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

stbenedict.jpg

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

 

Homily, Sunday - July 2, 2017

Mt 10:37-42   2 Kgs 4:8-11,14-16a   Rom 6:3-4,8-11

Focus: Through each and every human person, Christ can have a message for us; through each and every person, Christ can encounter us.

Function: Today’s gospel summons us to become attentive anew to this deeper reality.

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

One graduation day in May, a mother rose early to go to the grocery store and buy fresh foods, in order to prepare them for her son’s open house later that day.  She rushed into the garage, and backed the car out of the driveway.  She had just put the car on the road to take off when she saw an elderly gentleman moving unsteadily along the sidewalk and then falling down.  She parked the car and ran into the house to get her husband, fearing that the man might be drunk and dangerous.

Together they lifted him to a sitting position, wiped his bleeding wounds and tried to get some information out of his confused speech.  Eventually they found out that he had Parkinson’s disease, was out on one of his daily long walks to keep his muscles working, but this morning he had grown weak. They wrapped him in blankets, called 911, and waited for the arrival of the medics.  By the time the emergency vehicle left, the mother had lost big part of her morning.  As she returned from the grocery store it was time to go to the graduation. Soon afterwards the first guests arrived at the home.  She had hardly anything prepared! She shared with the guests what had happened; and they helped out.  Everyone contributed something to the party; and it became a very nice one!

This mother loved her family; yet she had made a choice this morning to care for a person who needed immediate help.  By reaching out to the person in need, she did what Jesus himself had done so often during his public ministry.  She lost her precious time; and she gained precious help and a great open house, because everybody had helped, like in a genuine family community.  She gave and was rewarded by God with surprise blessings!

Whether we give out of our plenty—the woman at Shunem “was a woman of influence”—or out of our need—no parent has enough hours in the day—what matters is that we give generously.  And God rewards us with even much greater generosity. This is the core message of today’s first reading; today’s gospel brings it home to us as well.  In the reading, the recipient of generous help is the Prophet Elisha. In the gospel, Jesus speaks about rendering assistance to prophets and righteous persons.  In view are proclaimers of the word, itinerant preachers, who go from place to place and speak about God, or, in the early Christian communities, about Jesus, and who continue the work of Jesus.

We also hear the Lord’s word in the gospel: “Whoever receives you, receives me … Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink …  He will surely not lose his reward.”  We never know:  In each and every human person Christ can come to us, speak to us, and call upon us to serve him.

St. Benedict makes this point very strongly in his Rule.  In the abbot and his teaching the monks hear Christ.  He can speak to them also in the other confreres.  If anything important is to be done in the monastery,” we read, “the abbot shall call the whole community … for counsel.”  Because “the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger.”  Even the youngest confrere can be a messenger of Christ.  Occasionally, a monk from another monastery may come to visit. Benedict says, the stranger “may … make some reasonable criticisms or observations.” The abbot should prudently consider these, he continues, for it is possible that the Lord guided him to the monastery for this very purpose.”  Christ can also speak through the criticism of a guest.  Through all people the Lord’s voice can come to us.

Benedict also speaks about encountering and serving Christ in others.  “Care of the sick,” he writes, must rank above and before all else.  The sick brethren should receive the best care and they should truly be served as Christ who said, ‘I was sick and you visited me.’  In our sick brothers and sisters we encounter Christ himself.

And Benedict says, When guests arrive, “they are to be welcomed as Christ who said, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’  Great care and concern, Benedict continues, are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims because in them more particularly Christ is received.  The little people can easily be overlooked or appear to be a nuisance; therefore, Benedict emphasizes so clearly that in them Christ is being received even more than in others.

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, Through each and every human person, Christ can have a message for us; through each and every person, He can encounter us.  Today’s gospel summons us to become attentive anew to this deeper reality.

Even the simple demands of everyday life make it sometimes hard for us to live with this awareness; when it’s a matter of feeding an infant in the middle of the night; of going to one more ballgame with one of the kids; of helping with homework when one is already tired; in a monastic community of truly paying attention to the needs of one’s brother monks; etc., etc.  Yet, if we do so, if we in doing so take our cross upon ourselves, we will not go without a reward.

Fr. Thomas Leitner O.S.B.

Homily, Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 23, 2017

Dt 7:6-11
1 Jn 4:7-16
Mt 11:25-30

Jesus once again exposes us to the intimacy between himself and the Father. But he clearly says that his purpose is to bring others into this intimacy. And so he extends an invitation: Come! Come one of the more powerful words of Jesus and of Scripture. Not to be passed over lightly. It is both an invitation and a wakeup call. Today, Jesus invites us to come into the relationship with him and the Father. The audience is anyone who is tired, whose life is overly busy, frantic, worn out. The invitation is for those for whom life is a drudgery.

He uses the word rest to describe the goal of coming. But then joins it with the word ‘yoke’. The image of yoking oneself to Jesus comes from the wisdom tradition. By itself, the word yoke has several levels of meaning. It could mean submission, oppression, subjugation, to come under someone else's authority negatively felt. But the yoke can mean something more positive. The yoke that binds two animals or people together is not to be an added burden but actually to lighten the load, to balance out the weight to make it easier to carry or pull. To accept the invitation to be yoked to Jesus is precisely as he says, you do not carry your burden alone; we carry it together. In fact, he says, when we carry it together it becomes lighter. It is not a stranger to whom I am yoked but someone who knows my/our burden well enough.

But to what of Jesus are we yoked? Jesus invites us today to yoke ourselves to his very self, a self he says that is meek and humble. The invitation is to yoke ourselves to a heart, the heart of Jesus that is meek and humble. It is not enough to look the Sacred Heart. No, the call is to yoke ourselves to what is sacred in that heart. Jesus tells us what is sacred about him: it is his meekness, his ability to listen, to be patient, to be humble, to suffer for others, in other words, to love. When we yoke ourselves to this heart, a marvelous happening occurs. We begin to have a heart ourselves; we find and discover the depths of our own humanity. The yoke shares the weight. Where is the weight? it is in both. Yoked to the heart of Jesus we share the heart of Jesus, we discover the depth and beauty of our heart in his heart. This is what Jesus wants to invite us to today.

Fr. Joel Macul, O.S.B.

Homily, Body and Blood of Christ - June 18, 2017

Dt 8:2–3,14b–16a
1 Cor 10:16–17
Jn 6:51–58

The two sections of Moses’ address to the assembled people of Israel are introduced with the words “Remember” and “Do not forget.” These are strong words. The implication is that while the people have been journeying through the wilderness for forty years they have precisely forgotten why they are there in the first place and who has been caring for them all these years. This call to remember and not forget is familiar to us also. What does Jesus say to the disciples after he gives them his bread and wine at the last supper: “Do this in remembrance of me.” In other words, I am leaving but you have a life ahead of you. Don’t forget who I am. Your eating of my flesh and drinking of my blood will remind you of who I am and what I said and did for you. Don’t forget it. Whether we are the people of Israel ending our wilderness journey like the people in front of Moses or whether we are disciples of Jesus in the midst of our pilgrimage to eternal life we are not exempt from forgetting. The command to remember is a serious one.

What is it that we are to remember or what should we not forget? What about this Eucharist must be kept in mind?

The first thing to remember or the first thing we forget is that our God is a gift-giving God. The food of manna God gave Israel was a gift. Moses makes this very clear. The people were hungry and thirsty on the journey and God fed them and made water flow out of the most unlikely source, a rock. But when life is getting good, after the journey is over, we forget how we were nourished and cared for. We can find our own sources of   livelihood. We no longer need be dependent on an outside source. We are successful now, but with the success come temptations of every sort. What have we lost that we need to be told to remember? Our hunger and thirst for God. Once we have enough to eat and drinks of all varieties are available at the nearest shop, we forget the real meaning of hunger and thirst. Hunger and thirst are meant to awaken in us the longing for what really satisfies, namely God. What we need to remember is that we are dependent on God. It is God who keeps us alive, God who ultimately cares for us and guides us through the wilderness of this life. God gives us the bread of his word so that we can find meaning and hope that keep us moving in the right direction. Once we forget that we cannot provide the ultimate meaning of our life any more than we can provide the ultimate breathe that keeps us alive, then we truly die and our life falls apart. When we forget that we live by God’s promise, then we are truly hungry no matter how much food we can buy.

God gave the people manna as gift to sustain them. Jesus gives us that ultimate gift of life by his death. He gives it to us and to the world. It is his ultimate gift to us: to let go of his life on the cross so that we can live. We can either accept the gift or drop it. We can either accept that in Jesus’ food is a dying man’s life for us or we can walk away from it. The Eucharist is gift; to be at the Eucharist is first of all a remembrance that God’s gift of life to us is a gift. We are pilgrim people, like Israel of old. Our temptation is to settle down, but we are on a journey. Eucharist is the gift that keeps us longing for the journey, for the ultimate table of the Kingdom. Jesus gives us the gift of himself in food and drink so that we can continue on the journey.

A second thing to remember is that the Eucharist is about communion. St. Paul talks about a participation in the blood and body of Christ. To eat the food of the Eucharist, to eat and drink what has been blessed, he says, is to enter into the deepest kind of relationship we can with Christ’s very self. The very purpose of eating and drinking is that the food and drink become part of us. The physicality of eating and drinking is to assure that the food is assimilated into our body. But the communion we share in is a communion with the whole body of Christ. Our communion is not with Christ as one person alone. Our communion is with the whole Christ, we though many and of all different kinds are one body in this communion with bread and cup. The Body of Christ is not limited to a sip of Christ’s blood or a piece of his body. No, the mystery of the Eucharist is that in sharing in those small elements we become a participant in something wonderfully large. The Eucharist may look like it is limited in space and time, but in fact when we eat and drink we are in communion with Christ’s whole self and that whole self includes all who are gathered here and beyond our walls. Taking communion, as we say, is wonderful and challenging, because I realize all with whom I am in solidarity. And if I am in communion with the full Body of Christ, then what is my responsibility toward each member of the one Body? If I am so careful to receive a piece of bread so as to treat it as something very precious, am I as careful with all those other members who are also hidden in that bread that is Christ’s Body.

The third thing to remember is that the Eucharist should shock us. The audience of Jesus was shocked when he spoke of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. The shock is meant to wake us up. Eating and drinking are most intimate acts. We become what we eat. At least that is what Jesus implies. How intimate are we with all that Jesus says and does? It is easy to come here and take the bread and sip the wine and then leave. But when we do intimate things in the rest of our life do we do it so easily or are we careful about it? To eat his flesh and drink his blood is ultimately to take in a broken body and blood spilt in violence. It is to have communion with a death that gives life. To eat as Jesus invites us is to shape our lives in such a way that we join Jesus in giving our lives for others at all times and all places. He says today very clearly: I give my flesh for the life of the world. My gift is my life given up. If we eat and drink that, week in and week out, should not our lives too become a gift to others? We are not eating a thing like bread or drinking a liquid like wine, we are communing with a person, with a spirit filled life. We are engaging in a relationship and like all relationships, it is deeply personal.

The food has been transformed into a life that never dies. What a precious gift to be part of that. What a challenge never to forget that this is my God working for me and journeying with me in this life and into life eternal. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” What better gift is there? What better word to live by?

 

Fr. Prior Joel Macul, O.S.B.

Homily, Feast of the Blessed Trinity, June 11, 2017

The Poet Khalil Gibran wrote, “You give up little when you give of your possession. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

For Christians, there is no greater example of this definition of true giving than what is written in today’s Lesson:” God loved the world so much that HE gave His only Son”.

The Feast of the Holy Trinity is and remains a profound mystery of unity and diversity.  One God in three Persons.  Only in using analogies can we try to geta deeper insight into the unity and diversity of the Trinity.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, while at prayer , perceived the Trinity in the form of three musical notes that made up a single chord or sound.

St. Patrick used the three leaves of one clover to convey the idea of the Trinity.

On this fest we have a chance to think about the nature of God himself and about who we are as Christians.

Our God is a giving God. The fact is we only know God as one who gives; we only know him because he gives. Humans first came to know God because he gave himself in creation. We discover that we only exist, the world only exists because God gives life. He breathed life where there was nothing at all.

And he created human life as the pinnacle of the world he had made.

God did not stop giving life when his creatures rebelled against him in sin. He continued to give existence and life.

God showed his infinite love for the world by giving the life of His Son.  It is in this giving that we realize how complete God’s love is. The Father gives Himself in giving us his Son.

Now Jesus reveals his love for His Father, and His love for us, by giving.  Christ’s whole life is one of praise and worship for his Father, and of caring, healing, compassion for humans.  When the sacrifice of the Cross consummates his life it does so by completing his self-gift of all that He is.

Thus both the Father and Son are revealed as the God who gives. Both carry on their revelation by giving us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is known as the surpassing gift of God.

In the Gospel the triune God is revealed as a God giving and loving. St. John tells us God is love, for to love is to give. Love is revealed in giving.  From all eternity God gives life in his Son and the Father and the Son share the giving of the Spirit. It is the privilege of our Christian faith to recognize such love revealed in Christ Jesus

And it is a greater privilege still not only to recognize such love but to share in it. God calls us to a personal relationship with him. We are invited to enter into the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; we become Temple of the Holy Spirit and the triune God.

What is our response to God who gives Himself to us. We have to give ourselves to him and to each other. Our life mirrors the life of the Trinity in our world.

God is giving and sending us. We are now the manifestations of God’s goodness and giving by our generosity. We are the hands and feet and voices of the triune God in our days. God who is a God of giving cannot be outdone by generosity.

Trinity is a mystery, but what it reveals is far more important than what it conceals.

A loving, giving, open God is what the word “Trinity” describe, not a mathematical formula or a puzzling philosophical riddle.

This word Trinity is a sort of love letter that spans history; in it are the most intimate sentiments of a God who wants to give himself to us and who demands an equally giving response. This is how God loves us; this is how God wants to be loved.

Mystery of the Trinity, rather than pointing to some exclusive secret about God, teaches us about where we are called to live, about the glory of the human condition, about the measure of love of which we are capable.

The celebration of the Trinity is the culmination of God’s declaration of love made to the human family throughout the course of history.

Trinity as the source and model of all personhood and community shows us that our fulfillment and happiness lies not in self-assertion, isolation and independence, but rather in openness and a loving commitment to others.

We have to share ourselves, our love and our talents.... thereby enriching ourselves, not for ourselves, but for the Church and for the Community.

The relationship we have with the Trinity leads us to an experience of freedom –

God claiming us as sons and daughters and his children.

Let’s conclude together with the Trinitarian action that has become the trademark of our faith-the Sign of the Cross:

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Fr. Volker Futter, OSB

Homily, 7th Sunday of Easter, May 28, 2017

 John  17:1-11a Acts 1:12-14  1 Pet 4:13-16

Focus: Today and this coming week, we are waiting, together with Jesus’ first disciples, for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

“Come, Holy Spirit, pour out of the depth of the Trinity a ray of Your Light—that Light which enlightens our minds
and, at the same time, strengthens our wills to pursue the Light. …

 You are the best consoler!  What a charming Guest you make! How refreshingyour consolation!  Soothing like a caress.  In an instant You dissipate all doubt and sadness.

Come, Father of the poor, the poor in spirit, whom you love to fill with the fullness of God.

With this Prayer to the Holy Spirit, inspired by the Church’s Pentecost Sequence,

Trappist Father Thomas Keating begins his book, Open mind, Open Heart.

Prayer is the overarching theme in our Scripture readings today on the 7th Sunday of Easter, the Sunday before Pentecost.  The gospel presents us with the first part of Jesus’ high-priestly prayer for his disciples.

As his ‘hour’ is approaching, which in John’s gospel is the time of his being lifted up on the cross as well as of his return to the Father, to heaven, he prays for those who believe in him, and who continue to be in ‘the world.’  The rest of Verse 11 in Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel that was cut off in the end from today’s gospel text says what Jesus is praying for:

“Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me

so that they may be one just as we are.” 

Jesus prays for unity among his disciples, which has its root and origin in their unity with him and the Father.

In our first reading, we find the apostles gathered in the Upper Room waiting for the Holy Spirit, together with Mary, the women of Galilee and the brothers of Jesus.  It’s significant that Luke mentions so exactly the people preparing in prayer for Pentecost.  For when the Holy Spirit is coming down upon them with a mighty wind and tongues of fire, they, who had been so close to the earthly Jesus, will constitute the basic community of the church.  Who are they?

The Eleven, later completed by Matthias to be 12 again, enjoy a unique importance because they were chosen by Jesus and were with him “right from the time when John was baptizing until the day when he was taken up from” them.  However, there was experience, which complemented that of the apostles.

The women from Galilee, not the apostles, were the first to hear the message of the Resurrection by the empty tomb!

And Mary was the first in the gospel to hear the message about Jesus—at the Annunciation from the angel—and, together with Joseph, she was responsible for the formation of Jesus’ early life.

The apostles and the women and Mary bring the Gospel in its entirety into the beginning of the Church.  Plus, there are the brothers (or cousins) of Jesus!  One of them, James, will play a very important part in the early Church as head of the church in Jerusalem.

Being Jesus’ disciples includes also sharing in his sufferings.  Suffering and rejoicing usually don’t go together.  While today’s second reading doesn’t mention prayer directly, it’s understandable only from a stance of prayer.  Peter says, we need to avoid suffering that is caused by our own wrongdoing, yes.  If suffering, however, is caused by us imitating Christ we are blessed and can know that the Holy Spirit rests upon us and strengthens us.

