Second Sunday of Lent – Deacon Owen

2 Lent B

 Twelve days ago, we celebrated Ash Wednesday and started the holy season of Lent.  During these forty days we prepare ourselves for our progress into our eternal glory.

Today’s first reading from the book of Genesis tells us that God tested Abraham to assist his preparation.  God tested Abraham’s living faith to determine just how obedient Abraham would be.  To follow God’s Law.  This reading speaks of Abraham and Isaac, father and son and we recognize just how close a parallel this pairing is to the relationship between the Lord God and His son Jesus.  To make the comparing is reinforced when God called Abraham who answered, “Here I am.”  Abraham used the same phrase that Almighty God had used when He told Moses who he was when asked His name  Godhad answered, “…tell them I am sent you.”  These two words are prophetic in nature, implying that they foretell the arrival of Jesus in the world as the Messiah.

After calling Abraham, God the Father commanded him to take his son Isaac, whom he loved and to go to the country of Moriah to offer him there as a burnt offering on the mountain top which he will be shown.  Moriah is the very piece of land on which the great temple of God in Jerusalem was to be built.  Abraham’s son Isaac was to be offered on the same piece of land on which approximately 1850 years later Jesus would be offered for our salvation on the hill Golgotha  in the land of Moriah.  According to the 22th chapter of Genesis, the6th verse,  speaks about the trip to Moriah, Isaac  was required to carry the wood which was to be used for the burnt offering, which is a precursor of Jesus having to carry the wooden cross to his crucifixion.  Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order.  He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on the wood.  Jesus was later offered on the wood of the cross.  And examining these actions of Abraham, thepath which his off-spring were to follow become evident.

We today can recall the rest of this story; Abraham was to become the spiritual father of mankind and an ancestor of Jesus the Messiah.  He was the first of those to be saved by their living faith in God, both through the Angel of the Old Testament and in the New Testament by Jesus the Christ. Through the offspring of Abraham, the nations have learned the ways of God, the Christian faith, true righteousness, equal Justine, human rights, and all that is holy and pure and pleasing to the Lord God.

As we heard, in today’s second reading, St. Paul tells the members of the church in Rome “If God is for us, who can beagainst us?  Secondly who will bring any charges against God’s elect.  Paul’s assurance to his correspondents was that since Goddidn’t spare his own son but handed him over for our salvation how would we believe he wouldn’t give us everything else along with him?  Paul assuresus  that it was Christ Jesus who died – and who was raised and who sits in the judgment seat at the right hand of God and this Jesus fulfills his destiny and certainly intercedes for us to the end of our salvation.

Today’s Gospel is sometimes called the story of the Transfiguration.  The story is familiar:  Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain where they witnessed the transfiguration    of Jesus.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone on Earth could bleach them and there He appears with two other people.  The other people who appeared with Jesus were Elijah and Moses who were there symbolically representing the prophets in Elijah’s case and Moses representing the Law.  The presence of these historic characters, indicating that God’s children, who persevere, in the living faith, have and will inherited the Kingdom of God, and the fact that the Apostles who were there must have identifies for them their calling.   Peter the spokesman was overcome by what he believed was the significance of the scene indicating the incarnate presence of God in their very midst.  He even went so far as to offer to build some kind of shrine for each of the attendees.

To add to this overwhelming experience, a cloud overshadowed them and God the Father spoke, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!”  The cloud is symbolic of the presence of Yahweh, as it was in the story of God leading the Israelites, in the Old Testament.  The voice goes on to say “listen to Him,” but it also says, “my beloved Son” and this is the same words spoken from the cloud at the Baptism of Jesus.

Listen to Him is a command to heed Jesus words or face the music for rejecting the Word of God.

Overcome by the Divine presence of God the disciples fell on the ground and were overcome by fear.  Jesus went to them, touched them, and told them to get up and not to be afraid.  When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain, Jesus ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Coming down the mountain echoes a new Covenant parallel to Moses receiving the new covenant of the Law, he also descended a mountain carrying the two tablets of the commandments.  Now a new and everlasting covenant of Grace was about to begin.

