order to be ready for the eschatological moment. With echoes of Matthew 7, where the wise are those who hear and act on Jesus’ words, so the wise virgins of this parable are those who have faithfully prepared for the end-time by hearing and acting on God’s word as spoken and lived by Jesus. Matthew tells us that when the end-time comes those who are righteous will ‘shine like the sun.’” Again, righteousness isn’t something that can be “borrowed” from someone else any more than good deeds can be. Perhaps it is only realistic, not unkind, to tell the foolish maidens that they will have to get their own oil . . . .
At midnight a loud cry heralds the arrival of the Bridegroom, and the summons is issued to meet the Coming One. Matthew’s church most likely understood the parable as an allegory of the Second Coming of Christ, the heavenly bridegroom. In the parable, the bridegroom’s sudden coming represents the imminent but unpredictable arrival of the Parousia. And, as in so many of Matthew’s parables, the eschatological moment is decisive. It is a matter of being “ready or not.” Barbara Reid explains: “There is no further time for preparation, there are no last chances. There are those who are ready and those who are not. Those who are prepared go into the wedding feast with the bridegroom. The five foolish virgins arrive after the door is locked. While in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had assured his disciples that if they knock the door will be opened to them, the setting of that saying is different from today’s Gospel. Here, the time is past when choices can be made; judgment is at hand.”
“This could be called a “good news / bad news” parable. For the foolish ones, this gospel ends on a very sobering note. They are barred from going into the feast with the bridegroom and the wedding party. They have let themselves be lulled into thinking that there is no hurry; the lamp oil can always be gotten later; or someone else will pick up the slack. The end seems so far off. For the wise ones, however, this is a parable of great jubilation. They have been preparing all along and are ready when the bridegroom comes. They can hardly believe that the time has finally come.”
So, what about us here this morning? Barbara Reid offers a perspective, which I find helpful:
None of us are completely foolish, nor completely wise. We all have some aspect of the foolish within. For example, there has been something I’ve been wanting to change about my lifestyle; or there is someone I’ve been intending to reconcile with; someone to whom I owe an apology; or something I’ve been wanting to seek direction about; something I’ve intended to talk over with God. But I think I’ll get around to it some other time. However, it may be now or never. At the same time, all of us have some aspect of the wise within. All the myriad ways in which wise disciples have been illumining the world, lighting one small candle at a time by the way they hear and live out the Word, coalesce into brilliant torchlight for the banquet. The arrival of the groom, at last, is no surprise, but a joyous relief. The parable invites celebration of our wisdom, even as our foolishness is still being transformed.
I would like to conclude by recalling the basic point of the First Reading taken from the Book of Wisdom, namely, that the effort to be wise does not depend on human striving alone. This is reassuring for the foolish among us: Wisdom is waiting to be found; she is readily perceived and found and known by those who love and seek her. Better yet, those who keep vigil for her are actually being sought out by her as she makes her rounds. This is precisely what St. Bernard taught his monks: “We would never seek God unless he first sought and found us.” I believe that at the last moment before our death, the Bridegroom will reach out, take our lingering foolishness into his own hands, and draw us lovingly into the wedding feast—before any doors are closed.
Photograph by Father Emmanuel. This morning's homily by Father Dominic.
Saturday, November 7, 2020
Friday, November 6, 2020
Photograph by Brother Bian of a Pax Instrument in the Abbey archives, hand-painted by Brother Amadeus Peck in the 1950's. The pax was an object used for the Kiss of Peace during Mass. In place of a more direct encounter, each kissed the pax, which was carried around to those present. Text by Servant of God Luis Maria Martinez.
Thursday, November 5, 2020
On Sunday, November 1 during Chapter, Brother Joseph Paez pronounced his Simple Vows. His brothers promise their support and prayer as he advances in his commitment.
In the photograph below we see the formation group. From left to right: Brother Mikah, junior professed; Father James, Director of Junior Professed; Brother Guerric, postulant; Thomas, observer; Brother Daniel, Submaster of the Novices; Brother Joseph, junior professed and Father Luke, Director of Novices.Photographs by Brother Brian.
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Poverty may first enter our lives only by accepting our insignificance in the setting in which we live. We ought to observe the workings of divine providence in this regard. Any experience of being left alone, disregarded, forgotten – if it does not isolate the soul and make it retreat inwardly – invites a recognition. Our unimportance to others can combine with a fruitful realization. The more we disappear from the attention of others, the more we are watched by God in a different manner.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Contemplative Provocations, by Father Donald Haggerty.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
We pray for a peaceful, just and grace-filled Election Day. We know that God is ultimately the Lord and Master of history. And Christ Jesus our Lord is always inviting us to make things better for each other, and especially to protect those who are most vulnerable. God acts in history, and he will use anything at all to get our attention. He chastises and rescues and intervenes in ways unimaginable when we choose to cooperate with him.
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of the great God
and of our savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good. Titus 2
Monday, November 2, 2020
Since He loves us first, out of His great tenderness; we are bound to repay Him with love, and we may cherish exultant hope in Him. 'He richly blesses all who call upon Him.' Yet He has no gift for them better than Himself. He gives Himself as prize and reward: He is the refreshment of the holy soul... 'The Lord is good to those who seek Him.' What will He be then to those who gain His presence? But here is a paradox, that no one can seek the Lord who has not already found Him. It is Your will, O God, to be found that You may be sought, to be sought that You may all the more truly be found. from On Loving God by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux