Homily - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Proverbs 31:10–13, 19–20,  30-31
Thessalonians5:1–6
Matthew 25:14–30

The word “talent” in English has come to mean a kind of innate or natural skill or aptitude for some physical or mental activity. One has a talent for playing the piano or singing, for instance. Or one has a talent for a certain sport. We think of talent as an ability or skill that we possess somewhat naturally. Ironically, it may well be that this parable about talents, master and servants led to that understanding, even definition of the word.

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I say ironically, because originally and in the parable, the talent was a large amount of money. Some say one talent was worth 15 years’ salary. Today we would say the master entrusted his servants with millions of dollars. While we may say that we have talents, given by God, and we should use them, develop them, and then give them back, and that is true enough, a close listening to this Jesus parable takes a slightly different approach. The parable says that the master entrusts talents, large sums of money. He does this because they already have the “talent” to handle it. The master gives his possessions precisely because he sees that his servants are skilled and competent to handle them. The parable takes for granted the “talent” of the servants to receive and work with the master’s precious entrustment. The master entrusts his possessions to his servants; in that word “entrusts,” there is implied a positive relationship between the master and his servants and there is a certain expectation on the part of the servants.

So the focus seems to be on what is the talent. On the surface, the talents are millions of dollars. But the parable is about the Kingdom of God. In kingdom language, the talent may well be certain aspects of being a disciple of Jesus. Jesus was with the disciple-servants for a certain length of time, and then he died, rose and left the disciples to go home to the Father. He is not here, he is away, but he promised to return. What he left us was a new way of life; he left us his word to listen to and then to put into action. The parable says the master entrusted, implying a special relationship, his possessions to his servants. Jesus has clearly entrusted to us his relationship with his Father. That is what he possesses, that is the gift he hands on to us. He opens our eyes to see how his Father wants his children to be. Jesus goes about breaking down any barriers that would get in the way of our being called his children. He gives us his word and in the same breath, he says we too can be his brother or sister when we hear the Father’s word Jesus speaks and we do it. Doing his word makes us a part of the family of Jesus.

Jesus shows us the way of living like children of God, children of the light, Paul says today: a concern for the weak and the stranger, a commitment to forgiveness no matter how many time one is hurt, turning one’s check, loving the enemy, a care for mercy and justice, and the willingness to take up the cross believing that in carrying it is the only way to true life. All this is the million dollar talent the master has entrusted to us.

Jesus possesses the love and life of the Father; he possesses a way to live out that life and love and he has handed it over to us. In our “yes” to him, no matter how fragile, we acknowledge that we want to live this new life and are able  to carry it out. With baptism we were given the Spirit that enables us to do it. We hold a precious gift even in the earthenware vessels of our lives. But that is the trust that the master, Jesus, God the Father has in us. Earthenware vessels can hold a treasure and share it.

Let us be honest! Really, this parable is a tragedy. Usually when there are three characters in a parable, it is the last one who comes out the winner. Think of the Good Samaritan. The first two people who pass by are the losers, the stranger and the foreigner (Samaritan) is the winner. But today, it is the reverse. The last one loses. What happened? Well, he took his millions, his precious gift of having a forgiving and loving Father, and he buried it! It was safe! And in the way of thinking at the time, since he buried it, if someone else stole it, he was not responsible! He had the precious gift of being a disciple of Jesus but he did not take that gift and encounter the world with it. While the Master was gone, the world went on, times changed, people came and went, but he was afraid to have the Good News speak to the world. He thought he had to keep it safe, don’t let anything change it. Don’t let somebody else get it. What was the result of this way of thinking? In the end, he lost it because he did not grow and he did not take the talent with him and interact in the world that was changing. The Good News died because it had no chance to meet, challenge and grow in new circumstances, in a different world from what even the master knew. But just maybe, that is why he, the master, entrusted the talent of Good News, of the Word of God, to the servant in the first place: so that he or she could carry it through history.

The parable reflects a male world. But the reading from Proverbs gives us a wife, a woman. She shows us what doing the talent looks like. The key word is the same as in the gospel. The husband has “entrusted” something to his wife (“Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize” (Prov. 31:11)). And what has he entrusted to her— his heart. This is his most precious possession, his very self, so to speak. His heart is where he thinks, feels, makes decisions. The description of the wife’s life is a description of what can happen when someone entrusts their heart to you. You live from that heart and you make that heart everything, and your world becomes rich with generosity to those around you because you have been trusted. You hold nothing back. Your skill becomes service out of love. Once again, the woman is the model for the disciple. Last Sunday it was the same–five wise virgins!…. Has not Jesus entrusted his heart to us, his very desire, his love, his very self? He did what he did for us. There is an expectation, and rightly so, that what has become gift to us, we will in turn activate in the world around us. But why would we not do that? What we have, this precious relationship, we dare to risk, sharing it in unknown, even unthinkable places and with people of all kinds. Love is like that; it goes out of itself.

True love, God’s covenantal love, involves accountability. We have been given a talent or two of God’s love in Christ. When we have lit up the world around us with love, then the Master can say on the last day, when he comes to take us with him to the Father’s bosom, come faithful one, share in my joy. Joy is the final talent the master give us. It is the crown of risking love and sharing in our world with the same fidelity, mercy and trust that our Master did.

Joel Macul, OSB

Homily - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Mt 25:1-13 Wis 6:12-16 1 Thess 4:13-18

Focus:  The ‘prudent’ virgins were ready for the wedding.  Pope John XXIII had his suitcase packed at the end of his life.

Function:  We, too, are called to be prepared for our final encounter with God.

Dear sisters and bothers in the Lord,

As Pope St. John XXIII was terminally ill, his doctors tried to keep it a secret from him at first. They attempted tactfully to deceive him:  “It is only an infection of the stomach.” But he objected: “My suitcase is packed!”

On the last day of his long suffering, Msgr. Capovilla, the Pope’s secretary, came to his bed.  He kissed the patient’s hand and asked how he felt.  “I feel quite all right now.  I’m quiet.  I’m with the Lord.  But I’m also worried a bit.”  “Holy Father, YOU shouldn’t be worrying but WE.  I have talked with the physicians…”  “And, what are they saying?”  “Holy Father, I want to be very sincere with you.  I want to tell you that this is the day of the Lord.  Today you will be called into paradise.”  Kneeling, the secretary burst into tears and buried his face in his hands.

Then he felt the Pope’s hand passing lovingly over his head and heard him say, “Look at that: My secretary, usually so strong and sober, is totally distraught.  Although he is telling his superior the most beautiful thing that one can say:  Today you will enter paradise!”  Pope St. John XXIII was indeed ready for the end of his earthly life.

In our gospel today, Jesus deals with this topic of readiness.  He makes his point in the parable of the ten virgins.  All ten of them are waiting with the bride at her home for the arrival of the groom, for the wedding, for the feast and the joy.

At midnight, a cry goes up to announce the arrival.  The bridesmaids, who have brought the supply of oil, need it to make the lighted escort for the couple.  So the wedding procession, minus five bridesmaids, goes into the feast and the door is shut.  The bridesmaids who come later are refused admission.  They were not prepared with lamps burning brightly when the groom appeared.

The wedding is an image in the bible which represents the union of humans with God.  This union will take place in the future, in its fullness, but a foretaste of it can be experienced even now, in the present.  Especially around Jesus the joy of the great feast could already be felt: “How can the wedding guests mourn while they are together with the bridegroom?”   However, Jesus said, “The time will come when the guests will be left alone; then they will fast.”  The time after Jesus’ death and resurrection until his return in glory is the time of waiting, of ‘fasting’ and of preparation.

All the bridesmaids fall asleep, which is human.  Some nevertheless are prepared, namely those with enough oil for their lamps.  We can ask: What does the lamp oil represent in our parable?  What is it that keeps our lamps burning, in spite of occasional tiredness and weariness?Our readings today speak about that.  There is first the message of hope in St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians.  The core of what Paul says is:  “We shall always be with the Lord.”  In death we won’t be separated from Christ, but united with Him to whom we looked and whom we tried to follow during our lifetime.  One way of keeping our own lamps burning is to share this message of hope with other people, with people who struggle with the experience of death and dying in their own lives and among their loved ones.  Our first reading speaks about wisdom. Wisdom is a gift from God, but it also needs to be sought and loved.  We need to pay attention to it and notice it wherever we can find it: in the word of Holy Scripture and in the teaching of the Church, in other people and in our own life experience.  It is good to ask ourselves regularly: Where did I find God’s wisdom?  How had God’s wisdom empowered or also challenged me today or this week?  How have I oriented my life anew according to this divine wisdom?  This, too, is a way of keeping our lamps burning.

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, The ‘prudent’ virgins were ready for the wedding.  Pope St. John XXIII had his suitcase packed at the end of his life.  We, too, are called to be prepared for our final encounter with God.

All the virgins fell asleep.  This is consoling for us.  We can rest every once in a while.  However, the ‘wise’ virgins were prepared.  They expected the bridegroom’s coming.  And they oriented their lives toward it.  

Let’s pray today for ourselves and for those who are near and dear to us, that we be strengthened in our hope, that we may seek and find wisdom and that we may discover how we can encourage our companions on the journey.

Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB

Homily - 31st Sunday in Ordinary TIme

Malachi 1: 14b–2:2b, 8-10
1 Thess. 2: 7b–9, 13
Matthew 23: 1-12

The words of the prophet Malachi are searing and condemnatory. But they are not an indictment of the community per se; they are meant for the priests who are supposed to serve the community. The words the prophet directs toward the priests could not be more painful: I will make a curse of your blessing. Something is terribly wrong. Things are being turned upside down and not for the better.

Malachi is speaking at the time when the temple was rebuilt after the return from exile. But from what he says, the temple may be rebuilt, but the priests who serve that temple have not reformed themselves. Instead of offering the best animals in sacrifice, they satisfy themselves with the strays, the weak and the sick. They are not offering God what is the best, what is pure. When they do this, they are in effect downgrading the people. Another area of condemnation is the priests’ instructions. Instead of proclaiming God’s word and helping people to live by it, they are causing people to fall away from God. The last area God faults the priests for is their judicial activity. They are showing partiality in judging. In other words, the priests are favoring one segment of the population over another; some are treated as special while others are looked down on. God is God of all the people, but decisions are being made that split the community and break the unity.

There is always a reason why God speaks through the prophets in angry words. And God never fails to give reasons for his anger. The prophet Malachi makes quite clear what the priests are doing is wrong. The words were harsh in Malachi’s days. Are they no less harsh today? The sexual abuse cases of our clergy have raised the anger of the community. Bishops who turned a blind eye and ear when such cases were reported have come under fire. When religious leadership fails, the community suffers. When the shepherds are not longer shepherds, then the flock suffers. A trust is broken.

What is God concerned about here? What is behind the anger the prophet speaks? The community: You have made void the covenant of Levi. The faith between us is broken; the covenant between God and his people is violated. God’s searing words reflect his grief that the love he has for the community, the love in the covenant bond, is not being upheld. A sacred bond is fractured, violated. Those who are supposed to nurture the relationship between God and his people have failed. From God’s point of view, this is a great pain and sorrow for he is the covenant partner of his people.

The healing process, naturally, is to restore a relationship of love. God is not interested in punishing but in getting the community back on track, back on the way, he says. Leadership plays a necessary role in that. What is to be restored is solidarity among all members of the community. God’s love is faithful. The community will thrive, leaders and all members, when they respond to that fidelity with the same concern and love for all that they have experienced.  We have one Father, we have one God who created us, the prophet pleads.  Let us remember that we are one.

In the gospel, Jesus does not directly confront religious leaders but he does warn his disciples what religious leadership does not look like. Again, what is his concern behind his clear description of what might be described as corrupt religious leadership, leadership that has lost the way? His concern is for the community of his disciples. Leadership of a community, of the Church, he says, is not about making life religiously difficult for the members, laying up burdens; it is not about saying one thing, a good thing, and then doing something different; it is not about titles, it is not about honor or showing off one’s piety. It is not about looking for recognition and expecting to be treated special. Jesus is clear about that. You are all brothers and sisters, he reminds us.

Jesus is not all negative today. Rather he makes his point in one line and asks us to imagine what it might look like. He takes the human desire to be up front, to be above and first of all and turns it upside down. For Jesus the heart of leadership is not sitting at the head table, having a fancy title, a nice car, free services, etc. The heart of leadership is service. The Son of Man, he says, did not come to be served but to serve. Leadership, religious leadership, looks like serving others at the table. It is putting the other first.

What kind of leadership does Jesus expect in the covenant community, what we know as and what Matthew will call Church? Servant leadership. Where will God be present in his covenant community? In acts and lives of service; this is where God dwells. Service, Jesus, says is why I have come; it is also what I leave behind. It will be the hallmark of the community Jesus forms with his disciples. Special, exclusive groups are out–we all have one Father; special gurus, those who have special access to knowledge, they are out–there is only one master, one teacher: the Christ. Anyone who exercises leadership must be a servant as Christ was servant; to use another model, such as Jesus describes today, is to step out of discipleship, to step out of the covenant Jesus establishes with love in his blood.

What God says in the prophet and what Jesus emphasizes is a community living in solidarity with God and one another. What is central is experiencing the bonds being formed by lives of service following the model of its Master, Jesus Christ. What Jesus is urging us on to today is to make Christ the center: the Christ who humbled himself to die on a cross that we might know and see that God is faithful and will stand with those who are last. When Christ is the center, then we can be in solidarity with one another and in communion with the one Father and God of all.

Prior Joel Macul, OSB

Prior’s message for November

It is the season when the phrase “communion of saints” from the Apostles’ Creed touches our celebrations and our life of prayer. We are in communion with our future. We remember those whom we call saints. In this case, we become present to those who are experiencing the fullness of joy and peace in the Lord’s presence. Theirs is a new life born from their fidelity to the love of God while on earth. In our communion with them, we hear them assuring us we are on the right way, encouraging us to cling to our hope for a world where God’s  harmony and justice are the norm.

These days we are also in communion with our past. We come from somewhere, from someone. We are not alone but are part of a communion of ancestors. From our point of view they are past, they are dead. But in our communion with them, they are with us, and we with them. They remind us that we are human, of the earth, but they remind us, too, of our divine nature, our link to the life of the Spirit. It was from them we learned to talk, to love and embrace. From them we learned that true life meant forgiveness, sharing and walking with. Death does not break communion with them. For our God, all is alive: our past, our present and our future. We live in perpetual communion with all.


Fr. Prior Joel Macul, OSB

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Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed

On November 2nd the Church remembers the faithful departed who have completed their earthly pilgrimage. The community of Christ the King Priory gathered at our own cemetery paying prayerful tribute to the confreres who are buried there:

                Br. Felix Meckel, O.S.B.                                  + January 1980

                Br. Henry-Libory Hartlief, O.S.B.                + March 1990

                Br. Innocent Rudloff, O.S.B.                         + August 1990

                Br. Alphonse Kraklauer, O.S.B.                    + February 1994

At the beginning of the service, Fr. Prior Joel read the list of all the confreres who have been part of the Schuyler Missionary Benedictine Community and who are buried elsewhere.

May the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace!

 N.B.:  Throughout the month of November, the daily Holy Mass at the monastery is celebrated for the departed family members, friends and acquaintances of the monks and benefactors.

Memorial Celebration for Brother John Vianney

Memorial Mass for Br. Vianney Rentmeister OSB

October 26, 2017

Isaiah 25:6–10a
Romans 8:31b–35, 37–39
Luke 24:13-16, 28–35

When people speak to me of Br. Vianney, they mention two things: he was the monastery cook for some 20 years and he was a brother on the road, making contacts that lasted for years. This boils down to food and making contact with people, creating links for the missions and for friendship.

It seems appropriate that when we gather to remember the dead, we hear words from Scripture about food. Food and drink, good food and drink, is one of the images bequeathed to us about our future. There is a direct link between the food and table we sit at here and the table that is in our future. How can what is of necessity (no food, no drink, we die) in this life actually be a hint of and a share in the life to come? Doesn’t this life pass away? How is it that the tables of this life already point to another table? We eat the food and it is gone! Can it last?

But we know that eating and drinking is more than filling the stomach. At the heart of eating and drinking is communion; eating and drinking together creates a bond among those at the table. The food taken in common does more than quiet growling stomachs. The food and drink are shared and in that sharing the lives of those who eat and drink are shared. The joys and sorrows, happiness and pain of those at table are also shared.  From the experience of being alone or isolated, we come to know that we are also with others. To prepare the food that others will share and so enter into communion with one another is an honor as well as a task. One is preparing others for communion. One is pouring one’s own life into the food; one’s labor, time and imagination are all found in the food we find on the table. To share in food placed in front of us is already sharing in a work of service and love. Communion with one another in love through food—is that not a touch of the future, of life eternal?

Isaiah thought so. For him God was the one preparing the food. Rich food and choice wines, he sees. He sees the best, because he sees that when God prepares the food, the life and communion hidden in sharing the food do not end. The death, the separation that comes when we leave the tables of this earth is healed. The hint of eternity in our daily common meal is now real, it is completed. Br. Vianney’s meals, whether we found them tasty or not, were in reality pointing us as a community toward the fullness of communion in what we call the heavenly table or banquet. Of the many human, even ordinary, experiences we have, the common meal of sharing food and drink together is one of best images we have of the new life of resurrection. In that new life, any veils over or shadows on our table companions here are gone. Anything preventing a full communion with one another here is lifted and we are face to face with one another in all our beauty, tenderness and love. Whether we knew it or not, these were hidden in the food we shared day in and day out. Now they come into full communion.

Our gospel story this evening is likewise a food story, a bread story. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus are surrounded by death, disappointment and hopes dashed.  They are separated from one whom they came to love and one who loved them. They are at a low point. A stranger walks along with them. Evidently, the word he speaks causes their hearts to wake up, to become warm again. As he communes with them in word, they are consoled. Even more, their lives begin to have meaning again. They said their hearts were burning…..they were coming alive, throbbing with new understanding about what happened to this Jesus on whom they set their hopes. In their excitement, they offer hospitality to the one awakening meaning and hope in their lives. They share bread. Then suddenly in the sharing of bread, it all comes together. Communion happens in a flash. It is in the bread broken; communion happens when bread is broken and shared. But they came to realize that it is precisely Jesus, whom they know, that can both be broken and bring together.  They only saw bread broken, death and separation. They thought it was the end.  Then they saw and heard a stranger. Then the stranger’s gesture triggered memory; they remembered that pouring out a life, breaking a body was an act of love. It was a gesture for others; hidden in the food was a whole life lived for others. When Jesus does that, then he is alive. The words and the breaking of bread is the sign of resurrection. The simple food contains love and life. These never end.Br. Vianney went on many trips, drove down many roads and was welcomed by many people. He listened to many words, heard many stories. He was offered food and drink. In it all was he not creating communion and solidarity in faith among those who welcomed him? In the communion he maintained with many over the years, I would guess he encouraged many to see beyond their disappointments, sorrows, pain and loss. He no doubt invited them to look deeper and farther to see a living God who will not allow anything to stand in the way of his loving. For our God does not see separation in all its faces, but sees only a communion of all who said yes to his love. Yes, our God sees them and is already preparing that table of rich food and fine drink from which we will never have to rise again.

Joel Macul, OSB

Mission Sunday, 2017

Celebration of the 50th anniversary of profession of Prior Joel Macul, OSB
and 25th anniversary of ordination of Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB

Zechariah 8:20–23; Romans 10:9–18; Mt 28:16–20

Many years ago when I was living at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Nairobi, the monk living next to me was from Uganda. We got along rather well and one day he said rather insistently, “Being a missionary means leaving your village.” By this time, I was well aware of what leaving one’s village could mean for an African. “Village” did not just mean the place where you grew up. To be a missionary meant you had to leave the whole mindset of the village, the close relationships, yes, but also the village mentality, that these few houses and these people constituted the real world. To leave the village, meant leaving behind that community as the sole referent point in your life, the only way of thinking, and being willing to find life and the meaning of life in someone else’s village, community, world, way of thinking. Brother knew that to leave one’s village meant a death to all you may have found precious. But that was the beginning of being a missionary. Admitting that the world view and the relationships you liked had to be set aside and you had to move on and out into what might very well be a totally different world. If you didn’t leave your village, if you did not want to leave your village, you could not be a missionary.

To leave home, to be sent away from home and love it is part of the picture of being a missionary. On this Mission Sunday, the Word we have heard offers us at least three other images of what mission and missionary mean. In those days, the Lord says to Zechariah, people of every nationality will take hold of every Jew by the sleeve and say “Let us go with you for we have heard that God is with you.” … Someone comes up to you grabs you by the sleeve of your jacket and says I’m coming with you. I see God in your face and hear him in your words….But the someone who comes up to you, is not from your village. No, he can barely speak your language; his skin may be that of an Hispanic, Afro-American, Asian, Native American; she is different, she may come from across the border. But he has watched you, he has felt your faith and heard how you have spoken gently and encouragingly to others; he or she has heard you say that Jesus has been the road you follow. he has been your Way. And Jesus’ way has meant seeing the divine and the holy in each person. This stranger has seen how you have gone out of your way to look after someone else, been patient with another’s hurt. In a word, this stranger tugging at your sleeve has found your way of life attractive. Something about the way you talk, the way you are with people has moved this person pulling at you. You and your way, the way of Jesus that you live, has become visible to someone and they want you to bring them into that same relationship with Jesus. This person has experienced God through you.

If the vision of Zechariah is clear, it means that God’s community, God’s family is not just from my village, or my country. The vision of God for us humans is a humanity that multi-cultural, multi-lingual on a journey toward the one Father of all and in whom we become one. But for this vision of God to happen, I must be ready to acknowledge someone pulling at my sleeve and saying, lead me to the God who has loved you and walks with you. ….Has it ever happened to you that someone has taken hold of your sleeve and said show me the hope that you carry, the source of your generosity? If that has happened and you have brought that person along, then you are part of God’s mission and you are a missionary. Or have you ever pulled at someone else’s sleeve and said to another, your faith, your love, your words have moved me and confirmed in me the mercy of God? Have you let someone else lead you into the mystery of God and his Son? Yes, pulling at someone’s sleeve because you find their heart attractive, that is part of mission.