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, Today and this coming week, we are invited to wait in prayer, together with Jesus’ first disciples, for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s pray during these days for that unity among Christians, which Jesus so desired.  Let’s do so especially in this year of the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary!  We can work toward Christian unity through dialogue, through common prayer and through common action.  But we also have to receive it as a gift for which we can open ourselves in prayer.

Let’s pray for the leaders of the Church, for Pope Francis, for clergy, religious, and laity, that we may lead people to the true knowledge of God and of his Son Jesus Christ.

Let’s especially also pray for women in the Church in gratitude for their unique gifts that they bring to it.

Let’s pray for all of us, for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we may be strengthened to stand up for our faith, even in times of adversity and suffering, and that we may recognize what it means for us, for each one of us personally, to live out the message of Christ.

Come Holy Spirit, O most blessed Light divine, shine within these hearts of ours,

And our inmost being fill.  In your sevenfold gift descend.  Give us joy that never ends.   Amen.  Alleluia.

Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB

Homily, 6th Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2017

Acts 8:5–8, 14–17
1 Peter 3:15–18
John 14:15–21

Jesus is going away. The disciples clearly feel this impending loss. A gap is opening up between themselves and Jesus. They are troubled. What will this loss mean? Like many losses, it means the one known and loved, the one we ate with, laughed and cried with is gone, is simply not here. The disciples know that Jesus is going to die. And death of any kind means that there will be someone missing. There will be the pain of absence. And if death is the reason for the loss, it is not a matter of going for a while and then coming back. No, death means the end. The gap in the relationship will not be filled in; it is permanent. Death brings about a permanent loss.

As the disciples are gathered with Jesus after the Last Supper, that element of being the last meal shared together sinks in. That Jesus’ departure is a departure to death carries with it a finality as death does for all of us. There is no turning back, there is no coming back. Around that table in that upper room, the absence of Jesus presses in on his small band of disciples. Jesus will be missed. They will not see him; his physical body will not be with him. They will feel alone, even abandoned. Jesus understands this well; he acknowledges that they are already feeling like orphans. No one will be there to teach them, to walk with them, to lead them. Alone in the world, which as Jesus says, does not understand them.

It is in this atmosphere of deep loss, of a death that will end the physical presence of Jesus, that Jesus speaks the words of today’s Gospel. The disciples are weighed down by loss and particularly by the physical absence of Jesus that they know death will bring. We, too, know this sense of loss. We certainly know it when someone whose love we have felt dies; we experience this sense of someone missing in our life when someone we love is no longer there to be touched, to be seen, to be held. But we have other senses of absence: when someone we love moves away permanently; when our son or daughter goes off to college or gets married and begins a new life. Life as we knew it is simply not the same. A presence is gone. Perhaps we weep.

Jesus is trying to get us to move away from a presence that is always physical to a new kind of presence. We can call it spiritual yet at the same time it is very real. Jesus will even say that it is more real than if he were here walking among us. The key to presence in the midst of absence is relationships. Jesus may physically be absent from his followers, and indeed he is. We do not see him at all, ever. But Jesus’ relationship with us and our relationship to him does not need his physical presence to be real and authentic. Jesus relationship with his disciples continues after his physical departure.

Jesus has to leave us. If he does not leave his disciples, then the very relationship, the very bond that he came to share with us will not be complete. Jesus makes it clear that his life’s energy and strength, the love that keeps him going, is his relationship with his Father. Jesus’ death may look like a disaster and loss to us, but in reality, for him, it is a passage into the deep intimacy and love that Jesus and the Father have. But for that love to be true, Jesus must be with and in the Father. Jesus’ death is not an entrance into darkness and loss; it is an entrance into life and love. Jesus is going into the heart or bosom of the Father. That is his home that is his dwelling place. And that is what he came to share with us. He says that very clearly today. What Jesus came to share is the dynamic of a relationship.

The heart of that relationship is love: each giving himself to the other faithfully and fully. Jesus enters death and leaves this world because he loves the Father. The Father loves Jesus because Jesus is willing to undergo this death that looks to us like the end. They both love each other for our sake. This intimacy they cultivate and share is made visible; their love becomes naked as it were so that you and I can see and be part of this love they have for one another. Jesus is not a solitary figure, a man of power and might: he is loved and he loves; he loves his father and you and I.

Each Sunday of Easter we are offered some view of what resurrection means and where we experience it even now. The resurrection is not just something for the future. Jesus was loved to life by the Father in our time. Resurrection is an event for us now. Jesus is trying to get his disciples to understand this. New life he says is found in the love that brought me through death into life for your sake. You and I, he says to us, touch that new life when we come to stand in Jesus’ love. When we are caught by his love and in turn come to love him because he loved us to death, then we are truly alive.

