Homily - 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time-2019

Seek and you shall find.JPG

Lk 11:1-13 Gen 18:20-32 Col 2:12-14

Focus: Those who ask God will receive, those who seek God will find.

Function: Jesus’ call to us is to pray persistently, trustingly, and with openness toward God’s will and God’s guidance for our lives.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

A young man came to the abbot of a monastery and said, “I really like it here. But before I stay, I have one question. Does God do miracles?” The abbot looked at him and replied, “It all depends on what you think is a miracle. There are those who say that a miracle is when God does the will of the people, but we say that a miracle is when people do the will of God.”

In today’s gospel, we find Jesus at prayer. His disciples had seen him pray. So they approached him and asked him that he may teach them about prayer.

Part of Jesus’ answer is two parables. The persistence of the man knocking at his friend’s door finally moved the friend to open his home at midnight and fulfill the request. This was a major project: Quite possibly, in his small house with no light during the night, the friend had to climb over the sleeping bodies of other people who were laying on mats on the floor in the house in order to get to the door! But in the end everybody was awake anyway; and because he was a friend he knew he had to help! Persistence had the effect that the man did not walk away emptyhanded!

Or, Jesus says, think of a father whom his child asks for something to eat. Would a good father give anything harmful to his child? A snake instead of a fish, a scorpion instead on an egg? No, a good father wouldn’t do that. This was clear to every one of Jesus’ listeners. Even thinking of that made them shudder! Jesus’ conclusion: “If you then who are wicked know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? ” If we pray with persistence and trust, we will receive the Holy Spirit with its fruits and gifts.

And Jesus teaches his disciples the “Our Father,” known to us as the Lord’s Prayer. The word that Jesus uses in his Aramaic language for Father was used by children. Abba – daddy. A very familiar and trusting address.

The first petitions in the prayer focus on God. “Father, hallowed be your name.” The name of a person in the Bible is this person’s reality. Thus this expression means, Father, may your reality, your presence, your gracious love, be experience by the people!

“Your kingdom come” says: O God, may your definitive reign on earth unfold, right here and now, which breaks down the boundaries that separate rich and poor, healthy and ill, men and women, clean and unclean, saint and sinner.

“Your will be done.” This line, found only in Matthew’s gospel, presupposes for Jesus that the will of our loving Abba-God is always salvation and happiness for human beings, even if doing the will of God may involve conversion, time and again..

Only then petitions for concrete human needs follow: for the daily bread, for forgiveness, for preservation in trial.

Dear sisters and brothers, Jesus’ message to us today is that those who ask God will receive, those who seek God will find, and to those who knock, God will open a door. Jesus’ call to us is to pray persistently, trustingly, and with openness toward God’s will and God’s guidance for our lives.

Here are some good questions for us to ask ourselves this morning:· How is the “Our Father” comforting to me? How do I find it challenging and difficult to live it? How can I practice persistent and trusting prayer in the morning, in the evening, and in the course of my day?

An elderly lady in Alabama, asked about her praying, said she always says these lines before saying the Lord’s Prayer itself: “Father, hallowed be your name…not mine; Your kingdom always…not mine
Your will be done…not mine.” She explained that this is a daily reminder to her to place herself humbly before God….as she begins her day…as she goes about her chores…and as she ends her day.

Indeed, as the abbot said to the young seeker, it is a miracle if we are really attentive to God’s will in our lives and do it. Thomas Merton (Thoughts in Solitude) once expressed it in this well-known way: “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor, do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.” AMEN.

Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB

Holy Mass - Solemnity of St. Benedict - 2019

Below is a video of our Eucharistic Service this morning. The text from Fr. Joel’s homily follows the video.

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

It is an unusual choice of readings at Mass to find one from the wisdom literature in which the speaker is an elder, a wise person, a teacher speaking to a disciple. Even more unusual is it when the elder speaking of wisdom is understood to be an image or witness of a saint. Today’s choice from the book of Proverbs helps us to remember Benedict as the elder, the master of life in the Spirit. But the master who wants to teach and pass on that way of life.

But for us in the Benedictine family such a reading is not so unusual. We first meet Benedict in a similar fashion in the prologue to the Rule. He speaks to us in words that are so familiar to us: “Listen, my son, my child, to the master’s instruction, and attend to them with the ear of your heart” (RB Pro 1). In listening to a passage from Proverbs, we are reminded that the man we are gathered to remember and honor today is a man who stands solidly in the wisdom tradition. He is the elder who has observed life, lived it, found a way that is true and wants to draw us into it. Benedict is the wise person who has imbibed wisdom, wisdom about God and wisdom about being human.

