Today we celebrated the feast of The Assumption of Mary. Fr. Thomas Hillenbrand celebrated the Mass and gave the homily.
Fr. Thomas Hillenbrand shares his homily.
Prior Joel's homily from this mornings Mass.
Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15
Ephesians 4:17, 20–24
Grumbling, complaining. That is the way the Exodus story starts today. Not very uplifting, but at least it is honest and reflects an attitude that is often our own. After we get what we want, we are still not satisfied. The people have passed through the Red Sea and are on their way to Mt Sinai. They are in the wilderness, i.e. the desert area. The food they packed with them on the night they left Egypt has run out. So they start complaining. It was better back in Egypt. At least we had plenty to eat; better to have died there well-fed than out here in the desert.
Strange isn’t it? In Egypt, the people cry out in their slavery. God hears them and then with Moses helping, he leads them into freedom with great power. And now, they want to go back to the old routine, even though it was painful and degrading. They would rather be slaves and well-fed, than free and on a journey following the one who gave them freedom. It is amazing what will change our view of the past, change our memories of what we experienced. We want to be free from many things: free from fears, from cravings, from bad habits, from being abused. But being free means that things will be different. Like the Israelites, we will be in a new place and the food will be different. But there will be a new life.
God is not without feelings toward the grumblers. Now he hears the grumbling. But going back into slavery is not an option. He will feed them on the way. But then the community discovers that the new food is not like the food back home. It is different. “What is that?” they ask when they look at white stuff on the ground. It is the same question we ask ourselves when we see food from another culture, another people. We ask “What is that?” It is a question mixed with curiosity, reluctance and disdain all in one. We want food, we get food, but it is not like what we were used to. Living this new life of freedom is not easy.… We can recognize ourselves in the scene. We may have found ourselves in a dysfunctional situation or in addictive behavior, and suddenly, a door opens and we are free from the situation and it looks like a wide open space in front of us. But then, reality hits: this freedom is work, this freedom is new territory and I have never been here before. It is possible I cannot face the reality of freedom and so there is the temptation to go back to our old life caught in desires that are not satisfying. In our imagination that old life looks good. This new life comes with responsibility. Oh my, I’m not used to that.
Freedom means new life, but a new life with God who leads. With freedom comes a new self. But our freedom and our new self is not bought–it is a gift. So freedom means eating what someone else offers, what God offers. We don’t make it ourselves. Moses’ answer “This is the bread God gives you,” does not have to do with the content of the food, but rather where it comes from. It is bread which the Lord gives. The food and the substance we hunger for are met not just by any bread or food, but only the food that God provides. The bread the people are given is to lead them to the one who is giving it. The bread is God’s care for them along the journey. It is not just bread; it is God caring for the community in their new freedom. This is a new experience. Their memory of the past was focused on something physical, the stomach and good taste, but the freedom they now have opens them up to a relationship with the one who cares for them. The bread on the ground is communion with the God who liberates.
The scene in the desert is echoed in the gospel. The crowd in the gospel is following Jesus. But Jesus challenges the reason why they follow him. It seems they are only interested in another act of power, a miracle. Perhaps even another free meal. They seem to be focused on the bread that fills the stomach. They are interested in satisfying physical desires. But something more is needed for the journey. Jesus sees the bread as a sign, a sign of what? Of the Father’s care, the Father’s love, ultimately of the Father’s desire that his people live and not die. The crowd, like the people in the desert, seem to have a bad memory. They think Moses gave the bread. They forgot that Moses made it clear where the bread came from. The bread came from the Father not from Moses and certainly not from anyone of them.
Jesus is trying to have the crowd move from what is bread to who is giving the bread. The bread is not an end in itself. The bread, says Jesus is a sign, a sign of the giver. The giver is the Father and the gift, the bread, is the Son. Jesus is inviting the crowd to recognize the Father at work and to believe in the Son. Like the manna in the desert, the Son has come down from heaven. And like the desert manna he gives life and sustains us.
Jesus’ dialogue with the crowd makes clear what our work is. It is the work of believing in him. Jesus extends an invitation to us to leave behind all the allurements that promise satisfaction. Jesus invites us to leave the junk food behind and come to real bread, namely himself. That is a risk. Bread is a thing, we can control it, capture it, store it, throw it out. But if we come to the bread that the Father sends, then we are coming into a relationship, we are meeting someone deeply personal. Instead of our picking up bread, we meet a hand who will lead us, sustain us and comfort us. The bread the Father offers is a living person with whom we interact, who can speak and whose word is wisdom and love and comfort and, yes, challenge. When Jesus says that our work is believing in him, he is saying that our life’s task is listening to him, responding to him, living with him, eating his bread only and loving him from the depth of our heart. It is also accepting that he loves us and that this bread is truly a sign of that love.
When we are doing that kind of believing, then we are truly alive and all other bread matters little. With such a relationship with our bread, we can leave our slavery behind and move into new life and freedom in God. We can, as Paul says, put on the new self because we have learned Christ. Indeed he is living and moving in us and we in him. Then truly we will hunger and thirst no more.
Joel Macul OSB
Holy Mass was celebrated at the St. Benedict Center this morning. Below is a video of Fr. Volker's homily:
Our Prior, Fr. Joel Macul gave the homily this morning:
Woe! Doom! to the shepherds of the flock of my pasture, says the Lord. Jeremiah’s prophetic word woe should make us sit up straight. Something has gone terribly wrong with the leadership in Israel. The evidence is seen in the flock. It has been misled and it is scattered. This accusation of the leadership of God’s people is not just poetic license on the part of God or the prophet. This was the situation for Jeremiah in the 7th century before our era. The monarchy and leadership in Israel was generally defunct. The direct result of the failure of leadership was that the people, the flock, was taken away and scattered in exile. They were no longer at home. The Lord reproaches the shepherds for irresponsibility, for not caring for the community, for offering no guidance especially in difficult times. Elsewhere he says they abused the community economically as well, making the poor poorer and the leaders getting fatter. They key word to describe the flock is ‘scattered.’ They were scattered physically, they were scattered religiously. There was no king, there was no temple. The symbols and institutions that could hold them together were disappearing. The sin of leadership was to cause the flock to fall apart, to have no sense of coherence around the God who made covenant with them. The sin of the leadership was that they no longer walked with the people but had their own life aloof. The result was the breakdown of both community and shepherd. This judgement could easily hold today even in our Church, sad to say. We need only think of the aftermath of the sexual abuse scandal that has pulled us apart in this country and elsewhere. What Jeremiah condemns is not confined to 7th c. Israel. It is repeated in politics and religion over the centuries.
But God remains the Lord of his people. And so he himself will take on the care of his people. And what does God’s care look like? I will gather the remnant wherever they have been scattered, I will bring them back, none shall be missing, says the Lord. The Lord’s way of shepherding is to bring together what is lost, missing, disoriented, scattered. The Lord is not about pushing away, separating, dividing people into near and far. The Lord is about a unity that brings us together. When he says that no one will be missing, that means that care is personal, each is accounted for. The Lord is the one who knows each one of those in the community. We are not anonymous but named. That is the Lord’s care, the recognition of the dignity of each person in the community. And not just recognition, but a guidance that allows each one to grow into their gifted self. The community the Lord is creating is a community not based on fear of the other; in the community that Lord gathers, all can be present without trembling in front of one another; all are at peace with one another, reconciled and made whole.
Jeremiah goes on with a word of hope about leadership, about the shepherd, about the one who leads. The Lord promises that out of the stump of David’s line, there will be a new leader who knows how to lead. The Lord of the covenant remembers his promise to David. While leadership is now defunct, it will not always be so. There will be someone from the community to carry on the David’s line of ruler. There will be wisdom and justice in this new leader. This new ruler will be characterized by justice. He will restore the right relationship between the community and God, between the members of the community with one another, between the community and the new king. The prophet even goes further to give a name to this new shepherd: “The Lord our justice.”
We joined in this hope for a true shepherd, a true leader and guide in our response “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” This is our act of faith in what Jeremiah promises. It is a true expression of our desire. The Lord is the leader of his people. He it is who guides us through the darkness of our lives and leads us to pastures where we feed at a wonderful banquet. What we receive from this Shepherd is goodness and kindness throughout our life.
Now fast forward from Jeremiah’s time about 400 years later. And what do we find in the hills and by the Sea of Galilee? We find this man called Jesus who looks like one of us. But when he steps out of a boat looking for a quiet spot to rest and eat with his followers, he is confronted with the reality of the community. People coming and going; a vast crowd that seems disoriented, scattered in spirit to say the least. Mark says that Jesus saw them like sheep without a shepherd—just as Jeremiah saw them centuries before. A crowd waiting for a leader, for someone who will gather them, a person who will bring them together. They have heard and seen something attractive in this Jesus and they run after him, the crowd of sheep.
And what happens to Jesus at this moment with this mass of humanity looking for something and perhaps not being able to articulate it. Mark records that when Jesus stepped out of the boat he looked, he saw. The first sign that something different was happening here. He saw and recognized the situation. He did not run, he did not grumble that his time alone with his followers was to be interrupted. No, he stayed with what he saw. The first act of the shepherd is to see, to truly see—he saw a scattered disjointed humanity. That is what Jesus the shepherd saw. And what he saw grabbed him at the core of his being. The translation says “his heart was moved with pity for them.” The word for pity is really the word for ‘gut’. What he saw, he felt in his gut. What he saw caused a reaction of a deep movement of care for these people. What Mark is trying to convey is that what Jesus saw with his eyes stirred up a feeling of deep love and compassion in his heart. Behind this feeling lies the Hebrew word rahamim. It says it best. What Jesus saw awoke in him a womb-like love, a love like a woman has for her very own child. Jesus, says Mark, saw his own flesh and blood scattered, lost fragmented. This moved the Shepherd in him to compassion and so he began to teach them. What they needed first was to be fed with a word, a word that would hold them together as one.
What is compassion? Compassion is a love that moves us toward another. That will be the root of the Good Shepherd’s care. Compassion is what will bring the community together. Jesus the Good Shepherd will be the leader of the community. It is his compassion, St. Paul says, that will break down any wall of separation and bring us together. Unity is God’s ultimate goal and now there is a shepherd leader who can teach us about the compassion that is at the heart of unity, that is the thread that can bind us into one person. Truly in Jesus has come the King who both makes the unity among us happen and teaches us how to make the peace from the unity flow into our times.
It all begins by stepping out of the boat of our lives and looking and allowing what we see, the scatteredness, the fragmentation, the separation, to move our hearts. Then, we disciples of Jesus join together with him in a compassion that binds together, heals and works for peace.
What "stones" do we each carry in our knapsacks?
Today's Homily by Fr. Thomas Hillenbrand
TRAVEL LITE THRU LIFE
This is a knapsack. And it’s heavy. It’s filled with rocks. If I went hiking with this, this afternoon, I don’t think I would get very far. I would have to sit down and rest very often. I would get tired pretty quick.
I often smile at little school children going to school with these huge backpacks. I think if they would fall over they will never get up. Sort of like a little turtle on its back. Or like Charlie Brown with all his winter gear on with his arms sticking straight out and he yells out: “How am I supposed to get thru the door.”
We can all smile and shake our heads at these little kids carrying all that stuff in their backpacks or at Charlie Brown. But we adults are the very worse for carrying heavy stuff in our backpacks, and we do it every day. We can’t get thru the door because we are carrying a lot of stuff.
In the Gospel today Jesus tells the 12 Apostles to travel lite. “He instructed them to take nothing on the journey but a walking stick, no food, no sack, no money in the their belts.” And he also gave them authority over unclean spirits.
In a sense these two things go together. Traveling lite, and authority over unclean spirits.
Most of us travel with way too much stuff. I know I do when I travel. I want to pack things for every possibility or occasion, for every kind of weather. My suitcase is heavy and hard to carry.
But a heavy suitcase or knapsack is not what really makes us tired or wears us down. We don’t carry them around every day. What really makes us tired and wears us down and drains our energy are the heavy and dark thoughts we often carry around every minute of every day. And we just get used to them being there, so we carry them around every day. They weigh us down so much sometimes that we sometimes dread getting up in the morning, fearing the light of another day, dread going to work, hate meeting people. We are tired all the time and even at night we toss and turn.
Remember way back when they were selling “Pet Rocks.” How crazy is that. Selling pet rocks in stores when we can pick up a rock anywhere at any time. But we do have pet rocks that we pick up. We have pet thoughts that we pick up and carry around with us all day. We are jealous of someone for whatever reason. We are really angry at a worker or a relative for what they did to us. We lust after someone at work or among our friends. We carry the heavy rock of unforgiveness in our heart against one particular person.
Or maybe we are just a worry wart. We worry about everything. What people think about us, how our children or grandchildren are doing, about our job or about money or our health.
So what are we going to do about all these “Pet Rocks” that we carry around all day? These pet thoughts that we cuddle and feed all day long, and weigh us down. What do we need to do in order to travel lite as Jesus tells us in the Gospel?
We need to do 4 things.
1) BE AWARE – Always we need to be aware and alert to the thoughts in our head, to the fantasies in our imagination. There are two kinds of thoughts. Thoughts that pull us down and thoughts that lift us up. And we have to be alert to them. The thoughts that pull us down, those dark and brooding thoughts, those sinful thoughts, those heavy “pet rocks’ have to go. They are toxic, they are poisonous. They will make us sick.
2) BE QUICK – When these dark and heavy thought come into our mind, thoughts of anger, jealousy, self-pity, lust, fear, anxiety, we must throw them out immediately. Don’t give them a second thought. If we do they will quickly take over our mind and heart and spread like a wild-fire. Tell them to go to hell immediately. St. Benedict tells us to smash them against the rock which is Christ. And Christ is the one “pet rock” and the only “pet rock” that we should carry around with us every minute of every day. That rock will save us. Pope St. John XXIII tells us how to deal with temptations. He said: “Shoo them away like a pesky fly or mosquito.” And do it quickly.
3) BE FIRM – Don’t be like good, ole wishy-washy Charlie Brown. When it comes to these toxic, poisonous thoughts, we need to say “No” to them and stick to it. If we try to do mental battle with them, if we try to play around with them, we will lose every time and the devil will win. The Devil loves to play with our mind, and if we let him. He wins and we lose.
4) STOP THINKING – START PRAYING. We think almost every minute of every day. We think way too much, we over think especially our hurts, our anger, we over think that particular person we hate, we lust after, we are jealous of. We lick our wounds. We keep picking at them and they never heal. We often throw a pity-party for our self. We think way too much and pray way too little. We need to wrap our toxic, poisonous thoughts in prayer. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have to overcome the Devil. It puts Jesus in charge and we get out of the way. We get out of the boxing ring with the devil and let Jesus take over.
“Jesus sent out the 12 and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick and a pair of sandals.” If we travel lite we will have authority over our unclean spirits. Just carry one “pet rock”, and that rock is Jesus.
The Community welcomed two new oblates this morning. Listen to Prior Joel's homily below:
Prior Joel Macul OSB. Each year for the past six years I have made a trip to Tanzania and Kenya in the first half of the year. This year I left for East Africa a few days after Easter. The trip has a clear focus—to visit the student monks in East Africa who are living together in two study houses. It is a service to our Ottilien Benedictine Congregation as the Congregation Study House Advisor. It is understood as a fraternal visit to our student monks to listen to them about how their studies are going, to assess their living situation and to make recommendations to their superiors regarding the various academic institutions where the monks are studying. For the most part these student monks are taking courses in philosophy and theology in preparation for ordination.
My visit this year began with the monks studying at Jordan University College in Morogoro, Tanzania ( 120 mi west of Dar es Salaam). There are nine monks studying there at the moment. They come from the four abbeys we have in Tanzania plus a monk from the priory in Zambia. Five of the brothers are in the philosophy or theology program while four of them are taking courses in the area of accountancy and business. The four abbeys are large communities and skills are needed in several areas. The need for financial transparency in the monasteries means that young monks are being trained in this area to better serve their communities. Jordan College is a young, small educational Catholic institution with a strong program in education among other areas. This means that our communities that have schools can take advantage of the college for training their future teachers.
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
We all know what a sandwich is: two pieces of bread with some kind of filling in between. You need the two pieces of bread and the filling in between to have a sandwich. You cannot have a sandwich without the filling and two pieces of bread alone do not make a sandwich.
Mark the evangelist seems to like a sandwich, a literary one that is. Today he has given us a sandwich story. He starts a story about Jairus, a synagogue official who makes a dramatic entrance and request of Jesus for his young daughter. Then suddenly out of nowhere Mark introduces a nameless woman suffering from menstrual type bleeding. We can hear ourselves saying, finish one story first then tell us the next. But no. We hear one story start and this is interrupted with a seemingly unrelated second story and when that is finished, we return to the first story. When we finish the whole story, we find two scenes that seem very different, but maybe underneath it all there is just one thread. There is only one sandwich.
But there is something that holds this literary sandwich together. It is simple and most common: death. Death joins Jesus to Jairus, his young daughter, and to the hemorrhaging woman, and death joins the two women to one another. Jairus only approaches Jesus because his daughter is at the point of death. It is a desperate situation for the father. He is begging for life. The woman with the blood flow is already dead on one level and it is threatened with it on another level. The woman is considered unclean because of her blood flow. This uncleanness separates her from her relatives, from any relationships with people and makes it impossible for her to worship in temple or synagogue. She is an outcast and belongs to no one—socially and even religiously she is dead. After 12 years of hemorrhaging she is also physically at the point of death, like the young daughter of Jairus. You can only sustain loss of blood for so long and survive. She has seen many doctors but no cure. She has been losing her life in her blood for 12 years-a long, slow death. But she has within her something that has also been growing. Her life is draining away but her faith has been growing; her courage and perseverance are strong. This life Jesus in his turn recognizes and commends her for: you may think, it is power from me that has cured you, you may want to touch my clothes, but what has saved you, you have been carrying all along, your faith. In your faith you have placed your hand on what has power to heal, you are now made whole.
Yes, death is certainly common to both the young girl and the adult woman. But death is not the only filler in the sandwich. We hear and see another part to the sandwich that is holding it together, that is faith.
After the adult woman is healed, saved and restored to community life, we hear the news that death has come to the young girl. Jesus ignores the idea that he should change his plans and not bother to respond to her father’s plea. He tells the father not to be afraid and to have faith. The man has lost his daughter but Jesus points him in another direction. He says there is more than death here, more than death in your life. See that, touch it and come with me toward death. And so Jesus goes with the father to stretch out his hands toward the girl. He challenges the crowd’s view of what death is and takes the child by the hand and raises her up. A resurrection? I think so. Mark tells the story thinking so. Now the young girl is restored to her family and the full meaning of her 12th year is opened for her: she is now able to complete her womanhood with marriage and childbearing. Truly a resurrection for this girl. She is able to live her life to the full and her family, by having her back alive, is also restored to life.
Both women are daughters. But because of their deaths that identity has been taken away. The adult woman has been treated as one without family, without heritage, without a community of faith. And Jesus has restored her dignity, her place in the community. She has been given more than a cure; she has been given the intimacy of a relationship beyond imagining: “Daughter, faith has saved you–go, healed.” Daughter of Abraham, daughter of Jesus in his new family, daughter to the one Father in whose image she was created from the beginning….The father-daughter relationship is what has gotten our whole story started in the first place. A father about to lose his daughter at age 12, just when she is about to become a woman and enter society as an adult. And now she dies. The father is about to give up hope for his daughter….But Jesus says to the father, death is not the end for you and your daughter. The father held on to his faith and Jesus raises his daughter and gives her back to her parents….the loving relationship is healed and her potential is restored.
Yes, what looks like two stories has at least three threads making it one: women, death and faith. But in the middle is Jesus. Jesus is the filling in the center of the story. Jesus is offering his risen life to the women of the community; offering them a wholeness of body and spirit and heart—in biblical terms saving them. Jesus is the one who transforms death and turns it into a moment of new life and hope.
Today we gather to meet the Risen one as he reaches out a hand and lifts up. We meet the risen one allowing himself to be touched by the unclean, the ostracized, the nameless. We meet the Risen one stopping to treat each of us as persons worthy to be heard and touched. Today we hear Risen Lord saying to us, “Daughter” “Son,” “Rise and go, live your life to the full in the image of the one who made you.”
Joel Macul OSB
1 July 2018
Fr. Thomas Leitner, Administrator of the St. Benedict Center, celebrated Holy Mass this morning. The Notre Dame Sisters of Omaha were among the guests who shared in this Eucharist. Fr. Thomas' Homily is below:
Fr. Volker shared his thoughts during the homily today:
Mk 14:12-16, 22-26 Ex 24:3-8 Heb 9:11-15
focus: We are called to give up ourselves for others in imitation of Christ.
function: Our promise is freedom and life in fullness.
Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,
“The body of Christ. Amen. The blood of Christ. Amen.” When we celebrate Mass, these words are being spoken over and over again. They are like a litany. They give witness to Jesus’ complete gift of self to us and for us, but also to the self-surrender to which our Christian living calls us.
The Eucharist, we could say, is like a precious diamond at which a person can look from various sides; and it shines forth in ever new colors. The Eucharist was a meal and must be seen as an extension of the many meals that Jesus shared with people, rich and poor, respected and despised. He established communion with them all.
The Eucharist points us to and is a foretaste of that great banquet to which we hope to be invited one day in heaven. Today’s readings speak to us about the Eucharist as sacrifice.
Our first reading tells about the holocausts that were offered as Moses had received the Law, God’s order of life for God’s people, on Mt. Sinai. Moses splashed the blood of the sacrificial animals on the altar and sprinkled it over the people. A covenant was sealed in which the people promised to God, who had set them free from slavery: “All that the Lord has told us we will heed and do.”
Today’s gospel presents us with the institution of the Eucharist. Jesus is going to give his body and pour out his blood for many, for all humankind. Bread and wine will forever be sacramental signs of God’s new covenant of unconditional love with the people sealed by Jesus.
The letter to the Hebrews, finally, carefully explains how the self-sacrifice of Jesus, surpasses and takes the place of all previous animal sacrifices.
God who is love did not need a sacrifice of something in order to become merciful toward humanity. Rather, Jesus laid down his life on his own accord and so gave witness to his message about the God of love. Pope Benedict pointed out in his 1st encyclical that Jesus himself became the shepherd seeking the lost sheep—and paid with his life for it.
The Eucharist is a memorial of Jesus’ Last Supper and makes it present for us. The Church draws her life from the Eucharist,” Pope John Paul once said. “This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith,” he continued, “but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church.
In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfillment of the promise, “Lo I am with you always to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist through the changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity. Ever since Pentecost, when the Church, the pilgrim church of the New Covenant, began her pilgrim journey toward her heavenly homeland, the Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope.
Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, we are called to give up ourselves for others in imitation of Christ. Our promise is freedom and life in fullness.
What are ways in which we give to others, not only something, not only words, not only gifts, but ourselves, our body and blood, our whole person? What is the new life that we experience as fruit of this self-surrender?
Are we aware of any “dead works,” as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it, that keep us from imitating Christ and from which we need to be cleansed?
Let us take today’s feast as an occasion of marveling about Jesus’ loving self-surrender and about his abiding presence in the Eucharist. St. Thomas Aquinas’ prayer words can become ours:
“Godhead here in hiding whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.”
Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB
Our Prior, Fr. Joel Macul shares his homily for Trinity Sunday:
Deuteronomy 4:32–34, 39–40
Trinity Sunday is about mystery, the mystery of our God, the God of us Christians. Trinity Sunday is not really a celebration of a dogma or doctrine or the Church’s teaching. Dogma is a statement, a distilled statement of the content of belief. One studies a statement to find out its meaning. But behind the dogma is a mystery. That is what our gathering here today is about. We are about acknowledging and celebrating the living God as community, as community of persons. That community of persons that is our God is what we are remembering and celebrating today. However, if we take the word that we have heard this morning seriously then we cannot speak and hence cannot celebrate the mystery of our God as communion without at the same time acknowledging that we are also a community with that God. The story, the tale of God as community, as Trinity, is a story that includes us as part of that community. The story of Trinity, the story of the community of Father, Son and Spirit is a story of love that reaches us and includes us. The experience of our God is an experience of God bringing us into that communion and making us a people with him. If we profess God as Trinity, as a community of persons, we are also professing ourselves as having a share in that communion, in that life, in that love.
The gift of today’s feast is clear. God is all about relationship, about community. God is one in being together. God is all about relationships. To profess God as Father, Son and Spirit is to profess God as essentially relational. When this God touches the human story, God will touch it as community. When God touches humanity, then he reveals himself as an open community. God will slowly draw humanity into his own community. If God is fundamentally relational, and that is what belief in the Trinity means, then God will bring humanity into that relationship.
Each reading today makes it very clear that God is about making relationships happen between him and humanity and among members of humanity. Moses reminds Israel that the wonderful events of the Exodus are people forming events. God is making a nation for himself out of these people. It is unheard of that a god should set about making a nation, a community for himself out of human beings. But our God is a people- forming God. He does it by fighting on our behalf, by liberating us, by speaking to us directly, by giving us his word. What is unique about our God? He stands with us, shapes us into community and then guides our frail human condition to its ultimate communion with him. Trinity means involvement, commitment, covenant.
Paul explains how God builds on this first people-making event of Exodus and Sinai. God moves to a more intimate level than just a nation or a people. God moves toward the intimate relation of son and daughter. Now the relation is one of kin, or sharing a likeness. We have become relatives of God. This happens through God’s own Son, Christ. It happens through Jesus our brother. When we join him in his self-emptying on the cross, then we will share in the life of our brother Jesus. The mystery now is that God chooses to become human. When God becomes human, we who are human are now open to sharing in the heart of God himself. Paul calls it adoption as children of God. In the Spirit of adoption, we are now able to actually say who God. We find our voice and say, “Abba, Father.” This word given us by the Spirit expresses the intimacy and familiarity that is ours with God. God has made us his kin, his relatives.
Where does involvement in this relationship with a relational God begin for you and me? It begins at baptism. We are accustomed to receiving a new name at baptism: a saint or the name of an ancestor. What we often forget is that the name we actually receive is the name of our God. Baptize them, says Jesus, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are baptized into a communion of persons; we are baptized into a relationship of love and creativity; we are baptized into something alive and active. We are baptized into the mystery of God. We are baptized in the name of Father, Son and Spirit. This is our identity; this is the source of our very life.
Those of us who have been given this identity also receive a task, a mission. We are to live our discipleship with Jesus in such a way that all humanity will be drawn into the mystery of the relationships in God. Make disciples of all nations—the Trinity is open and all embracing. Social and cultural boundaries are dissolved. Nationality, ethnicity and gender are not the defining identity. Plunged in baptism into the Triune God, that God and living with that God becomes our identity.
The wonder and mystery of the Trinity is that now we are not only God’s very own children but that we can and must live with others in such a way that they will recognize that they too are brothers and sisters of Jesus and ultimately children of God.
Joel Macul, OSB
It looks like the Easter season ends with Pentecost, with the coming of the Spirit in the great drama of wind and fire and tongues. But the Spirit is not the end of Easter, it’s beginning. When John tells the Easter story, we find Jesus walking into a room with the doors closed and an atmosphere of fear paralyzing his followers. He tries to console them with the greeting of peace. But then he must use more than his words, he must breathe on them, that which keeps him alive.
They are like dead people, frozen, in shock. The only way forward is to share his breath. He must repeat the creative act that brought humanity into being. Indeed, he is creating a new community and new humanity. This time its stance is not one of fear, of being closed off, of having to hide. With Jesus’ breath flowing through it, humanity can become human again; it can breathe, it can find life. It can be about restoring relationships of all kind. Yes, the breath Jesus breathes on us is one that loosens us to forgiveness and love. When that happens, the Spirit is known, Pentecost is alive and well; it is the beginning of a new life. The Spirit is not the end of the story; it is the door to a whole new way for us, for our Church, for our world.
– Fr. Joel Macul, O.S.B –
Fr. Thomas Leitner shared his thoughts at Holy Mass this morning. A video is below.
The famous 19th century evangelist Dwight L. Moody was a pastor in Chicago; there is still a Bible Institute there that bears his name. Mr. Moody was a successful minister.
One day though two women came up to him after a service. "We have been praying for you for an anointing by the Holy Spirit,” they said. “You need the power of the Spirit." Moody wasn’t immediately open to the women’s comment. "I thought I had power,” he said, remembering the incident. “I had the largest congregation in Chicago, and there were many conversions!" Yet the encounter came back to his mind time and again. "There came a great hunger in my soul,” he recalls. “I did not know what it was and I began to cry out to God as never before. I felt I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service."
Rev. Moody began crying out for God to fill him. He withdrew, and remained in that state of fervent prayer for some time. He writes: "Well, one day, in the city of New York -- oh, what a day! -- I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went on preaching. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world."
Today’s gospel is a prayer of Jesus for his disciples and—as the verse immediately following today’s passage says—also for those who believe in him through their word. He prays that they may have what he has with his heavenly Father: unity. In prayer form, Jesus touches again on what he had said earlier in these Farewell Discourses, namely that it’s necessary for believers to keep his word and command and to remain in his love.
Only a branch that is connected to the vine can bear fruit. If it’s cut off, it will wither and die. He prays that God may keep them, who will continue to live in this world, from the power of the evil one.
In this prayer a person can feel the anguish, love and concern that Jesus has for his disciples. He knows that if they live the way he lives and speak the same words of truth that he spoke, they will experience opposition. The world will hate them, too. But he trusts that they will take up his mission.
Today’s first reading tells us about the days before the first Pentecost. The apostles, Mary and some other disciples spend most of this time in the upper room in prayer, waiting for “the promise of the Father,” for the coming down upon them of the Holy Spirit with its power.
As we just heard, Peter announced during these days to a larger group of disciples that it’s necessary for Judas to be replaced as one of the Twelve. Why is this necessary? The number 12 is symbolic. The twelve apostles represent the twelve tribes of God’s original people. With the apostles as the core, the risen Jesus wants to establish God’s new people all-over the world by sending his disciples to give witness to him: in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, Jesus desires also our unity and our deep connectedness with him. Through his Holy Spirit, he empowers and enables us to be his witnesses. So many things appear to be impossible or nearly impossible, humanly speaking:
· unity of Christians in spite of and in the midst of all the variety;
· unity even within the Church;
· standing up for gospel values in a secularized society
For example: for the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, for the Christian family, for freedom of conscience, and for the rights and needs of refugees and immigrants. All this is not easy and cannot be achieved by human strength alone.
The nine days between Ascension and Pentecost are a time of waiting and praying fervently for the Holy Spirit, whom Christ has sent and sends to us ever anew, the Holy Spirit who heals our wounds, renews our strength, washed the stain of guilt away, melts the frozen, warms the chill and guides the steps that go astray.
We need D. L. Moody’s hunger in our souls for the anointing of the Holy Spirit and its transforming power in us. Let’s pray today and throughout this coming week, for ourselves, for our monastic community, for our families and friends, for our work places, for our church, for our society and for our world—that God may bring about a new Pentecost. AMEN.
Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB
Our Prior, Fr. Joel Macul celebrated Holy Mass on Ascension Thursday. He shared these words for his homily:
Mark 16: 15–20
Today’s celebration is more than remembering another episode in the life of Jesus. Rather it is intrinsically connected with the resurrection, as is also Pentecost. Both of these feasts are part of the multi-faceted jewel that is Easter. To be understood both of them must remain in the jewel that is the resurrection.
Ascension breaks open a number of elements about Jesus. For one thing it makes clear that Jesus’ proper place is with the Father. This is given in the simple creedal phrase that he took his seat at the right hand of the Father. Any activity of Jesus comes from that relationship. At the same time, there is an element of kingship, of rule in relation to the created world. Jesus position is one of having conquered the evil that seems to run the world. His victory is proclaimed as definitive. He is pictured as above all.
There is universality in today’s feast. The universality of the resurrection is such that the risen Jesus now fills all things. Today Jesus comes to full stature. He is the ground of all that is whether of the human world or of dust of this planet or the stars. Jesus is in relation to it all. Today we acknowledge the cosmic dimension of the resurrection. The presence of the risen Jesus touches all created matter and fills it with potential. Jesus cannot limit himself to one place and one time; his very nature demands he be present to all places and all times. His ascension guarantees that.
There is a paradox in today’s feast of the ascension. On Easter we heard the angel at the tomb say, he is risen, he is not here! He is not here. When Jesus’ ascends and the disciples no longer see him, it is true: He is not here. And yet each time the story of his ascension is related, it also relates how he is still present. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is sitting with the Father and yet he is also confirming the work of the disciples as they go about proclaiming the good news. He is both with the Father and with us. He is leaving us today, but yet he is not leaving us.
Today’s celebration is about a new communion that now exists between the Father, Jesus and ourselves. There is an absence on the one hand and a form of presence on the other. That presence begins to work in our lives, the gospel says, when we are baptized. We enter into the mystery of Jesus and so experience a transformation in our lives. We enter his dying and rising and so can offer to the world a new form of presence, a presence that will make us sharers in the transformative power of Jesus love and victory over everything evil. It is symbolized in holding snakes and drinking poison.
If we do not let Jesus go to the Father, if like Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, we want to cling to him and hold him here, then he will slip from our hands and we will be holding nothing. But if today, we rejoice that he goes to the Father, then we can hold everything, then we too can become mature and reach the fullness of our lives.
Joel Macul OSB
The Priceless Human Gift.....friendship!
The Homily for today- by Fr. Joel Macul
Acts 10: 25–26, 34–35, 44–48
1 John 4:7–10
One of the most priceless human gifts is friendship. It allows us to disclose ourselves to and receive from another in complete openness and trust. We can think aloud before a friend; with a friend we can participate in one another’s joys and sorrows, hopes and fears. A friend allows us to survive loneliness, indifference, hostility. Before a friend we can make a mistake and not be shamed; we can be accepted for who we are. With a friend we can always be beautiful in our inner core. With a friend in good times and bad the friend is there.