In today’s readings we are told that living faith and perseverance leads us to eternal glory.

 Your presence here today is a sign of your living faith.  Your Christian behavior,   in the world is a sign of your perseverance in your faith.  Today, we are gathered here together so we can strengthen one another to persevere in our living faith in the hope of the eternal glory that awaits us at the end of this life.

Now as we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus to strengthen and preserve our living faith through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.  This reinforcement is especially important to us during the Lenten Season as we reflect on our Christian lives, in preparation for the salvificdeath and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that will be celebrated on Easter Sunday.

5th Sunday Ordinary Time – Abbot Joel

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time-B                                                                      

Job 7:1-4, 6-7
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Mark 1:29-39

A day in the life of Jesus. That is what these scenes from Mark’s gospel can easily be called. This is especially true if we link them together with the scene in last Sunday’s Gospel text. If you remember it is the Sabbath and Jesus is in the synagogue teaching with authority and confronting the spirit world of the demons with his authoritative word. His teaching and his word liberate the possessed man. Now Jesus moves on the same day from synagogue to house. A public scene to a domestic scene, from church to home. And then in the evening from inside the home to the door of the house and then the next morning away from the home to a deserted place, a place where there is no human habitation. And there in the solitude to pray, to speak with the Father. And then to move on to the next place. There is no going back for Jesus. The day moves on and so must he. It all looks so simple and yet Mark has packed this one day with so much.

The scene in the synagogue last week, in fact, sets out the trajectory of Jesus’ days… He is about teaching the Kingdom of God and he is about showing that the Kingdom has arrived. The Kingdom confronts and overcomes what does not belong to it, namely the Kingdom of the evil one. That Kingdom is manifested in both possession and sickness. If the Kingdom of God is here, then everything else must give way to it. This day in the life of Jesus offers us a clear picture of what that looks like: this breaking in of the Kingdom.

Jesus leaves the synagogue to enter into a family situation, a home where the woman of the household is incapacitated by illness. It seems so simple at first: Jesus walks in, hears that the mother-in-law of one of his main followers is ill; he goes up to her, takes her by the hand, helps her up, she is cured and then she sets about her duty of hospitality, getting food and drink for the visitors. Upon looking closely at the scene, we discover a little more than a lovely healing. What we find is something of a contrast to the synagogue. Here Jesus is among his own, his new family. And what do we see his followers doing? They intercede with Jesus for one of their own. Here is an important member down, fever has attacked her. In the synagogue it was a nameless man, a stranger that was possessed. But here the fever demon has brought down one of our own. It is the disciples of Jesus that make the connection between the mother-in-law and Jesus. And as soon as Jesus hears their concern and their plea, he moves in her direction. Then he extends his hand to her hand and raises her up. This does not look like much. The gospel says matter-of-factly, “He helped her up.” But hidden in that simple phrase and gesture is the key to what is happening in and around Jesus. For the word to “help up” or “to raise up” is the word for Jesus’s own resurrection. He was raised up on the third day. When she is raised, the fever left her. With Jesus’ hand to raise her, the fever demon is over come and goes away.