It is easy to hear Benedict speaking to new comers, inviting them to life, to take up a way that leads to peace. But Benedict is also inviting us to listen beyond himself and to hear the voice of the Lord himself speaking to us from the Gospel. It is the Gospel wisdom, the Gospel way that will come to be our true guide, our regula, to new life that leads to final glory. In a masterful way Benedict steps aside so that the newcomer finds that the voice of the elder speaking wisdom to him is really the divine voice, the voice of God and the voice of Christ himself.

It is not inappropriate to hear Benedict and to listen to the word of the Rule as a word about a human way of life. It is not out of place to listen to Benedict as that wise person, the elder, the man of experience in ways human and yet divine. Benedict has discovered wisdom. He has sought and found what works. Wisdom as portrayed in our Scriptures is the order and harmony that God has placed in the world and the human heart. Benedict has discovered something of that way, its rhythm, its movements and it peace.

Perhaps what has kept Benedict alive and well over 1500 years is that his reflections are deeply human, they are rooted in the wisdom that we humans need to live well, peacefully and securely. The human wisdom of Benedict may not be showy and dramatic but it is always about the heart as he says in his first sentence and as the author in Proverbs likewise says in his first sentence. His wisdom can be found in small things: in keeping a candle burning in the sleeping quarters during the night, in making sure that the clothing fits, that people have the basic necessities, that there is a choice of foods, that one does not strike a fellow member if one is angry, that one learn how to speak and use words wisely, that people don’t make fun of or laugh at one another, that when you go out your clothes can look a little better than ordinary, that one needs to work, pray together and follow a schedule. Moderation in all things, he says, extremes don’t make for full human growth. This is just a little of the daily wisdom Benedict has experienced and passes on.

Today we remember Benedict the elder, the wise man, the master of life. Today the abba Benedict is the man with a word for us on how to live. We remember him today as the man who showed us a human and consequently wise and loving way to live with one another. Because we are rooted in a deeply human, therefore, wise way of life, it should be attractive. In a society where the ‘nones’, those who seemingly have no commitment to God in their lives, are increasing, it may happen that Benedict’s wise way may prove to be a way that speaks. It will speak because it is rooted in wisdom, wisdom which is from God, is of God and ultimately is the face of God. To live such a wise life already speaks of God and of a world and a human community that can be charged with love, beauty and goodness.

As we remember Benedict, the man blessed by God, let us be grateful for any and every bit of wisdom we have gleaned from being in this way of life. And let us also remember that every wise way opens and expands the heart so that wisdom’s gift of joy and peace will have a home in that heart.

Prior Joel, OSB

Homily - 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time-2019

Isaias 66:10–14
Galatians 6:14–18
Luke 10:1–12.17–20

We all know the importance of greetings. We all had to learn the rituals of greeting others. There was the proper way to greet someone you didn’t know; there was the way of greeting family members or those who are friends. When we study another language, one of the first things we learn are the words of greetings. And when we get to that country, we quickly learn the gestures that must accompany those words: the handshake perhaps, and the kinds of handshake, or the folded hands or the bow. Greetings are important because that is how we make the first contact with a new fellow human being and how we continue that contact. We cannot do away with greetings. In the greeting is the beginning of the atmosphere for the trust and the talk that will follow.

The Gospels are full of the greetings of the Risen Jesus. “Peace be with you,” he says. And today we hear that the greeting of the Risen Lord is to be the basis of greeting of his disciples and followers: “Peace to this household.” But the greeting is more than the right words to say; it is more than a sound. The greeting is a word with power. In the greeting of peace, shalom, it is the reality of peace that comes toward the other. When the disciple greets with peace, that peace literally looks for a place to rest; it looks for a peaceful person. Peace, once spoken looks for a receiver. It looks for a home, looks for someone who will recognize it. It looks for a welcome. Peace is interpersonal by nature.

But we have to be careful here. When we greet with peace, we are not saying that we are the authors of that peace or that we created it. Rather we are sending out the word of power in which we stand. We stand in peace and so we offer that to others that we may stand together. Human beings are trying to let peace flow from one to another. But at times Jesus recognized it does not happen.

Peace is really a gift from God. It is an expression of God. God’s peace is finally given to us in and through Jesus, the risen one. It is Luke who makes it very clear that with the coming of Jesus, God’s peace has entered the earth. Such is the message the angels sing when Luke tells of the birth of the Messiah: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to those on whom his favor rests.” The old father of John the Baptist, Zachariah, sings of Christ as the Dawn shining from God that will allow us to walk in the ways of peace. Last week we heard Jesus setting out on his journey to Jerusalem. He does not journey empty handed. Jesus walks through Galilee and up to Jerusalem as a messenger of Peace. And after his resurrection, that is his greeting.

We understand that the death and resurrection of Christ is the great act of making peace. In the movement of Christ’s dying and rising, we are brought together, humanity, and even humanity and the natural world. Hostility is bridged and something is born. The cross draws together what was separated and stood in opposition to one another. There is a new sense of wholeness that happens with the resurrection and it is out of that wholeness that we greet one another.

The prophet Isaiah offers some images of what peace looks like. Isaiah is describing a restored Jerusalem, a city renewed and given back to a people who were in exile. A new home, as it were. It is the Lord who will make this happen and the first image he uses is that of prosperity spreading over Jerusalem like a river. Prosperity here is another word for shalom, peace. It is the sense of order, of being cared for. In Isaiah’s stock of images, it is to know the nurture and contentment of being fed by one’s mother, being held close, of being loved. Peace flows, flows like a river. Peace is not static. It is not a situation of a truce or a standoff. It has movement; it comes toward one and envelops all of one’s very being. Peace is something interpersonal, as interpersonal as a mother feeding a child.

We hear today how Jesus commissions 72 others and sends them out before him. His instructions include what they are to say in greeting and how they are to react to those who welcome them. These 72 others sent out by Jesus are another way of proclaiming that Christ is sending out his peace to the whole world. In the book of Genesis there is a table of the nations of the world. In the Greek version it comes to 72. For Christ to send out 72 disciples to be bearers of the greeting of peace is to say that God’s peace is flowing out from Jerusalem and beyond. God’s peace is all encompassing. And the first encounter with that peace is all in a simple greeting.

We are among those 72 being sent out to the ends of the earth. We carry a gift with us, a gift from God. As Jesus went visiting and brought peace and its power to heal with him, so we are sent out to visit those who need to know that God is working peace in their lives. We carry a message, a simple message: the message that in Christ God is still sending out peace like a stream. There are parts of our world, there is our time in human history that needs to hear this message, not as a dream but as a gift waiting to be accepted.

Remember, you and I are on a journey. According to Jesus we need not carry anything, at least material. That is not what we are bringing. Instead we carry a word a greeting and with that greeting we can we can open a door and give hope to others and begin to give them a glimpse of what the Kingdom really looks and feels like.

Fr. Joel Macul, OSB

Homily - 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 19:16b, 19–21
Galatians 5:1, 13–18
Luke 9:51–62

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It so happens that this year we resume our reading of Luke’s gospel on Sundays at a turning point in the Jesus story. Though we have just finished celebrating the climax of Jesus’ life with his betrayal, death then resurrection and ascension in Jerusalem and its environs, we are now picking up the story at that point where Luke says “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” In Greek Luke writes that Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem.” It is clear that Jerusalem is more than just a geographical location. Jerusalem is a goal for Jesus. Jerusalem is where Jesus must go. Luke began his account in the temple in Jerusalem, his story of Jesus ends with the disciples returning to the temple each day after his ascension to praise God. In Acts the new community makes the temple the place where preaching the good news of the resurrection begins. And it is in the context of the temple that Paul finds out that he will leave from there and begin his journey to Rome.

Luke makes this journey to Jerusalem a key element in Jesus story. His days in Galilee are fulfilled. The next task is to head to Jerusalem to fulfill what the Messiah must do: suffer and die and in this way be taken up in glory. Luke collects many events, sayings and parables of Jesus and weaves them into this journey. This journey story is not just about Jesus setting out for Jerusalem, it is also about how the disciples journey with him. So it is today that we begin to learn something about being on our journey with Jesus.

You cannot get from Galilee to Jerusalem except by going through or around Samaria. The word Samaria or Samaritan is loaded. Jews and Samaritans do not mix literally. for the Jews the Samaritans are outcasts racially and religiously. When James and John approach seeking hospitality, they are rejected because the Samaritans hear they are going to Jerusalem. Samaritans had their own center for worship. Or is there perhaps another reason why they are rejected? Jerusalem for this journey means to suffer and die. Who wants to undertake a journey that will lead to suffering and death? Is this the road that leads to glory? For a true disciple it will mean embracing suffering and death as part of the transformation process that will release the new person that Jesus says comes with the Kingdom. Note how John and James react to being rejected! They want God to burn up the village. Is this the way of Jesus who has been preaching mercy and called disciples to be compassionate like the heavenly Father? Is violence the response to rejection or not getting things my way, our way? Is a simple rejection in hospitality met with a scorched earth policy? Jesus passes no judgement and in fact is rather practical: move on to a place where you will be received. The disciple is not about invoking violence when one’s way is not met, when one faces hostility in many forms. These two disciples are not displaying basic love of God and love of neighbor.

Jesus now offers instruction to three would-be disciples. The first approaches Jesus. He is ready for anything and says he will follow Jesus everywhere. We could say he is brashly self-confident. But Jesus challenges the boast with powerlessness. If you want to follow me, then you will have to be willing to do without the creature comforts that society may offer. A true disciple may find that he or she does not fit in with the very society in which he or she is actually living. There will be a certain sense of homelessness, of not fitting it, of somehow being on the edge. There will be the tension of belonging and yet not belonging. In the end, says Jesus, the Son of Man will be handed over for not quit fitting in. Are you willing to follow me for that? Your nest, your home: where is it really?

Jesus calls the next would-be disciple to follow him. BUT not yet. I have family obligations and they come first. The example is extreme perhaps. The would be disciple must wait till his father dies until he can follow Jesus! Jesus’ invitation to follow is an opening to a whole new way of life called the Kingdom of God. It asks for total commitment here and now. The opportunity that Jesus is offering is God’s offer for something that is totally new and totally engaging. It will change the way you viewed your previous life and commitments. It is a new perspective. One must grasp it now or it will slip through your hands.

The situation of the third would be disciple is similar. He wants to go get the blessing of his family. We could sympathize with this follower. It would seem appropriate to make sure that your family contacts are in order and they are with you before setting off on something new. If you don’t do that then you might be standing at the plow but looking back to see if they approve. Jesus’ point is clear. If following him is what attracts and holds you, then being faithful to that following will bring its own affirmation and a new family.

What should be clear is that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem knowing what that would mean. Remember, he backs up his determination to set out knowing that a prophet does not die outside Jerusalem. Those who follow him need to have that same determination. And the strength and determination for setting out on the journey with the Lord and the goal of the journey must be, as Jesus says, the Kingdom of God. Our life must be lived from the perspective of the Kingdom of God. And that Kingdom embraces within its perspective such issues as care for the environment, the loss of biodiversity, racial relations, treatment of migrants at the border, sexual abuse, dialogue between religions, social media—to name some issues in our contemporary society that desperately need a Kingdom viewpoint. As long as we live our lives from another perspective, the challenges of Jesus we hear today will rightfully and necessarily be echoing in our ears and hearts. Jesus makes the point that living in the Kingdom will look different from living the way the world would offer and expect.

Paul makes the point rather clearly today. If you live like the world might suggest, then you will go on biting and devouring one another. In the end you will be consumed by violence. The fire won’t come from above; it will come from within and destroy. The Kingdom’s Spirit, on the other hand, brings love and a freedom that allows for growth in the ways of the compassionate God.

Prior Joel, OSB

Homily - Trinity Sunday

Proverbs 8:22–31
Romans 5:1–5
John 16:12–15

Trinity Sunday is about mystery, the mystery of our God, the God of us Christians. At the core of this mysterious God is a community, a community of persons. The community of persons that is our God is what we are remembering and celebrating today. We may use the word “Trinity” and understand by it the number three, a genuinely mysterious number. But today is not a feast of numbers, three and one. We are not about numbers, we are about persons. We acknowledge today that our God is a community but not isolated unto itself. The story of the Trinity is a story of love. And like all love that means that our Trinity is a God who goes beyond himself, who reaches out and includes us in the wonderful love that ever flows between Father, Son and Spirit. To profess belief in the Trinity, in God as a community of persons, is also to profess ourselves has having been drawn into that communion, into that love.

We heard Wisdom speaking in the Book of Proverbs this morning. In our Christian tradition we have come to know that Wisdom is the Word made flesh. It was the story of how she accompanied God through all of creation as though wisdom itself was the architect. Wisdom drew up the plan and God made it happen and so creation is orderly, beautiful and filled with wonder from the stars in the night sky to the smallest flower in all its color down to the mystery of the atom. Wisdom says that in making all this happen, I delighted God. What God has made is delightful; it makes him happy. God is happy to create, to make; it is a joy for him. And then wisdom says God delights in the human race, God takes delight in the children of men. God delights in us humans. God is happy to have made us. Seeing us is to bring joy, perhaps laughter to God.

Remember when you and I were happy to be with someone; delighted to have made another person happy, to have brought a smile to their face or to have restored hope in their lives. Just to see an old friend, just to share a meal with someone you know brings delight. We know what it is to be delighted to be with someone; we know what it is to be able to make someone happy, to draw out beauty and joy in them, yes to make them dance and shout for joy, as the psalmist sings so often.

That is our Creator God, that is our Father. God does not run away from us because of faults, failures and weakness. That is not the position of our God. He wants rather to find every reason to delight in us, to be happy that we are his children. We know how much he delights and wants to be with us because we believe that he sent his Son. This Son of the Father comes really for only one purpose: He comes to share love, to share the love and joy the father and Son have; their delight and happiness in one another, they want to share with the children on earth. The Son comes from the Father’s side and heart, the places of love and delight, to share that with us. For Jesus it meant sharing in our suffering and sorrow; it meant a journey of love that embraces us in our worst moments. It was a journey into the darkness of our world, into its violence and intrigue, into its hatred and divisions. But Jesus did that to make us delightful in God’s eyes. Yes it is our faith that the Father’s Son was delighted to be with us humans even when we had lost the ability to delight in being treasured by the Father of all.

St. Paul told us this morning that we stand in grace; we stand in God’s favor. We are no longer bowed down by what oppresses us. We believe Christ walked with us on our journey, walked through its end of sorrow and death. He was loved by the Father for doing that for us the Father’s children. For those of us who have been graced to believe that Jesus is the face of the Father’s commitment to us, we can stand up and stand firm. Someone delights in us and we are revived by grace.

The sign of our faith is that our sufferings no longer overwhelm us. In the mystery of our Triune God, our sufferings can form us in character. Christ has filled our trials and sorrows, our pain of body and heart, with hope. Our human story can be the story of hope in the midst of incredible desolation and aloneness. We who now cling to Christ have hope. And the hope we have no one can take from us.

The hope we have in Christ, says Paul, comes about because God’s love has now been poured into our hearts. God’s love is not a drip, drip affair, like a leaky faucet or our stinginess in pouring. It is love poured out to the fullest. The heart of God who delights, the heart of God who shares love with his Son, this heart has been extended in the Spirit to include us and our hearts. This is the mystery of God’s love. It is not exclusive, it is inclusive; it embraces and holds. It might be we forget that. Have no fear, Jesus sends the Spirit to remind us of that truth. Each time we look beyond ourselves, our small world and reach out to be with another, to share with another, to lift up another; each time we do that, it is the Spirit awakening within us that love poured into our hearts. Each time we touch the love poured into our hearts, we know our God as a community of persons sharing what they have with us who are human but delightful to be with.

Prior Joel Macul, OSB

Homily - Pentecost Sunday-2019

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Acts 2:1-11
Romans 8:8-17
John 14: 15-16, 23b-26

The fifty days of Easter do not end with a whimper. Easter does not appear to go out quietly, according to the description in Acts. Easter comes to its fulfillment with “noise like a strong driving wind.” The noise fills the whole house where the disciples are gathered. The sound causes others to gather to find out what is going on. It was a gathering from every nation. The diversity of those gathered seems to correspond to the uniqueness of the noise itself.

There is drama here of the first order. But is it the noise alone that is the drama? Is it not what happens to the noise that is the real drama? The noise fills the house, it enters within the dwelling. The noise seeks to go inside to enter where the community is gathered. But then we hear that along with sound there is fire in the shape of tongues. And what happens to the fire? The fire enters into each person. And suddenly those gathered are filled with the Holy Spirit. The noise like wind and the fire like tongues fill the dwelling and the people. The drama is that the wind and fire symbolize God’s power to dwell within. The wind and fire are God’s dramatic entrance into the heart of the human community and person. Put simply, the Holy Spirit is God within. Now God fills all space both without and within. The key word in our story is the verb fills. The wind fills; the Holy Spirit fills.