Today Jesus invokes this precious relationship between human beings. He draws on the wisdom tradition that sings the praises of a true friend. He stands in the tradition that recognized in Abraham and Moses men who were friends of God—two who walked with God, who spoke with God as one speaks with a friend. Today we hear Jesus name his disciples “my friends.” A clear hint at how he related to his disciples—not servants but friends with whom he could share everything.
In John’s gospel we have been introduced to friends of Jesus along the way. John the Baptist is the called “the friend of the bridegroom.” Then there is the family at Bethany, Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Jesus did more than pass by for the occasional meal. No, they were the friends of Jesus—he could banter with them, and for Lazarus, he would weep and then call him forth from the grave because that is what a friend does, stands with the other in death and calls them forth again into the light and lets them go free.
At the heart of friendship is love. Today we hear Jesus wanting to draw his disciples into his experience of love. He wants to give them his gift of love. He wants to draw them into a circle of friendship, a circle of love. In friendship, the focus is on the other, not to get something from them not to receive from them, but to give to them, to be for them. For Jesus, loving begins with the Father. He says it over and over: I remain in my Father’s love. The Father loves me and so I am not alone even if it looks like I am alone.
How does Jesus know he is in the Father’s love? Because he keeps the Father’s commandment to love. And that commandment is that Jesus is the one Father sends into the world so that the world may have life to the full. God loved the world so much, he sent his only Son. God loved the world so he sent his most precious and only relationship into the world. Jesus obeys the Father’s desire to send his love into the world and give it a human face. Jesus obeys the Father’s will that sends him into the world to love the world, to give his very flesh for the life of the world.
There are two qualities to this loving way of Jesus and the Father. One is that love lays down its life for its friends. Jesus will lay down his life for his disciple-friends. He will hold nothing back for them. He will love them to the end,, love them to death. The other quality is a hallmark of friendship: friends share their thoughts and heart with one another. So Jesus shares the Father’s love with his disciples. Jesus keeps no secret. What the Father has told Jesus when he was in his bosom, he has shared with his disciples. What good works Jesus has done come from his Father and have been done in front of his disciples. What they see and hear in and from Jesus is in reality what and who the Father is. The loving that has been going on between Jesus and the Father, Jesus is now sharing with his befriended disciples. Jesus cannot keep it to himself. The love he knows has become his commandment, his motivation, what moves him to act and so he must love his own in this world. He knows the Father’s love and so he must love.
If Jesus is to love completely and be the Father’s love in the world, then he must die for the ones he and the Father love. He must lay down his life for his friends. His love must be total, no holding back. So Jesus comes to understand that his dying is in reality not an empty death; he is not just another victim unjustly caught in the web of violence. No, his dying is a choice; I choose to lay down my life, he says. My love is freely given, not pulled out of me. God is love we heard in John’s first letter. If God is love, then he chooses to love in and through his Son. And his Son chooses to love by embracing a death that is violent, unjust and humanly cruel. God’s love is revealed by sending his Son to embrace our world of sin. In embracing it, his love breaks its power and releases us from sin’s claim on us. Only a love that will join us in death is a love that can gift us with freedom. We usually hold back when we love, we keep something for ourselves. Not Jesus with us his friends; he walks with us all the way.
There is a chain of love being proclaimed today. It is being proclaimed as the heart and mystery of the one we so easily call God and whom Jesus called Father because all he is comes from him. The chain of love begins with the Father whose name we heard is love. This love is poured into the Son who activates it and makes it real before our very eyes by laying down his life for those from whom life has slipped away. But before Jesus enters into this laying down of his life on the cross, he shares that mystery of love with his new friends. He calls his disciples into that circle of love since they are the ones he is dying for. For you I am dying, he says; receive this love as new life. If you accept my love for you, then you will know that you too must love the same way. My loving you unto death becomes a command for you to do the same for one another. What Jesus commands us to do is what we saw on Holy Thursday. He, the master, washed our feet. Oh yes, we protested…..we did want him to touch our feet. Accepting love is hard. But if we will not let him wash our feet, if we will not accept his dying for us, then we have no part with him. Obeying the command to love begins by accepting love.
Jesus is talking to us today. He says, I learned loving from my father; it means dying for those he and I love; now you learn loving from me and exercise that love toward one another. Dying means giving all to the very end. Now each of you must give your all for one another. When others see that way of giving all to one another, without limit, then will the face of the Father, the God of love, be alive in his world. Then will the chain of love become the thread that binds all together. Then will the divisions and boundaries in this world break down; then will heaven and earth not be strangers to one another but be friends who know what it is to be loved and so love without bounds and follow the lead of the Spirit who holds all things in One. God’s love is without limit, it embraces all. His command to us: grounded in that limitless love we do the same.
"3 Peas in a Pod" Today's homily was given by Fr. Thomas Hillenbrand