To be down with a fever, is to be in the death position. To have a fever is a form of possession. Something else is running your life. We don’t have to be sick with a fever to feel overwhelmed, to feel like life has gone out of us. It is easy to put Job’s self description in the first reading into the story at this point. He is describing his own kind of fever as it were. In fact he first speaks about the lot of human beings: he sees human life as drudgery, full of menial, unpleasant work. Then he sees human life in terms of paid day worker; living from day to day without any meaning or joy in the work. Then thirdly, he experiences the human lot a mere slavery. You have no choice about what you do, you are always at someone else’s command. There is no compensation of any kind as a slave. To feel that worthlessness of life is in reality a demon that has taken away the meaning and purpose of life. Job feels that and then goes on to describe his own situation. He describes it in terms of night and darkness. For him night is the most difficult and dreaded time. Ask anyone who is sick and cannot sleep. Night is easily the hardest time for them. Soon it comes to be dreaded. Night and darkness already invoke the demon side of our lives. But even the day is not much better. They go back and forth like a weaver’s shuttle and then come to an end. No mention of the beautiful cloth that has been woven, just a thread cut off at the end….no hope he says, days gone like the wind. No joy, no happiness even in the day time……It does not take much imagination to stand with Jesus at the door of this house and look out at the crowd of sick and possessed people and see in their eyes and faces what Job describes. And into that world steps Jesus with touch and word, casting out the old and restoring it anew. Or shall we say, banishing the face of death and bringing forth life. Job’s lament and bitter complaint is answered by God’s Holy One. It is Jesus who stands in the midst of such emptiness, who in fact will be seized by it himself, and who will be loved back to life because he did.

When Mark speaks of Jesus lifting up Simon’s mother-in-law, he wants us to hear that Jesus’ work is about resurrection, about lifting up, about restoring and healing. He wants us to know that with Jesus in the midst of the community there is a power for good available to be invoked and called up. Mark sees in the house, those early small house Churches gathering around and telling how Jesus broke the stronghold of the Kingdom of evil, sickness and death. And how he continues to do that when any disciples call on him.

The last line of this story of Jesus with Simon’s mother in law makes it very clear as to what Jesus is really doing and what those who follow him are to be doing. Again, it all is so simple: Mark says the fever left her once she was raised up and she waited on them. It looks like she was cured and so she returned to domestic duties: she had work to do to prepare meal for her son in law and his friends and this wonderful healer he has brought into the house. But she is not returning to domestic duties. Translate “waited on them” as “served them” and we have a clear hint that this women is about service. But then service is the sign of the disciple, is it not? Later on in the Gospel, Jesus will describe himself as one who serves: “The Son of Man did not come to be served (to be waited upon) but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Ml 10:45). Just prior to that he makes it clear to the disciples that their position in the community is to be the slave of all. That is their first and only position. The fever-ridden woman is restored to her dignity as a member of the community that serves.

I dare say the evangelist Mark is trying to get us to see that we are Church when we are in service to one another. The risen Jesus is in our midst now as one who himself was raised up because he served until death. And in our midst now, in our community now, he stretches out his hand and lifts us up so that we too can go on serving. And when we do that then we are announcing and living the Kingdom of God among us.

That is what Paul tells us today that he did: he became slave to all so that Christ’s power and presence might be manifested. And that he says, he must do precisely because he is Christ’s slave, Christ’s servant. It takes time to make our lives and our communities living bodies of service, but that is where the power and mystery of the risen Lord lies. The disciples missed it, I’m afraid. They wanted to seize Jesus and keep him around because of his healing power. But Jesus insists, I am about service not about fame and wonder working.

Jesus starts his day in solitude with the Father. May we make our times of solitude and prayer the moments when we are granted renewed strength to be servants in communities that serve and bind up broken hearts. That is what God’s servant Jesus is doing today. And that is what he is again freeing us disciples to do.

Jan. 1, 2012 – Abbot Joel

January 1 – Mary, Mother of God

Numbers 6:22-27
Galatians  4:4-7
Luke 2:16–21

 We complete the feast of the birth of Christ by moving from the child in the manger to those around him. In particular, we are invited on today’s feast to focus on the woman, Mary. Part of the mystery of the birth of Jesus concerns what has happened to the woman who bore him. She, too, shares in the power of this birth. Today we acknowledge her by that ancient title, Mother of God, Theotokos, the “God Bearer.”

 We also begin a new civil year. And at the head of that year, we place Mary, the mother of the child in the feeding box. Paul tells us that when the fullness of time came God sent his Son born of a woman, born under the law. Mary is part of the fullness of time. When the time was right, God acted. When the plan of God had reached a certain point it burst into an action, into a ‘happening.’ And that happening is what the shepherds came to see and what Mary keeps and reflects on in her heart. God chooses Mary of Nazareth to be the woman through whom his plan will be executed. Our celebration today is meant to be our reflection on Mary as the woman who symbolizes the fullness of time.

 In Advent Mary was the pregnant woman. She is pregnant because she said yes to the word of God. Her womb grew larger and larger. But now, as we heard on Christmas night, the time had come for her to bring forth her first-born child and God’s son. A normal pregnancy reaches its own fullness of time. Something mysterious takes over in the rhythm of the woman’s body and the child is born. The plan of pregnancy reaches is fulfillment. It leads to the action of birth.  St. Paul reminds the Galatian community that this simple and well known rhythm of a pregnant woman giving birth is nothing more than a sign of God’s action at this moment in time. Time has reached its climax. Time is pregnant and now has come the moment for it to deliver. The woman, Mary, delivers her child. Time delivers, God’s child, God’s Son, Mary’s child, Mary’s son.

In God’s plan, Mary stands at the moment when preparation and pregnancy reach their purpose. Mary stands at the dawn of the new age, the age when the child she bears will influence the rest of time. We are fond of saying that the coming of Jesus changes the world’s history. That is true. And that too is part of the mystery we celebrate today. What Mary offers us in her infant is a new beginning. The child she places in that feeding box is the child whose life will make it possible for us to continue to live in time. Everything about time will have as its reference point the child Mary holds in her lap and lets suck at her breasts.

 January 1st as the beginning of the civil year is arbitrary, of course. Admittedly, it was decided on over 2,050 years ago by a Roman emperor, which doesn’t sound too arbitrary. Other times in the calendar have marked the beginning of the civil year. At one time it was March 25th, or the spring equinox. But now our new year continues to flow from the mystery of Christmas. And maybe this is a blessing for Christians who gather to celebrate the 8th day of Christmas. The year begins with our focus on the woman who has given birth to her child as she holds him up and directs our attention to him.

 There is one particular aspect of Mary among others that is put forward for us today. As we look at the Christmas picture in the Gospel today, what is it that we notice about Mary?  We see Mary in a stance of wonder and amazement at what is happening to her and around her. She is placed in our community as a woman engaged in keeping the mystery of God’s action close to her. She is the woman reflecting on the mystery in her heart; she is treasuring these things, savoring them. She is drawing out their meaning. In the story it is not Mary who goes about saying what wonderful things are happening here. That seems to be the shepherd’s task, they give praise and thanks; they talk, they are the evangelizers.

 We begin the New Year with a picture of Mary as a woman at peace with what is happening to her. She has never made a claim to understand all that is happening at this fullness of time, but she is willing to be a part of it. She is willing to join in the peace that comes after childbirth. She is willing to take a moment to let the mystery sort of sink in. There is something of a contrast here with the usual New Year’s celebration. For several thousand years there has been a lot of shouting, drinking, big gatherings in Times Square and elsewhere. And let us not forget the firework displays throughout the world. But when we Christians gather on this first day of the New Year, what do we find in front of us? A woman in contemplation. In the midst of the noise of the world and even the noise of the shepherds who have come to see what the angels said, we find stillness. We behold a woman who ponders God’s ways in her life. Here we find a woman who has given her very flesh for what God is doing. She claims nothing as her own doing. Instead, she keeps “these things” in her heart. We find Mary at worship, of the God and Father who asked her to be the womb where the fullness of time gave birth; and in worship of the child in the manager, the child who will fill all time with meaning.

 There is a tradition about making New Year’s resolutions. Whether it is part of our American culture’s New Years observance, I do not know. In any case, it is linked with the idea of a new beginning, of starting off the year again in new way. We can see it as a secular version of the promises we renew at Easter after trying to set the course of our lives right during Lent. But it is not a bad idea that after this winter mystery of the birth of this child, we too might make a resolution to put our lives in line with the fullness of God’s time. It might not be a bad idea for us to resolve to keep in our hearts the way God has brought along our lives so far. It would not be a bad thing for us to resolve to find again God’s word as the only food that really nourishes us. And like Mary simply sit in wonder at the message it has for us. New Year’s day is a day well spent in looking at the Word made flesh and simply allowing ourselves overwhelmed by its presence, by the life it signifies. And by the intimacy with God it promises in this life and in the life to come.

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord – Mass during the day – Deacon Owen


The celebration of the mass on Christmas Day. It is the day we set aside for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ our savior and king.  Christmas is a time for hope and waiting of looking forward expectantly to find just what we will receive.

Our Gospel this morning is a great heady document developing the whole outline of the Gospel of John.  It is the description, the beginning of God’s relationship to man and man’s to God.

There is a series of definitions that give us a jumping off place for our study.

We are told that the Word was with God and the Word was God.  Jesus was the Word, we are told elsewhere that Jesus was the Word.

He was in the beginning with God and He was God.

We are told that all things came into being through Him and the definition of what came into being was life, and this life was the light of the human race, it was the light shining in the darkness and darkness wasn’t able to overcome it.

The reading then goes on to identify the man John who was sent from God to identify and to testify about the light.  This true light which enlightens everyone and comes into the world.  We are told that although John was not the light or the source of the light but he is the source of the he was here and was sent here and brings God’s message.  He explained that Jesus was the Light,

That he was in the world and the world came to be through him but the world did not know him.  He came as man so that He could come to those who were in the world to whom he would be able to speak and teach with them and his message.

Jesus came into the world to his own and although his own didn’t accept him they were given the power to become to become children of God.  From this unique relationship produced a new generation formed not by Man’s plan but by the path  allowed by God.

And so the testified word of God became flesh.  Jesus became the Word and made his dwelling was made among us.  And those of us who reached out to the Word.  Saw his glory and the glory  of the  of God’s only son full of grace and truth.

John testified to him saying  this Word is the one who is coming after me ranking ahead of me because he existed  from the initial Word.

Christmas is a time for hope, a time for waiting,

At Christmas we all wait.  We wait for presents, we wait for family get-togethers, and we hope.  We hope for happiness.  We hope for good times.  We hope for family peace and joy together.

Sometimes we find what we’re looking for and sometimes we miss it by a mile.  But Christmas is about expectation.  About waiting.  About wanting.  About hoping.  About lonjging.  This is true for all of us, pessimists and optimists alike.  Usually we find what we expect.  Sometimes we are surprised.

Christmas is special.  Isaiah tells us that “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”  And, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who bring glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation and saying to Zion,  “Your God is King.”

And if that doesn’t make it clear enough the Letter for the Hebrews today’s second reading tells us that although.  In times past God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days, he had spoken through the Gospel.  And although we are so blessed.  Do we realize how blessed we are??   I hope we understand  how we got here because here we are now.

But that isn’t always how we feel.  We are here, doing our duty, teaching our children to be grateful and to realize that Christmas isn’t just presents but is God truly with us.  But we have been so busy.  So stressed, so intent on getting the right gifts, doing the right thing.  Keeping everyone happy.

Now is the time we need to let go.  This is Christmas.  God is truly with us.   God is here.  Right here!! Right now!! We are incredibly blessed.  What more can we want??  Jesus is here for us!! God loves us.  What more can we want??

If we are still looking for the special argument what will identify for us God’s message   we have only to keep looking.  And then turn-it-over-to-God.

He teaches us about himself how we come to possess him as he became one of us. And as we are possessed by him.

The message is not the same for each of us,

The characters in the nativity narrative tell a whole nuther story the angels carry messages from almighty God to special people their information was always accurate and unquestionable.

The three kings are the representative from God to the most influential politicians in the world.

The shepherds carried the message from God to the common people, with whatever special message was needed by them.

There is a special Christmas message for each of us, all we have need to do is to listen intently and then step out in faith.

The companions of Christ – Fr. Augustine

20111228 Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs (Mt 2:13-18)

 My dear brothers and sisters,

On forth day in the octave of Christmas we are celebrating the feast of the Holly Innocents, martyrs. The Holy Innocents were the first victims and silently witnesses of the Holy Child Jesus.

I hope and pray that we share their innocence in knowing God’s will and love. And let us remember the new innocents of today, they also have specific names in other infants, youngsters, old people, immigrants, ailing persons and others.

 The companions of Christ

 After the glory and joy of Christmas Day, we are confronted by three feasts: the feast of Stephen, St John, and today, the Holy Innocents.?As we know that these feasts have nothing to do with the chronological order of the events. But our Church traditionally call these saints, ‘the Christmas saints’ or ‘the companions of Christ’. Stephen, John, and the Innocents are the companions of Christ, in other words, persecution, martyrdom, slaughter are the companions of the following Christ.

Anyway, the feast today is kept within the octave of Christmas because the Holy Innocents gave their life for the newborn Saviour. Their death is taken up into the sacrifice of Christ for the whole human race. We are willing to consider the Holy Innocents as glorious martyrs, because they died not only for Christ, but also in His place. They are a sign of hope for all those little ones who have died in the state of innocence.

 Therefore, this feast makes us hopeful for all who die innocently, whatever the cause of death, and God knows our world is full of them, the innocent victims of war, terror, natural disaster, accident, and so on. And we should remember that all these things of innocents are the companions of the following Christ.

Magnificat Anima mea Dominum – Fr. Augustine

20111222 Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent (Lk 1:46-56)

 My dear brothers and sisters,

As we know that today is the winter solstice, the shortest day with the longest night of the year, called ‘Dong ji'(동지) in Korean. This is one of the important times of the year for Koreans. Old Koreans considered this day a regeneration of the sun from the dark and named it as a “Small New Year’s Day.” Some Korean says “if Jesus was born in Korea, it will be the winter solstice, Dong-ji to Christmas day. There is a traditional Dong-ji’s food that is red bean porridge, called ‘Pat-juk'(팥죽). It is made out of red beans and rice balls of glutinous flour. In Korean culture the colour of Red beans symbolizes the protection from evil spirits and sickness, and the white rice balls means new life, year and sun. if you eat as many rice balls as your age, it means you have aged one year.  Although the winter solstice, Dong-ji, is not a major Korean holiday like Chu-seok or Seol-nal, many Koreans enjoy a red bean porridge and wish for a healthy and prosperous New Year. Likewise, I wish all of you good health and happy New Year on the winter solstice, Dong-ji. 

 Magnificat Anima mea Dominum

 As it is getting close to the end of Advent, the Christmas tree season sale ended well with our cooperation and consideration. Brother Dominic is cleaning our monastery to greet the coming of Jesus Christ. Brother Marinus came back to take a rest for 4 weeks. He will go to Mount Angel Seminary in January 15 next year. I pray and hope that all these things are some of our preparation, our conversion and purification for the coming of Jesus Christ. Yes, today it is really a good time and a good day for conversion and purification.

In today’s Gospel Mary shows us the best way how to prepare and wait for the coming of Jesus. This is the Mary’s Magnificat. She was praising the Lord not only after her suffering but before and during her suffering. She was not only praising afterwards but praising anyway. She was praising by faith and not because she saw favorable circumstances.

In our prayer these last few days of Advent, we should praise the Lord in hard times and good times. And let us prepare for the Christmas coming of Jesus as Mary did and sang the Magnificat.

John was a burning and shining lamp – Fr. Augustine

20111216 Friday of the Third Week of Advent (Jn 5:33-36)


My dear brothers and sisters,

As Advent draws near to its end, Christmas is just 10 days away. As we know that Jesus was not born in order to invent Christmas. Jesus was born to do much more important things than that!

 The Lord wants His house to be full, all to be saved, and all to have a real Christmas. After all, He became a man and died on the cross to give us salvation. He wants to save us much more than we want to be saved.

 John was a burning and shining lamp.

 In Today’s Gospel Jesus upholds John the Baptist to the crowds. John is honored as a burning and a shining lamp. He had a fire in his heart burning with love for the coming of Jesus Christ.

John was not the light itself, shining of itself but he was the lamp which receives light from the Lord. So, John the Baptist was always a burning and shining lamp in witness to our Lord.

Our God also called us to be a burning and shining lamp in the world. This morning the example of John Baptist will challenge us regarding our witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.

 If we need to know what is on fire in our hearts, we need to remember ourselves the Rule of Saint Benedict Chapter 72, the good Zeal of Monks: Try to be the first in showing respect to one another. Supporting one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior with the greatest patience. Competing in trying to show obedience to one another. Not pursuing what we think is best for ourselves but looking for what is best for the other. Giving a pure love of brothers to the other brothers. Giving loving fear to God. Giving honest and humble love to their abbot.

 These are really the benedictine way in which we are a burning and shining lamp.

If we live in this way, we can recognize what it is to prefer nothing at all to Jesus Christ.

Rejoice in the Lord always – Fr. Augustine

December 11, 2011 Third Sunday of Advent – B cycle

                                                                                                                                Isaiah        61:1-2a, 10-11
Thessalonians 5:16-24
John          1:6-8, 19-28

 My dear brothers and sisters, Good Morning, How are you this Sunday! We rejoice that our volunteers and benefactors visit and celebrate this Mass with us. We would like to extend our hearty welcome to all of you. I hope and pray that you also rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice, Indeed, the Lord is near. Let us give thanks to the Lord, for our God gives us this Sunday of rejoicing and our helpers work with great joy.

 Rejoice in the Lord always.

It is the third Sunday of Advent that is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete, it means Rejoice, from the Latin word gaudere. Yes, it is Rejoice Sunday.

Today we just sing “Rejoice in the Lord always”, we light the rose colored candle. All these things represent our theme of rejoicing. So, we should rejoice and we should be happy.

 We have several reasons to rejoice; for one, Advent is halft over and the great celebration of Christmas will be upon us. In fact, Today is the busiest day of the year for our community. Thus we celebrate the Mass an hour earlier than normal, many volunteers and benefactors are gathered to work and serve in our Christmas tree farm. I hope to bring a lot of joy to you, especially Fr Odilo and Br David, by preparing a short homily.

 Anyway, rejoicing is also a big part of what it means to prepare for Christmas. The good news of Advent is that God is coming to you and to me and to all nations. Our God’s promises are being fulfilled. And we are to await that, to believe that. That is cause for celebration and for rejoicing.

 Today’s reading also overflow with rejoicing. We read in Isaiah: “I rejoice heartly in the Lord”. Saint Paul says to us: “Rejoice always”. The only place we did not hear rejoicing is in today’s Gospel? Rather we hear the Levites and Pharisees question John the Baptist about who he is?”A man named John was sent from God? He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him? He was not the light, but came to testify to the light”? John the Baptist knew who he was? He was not the Messiah? He was not the Light?

Instead, the role of John the Baptist is always to point to the Lord who is to come. He is the one who prepares the way of the Lord. He is preaching so that sinners might turn from their sins, and preaching the gospel to the contrite in heart, telling them of the good news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

 Therefore, we rejoice, because God has paid the debt we could not pay. God freed us from the chains we could not break. God gave us a new life, a right spirit, and a clean heart, all ours through faith in Jesus Christ, in whom we have the forgiveness of sins.

 It is hard for us to live a life of rejoicing always. Now, we are able to rejoice always despite the many sorrowful circumstances of our lives. This is because we are not only in sorrow, pain, trouble, and suffering.

 This is a command taken directly from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians in today’s second reading: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.

 At all times and in all circumstances we must rejoice, pray and give thanks. He adds that this command reflects the will of God for those who come through Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ we know that our life is not always easy, but our hope is not in this life only. That is why we are able to rejoice in good times and in bad, as Jesus himself did.