On Pentecost the Spirit comes as God dwelling within the human heart. The noise of God’s breath as it were fills each disciple. And something changes. The noise of the wind becomes the speech of the disciples. Now their speech is such that they can speak and be understood in every human tongue. The Spirit breath of God is filling human language. He is purifying it, as it were. He transforms it so that instead of being a barrier between human beings, it becomes the bearer of a word about himself. God lives in people in such a way that they are newly connected to each other. Human language is a bond between us but it often seen and experienced as more off-putting than bringing us together. But something new is happening here. Human language is now the place where God’s Spirit lives. The Spirit lives within us as close and as much a part of us as is our ability to speak and communicate with each other.

The loud noise that the disciples and the crowds hear may be God’s last shout, last roar. And when it settles down, it is not something deafening. It is not a noise that we want to shut out with our ears. When the noise of God settles down, it comes out in human speech that all can hear and understand. The single word of Jesus echoing over the hills of Galilee or in the courtyards of the temple is now found in our voices, our words. God’s word comes to live in us. We have been transformed into his messengers. God lives, daringly, in our human languages, in our everyday speech.

If we think that God’s dwelling within us and transforming our speech is a marvel, then listen to what Paul is saying about the Spirit. Paul reminds us that the Spirit lives in our very bodies. So powerful is this Spirit that it can make a dead body live. If the Spirit that transformed the body of Jesus is living in us, then our bodies too will be transformed. Spirit is on the side of life. Spirit is life; it is the breath that God sends to raise up dead bodies. The Spirit living within us is our connection to life that does not end.

In fact, if God’s Spirit fills us and is within our bodies, then death is somehow changed. The Pentecost Spirit alters the very direction and goal even of our bodies. The Pentecost Spirit is meant to transform the way we view our own death. The Pentecost Spirit has to bring a new way of approaching any threat of death that looms in our lives. All moments and types of death can become moments when God’s breath can enter and pull us to a new form of existence. If God’s Spirit can live in our human words and transform them, then God’s spirit can live in bodies that will die and transform them into something that lives forever. We can never again look upon our bodies with an attitude of carelessness or hopelessness. Our human bodies are filled with God’s Spirit. ….Pentecost makes a loud noise in our ears so as to disturb our thinking. That thinking that needs disturbing is that our language is to be transformed to bear always a word, a sound of good news. Our bodies, too, are not what they look like on the surface. Our bodies are filled with God’s Spirit now. Where that Spirit is, that is where we truly are.

Pentecost is the feast of God dwelling within us. His spirit fills our very minds, hearts and bodies. Pentecost is also the feast of God’s dwelling in the space between us: between our human bodies, between stellar bodies, between ourselves and Christ, ourselves and the Father in heaven; it is all filled with the Spirit. The Spirit is in our relationships to each other, to Christ, to the Father. If we think the space between us is empty or that it is antagonistic, then Pentecost says it is now filled with a gift. It is filled with the gift of a bond that binds gently and yet securely. The Spirit is what holds us together. It is found in our fidelity to our commitments. It is found in our obedience to each other. It is found in the love that passes between us, in the love and fidelity we have to Christ and his word. Our responsible actions and words, our care for each other and concern: that is the Spirit of Pentecost living in us.

Today’s noise is meant to wake us up to what is within, to the power of human language. Today we go from noise, even noisy words, to speech and word that pass on wisdom, offer comfort, speak of hope, proclaim faith and above all words that find their fulfillment in communicating love. It is love that is the heart beat of Jesus’ words; it is love that caused creation and it is love dwelling in us and around us that sustains the world and transforms it until it all is a place where God is dwelling in his Spirit. Yes, the Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world, all that it is within it!

~Fr. Joel Macul, OSB

Homily - 2nd Sunday of Easter & Divine Mercy Sunday

Acts 5:12–16
Revelation 1:9–11a, 12–13, 17–19
John 20:19–31

Poor Thomas! He comes in for bad press by most of us. We have labeled him “doubting Thomas”. That, of course, is our interpretation. It is not a general characteristic of him at all. In an earlier chapter, he calls on his fellow disciples to go up to Jerusalem to die with Jesus. In the narrative of the gospel, Thomas is the one who ends up making the clearest affirmation of faith in Jesus: “My Lord and my God.” In this he is not unlike Peter in the other gospels.

I wonder if Thomas is no different than most of us. All he wants to do is see and touch, touch above all. After all, if someone told us, “We have seen the Lord” and left it at that, we might be a bit skeptical too. Thomas wants to touch but what it is it he wants to touch? He wants to touch the wounds of the Lord. He wants to touch the crucified one; he wants to be sure that what his fellow disciples have “seen” is truly the man who suffered, was wounded and was put to death. He does not want and does not need a ghost, a figment of their imagination and hopes and dreams. Thomas’ skepticism and doubt is not bad. It makes all the difference in the world. Is it the same Jesus who was led away with a cross and whose side and hands were pierced in for our sakes that is now glorified? Can a wounded and pierced person be victorious over suffering and death? Can he be wounded and yet free from its pain? How are wounds glorious?

Thomas’ issue is not just about the certainty of the glory of the one who was lifted up on the cross. Perhaps a bigger issue or a concurrent issue is that of the word of his fellow disciples. He is not satisfied with their word about their experience. He wants his own personal experience as well. He wants no intermediary between the risen Lord and himself. The community of the disciples is not sufficient for him. He must know for himself. If there is doubt in Thomas, the doubt is in the word of the community. He is not ready to trust the word of those who had the experience of the Teacher.

Thomas is indicative of the second generation of Christians. They did not have any personal, bodily experience of Jesus. They came to know him solely through the word of those who did experience him in the flesh. They have the word of the first generation: their word, their memories, their stories and the signs that the Teacher left behind. The second generation faith does not come from having been there and seen what happened; they came to believe through the word of the initial disciples. The second generation Christian will not see Jesus. Are we not like the second generation Christian? We have never been there with Jesus, seen him, touched him, heard his wonderful words.

Jesus offers us his final beatitude today: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” This beatitude is not to the first generation but to those of us who are at the receiving end of the word of other believers. We believe because others believe.

In the initial scene of today’s gospel, it is the first day of the week, the day of resurrection, the day of creation. On that first day, Jesus creates the new community that will now carry him and his word out to the world, physically and in time. I say Jesus creates because it is clear he breathes on them the Holy Spirit. He breathes on them as the spirit first blew over waters of chaos. Here the breath is on a fearful community sealed off in defense from the outside world. Or it is like the breath of the prophet Ezekiel over the dead bones of Israel which gives them new life and makes them stand up again. The disciples are given new life from the Master’s breath of Spirit. The locked doors and walls of the upper room cannot hinder the power of the Spirit.

This spirit-made community is then endowed with two gifts, the first of which is peace. Shalom means a sense of harmony and right order among them, a harmony that comes not from within but from the power of the cross and the gift of the Father. This is a community of shalom living in a world of disharmony and fear. But this community knows its Teacher and knows it is loved by the Father. But now the community must conform itself to the relationship between Jesus and the Father. It must be sent; it is apostolic. It goes not with its own message and power but with that of the Father. The community’s purpose is to reveal to the world that God’s word and Spirit are still creating and calling together. The community Jesus breathes into existence is one that breathes peace into a world of brokenness and fear. Its greeting must always be: “Peace be with you!”

The second gift the Risen Lord gives is empowerment to bring God’s forgiveness into people’s lives. The community lives so that God’s mercy is always offered. When the community is preaching and living forgiveness, then the new world of resurrection can be touched and felt. Forgiveness is about bringing people and broken relationships together. When broken relationships are reconciled and healed, that can be seen and touched. It can be relationships on the big screen as when conflicting parties within a nation come together, speak the truth about their hurts and are reconciled. It can be as close as healing a relationship between a parent and a child after many years of misunderstanding and rejection.

Thomas so much wanted to touch: a love that was willing to become a sacrifice, a love laid down for others. But that is exactly what the risen Lord empowers his fearful disciples to be and do. We want to see and touch. These are so basic to being human. But we can touch the risen Jesus. We can touch and feel peace in our lives and in our community. We can see and touch when forgiveness is at work as a principle for human relationships. Perhaps we need to believe that when we are touched by peace and forgiveness, no matter how fragile its form, we are in reality touching the risen Lord alive and working in the world.

Thomas’ doubt is really a reminder to us to trust in the word of the community that the lord is alive and conquered death. And Thomas is a reminder to us to keep wanting to reach out and touch, touch where love has been poured out; to touch where words have brought about reconciliation, healing and peace. And Thomas is a reminder that in the end our faith is rather simple: My Lord and my God to the one who loved us to the end and by dying made all things one.

Prior, Fr. Joel Macul, OSB