Our loving Jesus and our loving each other as Jesus loved us, without condition, totally and selflessly, is a sign and an experience that the resurrection is happening. Our loving of Jesus and each other is a profession of faith in the resurrection. The relationship of love we have with Jesus and one another is a permanent relationship. Relationships are not killed in death. No, says Jesus, my loving you and your loving me do not end because you do not see and touch me. Our love for one another is stronger than ever because I will go and enter fully into the love the Father has for me.

Jesus stirs up love in us today. Jesus sets before us his loving us unto death and his Father’s loving him for loving us and says: keep that loving alive and you will live. The good news we hear today is that there is a circle of love. The circle of love begins with the Father and the Son but the good news is that Jesus has brought us into that circle of love. His resurrection has completed that circle.

Jesus command is to keep that circle of love active. Now that circle of love embraces us on earth. We keep that circle of love living and active when we do what Jesus did once for us: he got down and washed our feet. When he got up, he said to us: you do the same to one another. It is a new commandment: keep our love moving. Keep the love flowing! This washing of each other’s feet, this embrace of each other’s wounds, this love that bends over and goes down to the weakness in each of us, this washing that leads to forgiveness and reconciliation: all this is what Jesus commands us. This is where his heart lies. And if that is where his heart, loved by the Father lies, then that love is at the heart of being a Christian. It is intimate, it is fulfilling, it is life giving. Living this chain of love is our way of saying, the Lord is alive, the Lord is here; he is in our midst.

Fr. Joel Macul OSB

Homily, 4th Sunday of Easter, May 7, 2017

Topic: The sheep follow because they know His voice

Films like Robin Hood, Batman and Superman all reflect the universal appeal of the hero figure. All these heroes have one thing in common: they live apart from the rest of us, on the margins of society, either outside the law or with a hidden, secret identity. We like our heroes to be different from us. It is part of their attraction and it's what makes them able to function as saviors, as hero figures.

The people of Israel too had a great hero: David, the shepherd boy who slew Goliath and eventually became Israel's greatest king. Shepherds, too, were outsiders. They lived apart from other people and so were often unable to fulfil all the religious demands of Judaism. They were second-class citizens. Like our own heroes, the shepherd lived on the margins of society.

Heroes are fine for children, but there comes a time when we have to leave our heroes behind to face reality and accept responsibility for our own lives. Some would argue that images like those in today's Gospel reading should be dropped as too childish and immature. Who wants to be compared to a flock of sheep? We are individuals, with freedom and responsibility, not sheep to be care for and protected. Ultimately, it is argued, we have to grow up and reject these very passive images: we need to learn to have an adult relationship with God

Whilst there may be some truth in this, it does not do justice to the imagery Jesus uses. Jesus does indeed compare himself to a shepherd caring for sheep - but the onus in what he says is very much on the sheep. It is the sheep who have to be able to recognize the shepherd's voice. It is the sheep who have to take care not to be fooled by false shepherds, and it is they who have to decide whether or not to follow the true shepherd. Jesus says:"I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full".

There are plenty of other guides out there, plenty of other ways to follow. But these do not and cannot lead to life, only to death. The choice is ours.

The "thieves" who steal and kill and destroy come in various guises. They may be the hollow promises of our materialistic society which offer happiness through more, or better, or newer things, but leave us empty, dissatisfied and poorer. They may be the false promises behind drugs, gangs or casual sex, which offer fulfilment but merely rob us of our dignity, our relationships, our self-respect. They may be the promises of the extremist ideologies of politics, nationalism, yes and of religion which more often than not crush the individual for the sake of the group.

Jesus doesn't make empty promises. He doesn't seek to cocoon us from reality, nor seek to offer a temporary fix from the harshness of life. He doesn't try to suppress the individual for the sake of security or promise riches and wealth to get our vote. He doesn't offer pie in the sky. He offers life, life lived to the full, not an escape from life. He offers meaning and purpose in life- "rich pasture"-and incentive for improving the world we live in.

The security he offers is not based on withdrawal from the world but on the freedom experienced in knowing that he is the one we follow. Not some hero who has managed to come through the world unscathed and all-conquering, but a shepherd; someone on the margins of life, who understands pain, rejection and loss. Someone who still bears the scars and wounds of humanity's cruelty, the Good Shepherd who did lay down His life for His sheep.

