Our Mother stands by the cross of her Son – Fr. Augustine

20110915 Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows(Jn 19:25-27)

My dear brothers and sisters,

Today we are celebrating the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

As we know, this memorial takes place

on the day after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Yesterday we praised the triumph of our Lord’s cross,

for he is our salvation and through Him we are saved and made free.

Now, we remember the suffering of Mary as she stood at the Cross of her Son.

Today’s memorial proclaims that

Blessed Mary is tied to an event in the life of her Son,

and shows us the place of cross in our life.

There is not only glorious triumph but also much sorrow,

likewise, are two sides of the same coin.

We can join ourselves to Mary in her sorrow

so that we will also share her glory in the triumph of her Son.

Our Mother stands by the cross of her Son.

In Latin, there are the words, Stabat Mater, that translate into English the Mother stood.

In our Church there are two types of Stabat Mater by tradition,

the one is Stabat Mater Speciosa that is the beautiful Mother stood

that refers to the Nativity of Jesus,

the other is Stabat Mater Dolorosa that is the sorrowful Mother stood

that refers to Our Lady of Sorrows, today’s memorial.

As we know, the image of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa is a great figure in our church.

In today’s Gospel from the John,

we can also find easily that the Mother was standing by the cross of her Son.

I would like to meditate on the a word of ‘stand’ in this Gospel,

and especially on the Role of Holy Mary.

She stands as the first and perfect disciple of Jesus.

She followed Jesus all the way to the foot of the cross.

Mary stood by her Son in joyful moments as well as in moments of sadness and defeat.

So, for us it is Holy Mary’s Role that she stands to pray for our salvation,

and also stands to share in the glory of eternal life.

Today we ask for her intercession so that we may keep our stand as monks,

take our monastic cross and follow her example in following Christ her Son. Amen.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – Deacon Owen

24 Ord A 11 Sep 11

Today we received a very clear message from the Lord God through the readings of the Holy Bible.  We were told to forgive others of all their trespasses against us.  And, our forgiveness should not be just limited to once or twice, but seventy times seven. This does not   mean  that if we forgive everyday for 490 days,then our share of forgiveness  has been completed.  The seventy times seven means ongoing forgiveness, day after day, week after week, years after years, this being one without counting.

When we do not forgive someone, it is because we are passing judgment on that person.  Jesus commanded us not to judge others so that we will not be judged.  For by the measure that we judge others, by refusing to forgive them of their trespasses, that same measure will be used against us when our time of judgment arrives.

So just how can we make an evaluation of an individual without judging?  It is by completely forgetting offenses that were committed by the person.  It is by forgiving as a holy child of God, forgiving as God would forgive.  In His holiness, God promised, “None of the sins that they have committed shall be remembered against them; they have done what is lawful and right, they shall surely live.  God shall no longer remember the sins of the sinner who does what is right…He forgives those who trespassed against Him without counting, without counting, without looking back without ever mentioning the trespass again, as if it never happened.  That is holy forgiveness.

My sisters and bothers, when we leave here today, let us remember that “Being unable to forgive is the greatest obstacle to holiness!”

With today’s message on our minds and with it tattooed on our hearts this signpost to our salvation is imprinted the soul saving motto of our own salvation.

Many are unable to proceed with their sanctification because they cannot find it in their hearts to forgive. They fall short of the Divine love of God.  In fact, did you know that there are more offenders in the prisons who receive the love and mercy of God than there are victims who are free in the world?  This end result occurs because offenders spend more time towards reflecting on their sins.  An offender is better disposed to acknowledge his guilty heart and conscience that is not at peace.  In search for spiritual peace, he is led by the divine grace of God to admit his guilt, to repeat to confess and to seek salvation through the Lord’s abounding mercy and forgiveness.  The general attitude of those who are victims of crimes is that they are without sin! No one is without sin!  If anyone believes that he is without sin, he is deceiving himself and the truth is not in him.

The soul that cannot forgive does not have the truth of God in its heart.  That means that such a person is not righteous and forgiving as God has commanded.  While possibly unaware of it, such a person has withdrawn himself as an adopted child of God until such a time as he can find the strength in his heart to forgive.

Most of us have been victims at one time or another in our lives.  We may have been victims of mental abuse such as rudeness.  We may have seen victims of ongoing psychological abuse.  We may have been victims of physical abuse, discipline that goes beyond the necessity of discipline and some may have been victims of sexual abuse.

We often find the same sentiment expressed by Jesus as, He is quoted in several different passages  arise your faith has save thee.

Today’s 2nd reading consists of three short verses.  The passage can be construed as to be speaking about life after death but after careful reading we see that Paul is talking about life in this world.  In isolation the passage appears to be concerned about our relationship with the Lord.  Read in context we can see that Paul is actually more concerned with our relationship with one another.  We see this point more clearly at the beginning of the chapter of Romans, Paul speaks about the two groups of strong and weak believers.

Ultimately Paul is seen to mean that “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.  If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ died andlived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

In other words, Paul is saying that holiness or right and wrong is not about us or about what we think, or feel but about the Lord.  A Christian criticizing another Christian on the ground of difference of opinion and lifestyle is as good.

It is such a fitting day for this discussion to be carried on.  It would be difficult if not impossible for anyone be unaware that today  is the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9 11 2001.

A few short years ago, on 9/11 the TV was a non-stop reporting of the tragedies and it was a good focus for the American Public   We needed that focus to bring out the lesson as to what hatred could do and the danger or our getting lost in the hatred rampant through the American mind.

The need to support our government in whatever just action brought about a retaliation and vengeance for the attack we suffered only because we are Americans.

Our purpose today is not to prepare a vengeful attitude to vindicate a war-like attitude  against suspected world power but to pray with friends, neighbors and other world powers torally ourselves to fight hatred and to share God’s Love.

You and I have good reason to be angry because of what happened on 9/11, we have good reason to support the government in taking firm action for the protection of ourselves and our fellow citizens.  But we never have reason to loin in the sum total of hatred that devastate our world.

Like you I want those who perpetrated those acts of violence to be brought to justice no matter where they originated,

Vengeance and retribution remain still part of our thought process but as Christians we know we are called as individuals, as a nation and as a family of nations bound together in grief and anger to act justly.  We must pray for our elected leaders, our President and Congress military and statesmen to respond so that action and the continual threat to respond with prudence and  appropriate actions against those known to be responsible.

To lash out with more wanton violence, even though we are aggrieved as a nation is not to act justly.  We must also avoid the mistakes of the past and be slow to blame or condemn entire races  or cultures, religions or nations.

We need today to remain humble before our God.  Who is one of the worst victims of senseless violence hangs before us on the cross. He remained the humble Son of the Father to the very end and because of that faith, hope and love, the Father made something positive, something good come from the Cross.  We need to remind ourselves in this moment that we may not be able to solve every problem of human creation but with God’s help and our hope and effort, we can at lease begin to bring that era of peace which we all pray for.

The people who died at 9/11 well have spent their lives in vain if we fail to continue to work for an end to all violence, be it among nations religious groups or families.

If we find ourselves unable to forgive other people, chances are that we have not come to appreciate and celebrate sufficiently the immeasurable forgiveness that we ourselves have received from God.  So.  Let us pray today for a deeper appreciation of the amazing love that God has shown us in Christ.  It is this awareness that will make it easier for us to let others off the hook for their relatively minor offences against us.

Our vacation candidates are the fruit of our prayer – Fr. Augustine

Tuesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time (Lk 6:12-19)

My dear brothers and sisters,

I sincerely hope and pray that “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord,

walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him

and established in the faith as you were taught,

abounding in thanksgiving.”

These words are in today’s reading from the Letter of Colossians.

If this happens in our daily routine, it will change the face of our monastic life.

Our vocation candidates are the fruit of our prayer.

In today’s Gospel,

we can see Jesus praying and working as benedictine monk like us.

I would like to center our thoughts on the first words of this Gospel:

“Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.”

Jesus clearly shows us that the choosing of the twelve disciples was preceded

by a night in prayer alone.

What was the prayer of Jesus?

We can easily deduce this from what follows.

“When day came, he called his disciples to himself,

and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.”

The subsequent choice of the Apostles shows us

how the Jesus’ new community is the fruit of his prayer.

Yes, the choice of the Apostles is the fruit of Jesus’ prayer.

I often hear that there is a ‘Vocation Crisis’ in our Church,

that less men and wemen are answering the call to service in our Church.

But I do not think about it.

It is not true that we only wait for our vocations to have good talents.

First of all, we can make a good community where they will be able to come and see.

Now, we remember that

the choice of the twelve disciples was preceded by a night in prayer.

What’s important here is that the fruit of Jesus’ prayer is his own community.

Therefore, our prayer and monastic life would be a seed for our vacation candidates.

If only all our life as benedictine monks could always be immersed in prayer

and led by it.

Homily – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – Abbot Joel

Abbey 2011                                                                                    23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

Ezekiel 33:7—9
Romans 13:8-10
Matthew 18:15-20

 Last Sunday when we gathered in Jesus’ name, he told us to take up our cross and follow him. Taking up the cross was to be the sign that you and I are joined to him, related to him. Today Jesus points to a very real and common experience in Christian community where taking up the cross is necessary. It is the painful task of offering forgiveness and reconciliation to an offending brother or sister. It is in the process of healing broken relationships that discipleship shows its very real and practical meaning. Life in common, even life in common among Christians, is not easy. We rub each other the wrong way; our speech can easily offend; our anger can strike out; we are prone to gossip, to tell stories about others that do not reflect the best in them or ourselves. None of us can yet count ourselves exempt from the need to bind up interpersonal hurts. And it is these interpersonal hurts, these offenses that Jesus is speaking about when he says, “if your brother or sister sins against you.”

 Jesus outlines a three step process for approaching an offending person. It would have been a process that his Jewish audience and followers would have been familiar with. It is based on approaches outlined in the Old Testament and the later rabbinic tradition. It is also a process that might not work for every case. But we must engage in the process regardless. From the outset it is clear that the process of healing is initiated by the one who is offended. This may be hard work for some. It may be that silence is the easier option, but this is not always the best way forward. What are striking in all steps of the process are the personal elements. The reconciliation is done face to face as it were. The word dialogue comes to mind. The process of coming together is not conducted by mail, post or email, through the newspaper or even lawyers. It cannot be done while hiding behind someone else.  In the first step especially, we hear of no third party to come in. It is one on one. There is here a principle of gospel subsidiarity. You don’t bring to the large group or the higher ups what must be done between two individuals. Your hurt and your forgiveness are worked out at home, as it were. Only slowly are others brought into the process and this only if no hearing is taking place. The personal element and the one on one preserve honor and dignity. You are carrying your cross and not forcing others to carry it for you.

There is a key word in all three steps of the process. In fact it says a lot or even everything about how this process works. It is a matter of “listening.” Can the offending party and the offended party listen to one another? This certainly rules out shouting as an option; it rules out judgmental words and behavior; it rules out any attitude of putting the other person in their place. It involves humility and admission of where I went wrong. It demands the humility of listening, of getting myself out of the way. This is perhaps the hardest part of this process of healing and reconciliation. It is also the most necessary. We are often over whelmed by our hurt, angry at the offender and ready to justify ourselves. But the way of Jesus is clearly a way of listening. It is very practical too. It means I have to keep quiet, not do all the talking, and treat the other with respect. He or she may be an offender, but God looks equally on all. The hard work for the offender is to hear the situation from another point of view and not be quick to excuse, to push off responsibility for one’s actions.

 Jesus makes it clear today that healing up relationships in the Christian community is the responsibility of all. We remember that a few Sunday’s ago Jesus gave Peter keys to the Kingdom for binding and loosing Now Jesus offers the keys of binding and loosing to the community. Binding up relationships between members, helping members to walk straight, helping them listen and understand is not Peter’s work only; the responsibility lies within the community. Healing offenses, calling each other to be accountable for our behavior is a task for all. We are, as Paul says, members of one Body. Here in Matthew it says we are members of one Church and bear responsibility toward each other for how we interact. Jesus goes so far as to say that when community members are praying for healing, praying for a member, for one who has gone astray, then he is there in their midst to hear their prayer and to continue his ministry of healing. When the community is involved in bringing members back together because they belong to Christ, then the Risen Lord is very much present with them.

 We can find many places where Jesus says he can be found: in the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the prisoner and homeless. He is also found with the sinner and tax collector–eating with them no less! Today Jesus assures us of his presence as we work together to heal the offenses between us. Listening with humility to a fellow Christian who is telling us of how we have hurt him or her, is not just some exercise for a better world. It is an experience of Jesus in our midst; it is a moment when the power of the cross to heal and reconcile is working. We are coming very close to the heart of Jesus care and love for us.

 All this effort to heal, to forgive, to accept a wrongdoing is a necessary part of Christian life together. It is just as relevant now as it was in the days of Jesus and Matthew. We can look around us in our own days and see and hear how perhaps we have not followed the personal approach in confronting others about their wrongs; how we have not put dialogue first as the way forward; how we have judged and condemned before listening; how we have nottaken time to sit face to face.

There are two small but key words in the gospel proclaimed today. One is “listen” and the other is “win over.” Both refer to the ultimate goal of interpersonal relationships and communication. What we strive for is community where all are respected, where, sinner or not, the dignity of God’s image is acknowledged and even reverenced. And the aim of confrontation with the offender and the challenge of accepting responsibility is to gain someone back, to bring someone back into the abundant life and joy of the community. Permanent exclusion is not the goal.

 Paul sums it all up today when speaking about the commandments that involve interpersonal behavior and responsibility. He says that in the end we owe no one anything, except to love. For to love means that our lives are at peace, at peace with others and at peace with the world. Loving here is the most profound form of respect and caring.

 Today Jesus shows us the nitty-gritty of what that loving means. He shows just where our responsibility lies: in dealing with the troublesome, the offender. When we are doing that and praying over it, then he is with us, Emmanuel, in our midst. Then we are truly fulfilling the law.

Homily – Thursday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time – A – Fr. Augustine

20110901 Thursday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time(Lk 5, 1-11)

My dear brothers and sisters,

It is a great pity that Farther prior Polycarpo Kim is leaving today.

We are so happy and grateful for his stay.

All of us will really miss his staying with us.

As we know, we had a perfectly lovely time together.

We are sorry to have to say goodbye.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

We believe that you and traveling brothers will have a safe trip.

Put out into the deep water and the deeper monastic life.

I think that where there is no problem, there must be no one there.

All of us have own problems and questions, but I believe that there is a way to get around some problems.

one of the most important things is to find a way to solve a problem.

 When I had a discussion with our Korean brothers about our problems,

I often heard that “We already attempted that many times, but failed.”

we can find that there is a similar situation in today’s Gospel.

Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing.

but at your command I will lower the nets.”

Now, listen again to Jesus’s words, “Put out into the deep water”, “into the deep water”

Yes, I understand “into the deep water” is the more important word in today’s Gospel.

Jesus’ words to Peter, “Put out into the deep water” are significant.

They challenged Peter to step into a faith.

As a result, he and his companions stepped into a deep faith,

and then, “they left everything and followed Him”.

They left their fishing and put out into the deeper waters of faith.

Peter put out into the deep water, and his life was never the same again.

Maybe we have come to our problems in our monastic life,

and we are tired of living only in the shallow waters.

Now, Let’ us put out into the deeper monastic life.  

Homily – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – Fr. Augustine

August 28, 2011 Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time(Mt 16, 21-27)

My dear brothers and sisters,

How are you this Sunday? Hurricane Irene is coming.

It is a blessing from on high that no harm will be done and the damage will not be great.

And I have such great news.

Today is the 22nd Sunday in ordinary Time and we also remember saint Augustine.

Especially, I’d like to introduce the right reverend abbot Augustine Hinches.

He is honored for name’s feastday. He was elected second abbot of this abbey in 1970 and resigned 1982. He is a ripe and advanced age of eighty-one.

I trust it is right to give our celebration and respect to abbot Augustine,

Because I think that his life is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God like today’s second reading from Romans.

Let us congratulate Abbot Augustine on his feastday,

and give thanks to the Lord,

for our God allows a respectable feastday and a new Sunday for us.

 «take up your cross and follow me»

 One day, a sister was explaining the Stations of the Cross to her class.

They got to the fourth Station where Jesus was on the road to Calvary where he meets his mother.

The sister explained that even though they could not talk to each other, mother and son spoke just using their eyes.

“What do you think they said to each other?” she asked the pupils.

The class gave many different answers. One kid suggested that she said, “This is unfair.” Another kid suggested that she said, “Why me?”

Finally a little kid raised his hand, got up and said: “Sister, I know what the Blessed Mother told Jesus. She said to him, ‘Keep on going, Jesus!'”

 Do you know why a little kid would say that holy mother encourage her only son on the way to crucifixion to keep on going?

Maybe the little kid understands and remembers today’s Gospel, “deny yourself and take up your cross.”

In today’s gospel, we can see how poorly Peter understood the true mission of Jesus.

He still had to learn that God’s ways are often not human’s ways.

We sould not forget last Sunday when Simon Peter said and confessed to Jesus,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

 And now, when we hear the words of this Gospel, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly and be killed and on the third day be raised,”

we recognize the familiar story of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

But this was a story that the disciples had not even imagined.

They expected a political Christ as Messiah and a new kingdom of David.

They are disappointed, therefore, by the words of Jesus.

Jesus talked about resurrection indeed, but they could hear that Jesus would suffer and die, and that their dreams would die with him.

When Peter tried to dissuade Jesus, he received a sharp rebuke,

and was told that he must abandon human plans in favor of God’s way of doing things.

God’s way is first the way of the cross, and then only the blessings of freedom and joy. This does not mean seeking pain, or even awaiting pain;

it means simply trying to be loving, but which will also end in joy and fulfillment,

as it did for Jesus.

 Simon Peter sought to flee, to escape, and to deny.

He is a great figure for us to contemplate. How many times did Simon Peter flee? How many times did he deny? And yet Christ named him Peter, Rock.

In the end we must remember that it was Simon Peter who declared, “Lord, you have the words of eternal life. To whom else can we go?” He knew that he couldn’t go it alone.

We, too, know that we can’t “go it alone”.

Do we come to Jesus then to be freed from our burdens, or do we come to Jesus to take on the cross? We come to Jesus to be freed from our meaningless and futile burdens and,

in its place, take on the cross that leads to salvation and glory. And the most important thing to remember when the Lord will come again, and then we will repay all according to our conduct.”

Therefore, I’m always grateful to see a cross with Christ’s body hanging on it.

It shows me the cost God paid in order to stay with us.

 Jesus teaches us what thinking like God means: to love, with whatever is implied

about denying ourselves in favor of our brother and neighbor.

This is why following Christ means taking up the Cross.

And, when the Cross is a sign of sincere love,

then it becomes enlightening and a sign of salvation. Amen.

Homily – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – Abbot Joel

July 10,  2011                                                                                                                      15th Sunday in Ordinary Time A                                                                                     Isaiah 55:10–11
Romans 8:18–23
Matthew 13:1–23

With this parable of the sower we have arrived at chapter 13 in Matthew’s Gospel. This is just about half way through the gospel of Matthew. This is also the third of five sermons that Jesus delivers in Matthew. That we have reached a high point in Matthew’s gospel is also indicated by the fact that there are 7 parables in this sermon, seven is the biblical number for wholeness, perfection. We heard Js first sermon on the mount before Lent; we did not have a chance to har the second one because of the feasts after Pentecost But now we can settle down and listen to Jesus’ summer sermon as it were.

 On our part we are well into the growing season and so an agricultural parable like that of the sower and the seed fits well into our own experience. There is a good possibility that some of the things planted earlier are also bearing fruit and we are enjoying them at the table. There is a touch of harvest already. And harvest is one of the key elements in this parable of Jesus.

 Jesus uses parables in this summer sermon and so it might be a good idea to remember what a parable is and does. Parable is first of all story; story taken from everyday life. Today the agricultural world. But the local scene, the familiar household story is really meant to pull us into the larger world of who Jesus is and what Jesus is all about. That larger world, Jesus tells his disciples, is the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God. Every parable no matter how short or how long; no matter how simple and ordinary it seems is meant to wake us up to the larger reality of what God is doing. Parables are Jesus’ way of showing us the big picture that God is drawing. In reality a parable is about God’s way of doing and acting. The name the way God sees and acts is called the Kingdom of heaven. It is not so much a place, but the way relationships are between God and his world and people and hence the kind of relationships we have with one another.

There is inevitably a shock value in all parables. Today’s parable reveals two shocks, two surprises as it were.

In the parable things start off as usual, someone sowing his field in typical Palestinian fashion. It is so every-day that we can easily estimate the end of the story. In our case today, we see that 3/4ths of the seed is wasted-it falls on the path, on the rocks and among the thorns. The rest manages to fall on good soil; so maybe there will be a harvest of about 5%. Remember the Palestinian farmer is not a 21st century farmer who sows with much precision and does not waste a seed on unfertile soil. The Palestinian farmer sows in abundance everywhere. The seed will fall where it will. Afterwards he goes back and tries to “plant” it in the traditional sense. The natural expectation is that the harvest will be according to the little seed sown on fertile ground. The shock is that there is a harvest that produces 100, 60 or even 30 fold. Never mind 5% yield! This is unthinkable. Of course even Jesus’ listeners would be a bit taken back by the fact of so much loss of seed, but they would not expect Jesus to say that the harvest was a 100-fold! This is impossible.

But this is a parable about the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom is built up by sowing the word, the good news of the Kingdom, but the fact is that it doesn’t seem that Jesus’s sowing, his preaching is producing much of a harvest. In terms of membership it is pitifully small given the effort and time he has put into preaching the word. But this is the Kingdom and it works in Kingdom ways. There will be a harvest that will seem all out of proportion to the sowing. The disciples are worried that Jesus is not really catching on with his listeners, especially among the religious leaders. So Jesus tells this parable about sowing and harvesting.

Statistics today reveal that there are more ex-Catholics in the USA than from any other Christian Church. Today the fastest growing religious denomination according to one survey is labeled “None.” Candidates for religious life and the diocesan ministry of priests are down; some parishes are sharing priests or are amalgamating. And along comes Jesus to say yes, you sow, you preach the word. No harvest. But who says there is no harvest. On whose terms is the harvest counted. We are pretty much addicted to success in the American culture and success is indicted by numbers. If we don’t see numbers, we worry about the numbers.

But maybe we need to look at the situation from the Kingdom’s point of view. Maybe we ought to focus on the sowing. Maybe the task is throwing the seed. Throw abundantly and wildly like the sower. If the word we sow is from God, we can afford to be  like God who speaks his word and knows that it will not return empty. Is the harvest what we need to focus on as a church or is it the sowing? God sows and sows generously, he is not stingy. We can join God in the sowing and then join him in the same hope that the harvest will go beyond the sowing.

The second surprise in the parable is that suddenly we become the soil. When Jesus sets out to give his view of the parable, the focus is on the soil and we are that soil. Suddenly we find that we do have some responsibility about how we receive the Word. It lies in the mystery of God how he can make results come from a seeming waste of time and energy and poor soil, but he does it. But there is our responsibility once we have heard the word. Jesus offers 4 alternatives for receptivity. Some people allow others to take away the gift of the word about the Kingdom; others just have no time to allow it to even penetrate, their lives are hard a rock and focused elsewhere; and some just toss it aside in favor of something else that seems much more alluring and attractive.

The key to the Kingdom of God is that it is a gift; it is given not earned. You either recognize it or you don’t. That is part of its mystery. On the other hand everyone needs to connect with the Kingdom in order to bear fruit, to live. Everyone needs the larger picture of God’s way in the world in order to grow and mature. We are created for something bigger than ourselves. We are created for the Kingdom. The word about the Kingdom, the seed may look small, but don’t be deceived it contains the Kingdom. It seems that for ¾ to whom the gift is given, its insignificance is a deterrence. Yes, to step into the Kingdom means a full rich life. But the seed must fall into the soil, lie buried and die there. Only then is there a harvest. We are the soil on which the seed falls. We have a heart and there the word of the Kingdom can work.

The sowing of the Word is gift; the responsibility lies in its reception. Jesus calls it hearing the word and understanding the word. That is the soil that can be cultivated. The Kingdom grows into in harvest for those who listen and understand and in understanding say “yes” now I see.

And how are we doing in cultivating the soil of our lives this summer season?

Homily – Trinity Sunday A – Deacon Owen

Trinity Sunday

The Holy Trinity appears to be a simple statement of fact but within it’s simplicity lies its complication.  But as we often discover, “Out of the mouths of babes we often find gems.

One day at a confirmation being held in Newark, the archbishop asked the children for a definition of the Holy Trinity.  A girl answered very softly, “The Holy trinity is three Persons in one god.”  The archbishop, who was almost deaf, replied, “What … I didn’t understand what you said, “  The young girl who appeared to be a well versed theologian  gave a pleasant little smile and  replied, “You are not supposed to understand.  The Holy Trinity  is a mystery.

Often in our daily lives we attest to the truth of the Holy Trinity as we trace the trinity on ourselves as we make the sign of the Cross.  We start by touching our forehead, bringing God into our minds.  Then we bring the Holy Trinity down into our hearts and with our hearts filled with compassion we touch our hearts the seat of our compassion.  And finally tough our shoulders indication the embrace in which we hold the burdens of our family, friends and our petitions.

Today the Church celebrates God’s revelation of Himself to us.  This is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

The trinity feast goes back to the 12th century England and to the archbishop of Canterbury, St. Thomas Becket, who celebrated a Liturgy in honor of the Trinity in Canterbury cathedral.  By the 14th century this tradition was celebrated throughout the entire universal church.

The belief in the Trinity is seen in the New Testament and can be referenced in a biblical concordance in about 40 different places, dating its acceptance back almost two thousand years.

We open each liturgy invoking the Trinity.  We close it by calling upon those same persons.  Throughout the Christianworld infants are received into our community through Baptism in the name of the Trinity and finally we are committed into the arms of the mysterious Trinity as we will be sent on the behalf of the Church, by the officiating clergy at our Funerals.

We speak about the Trinity and we seem to be drawn to it and as Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “The most wondrous think in the world is the mysterious.”

Our world is filled with mysteries.  We live with them very comfortably.  Science is a search for the unknown.

We might ask, where the Trinity came from:  a Theologist would explain “The Blessed Trinity is the perfect community of life and love.  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit live eternally, love eternally and pour out divine love and life in the world through the Body of Christ, which is the Church. We learn that God the Father’s love seeks to increase itself infinitely and embrace the whole world through the passion and death of His Son, reconciling us to Him, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life.  The people of God, then, must be people of life.  God’s perfect plan provides a place for life to come into the world; the marriage of man and woman in total self-giving.  The self-donation of man and woman in marital life is the blessed earthly sign of Christ life giving death on the cross that brings us new life through redemption.

Man and woman joined in matrimony are the privileged cooperators in God’s will that life should go on.  In marriage God joins both the life-giving and love-giving aspects of man and woman into one reality.  “What God has joined man must not divide.”  Thus love and life in marriage must not be divided.  The two have been brought together as one gift by God.

It seems pretty difficult to understand who someone is and this question is even more difficult when we attempt to understand who we ourselves are.  As an exercise we might ask ourselves, who of us understands themselves.  1/Most of us are still trying to figure out how water rises from the earth through the trunk of a plant and finds its way out to the leaves of the tree?  2/ The why and how of homing pigeons still mystifies us.  3/ How about the infamous common cold?  Many cures not withstanding that mystery is not solved.

There are so many things which we don’t intuitively know the answers for.  4/ The New York Times, the self-acclaimed expert of most all things admitted  with an uncharacteristic humility that they doubt humans will ever understand how the brain works.  (I’m rather sure that if the NY Times admits to ignorance, the subject has to be a mystery)

5/Walt Whitman the author described mystery and reality as being two sides of the same coin.

As early as the first days of the Christian Era thegeniuses and the great thinkers wrestled with the concept of the Trinity, most struck out while every once in a while someone would hit a home run. As did holy St. Patrick who resorted to the lowly three leaf clover for his argument in explaining the Trinity.

6/ We know God is the Awesome One who existed before all times and who is his goodness created the universe and all within it.  God the Creator is the God that we refer to when we say, “God the Father.”

But this Awesome God is also an Awesome Lover.  In the Gospel of John we are told how God sent his Son to save the world from the evil that the world had turned to.  God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God’s son was sent not to condemn the world but that the world might be save d through him.  There is a personal element here. The Son is sent not just to the world in general but to each of us so that we might be saved through him.

The Power of Love, the Power that binds us as one is itself the very spirit of God.  The unity that we enjoy, the power of God that we possess, is the presence of God acting in our lives, and that is the presence of the Holy Spirit.

We belong to this Awesome God, this Awesome Love, and thisAwesome Presence.  We are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  God’s life dwells within us.  God dwells within us.

We carry God in the fragile vessel of our humanity, we seek his presence and love and power and pray to him within us and all around us.  He is ours and we are his.  This is the Gift of the Almighty to each of us, a gift that should not betrivialized with concepts of Force. But wemust  know it as a gift that should be treasured withreverenceandrespect. How beautiful it is to be alive to God!  How sad it is when we forget his.

The celebration of the most holy trinity is a celebration of the dignity we have received by being admitted into the mystery.  The Mystery is God, His Power and Love and Presence are greater than our minds’ can measure and explain.  He possesses us, and we possess him, not for ourselves but to continue his presence in the world.

And so let us celebrate the Holy Trinity as we make the sign of the cross.  In the name of the Father and…

Homily – Sixth Sunday of Easter A – Abbot Joel

Abbey 2011                                                                                                                           Sixth Sunday of Easter A

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

                 It is a very precious and sacred moment when a loved one is about to take his/her leave from us and depart to the world beyond death. It is that very scene and experience of the disciples and Jesus that the gospel writer John is capturing for us these Sundays of the resurrection. He presents Jesus as giving his final testament before he dies. He prepares his followers for his imminent departure. But he also tells them what he is leaving with them. It is not only farewell, but a sharing of the inheritance that is his. He reminds them of how they will remain connected with one another and with him.