Now let us pick up an image from Paul. Let us go down from the sleeve to the feet. Paul quotes a line from Isaiah: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news! But before we come to the beautiful feet we have to pass through the heart. It is the heart that will give direction to the feet. The feet will go where the heart will tell them. Our lives will walk along a path that the heart speaks to them. But the heart can only give directions to the feet, to the direction of our lives, if the heart has heard a good word. The heart must hear about the word of Christ. Someone needs to open their mouth and speak about the treasure that is Christ. The heart must speak what it believes, what it knows to be true. The heart must speak the story of Jesus and God’s faithfulness is bringing him from death to life. When someone speaks that story of God’s fidelity into our heart and then we move with our feet in that same direction of fidelity and love, then our feet become beautiful. The feet are carrying the message of a heart that knows what is good and true for it. When I carry the message of truth and goodness in my heart and my feet are guided by the word of Christ, I shall surely be cutting a path that leads to peace. The Good News being carried by my feet is one of healing for humanity. It is a message that comes from the Lord of all. If I call his name and listen to his response, then my heart is shaped again in his image and my feet, my life will find its fulfillment in a peace that makes no distinction of persons, as Paul insists. That too is a being a missionary: someone who speaks words of peace, someone who can walk in God’s wholeness, his shalom, even in a broken world, strident world.

An image from Jesus. He is about to send out these messengers with beautiful feet. Notice the command: to make disciples of all nations. God’s vision is universal. I have to be able to see the horizon God sees, not necessarily my own. Making disciples happens in a baptism in the name of Father, Son and Spirit. Mission is inviting others into a Trinitarian relationship. Disciples are about naming, naming the people who make up humanity. But that name is three fold. It is not the name that villagers would give. It is naming others by the name of the living God. In the naming of others, the missionary is claiming them as members of a God who is community. We treasure our names, we are careful about our names. They are our identity. But now our identity is found in the name of Father, Son and Spirit. We are baptized into the communion of the Triune God, a communion that is marked by faithful love, a love into which we are definitively drawn by the Son and a love that is constantly nurtured by the Spirit. Invoking God’s name over others so that when they rise out of the waters, they rise into a new community of the divine and human: building up that community is being part of God’s mission.

On this mission Sunday we are also gathered to give thanks to God for the lives of two of us who have in the mysterious course of our lives left our villages, wonderful villages. We left them and went to other nations and tongues. Whether we went with beautiful feet, I cannot judge. But I can say that we went with a hope that the love of the Father for all people would become real for others. We went with the hope that when we left and moved on, as we must, we might hear the simple words: “You taught us another way to live and be. Thank you!” Surely if that happened, then in some small way the tug on our sleeve changed us as much as it changed the ones pulling on that sleeve. For we were both the ones sent and the ones who received. And so, as St. Benedict says, Our hearts expanded. And to give all of us new, expanded hearts is what our God’s mission is all about.

Prior Joel Macul, OSB

Obituary - Brother Vianney (Richard) Rentmeister, OSB

On Tuesday morning, 3 October 2017, our dear

Brother Vianney (Richard) Rentmeister, OSB

died in a hospital in Berlin.

On 20 September we found out that he had suffered a heart attack while on vacation. Several times first responders tried to resuscitate him, he was placed in intensive care, all the while Abbot Michael showing constant concern.

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Br. Vianney was always considered very healthy, so all the more shocking and painful for us is his sudden death.

Br. Vianney was born in Wertheim on 26 October 1941. He grew up with six brothers in a faith-filled family. His father Ewald and his mother Barbara gave shape to a classic railroad family. It was always very important to him and a valuable inheritance. Perhaps from there Richard learned from a young age what was testified of him at the time he was in the candidates’ school: very diligent, his behavior in the community is very good, adapts very well to the order of the house. After primary school in Wertheim, he trained as a tailor in the monastery tailor shop.

Br. Vianney entered the abbey on 10 August 1958. He was admitted to the postulancy on 10 September 1958 and the novitiate on 10 September 1959, making his first profession on 13 September 1960. His solemn profession took place on 30 April 1967. Until he began his main occupation in 1963, he served for two years in the infirmary and another two years in assisting in the construction of the greenhouses. But then the fifteen years in the Münsterschwarzach procure helped to form his exemplary attitude of reverence, gratitude and openness in relating to everyone. In 1978 Br. Vianney was transferred to our St. Benedict Study House in Würzburg for five years. Again there was a small procure to be looked after. He left behind prominent traces in his work with altar servers, contacts that have lasted up to the present day. On 17 July 1983, Br. Vianney arrived at our priory in Schuyler, Nebraska, where he was to spend the next twenty-seven years of his life.

He was trained by Brothers Norbert Hasenmüller and Henry Libory Hartlief in the ways of a traveling brother, which he then diligently followed from 1985 to 1990. His journeys took him to New Mexico, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, California and Texas. We hardly know how many people Br. Vianney made contact with. That he was faithful to his contacts, we know for certain. They are the people who carry on the support of the work of the Benedictine Missionaries up to today.

After the death of Br. Innocent Rudloff in 1990, Br. Vianney went to work in the kitchen of the Schuyler community. A year’s training qualified him for this. To be the mother and soul of a house likewise suited his character. Those who experienced this can speak of it. Even so, during his time as priory cook, he would still go on the road to visit and make contact with donors. On 9 August 2010, shortly after the priory celebrated its 75th anniversary, Br. Vianney returned to Münsterschwarzach. His account of the past years ends: “I am grateful for these years in the USA, for my confreres, but also for the many thousands of people whom I had the chance to meet.”

From September 2010, we find him on the team at our reception area in the abbey. This task also included the readiness to answer calls at night and a diverse telephone ministry. Br. Vianney was prepared for this service by his time as assistant novice master from 1972 to 1978 and especially by his experience in making contact with a wide variety of people while traveling on behalf of the missions throughout the United States.

With him, we lose a confrere who fulfilled his tasks quietly and reliably, who had an active spiritual life, and who was deeply connected with the community. He was a faithful companion for countless people with whom he was in contact for many years. The community of Missionary Benedictines loses in Br. Vianney a “Missionary on the home front.” We thank God for his fruitful life.

The Eucharist was celebrated for him on Saturday, 7 October 2107, at 10:30 a.m., in the Münsterschwarzach Abbey Church and afterwards he was laid to rest in the monastery cemetery.

Münsterschwarzach, 7 October 2017        Abbot Michael and the monks of Münsterschwarzach
                                                                                    Prior Joel and the monks of Christ the King Priory

A public memorial Mass will be celebrated for Brother Vianney at Christ the King Priory, Schuyler, on Thursday, October 26, 2017, at 5: 30 p.m. RIP.

Homily - 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Is 5:1-7, Philippians 4>6-9; Matthew 21:33-43

Jesus commands our attention saying, “hear another parable.” He spins the tale of a landowner with rebellious tenants. The more the owner seeks his due, the more vicious the tenants’ response.

When Jesus challenged the religious leaders to write the end of the story , they condemned the tenants even though they realized that they were the ones implicated. Jesus softened their sentence by telling them, “The Kingdom of God will be taken away from them and given to people that will produce fruit. “

The situation was embarrassing for the leaders; the angrier they got, the more they were admitting that they understood that the evil tenants represented them and Jesus was the son. So they immediately started plotting against Jesus.

Jesus’ reason for speaking the Parable in the final weeks of his ministry is clear. Throughout his public life, Jesus, Son of God, had claimed the right to exercise His Father’s authority over His people. Instead of respecting this claim, the Scribes and Pharisees saw it as a threat to their own dominion over God’s people. They adopted a “He’s got to go “attitudeand Jesus knew they would soon make their move to dispose of Him. It was in this context, that Jesus spoke the Parable of the Tenants. In effect, He is saying to the Scribes and Pharisees,” you may think that getting rid of Me will resolve the matter in your favor. But remember, that is precisely what those wicked tenants imagined. Killing me will not result in My defeat but in your own ruin. You will never be able to successfully resist my Father’s claim to absolute dominion over His people- even if you should kill His Son! Even death has no claim over God’s people. He will never abandon them.

This parable has a history of tragic misinterpretation. It has been used as a pretext for condemning Jewish people while raising up the supposed pure race. A few days ago I stood at the Jewish Ghetto Monument in Warsaw and was overwhelmed thinking about the inhuman atrocities of the Nazis on the Polish and Jewish people. The anti-Semitism over the centuries is another example of the tragic misinterpretations. To deal with that sort of distortion of the Gospel, we should follow this rule of thumb; If one of Jesus’ parables does not call us to conversion, we haven’t understood it. Jesus used parable to shock people into conversion. Parables aren’t puzzles to be understood, but calls to action crafted to make us uncomfortable enough the change our ways.

When we read today’s parable in the light of our world situation and in the light of Pope Francis“Laudato Si “ Encyclical we find ourselves in the sandals of the tenants. Pope Francis reminds us that God has entrusted this Earth to us. Francis could have been writing a commentary on this parable when he said that our role in the world must be understood as one of stewardship. Francis quotes St. John Paul II saying:  “Once the human being declares independence, and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundation of our life begins to crumble.  For instead of carrying out our role as cooperators with God in the work of creation, we set ourselves up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature.

When we read Jesus’ parable of the wicked tenant as a commentary on human responsibility for our Earth and all its peoples, we find ourselves feeling less righteous and much more challenged. None of us can read Francis’ encyclical and feel vindicated.  Whether as steward of the Earth or spokesperson for the world and her most vulnerable creatures, we are called to continue to produce the fruits the Creator hopes to see from us.

Francis tells us: “As Christians we are also called to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and neighbors on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.

Being stewards of creation requires that we approach our Earth as a source of communionor hear the judgment : “it will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

Fr. Volker Futter, OSB

Anniversary Of Dedication

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Today we celebrated the anniversary of the dedication of the church at Christ the King Priory.  We were very blessed to have the President of our congregation with us – Abbot President Jeremias Schroeder.  The Abbot President presided at Mass and was joined by Fr. Thomas Leitner, Fr. Tom Hillenbrand and our Prior, Fr. Joel Macul.  Br. Tobias Dammert was the Cantor and Br. Andrew Fuller prepared the altar and assisted as server and lector. 

Fr. Volker Futter concelebrating Mass with Archbishop Sheehan

The beautiful concrete and wood structure hasn’t changed since its dedication on September 16, 1979.  On that day over 250 people crowded into the church to witness the Dedication Mass by Archbishop Daniel Sheehan.  Our own Fr. Volker Futter concelebrated the Mass that day along with Fr. Herman.  Br. Tobias provided the music liturgy – much as he still does today. 

Archbishop Sheehan annointing the walls.

In his homily this morning Abbot President Jeremias reminded us of the wonder and beauty of the building we come together in.  “I don’t live here – but sometimes the eyes of a casual visitor can see things that those do not see who are here every day.”  He told us that its strong, yet simple design of concrete and wood “speaks plainly”.  No “false plastering or pretending”. 

“This square church, sitting here on a hill, although without real windows, embodies the awareness that the cross of Christ is planted here – but that this cross points into all directions….that it embraces the universe.” 

Beautiful words and a beautiful celebration on this glorious September Nebraska morning. 

A Challenging Season – A Season of Hope

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For the majority of citizens of the United States, and for a multitude of people around the world, the date of September 11, 2001 is bringing back “unpleasant” memories. The pictures of destruction following the collapse of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, of the damage to the Pentagon in Washington, and the crashed plane in a field in Pennsylvania cannot be wiped out. Innocent lives were taken – families still mourn. Our Nation remembers the dead. Tragedy united the nation in prayer and outreach.

Fast forward: late August 2017 – Hurricane Harvey approaches the coastal area of Texas and Louisiana. Destruction and major flooding occurred throughout the region, especially in the greater Houston area. It took days for the water to recede and people of good will from around the nation and Mexico provided food, water and basic necessities for the victims of the hurricane and financial aid pours in to organizations involved hurricane relief efforts.

September 9th – Hurricane Irma has already left a trail of devastation as it approaches Florida. The infrastructure of the islands hit is not the best. It will take a long time towards recovery. This will also be the case for the region of Florida and other coastal States in the path of Irma and who knows what Hurricane Jose will bring as it forms. 

Wildfires cause much damage in the States of Montana, Washington, and California and firefighters struggle to contain the fires. When will the needed moisture bring relief?

People of Good Will unite in relief efforts as volunteers and especially in prayer for the safety of people. Hurricane Irma hit also Cuba where we Missionary Benedictines have a small foundation which we plan to introduce to our friends in the next appeal which has already been prepared.  Donations for this appeal are earmarked in remembrance of our departed loved one and in support of the monks in Cuba. The scheduled date for mailing is late September We pray for the safety of our confreres and all the people affected by the hurricanes.

We are not insensitive to the needs of victims of natural disasters – we Missionary Benedictines have already and will again assist financially from our own resources and the emergency fund we have established several years ago. At the same time we do our best in helping with projects of our confreres in Africa and Asia and especially the outreach to those in their care.

God bless you for reaching out to those in need!

Br. Tobias, O.S.B.
and the monks of Christ the King Priory, Schuyler, NE

Homily - 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah22:19–23
Romans 11:3–36
Matthew 16:13–20

It is obvious that keys are for doors or gates. But the keys and the gates we hear about in this Sunday’s liturgy are special. These are not ordinary keys; and the doorways and gates they close and open are not your everyday ones. The keys and gates today have to do with heaven and earth, with life and death and what is between them.

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There is a feeling of a struggle over the key and the gates or doors. If the gate is open, this means there is only one world. But if the gate is closed, it means there are two worlds: heaven and earth or, in in another way of seeing reality, the world of death, the nether world, and the world of life. The key is important. Whoever holds the key has a power over these two worlds. Whoever has the key has an authority.

In the story from Isaiah, we hear of a transfer of power from Shebna to Eliakim. The incident takes place around 700 BC when Hezekiah was the king of Judah. He is the heir to David. The position of holder of the keys means he has authority over the king’s household. He holds access to the king in a very personal way. His position is like that of being a father to the city and the people. The authority in the handing over of the keys is not a raw power to do what he wants; it is an authority to be the king’s agent to the people. He is to carry out the king’s fatherhood by caring and providing for the people. He holds the keys to make the king’s concern for all really happen. Note that the story makes it clear that the Lord God is the one who transfers the power of the kingdom of David from one person to another. The authority vested in the keys that pass from Shebna to Eliakim comes from the Lord. A human being is given authority in the kingdom and house of David by the one who set up the kingdom in the first place.

Today Jesus also gives keys. He gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven to Peter. What moves Jesus to give keys to this disciple? We already know him as someone who is rather quick and rash in his judgements. We know him to be of little faith. And after this handover when Jesus calls him Peter, we will hear how Jesus will call Peter a ‘Satan,’ a tempter, “Get behind me Satan.” You do not understand what being Messiah, being the Christ, really means. But, Jesus gives him the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus acknowledges Peter because Peter has acknowledged Jesus. Peter, the son of Jonah, has recognized that Jesus is Son of God. Peter has recognized and named that this Son of Man, Jesus, is from heaven. Peter is seeing in this man Jesus that the Kingdom of heaven has now entered human history in the best and clearest way possible. The one standing before Jesus as he asks “Who do you say I am?” is saying in turn that you are from the living God, you are his Christ, active and ruling in our world. Peter is coming to the realization that heaven and earth have met in this man Jesus. What looked like two separate worlds has now come to be joined in this Son of the living God. What heaven looks like and feels like is being talked about by this Jesus; heaven’s power is now on earth. A door has been opened and worlds have met. The world of heaven and the world of earth are no longer strangers. We know about these worlds meeting and interacting now as one world because we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that what God has begun in Jesus will continue. We acknowledge that heaven and earth are not meant to be two separate worlds but rather one world, one kingdom, of God.

Jesus recognizes that what Peter has said about him, did not necessarily come from himself. Peter’s insight into Jesus and his origins is a gift from the Father in heaven. Peter has been touched in a deeply personal way by the Spirit from heaven. The Father in heaven has given Peter the gift to recognize Jesus as Son of the living God. Peter in himself has come to be a person where heaven and earth have come together. Jesus acknowledges this and calls Peter “blessed are you.” Peter is the only person in the gospels whom Jesus identifies as blessed. He is blessed because he has responded to the revelation of the Father in heaven. This recognition of Jesus and the blessing that flows from this is part of the mystery we remember and celebrate this day.

Peter has spoken what has happened in his heart. He heard the voice of the Father and he activated it, made it come out in words of recognition. Perhaps a little like ourselves when we have an insight and then we speak it out and a new reality is recognized as present. Because Peter heard the Father’s word and spoke it, he becomes rock. Peter has become the rock where the word of God in Jesus is being built up in the world of earth. Jesus goes on to acknowledge that in Peter. Jesus can now talk about building. Jesus speaks of Peter as one on whom Jesus can form a community. Peter has become a living stone, the beginnings of the kingdom.

Peter is given keys of the Kingdom of heaven. He has recognized in Jesus the image of the living God, his very son, the deepest possible relationship there can be with God. This opens up the whole storehouse, so to speak, of what the Kingdom is. In Peter, Jesus can be confident that his own message and work will continue. The community that gathers around the new world of heaven and earth together has a future in time.

It is not Jesus who picks someone to be the stone on which the community is built. No, it is the Father who reveals a mystery to Peter and Jesus acknowledges the Father’s choice. His acknowledgment takes the form of building a community. And thus begins the process of our adoption as sons and daughters of the living God. To acknowledge who Jesus is is to become a living stone in a new community where the Kingdom rules.

Somewhere, sometime, in each of our lives like Peter we answered Jesus’ question. But are we now allowing Jesus to build with us his community on earth?

Jesus is the Son of the living God. When this Son died, the netherworld did not hold him. That gate is closed; there is no power there. The keys to the Kingdom are keys to life. Is the life of Jesus flowing through us so that his church, his community, is truly a reflection of heaven on earth?

The keys Jesus gives are special keys. They are keys to open the gates of life. Life is the power and authority they serve. We stand in that authority each time we build up life in another, each time we offer hope, each time we say we are with you, each time we open our mouths and confess a word that lifts up another. When we do that, we are a rock in the community called Church.

Fr. Prior Joel Macul, OSB

Homily - 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

I would like to talk to you about a famous race – a track race that happened way back in 1954.

His name was Roger Bannister – he was a student at Oxford University in England.  He was a track star, and he was so good that his coach thought he could be the very first person in history to break the 4 minute mile.

Roger was not that sure – but since his coach believe in him he was certainly going to give it his best effort.

On May 8th, 1954 – Roger woke up to a cold and windy morning, a  terrible day for running a race.  He called his parents and told them: “Stay home.  It’s a bad day and I won’t run fast.”  His parents came anyway.

There was just a very small crowd on hand for the race.  The runner lined up, the gun barked, and the rest is history.  At exactly 3 min. and 59 seconds, Roger crossed the finish line and became the first person in history to break the 4 minute mile.

There’s more to this story.   Just 19 days later, an Australian runner named John Landy, became the second man to break the 4 minute mile.  So this set the stage for an historic race between these two men.

A few months later the stage was set for this dream race in Canada.  John Landy led way right into the final stretch.  Then he did something that no racer should do.  He glanced over his should to see how far Bannister was behind him.

In that split second Roger shot past him and won the race.

The moral of this story – never take your eyes off the finish line.  Keep your eyes fixed on the goal.

In the Gospel today Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he looked down at the raging water, he became very afraid, and he started sinking.

Sometimes our life can become very fearful and anxious.  It can feel that we are really sinking down in the dark waters of fear, depression, anxiety whatever.  What are we to do?

First – “Lord save me.”   We are to do what Peter did.  He cried out to the Lord for help.  “Lord save me!”  And Jesus saved him.  Let us cry out daily to the Lord with heartfelt prayers and ask Jesus to save us.  Save us from our sins, from our selfishness and pettiness.

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Second – Focus on Jesus alone.  Never, never take your eyes off Jesus.  He is our Savior – there is no other. If we take our eyes off Jesus we will start to sink, we will start to drown in our own self pity and sins. And we often take our eyes off Jesus when we get so wrapped up in our work, so fixated on a person who has hurt us be in control, so determined to control our own life and the lives of those around us.  

Our eyes can only go in one of two directions.  Either they go out and focus on Jesus in deep and daily prayer and Jesus in our neighbor in need, or they go inward and focus on our own selfish needs and desires, our own aches and pains, our own troubles and problems.  Then we start sinking.  I often think of people, young and old, taking “selfies.”  They seem to be always taking pictures of themselves, focusing on self. It is something like singing “How Great Thou Art” while looking in the mirror.  Then our own little world becomes fenced in on all four sides by me, me, me, me.

The Lord, thru Elijah the prophet, shows us where we can find him.

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
"Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by."
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And in the Gospel today Jesus went off to the mountain to be alone and to be with His Father, to be in solitude and in quiet.

We too will find God in the quiet places of our heart if we take time to listen to him.  If we “quiet down” our sometimes hectic, busy and noisy life. 

“Be still, be still, and know that I am God.”  

Fr. Tom Hillenbrand, OSB

Homily - The Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord

Both the Roman and Eastern Rite Catholics celebrate this church feast today, August 6th, on its traditional date for both calendars.  For Eastern Christians, this feast is especially significant; it is among the “12 great feasts” of Eastern Catholicism.  This Gospel is proclaimed again on the 2nd Sunday of Lent to help us get glimpses of the Risen Christ and the Transfigured Christ. 

The Transfiguration of Jesus happened at night!!!  A new truth for me; now it makes perfect sense that in the fullness of the darkest of night an astounding brilliance shown forth from the Transfigured Jesus.  This feast describes Jesus at the peak or pinnacle of His earthly life when He reveals Himself to three of His closest disciples, be means of a miraculous and supernatural light

The setting for the Transfiguration was like no other:  the awe-inspiring mountain top was high enough for all to see.  The fresh, crisp air, land rich in green trees and shrubs, along with fertile fruit bearing trees.  Bishop Michael Curry says:  “Hearts get changed on the mountain.  Worlds get changed on the mountain.  The mountain is a place of messianic metamorphoses.”

It can be described as a spectacular display of Trinitarian Love as we hear the words of Matthew, Mark and Luke in the Entrance Antiphon for this liturgy:  “In a resplendent cloud, the Holy Spirit appeared, and the voice of the Father was heard,  ‘This is My Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased…listen to Him’”

The story of the Transfiguration of Christ has puzzled the mind of Christians for centuries.  It is the clearest New Testament understanding of mystical experience, the experience of spiritual things within the ordinary and the belief that the spiritual reality is greater and more beautiful than any ordinary experience.  This is the central mystery of Christ’s life. 

The time frame of this event is a few days short of Palm/Passion Sunday, of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus, along with three New Testament men, climbed to the heights of Mt. Tabor and they were met by Moses and Elijah of the Old Testament.  This was an encounter with the Living God.  Yet in this awesome place, Jesus shocked them with the words that He would have to suffer, be crucified, put to death – all part of the scandal of the cross. 

If we were chosen to take the place of Peter, James, or John on Mt. Tabor, this would be nothing less than our first glimpse of Jesus and our Heaven.  We would use the apostles’ words:  “Lord, it is good for us to be here:  let’s erect three tents…”  We would be telling Jesus, we are not leaving this place…this is Heaven.  Like the apostles, Hey, we got this – we are not going anywhere.  We are staying here forever. 

The purpose of the Transfiguration was to encourage and strengthen the apostles who were depressed by their Master’s prediction of His own Passion and Death.  Despite seeing Jesus standing before them in snow-white glory and the splendor of His Divinity overflowing from His body, the apostles had no thought of leaving their Transfigured Lord.  YET THEY HAD TO GO BACK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN.  We have to climb back down the mountain as well, each day, to take up our cross. 

Like the Apostles we really need and want reassurances from Jesus that our earthly confusion and uncertainties will not last forever but this joy and consolation will never end. 

Many of us have our “special place” in which to encounter our God and to experience our intimate time; be it water, a lake, or an ocean, or a wooded area.  Yet the mountain top is the perfect place for others.  Often in the Bible the mountain is God’s place to reveal God’s self and his plans. 

Jesus is accomplishing the coming of His Kingdom, the promise of the Resurrection for us, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to Myself”.  A few were chosen to witness this mystery of Transfiguration, this manifestation and unveiling of GOD in all magnificence when His appearance was changed by a brilliant white light shone from Him and His clothing, whiter than any white we know.  Jesus clearly calls this mysterious occurrence “a vision”.  It was not reality as we know it, but just a glimpse of what would be happening in the fullness of eternity.

We look forward with great longing to have our Christ shown to us as the “fullest manifestation of God’s Light”, at the moment of our death.  But until then we can know this powerful moment in amazing or unusual events in nature:  a spectacular sunrise or sunset, an extraordinary rainbow.  As we often say, “that was a little bit of heaven”. 

In this revelation atop Mt. Tabor, God showed us the connection between the Old and New Testament.  In times past, God spoke to us through the laws and the prophets, (Moses and Elijah); and now in these last days – through His Son. 

Finally, the Transfiguration occurred, not so much for the sake of Jesus, but it was so much more for the apostles and us.  Like the apostles, we climb down the mountain once again, awed by our own experiences of God, encouraged that we know the Glory of God once again. 

Deacon Brother Andrew, OSB

Homily - 17th Sunday O.T.

Mt 13:44-46   1 Kgs 3:5,7-12    Rom 8:28-30

Focus: “For those who love God,” who make God the first priority of their lives, and who, thus, can find Christ in their neighbor, “all things work for good.”

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,  Thirty-five years ago, the British agnostic Malcolm Muggeridge followed  Mother Teresa on her rounds in Calcutta, to produce a book and documentary that would be known as Something Beautiful for God.  “Mother, please help me understand,” he one day pleaded with Mother Teresa.  “I watch you pick up dying beggars abandoned in the gutter, covered with vermin, their own waste, dirt, [and] blood.  You embrace them, tenderly lift them into your wagons, take them back to bathe them, bandage them, feed them, [and] place them in clean beds.  I am near nausea watching you.  But you and your sisters are happy!  You are smiling!  How do I get some of this joy?”

Mr. Muggeridge,” the now-saint replied.  “Just look at the word joy: J-O-Y.  These are your priorities if you want joy.  ‘J’ — Jesus; ‘O’ — others; ‘Y’ — last, yourself.”

The happiness, the joy, of Mother Teresa and of her Missionaries of Charity has its origin in their priorities, in what was and is important to them, in what captures their attention and fills their time, in what they love with all their hearts, their souls, their strength, and their whole being.

Today’s gospel also is about priorities in life and about joy.  In one parable, Jesus talks about a great treasure, which has been hidden in a field.  In antiquity there were no banks yet as there are today.  During uncertain times, during war, people frequently would bury their valuables in the ground in order to secure them.  Sometimes such treasures got forgotten over time.  A farm worker finds a treasure in a field.  He buries it again.  Then, in his joy about the find, he sells everything he owns to buy the field.  If he owns the field, he has the treasure as well.

Different from the man who stumbles across the treasure, the merchant in the second parable is searching for things of value.  This wealthy man, who has devoted his life to hunting for fine pearls, finds a very precious one and gives his all in order to acquire it.

Both stories together tell us something about the kingdom of heaven, about God’s grace present in our lives.  God’s grace can simply break into a person’s life, as an unexpected and even unintended find!  Nothing is impossible with God!   At the same time, it is true that we have to search for God as the merchant searched for fine pearls.  We have to contribute what we can in order to become ever more receptive to the grace of God. Nothing deserves greater priority. 

The great moment of grace as a gift for Sr. Teresa was during a train ride up to Darjeeling, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where she went for a retreat.  On the train, she was graced with a deep experience of God’s light and God’s love.   And she heard Christ say to her, “I thirst.”

Sr. Teresa responded to the gift of grace and so became Mother Teresa.  Two years after the experience on the train, she left the convent of Loreto Sisters to which she belonged and began, with the permission of the pope and also of her local archbishop, to serve the poorest of the poor on the streets of Calcutta.  Her response consisted in serving Christ, as she put it, “in the distressing disguise of the poor.”  His thirst was their thirst.  This was one new big priority for her.

On the other hand, there was her life of prayer.  This became an ever greater priority for her, too.  You may remember that journalist, who once said to her, “I wouldn’t do this work on the streets of Calcutta for a Mill $$.”  What was her response?  “I wouldn’t, either.”  Her prayer made it possible for her to sustain her service.  Her prayer made it possible for her to see the deeper reality in those whom she served, to “see and touch Christ’s body” in them.  She attended Mass every day.  She quietly communed with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament on a regular basis.  She prayed the rosary regularly.  Very often, her prayer didn’t come with great emotional experiences.  Nevertheless, it was the necessary foundation or her work.

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, ‘For those who love God,’ who make God the first priority of their lives, and who thus can find Christ in their neighbor, ‘all things work for good.’

Just the way the men in the parables gave up much in order to buy the treasure or the pearl, respectively, Mother Teresa gave up the comfort and the security of her previous life with the Sisters of Loreto in order to become free to pursue what has become important to her. We can ask ourselves:  What would we need to give up in our lives in order not to lose sight of the treasure, the precious pearl, in order to pursue and receive the kingdom more fully?

If we, using the word JOY as an acronym, organize our priorities in the right way:  Jesus—Others—last, Yourself, if we sometimes give away, even to the point, as Mother Teresa would put it, “that it hurts,” then Saint Teresa’s promise will come true also for us: We can experience the joy that filled her heart.

Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB

The Feastday of St. Benedict

Proverbs 2:1–9
Ephesians 4:1–6
Luke 22:24 –27

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It is a well known fact that in the church of the West, even in the civilization of the West, the Rule of St. Benedict stands alone and above other monastic rules. Those who follow the voice of St. Benedict in his Rule may not be a large number today. Hardly the number of the stars of heaven that the poetry of the day would have us believe. But it remains true that following this Rule is following not only the oldest, but also the most enduring of Gospel paths. The Rule has lasted a very long time, from at least the 6th century. To follow it is to be in a path of tradition that outreaches many others. The Rule has endured to the 21st century. In fact, interest in the Rule and the way of life it lays out has increased in the past generation. It has reached beyond monasteries of men and women to become a light for the ordinary Christian of many traditions. The people who come to our St. Benedict Center bear witness to that. And those who come to join us in the Work of God have certainly found a rhythm and prayer that responds to them.

What is this enduring quality in the Rule that keeps it going from one generation one century to another and makes its appeal so broad? The answer lies simply in wisdom. The Rule is one of the true voices of Lady Wisdom as she calls out to wandering and searching humanity. Those who hear her voice in St. Benedict’s Rule have found silver and gold; they have found a hidden treasure.

The man, monk and abbot we remember today is above all a person of wisdom. St. Benedict stands in that long line of men and women who have lived deeply the human life and reflected on it, and in turn are now handing it on to us. At the heart of Benedict’s way is a voice, a call. It picks up the call of Lady Wisdom as found in the Wisdom tradition of the Scriptures. It is the call of Christ, God’s incarnate wisdom, to find life through him and in him. It is the voice of the master, the teacher, who wants to share what he has experienced of God and humanity. It is the voice of love. The loving father caring for his children, the loving master who gently urges us in the right direction toward life. We hear the loving Christ who not only gives us his word and his commandment of love, but who puts his words into action by giving his life on the cross, thus loving until the end. Or as St. Benedict might say it, persevering in the will of his Father even unto death.

Just as the teacher of wisdom says, “My child, if you want life, then listen to the ways of wisdom; seek her, pursue her, follow her paths.” So we hear Benedict in the midst of his disciples saying: Listen to me, hear my words, my message, then live by them. And you will find life. And what do my words point to; what is the real guide that you need for your life: the Gospel is our guide. With that we can set out on the way.

One reason why Benedict and his tradition has lasted in the Christian community is because it is eminently practical in the spiritual life. Practical in the sense that it is eminently wise.  It is wise because it begins with human beings and guides them to the face of God. Wisdom in the traditional sense is not just information, data gathering, but living in a deeply human manner. And in so doing, living in the presence and love of God himself. In traditional language, true wisdom leads to the fear of God. To live wisely is to live with God and in God. To live wisely is to live in God’s love of us, Christ’s love of us and our love of each other. To live this wise way, is to live in peace. Benedict structures life so that we are always in that environment. Growing wise in God, finding God in our daily life with one another. 

And where does wisdom come from. The wise person knows that wisdom comes from listening. Listening to the voice within; listening to the voice of masters, teachers. Listening to the word of a confrere; wisdom comes through the word of the abbot. And all this listening is crowned by listening to the Scriptures, the ultimate gift that contains the Wisdom of God. The wise heart, says Benedict, is forever expanding, forever opening to the deep rhythms of human life, forever expanding in a love that is beyond words. And after listening, finding a home in the word we have heard.

Whenever we see a picture or a statue of St. Benedict, he will be holding his Rule. In his hand will be the written words of his wisdom. Sometimes the Rule will be held up for us, as though it were his voice calling out to us: Listen, my child. Sometimes it might be held closer to his heart, as though to remind us that this rule is the precious distillation of his experience of life. But above all, his Rule is rooted in that tradition that says the way to God is found in the way of being truly human in the here and now. The path to eternal life lies in an awareness that God is present here and now; God has left not only his traces in creation, but his full imprint. Benedict’s legacy is to leave us a guide to make sure we find that imprint in our daily interactions with each other, in the tools we use, in the people that come to us, in the very persons of our confreres, in all that is both strong and weak.

On this feast of our Father Benedict, we once again are summoned to the qualities of humanity that reflect God; we are asked to listen again to the voice of wisdom summoning us beyond the smallness of our lives into the depths and knowledge of the love of Christ. Today we are summoned by our Father Benedict to take heed of the two preferences that must absorb our being: the love of Christ dwelling among us and the daily rhythm of the Work of God. This Work of God is nothing less than listening to the wisdom of God made manifest in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. And in our listening, to be led together by Christ to Life Everlasting. Amen.

Fr. Prior Joel Macul OSB

Final Oblation, July 8, 2017

13th Saturday Ord Time – I

 Gn 27:1–5, 15–29; Mt 9:14–17

Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?…
No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth…
People do not put new wine into old wineskins… 
                      from the gospel of the day

As we listen to the gospel for today taken from Matthew, we have the distinct feeling that Jesus is coming down on the side of: “Something new is happening here; get with it, folks.” He presents it in a series of contrasts: fasting or feasting; wedding or mourning; new patch or old cloak; new wine or old skins. Interestingly enough, Jesus does not condemn the old; he does not tell us to throw out the old cloak or never to cry. What he is calling us to is to respond to the current situation. The bridegroom is here, it is not the time for mourning. The wine is fresh, use new skins! Are you and I in tune with what is happening now? Do we have the suitable container or attitude that goes with what is at hand? Keep in mind, that what is at hand is something new. How do we respond? What do we come forward with to hold this new spirit, this new life in Christ? Or perhaps for the new life that new oblates commit themselves to today? Is it something stuck into or onto the old, or is a new moment, a new opportunity, a walking, or running as St. Benedict says, on a new path?

Today we have six oblates that will make a final oblation to take up the spirit and some practice of the Rule of Benedict and live it in their daily lives. I would like to think that over the past few years you have been in a process of letting something new happen in your lives. The threads of your life have met with new colors, a new stich, and a new patch has been woven. Now you come forward to place it into the large cloth, the wedding garment if you will. Or to use Jesus’ other image, over the probation period, the grapes of your life, your blood, if you push the image further, has been fermenting and now the new wine of your Benedictine-associated life is ready to be put into the wineskin of the Benedictine family of oblates and this monastic community.

And what is this new piece of cloth, this new wine? For each of you it is something unique. You discovered an affinity in yourself with the monastic way. Deep down, you saw the threads of your monastic soul or heart. Perhaps they were dormant or perhaps you had to set to work to test them to make sure they were of the color and texture of the monastic patch in God’s wonderful garment that clothes humanity. But you discovered it! Maybe it was the balance, the moderation that Benedict so frequently puts forward as a key virtue. Perhaps it is humility, Benedict’s criteria for being a fully integrated human being; perhaps it is the discovery that patience is what helps me to live through and make sense of the suffering in my life and that of society. Perhaps it is the regular rhythm of praying the psalms that we do here in community that struck a chord in the music that is already playing in your heart. Each of you has found something in our Benedictine Way that is and has become part of the fabric of your life.

Our Church, our Christian tradition, is rich in color and sound. Many people look for what tune fills them with peace and joy. We call them traditions of spirituality, methods of prayer. You have found that your voice harmonizes best with the Benedictine Way. It takes time to discover that. The search for God has many paths but in prayer and practice, this monastic way has caused your heart to be expanded, and in your lectio  you have heard the voice of God speaking to you.  Today you come forward with your own new wine, your own new threads and you say yes to that.  You say: this is how I can live out the Gospel in my daily rising and setting.

Jesus seems to believe that his presence means that a wedding is going on. An intimate relationship between God and his people is coming to a climax. How can one mourn at a wedding? The presence of Jesus does change things; a new stage of development in humanity’s relationship with God is in the works. Can we recognize this moment when it comes or are we stuck in the way God should act or worse, in the way I think things should be, even with God?

There are two things Benedict says the monastic person should prefer. We might translate it like or love. But Benedict says prefer. The first is the work of God and the second is the love of Christ. The first means constantly and consistently listening to God’s story in such a way that my story is found in it. And the second is, love Christ, the love bridegroom who loves me and us wherever we are on the journey of life. Love the one whose life was an oblation, an offering, poured out so that you and I can rise and with joy continue our life into the Kingdom of God.

Fr. Prior Joel Macul, OSB