The image of Christ our Shepherd need not result in a childish, immature understanding of OUR relationship with God.  Rather it challenges us to get to know God and to walk in His way. We need to learn to recognize his voice by spending time in prayer, in listening to his words in the scriptures or in a retreat or day of recollection. We need to recognize Him in the sacraments (now in the Eucharist) and in the people and events of our lives (even to recognize His presence in the tragedy and massacre of the Columbine School shooting and in the inhuman cruelty of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. And it means learning to follow him, to identify with the outcast, the marginalized and the neglected, the victims of wars and tragedies. It will mean committing ourselves, learning to "lay down our life" for others: giving our time, energy and skills in the service of others, pursuing our call to ministry, to a religious or priestly life. It means taking part in the struggle to build a better world. If we truly follow Christ the shepherd, we can have no excuse for not getting involved.

Jesus the Good Shepherd is the only One who believes totally in our capability, the only One who knows us by name, knows our talents and encourages us to pursue them in our everyday life.

Fr. Volker Futter, O.S.B.

 

Homily, 3rd Sunday of Easter, April 30, 2017

I would like to leave you with 3 points in this homily which I will get around to eventually.

Regina Riley tells a familiar, true story that many parents can relate to.  How, like St. Monica, she had prayed for her two sons to return to the faith.

Then one Sunday morning she got the surprise of her life.  Her two sons came in and sat across the aisle from her.  Her heart was bursting with joy and gratitude.

Then she asked her sons what brought them back to Church.  And then her younger son related this story.

One Sunday morning, while vacationing in Colorado, they were driving down a country road and it was raining cats and dogs.  And then suddenly they came upon this old man, trudging thru the rain with no umbrella, he was soaking wet.  And he walked with a noticeable limp.  Yet he kept walking on down the road.  The brothers stopped to pick him up.

It turned out that he was on his way to Sunday Mass and the Church was 3 miles down the road.  So the two brothers picked him up and drove him to the Church.  And since the rain was coming down so hard and they had nothing better to do they decided to wait for him and take him back after Mass.

Then the two brothers decided they might as well go inside rather than wait outside.

As they listened to the Sunday readings and sat thru the Eucharistic prayers and Holy Communion something happened to both of them, something moved them deeply.

They told their mother it was like coming home after a long, tiring trip.

This story is verymuch like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and meeting up with a stranger, who was Jesus.

As one commentator said: “The road to Emmaus was West of Jerusalem.  These two sad and downcast disciples were heading into the darkness of the setting sun.”  St. Thomas Aquinas says: “Of all the passions, sadness causes the most injury to the soul.”  And St. Augustine says: “They were so shattered when they saw him hanging on the tree that they forgot all about his teachings.  They did not expect him to rise.”

If we allow sadness and discouragement to take over our lives, then we are allowing the devil to play one of his biggest trump cards and bring us down.  We are heading toward the setting sun, the place of darkness. We are heading in the wrong direction.

In the Easter Vigil this year at St. Martin’s monastery in Rapid City, during the renunciations I had the people turn and face west and hold out their hands, like this, to reject Satan and all his works and all his pomps.  Satan was believed to dwell in the west in the early Church and they were even told to spit to the west. But I didn’t think that part would go over too well.

But we all need to take a strong stand against the devil and to let go of sadness and discouragement in our life.  And not be like the two disciples walking away from the community, walking away from the rising sun in the east, from the New Jerusalem.  

But on this road into the setting sun, Jesus came into their broken lives, he opened the Scriptures for them to see that suffering is a necessary part of the life of a Christian if he is to enter into eternal life.  If he is to rise from the dead with Jesus.

So Jesus spoke the sacred and living word of the Scriptures to them.  That is the first point. And that is the first part of our Sun. Eucharist Listening to the Word of God.  Then he sat down and broke bread with them and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.  And it is very probable that he said to them: “Take and eat this is my Body.” This the second point, the Bread of Life which we receive at every Eucharist. 

Pope Francis has some very encouraging words for us this on this  Emmaus Sunday of Easter. He says:  “The road to Emmaus is our own journey of faith: The Scriptures and the Eucharist are the two indispensable elements for encountering Jesus.  We too often go to Sunday Mass with our worries, difficulties, and disappointments…Life sometimes wounds us and we go away feeling sad, on the road to Emmaus, turning our backs on Jesus and his plans.”  So we distance ourselves from God and from our fellow Christians. But Jesus came into their broken lives and shared his Sacred Word and then he broke bread with them. Jesus changed their sadness and distress into joy.