             But the disciples are afraid and saddened. What will they do without Jesus? They have experienced a very close bond with Jesus. There is no doubt they will miss him. And that leaves them with an emptiness, with a hole in their lives–and a big hole in their relationship with him. They will no longer eat with him, talk and share with him, walk the roads with him. They will not see him. Like all of us faced with the absence of one we love, they will miss his physical and bodily presence. Jesus is aware of what they are feeling. They feel like orphans. And it is that feeling of abandonment, of having no nurturer, no life-giver that Jesus is addressing.

             As we listen to Jesus talk to his disciples, he makes it very clear, “I am going.” It also becomes clear that he will not be seen. The world especially will not see him simply because it has no relationship with him. Many people will come and go throughout history without seeing Jesus. They simply have no experience of him.

              But for the disciples it means they will have to change their mode of “seeing” Jesus.  They will need new eyes with which to see the relationship. It is only those who love Jesus that will experience him as alive and still among them. And still giving them life and hope. Clinging to Jesus, especially clinging to his physical, bodily presence, is no sign that we love Jesus. Jesus must go and if we love him, we will let him go. On Easter day Jesus makes that very clear to Mary Magdalene. She loved Jesus and struggled painfully that he was no longer around. We catch her weeping because she could not find his body. When she recognizes him she clings to him and Jesus says, “Let go of me!! I must go to the Father.” Mary Magdalene will need new eyes with which to see Jesus. She has them already, but doesn’t know it yet. For the eyes to see Jesus are called love.

             Jesus is the only person that we should love without condition. He is the only person we must love without condition. To love someone with such commitment and fidelity is not to leave them in the past, in a memory that can never move forward. Jesus says gently but repeatedly, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” If we have a true love of Jesus, then we will cling not to his body but to his word. That word will give us life and become our way and our truth. If we have the words of Jesus, and we do, and if we activate them, then Jesus remains alive for us and continues to walk with us, to feed us and guide us. Loving Jesus looks like taking his word and making it the word that keeps creating and sustaining us. However we experience Jesus in his absence, it will always be in the shape of love: our loving him and even more so, his continuing to love us.

             Jesus tries to name what this on-going love of his will look like. And today he calls it the Advocate, the Spirit of truth. An Advocate, sometimes called a Paraclete, means someone to stand with us when we are challenged, questioned, ignored and misunderstood. He will send us the Spirit of Truth. Truth meaning, the heart of the relationship between Jesus and the Father and the Father and ourselves. It is a spirit of truth because it is at the core of everything. It is what stands when all else falls apart. And the core of authentic life is that Jesus is in the Father and we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us. What Jesus will send us is a new presence found in love that can live in each heart and in the center of the community.

             The love that Jesus commands and we experience is not merely a private affair between me and Jesus. But it is a communal love: The love between Jesus and the Father and the Spirit of both; the love Jesus commands the disciples is above all communal; it is found in the communion between disciples; it is found in the works of love. Remember, the model of love that comes before this final farewell of Jesus is that of washing feet, Jesus washing our feet. And the love command is given as, “Wash each other’s feet as I have done to you.” Doing that is the sign that we are loving Jesus. And doing that loving means that Jesus and the Father are in us. That loving, Jesus will go on to say, the world can see. And then the world can be drawn into the circle of the Father’s loving.

             This love of Jesus within us is not possessive or controlling or dominating. It is not a power or force that makes one submissive. It is the gift of Spirit and hence of mutuality: of being with and in. This Spirit, says Jesus, will never leave us. This Spirit is what God breathed into us in the beginning; it is what made us alive. It was not any spirit any breath, but his breath and his Spirit. In finishing his work, Jesus must return to the Father and send this Spirit again as at the beginning. This forever Spirit is what enlivens the Church; it that which makes us realize all the implications of our being loved so much that the Father and Son will live within us.

             The key to Jesus’ going, his absence, is love. Only when Jesus remains the one loved totally and completely will we not be orphaned, not be alone, not be undefended in the face of injustice. We must not confuse the Spirit of Truth with what is correct or what is written down. The Spirit of Truth is rather what opens our eyes to see that our God is relational. Baptism in water and Spirit is baptism into an on-going affair of love between Father and Son. Jesus came to reveal that love and power and now he is going back into it. But not alone. We too are being drawn slowly, gently and firmly into the heart of that love.

             There is no way that we can proclaim the resurrection unless Jesus leaves us and for good. In fact, it is our loving him and keeping his commandments that is in reality a proclamation and witness that he is risen and alive. If we are loving him thus, then the Spirit is working in us, and through us the world, too, is being drawn into that love that makes all things new.