Let us ask today that we may seek the living God among us and rejoice in Him. So, we are beginning today, the Rejoice Sunday. Today, we are rejoicing in the Lord, and we are hoping for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A Prayer Seeking God – Fr. Augustine So

20111207 Memorial of Saint Ambrose, bishop and doctor of the Church (Mt 11:28-30)

My dear brothers and sisters,

Today we are celebrating the memorial of Saint Ambrose(337?-397), Bishop of Milan. He was one of four original doctors of the Church, that is, St. Ambrose ranks with Augustine, Jerome and Gregory the Great, as one of the Latin Doctors of the Church.

Before Ambrose became the Bishop of Milan, he had it all – a successful career as a lawyer, an important position as governor of Milan, and a large estate. He was a very popular political figure and then, he was acclaimed bishop by the people although he was not yet baptized. Within a week, Ambrose was baptized, ordained and duly consecrated bishop of Milan on the 7th of December. As bishop, he immediately adopted an ascetic lifestyle, apportioned his money to the poor, donating all of his land.

St. Ambrose succeeded as a theologian despite his juridical training and his comparatively late handling of Biblical and doctrinal subjects. He is also called the “Patron of the Veneration of Mary”. He laid the foundation for Marian thinking in the West. His spiritual successor, Augustine, whose conversion was helped by Ambrose’s sermons, owes more to him than to any writer except Paul.

Ambrose left many important writings on the doctrines of our holy faith that we would be wise to ponder. Afterwards, he gave everything to the church. He died in 397, at about the age of 57. His memorial is celebrated today the date of his ordination as bishop.

 May I introduce my favorite prayer that is attributed to Saint Ambrose, and is also found near the conclusion of chapter one of Anselm’s Proslogion. The title is “A Prayer Seeking God.”

O Lord

teach me to seek you,

and reveal yourself to me

when I seek you.

For I can not seek you unless

you first teach me,

nor find you unless

you first reveal yourself to me.

Let me seek you in longing,

and long for you in seeking.

Let me find you in love,

and love you in finding.

This is the way, walk in it. – Fr. Augustine

20111203 Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, priest (Mt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8)

My dear brothers and sisters,

Today we are celebrating the memorial of Saint Francis Xavier(1506-1552), in Spanish Francisco Xavier, he was a priest, religious, missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He was a student of Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits, dedicated at Montmartre in 1534. And he was known as the ‘Apostle of the Indies.’

 He led an extensive mission into Asia. He was influential in the spreading and upkeep of Catholicism most notably in India, but also ventured into Japan, Borneo, the Moluccas, and other areas which had thus far not been visited by missionaries. He died on his way to China, where he had dreamed of evangelizing.

St. Francis Xavier is noteworthy for his missionary work, both as organizer and as pioneer. He is said to have converted more people than anyone else has done since Saint Paul. Therefore, he is the patron of all foreign missions. On the memorial of Saint Francis Xavier May we share his eagerness to overcome any obstacles to leading others to know Christ’s love. And let us remember and give thanks to our foreign missionaries.

 This is the way, walk in it.

 A week into our preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ, we are just thinking about what it is we are hoping for, we have to think about what it is that God hopes of us. He wants us to follow him, just like he did the apostles. He tells us through Isaiah in today’s first reading: “This is the way, walk in it”. God hopes of us that we give witness that the kingdom of heaven is near.

In today’s Gospel we find how Jesus’ heart moved with pity and said “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”

 Jesus always chooses us. And we always believe that he answers our prayers, provides all our needs, makes us fruitful, and heals our wounds, because He loves us and expresses His love in many personal and practical ways.

So, we should pray for many more workers and missionaries to take Jesus’ love to the world, and we should be the first to answer our prayer. This Advent, in a special way, we walk and love in Jesus’ name. Let His love come to and through us. Because this is our mission and our way, let us walk in it as Benedictine missionaries.