And then the two of them quickly and joyfully returned to the community of believers in Jerusalem which was also rejoicing because Jesus had appeared to Peter. And this is the 3rd point.  Coming together as a community of believers every Sunday to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and to share our joy.  

So every Sunday we come together as a community to support one another, to listen to the Word of God spoken to us in the readings. And then we come forward to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  We all should be like the two disciples in the Gospel today.  We should leave this table of the Lord rejoicing and return home ready to spread the good news to all we meet, more by example than by words.

Like the old man limping along the road to Church getting soaked in the pouring rain. He said nothing but he really brought those two young men back to Church.  And so can we.

Fr. Thomas Hillenbrand, OSB

Homily, 2nd Sunday of Easter - April 23, 2017

Homily 2nd Sunday of Easter A Schuyler Christ the King Priory2017
Joh 20:19-31   Acts 2:42-47   1 Pet 1:3-9

Focus: The Risen Christ is our Lord and God.

Function: The Easter Season is meant to help us believe in the resurrection.

Dear Sisters and brothers in the Lord,

We have celebrated Easter; and the feast continues for fifty days.  On Easter Sunday after the vigil I was energized and full of joy:  the light of the Easter candle was multiplied and St. Benedict Center’s chapel beautifully illuminated by many little lights that we had put around the Easter candle after the Exsultet; then the many Alleluias, and all the other symbols and rites.

Everyday life with its ups and downs goes on after Easter Sunday.  The purpose of the Easter Season, of us celebrating 50 days of Easter, is to train our eyes so they learn to see the new reality of the Resurrection more and more in our own lives and in our world.

In both the gospels of Easter Sunday and of today the Resurrection Event is surrounded by contrasts:  a sense of great loss and of fear and great joy; doubt and belief.

Today’s gospel begins by pointing out that the disciples were gathered behind locked doors “for fear.”  Jesus’ death had driven them into hiding.  Then the Risen One stands in their midst and suddenly, as they see Him, they are full of joy.

What caused their Easter joy?  Certainly Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ being alive.  And then also Jesus’ message.  He speaks words of peace and forgiveness.

Peace (Greek eirene) here doesn’t mean only the absence of war;  Behind it stands the Hebrew concept of shalom, which means universal well-being and wholeness.

A prerequisite of this shalom’s full reception is the forgiveness of sins: for the disciples to receive forgiveness from God and for them to extend forgiveness to other people.  Peace and forgiveness together open up the spaciousness of salvation,  shattering the confines of locked doors and doubt.

Thomas, who was absent during this first encounter with the risen Lord, does not believe the witness of the other disciples.  Like us, he wants tangible evidence.  Rather than touching Jesus, however, Thomas only utters a profound profession of faith.  His encounter with the risen Lord replaces the need for tangible evidence and opens up the space for faith, for salvation.  Thomas experienced the peace and the forgiveness that Jesus offers!

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, The Risen Christ is our Lord and God.  The Easter Season is meant to help us believe in the resurrection.  We also can experience His presence and in some quite concrete way see him and touch him.  Today’s first reading tells us how.  It describes various elements of the life of the early Christian community.

One of them is the Eucharist, the “breaking of the bread,”  In the Eucharist Jesus shows us his hands; and his side.  We commemorate his passion and death.  At the Eucharist, he bestows the Holy Spirit upon us.  In the Epiclesis, we call down the Holy Spirit upon bread and wine.  Here we touch Him.  After the consecration, we eat him into ourselves, so that he can transform us, so that our hearts become more and more like his.

Then there is the teaching of the apostles.  During the Easter Season, the Lectionary presents us with sections from all parts of the Acts of the Apostles;  We hear how, in spite of rejection and persecution, the message about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus spreads over the whole world known at this time. The teaching of the apostles came so evidently from God!  Humans were not able to destroy it.

Finally, there is the communal life.  We encounter the Risen Christ in each other.  Our ability to forgive a person who has hurt us is a gift of the Risen One; we receive it if we ask him for it.  Our ability to share our possessions with those who are in need—according to the example of the early Christians in Jerusalem—is a gift of the Risen Lord, too, and evidence of His presence within us and around us.

Certainly, it would be nice to trade places with Thomas and to share in this first, overwhelming experience of Christ’s resurrection.  If we, however, in a prayerful attitude, see and hear, note and perceive, especially during the next six weeks, we will get in touch ever more fully with this new reality; indeed, we, too, will encounter and touch the Risen One.

Amen.  Shalom!

Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB