From our friends at Emmanuel MonasteryContinue Reading
In the 2nd reading for this 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Paul says to the Thessalonians: Pray that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified.” Sounds like a line from Star Wars or the Narnia Chronicles. “Speed the Word of God forward.” Paul continues – “I am confident that you are doing and will continue to do as the Lord directs your hearts to the love of God and the endurance of Christ.” The “endurance of Christ.” A reminder that, yes, we are the hands and heart of Christ in our world.
Relating to the Gospel seems a bit more tricky. The Sadducees are once again challenging Jesus… describing a most unlikely situation and quoting Moses as their authority. One woman being wed, in turn to seven brothers. Often Jesus answers a question with a question. He responds differently this time. But this time he uses the occasion for instruction. Actually, Jesus makes four points.
First: life here on earth and life after death are not alike. The kingdom of heaven is not simply an extension of the good things in this life. Even though some give the impression “if ice cream will make you happy, yes, you’ll have it in heaven.” Jesus makes it clear that eternity is more than just an extension of what we have here.
Second: Jesus explains that there is no marriage in “that age.” He doesn’t say that a married couple won’t know each other in the age to come, but, Jesus let us know rather that the relationship will be different.
The fourth thing Jesus points out, is that the redeemed will be “like” the angels in heaven – not that they will be angels, but “like” the angels they will be forever praising and serving God.
And, if we drill deeper into the Jesus story, we’ll discover that the Sadducees were impressed with Jesus. Like the twelve-year-old in the temple who amazed the people with his knowledge. The Sadducees congratulated Jesus on his logic and his use of Scripture. Jesus proved, from Scripture, that there are some references to life after death.
As we wrestle with questions about resurrection and after life, especially in this month when we honor our deceased Sisters and our loved ones. And, at times like this week’s Veterans’ Day celebrations, we confirm our belief in Jesus’ promise of life beyond this one. The trivia of this life loses much of its importance, while the values, the important things take on added meaning. Living with the assurance of heaven, we live differently, we live for God. The promise of eternal life is not just some pie in the sky hope for us. In eternity, in the everlasting life, we’ll be ourselves at our ultimate best and will be more loveable and more capable of loving than ever before. [And it would serve us well, also, to think about the one who just jostled our nerves: she’ll/he’ll be more loveable in the life to come.]
[I’ve a story to share but could not figure out how to slip it into the body or the reflection….]
A newly-assigned young pastor had just received his first visitor. The parish council president came by to visit him on a Sunday afternoon. The man was a highly respected member of this congregation for over 25 years and president of the Parish council.
It was a balmy – not too humid kind of day – unusual for a day in August. Taking advantage of the nice day, they were sitting on the back porch of the rectory. The man seemed uneasy but slowly started to speak, “Father, first off I want to tell you this is a personal matter – nothing to do with Parish council business. I want to share this with you, and seek your advice. I’ve never told this to a soul, it’s extremely difficult to tell you this now. Well, here goes: “My wife and I have had a fight almost every day for the past 30 years of our marriage.”
The young priest was taken aback. He nervously took a sip of his sweetened Southern iced tea. He didn’t know what to say. He had never personally experienced that kind of thing growing up. Of course he’d taken counseling courses in the seminary. He wanted to respond with compassion. This was real life, not a set-up scenario from seminary days.
After a brief pause, he asked: “Everyday?” “Yes, just about every day.” “Did you fight before you came to church this morning?” “Yes.” “Well, how did it end up?” “It was different this time. She came crawling to me on her hands and knees.”
Trying to hide this shock, and keep his voice calm, Father ask: “Oh, my goodness what did she say?” “She pounded the floor with her hand and said in a voice that I’ve never heard before. It was low and commanding as she growled: “Come out from under that bed, you coward, and fight like a man!”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
32nd Sunday, November 10, 2019
2 Macabees 7:1-2, 9-14 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3::5
Gospel Luke 20:27-38Continue Reading
There is a term popular today that seems to me to fit with this message of Jesus. The term is “comfort zone” which refers to those situations in which the person feels comfortable, safe, free from threat and challenge. The comfort zone is, for the person involved, a thoroughly comfortable place. Life there is marked by ease and familiarity.
It’s natural to like one’s comfort zone, but most of us would admit that we should not remain there indefinitely. People do not become better or more mature or holier lingering in their comfort zone. That just doesn’t happen.
In the first part of this Gospel, Jesus cautions against sitting in the place of honor at a wedding banquet and advises taking the lowest place instead. But it is not simply a suggestion about etiquette. Something more is going on here. What Jesus advocates is not only for social occasions, but it’s meant to shape the entirety of our lives.
Choosing the seat of honor for ourselves is choosing the seat in our “comfort zone” – where we will be comfortable, safe, and free from the threat of interacting with strangers. Jesus cautions us against moving into a comfort zone all on our own as though we know what we’re doing, as though it’s something we need to do.
In the second part of the Gospel, he urges us to invite the crippled, lame, and blind when we give a luncheon or dinner, rather than friends, relatives, and rich people.
So there’s advice here for us whether we’re the guest or the ones hosting an event. Picture entering the banquet hall at our annual Gala. Do you gravitate toward a familiar face or approach a table of “new friends” you’ve just never met before. Do we sit in “us vs them” clumps?” Do we do what Jesus says – ensure that our guest list includes those who are different, people who may make us uncomfortable, but whose difference from us may bring us a blessing? This is what I think is so significant about our Thanksgiving Day dinner. We open our door, our hearts and our table expecting nothing in return. The blessing of being in a position to share is its own reward.
Jesus not only teaches us this lesson of stretching our comfort zone, he demonstrates it. His entire life, his public ministry, his passion and resurrection, is full of one episode after another of his expanding what could have become his comfort zone. Repeatedly, Jesus takes the low seat and invites unlikely types to be his guests.
Jesus left the comfort zone of his place by his Father to come to earth as a tiny, helpless infant. Finally, he took the worst seat of all––on the cross. He left the comfort zone of his earthly life, allowed himself to be placed in a narrow grave in order to experience ever-expanding resurrected life. Jesus left the comfort zone within his family and friends on earth to become ever-present to all of us – to each one – at our beck and call.
Every day we encounter situations that place us outside our comfort zone – that stretch us to new territory in welcoming the “stranger” – persons or experiences. Just be on guard against the inevitable danger that this place will soon become our new comfort zone.
I am reminded of the words of a hymn found in our Journey hymnals: “Now As We Gather” …. “Now as we gather, God’s chosen people … there are no strangers in this holy place.” When the stranger becomes friend, we must search out other strangers to befriend.
In this Gospel and in a hundred other ways, Jesus asks us that we do him the honor of keeping ourselves, our religion, our community from becoming trapped in some comfort zone. This is what it means to live the life of faith – a life on the ladder of humility as described in the Rule of Benedict … living in reverence and deference to others.
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
First Reading Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29 Second Reading Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24
Gospel Reading Luke 14:1,7-14
From this Gospel we sense that Jesus understands how difficult it is to wait. You can feel Him “chomping at the bit” as he says to this disciple: I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” If Jesus felt that way over 2000 years ago, how would He feel with the world situation today???
The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles remind us over and over to have patience in waiting: wait for the Spirit, wait for the one who will baptize, wait for the fire of the Spirit. From the beginning of Jesus’ coming on earth He taught lessons in waiting. Mary and Elizabeth waited nine long months for the birth of their babes. The Holy Family waited three years in Egypt until it was safe to return to Nazareth. Remember Simeon’s prayer of gratitude (that we recite at Compline) upon seeing Jesus with Mary and Joseph in the temple. “Now, Lord – at last – I can die in peace for with my own eyes I have seen Your salvation.” Jesus waited 30 years to begin his public ministry, his baptism by his cousin John. He waited three days to respond to Lazarus’ sisters’ news that his friend had died. He waited 3 years for His Father to declare it was the right time: time for His last supper with friends, time for betrayal and crucifixion, time to rest in a borrowed tomb until he would be raised from the dead. He waited for the right time to reveal himself to Mary Magdalene in the garden and later to appear to the disciples and his mother Mary closeted in the upper room. He waited 40 days for the time to ascend and take his place at the right hand of his father.
And, what do we do? We tap our foot and mutter when we have to wait a few minutes in the grocery line, or for a red light to turn green, or for an elderly person to negotiate a curb or unfamiliar hallway; or move ahead in the food line at meal time; or hit “print” repeatedly on the computer thinking we can hurry it up. With a minor adaptation of words in the St. Louis Jesuit’s hymn TRUST IN THE LORD, we should be singing: “Wait for the Lord, you shall not tire; wait for the Lord, you shall not weaken. For the Lord’s own strength will uphold you, you shall renew your life and live.”
This Gospel is where Jesus reminds us that choosing to do good, to be good, requires on-going decision-making. To do the right thing, the good thing, won’t always be easy. Life isn’t conflict-free no matter how holy, easy-going or patient a person may be… living in a monastery can’t protect you. We’re all still human, with human limitations. But, we are followers of Jesus who said, “What makes you think I have come to establish peace? I tell you I have come to sow division.” He is alerting us to be prepared for difficult decisions; conflicts in life.
It’s good to get this reminder so when conflicts arise we don’t fret: “What did I do wrong? Why doesn’t God fix this situation?” Jesus is letting us know beforehand that He is right in the middle of the fray.” Remember He said: “I have come to set the earth afire.” He’s is telling us that when we make the decision to follow him, we may face opposition from some quarters, perhaps even from our peers, our family or friends. He probably cheers us on when conflicts arise and He can foresee the peace of reconciliation coming down the pike. Figuratively, if we engage the faucet, turn the nozzle, we have the hose that can put out the fire between us. The ashes will remain. Ah, but, out of the ashes will come new life: green plants, colorful flowers, and, yes – peace. Our choices to act or bite our tongue, cool our jets and exercise patience do shape our future. [If you are interested: this month’s Reader’s Digest has several stories illustrating how insightful, caring mentors change children’s lives.]
At the University’s Opening Mass on Monday, President Senese preempted one of my choices for this reflection when he quoted Robert Frost’s poem: “The Road Not Taken.” You can probably recite some lines from your 8th grade memory: (edited here for my purpose)
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And, sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler,
Long I stood and looked down one as far as I could
Then took the other, as having perhaps the better claim…
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, PrioressContinue Reading
Reflection By Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
Memorial Day is an American holiday honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It was originally called Decoration Day – a day to honor deceased soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers, flags and wreaths. Although Memorial Day became its official title in the 1880s, the holiday wouldn’t legally be called Memorial Day until 1967 and its designation as a federal holiday came in 1971.
Enough history trivia! The holiday prompts us to take some time to ponder the toll that war and violence have taken, and continues to take, on our society. And lest that image overwhelm us we are moved to “raise our eyes to heaven; bow our heads in prayer” – hard to do at the same time.
In the Gospel we heard Jesus’ promise: “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you. … Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid …You heard me tell you…”. I suspect that one of Benedict’s favorite words must have been PAX, PEACE – The kind of peace Jesus gives, not as the world gives. But, Benedict doesn’t promote an attitude of “peace at any cost.” This is simply a false peace – smooth the surface of the waters and there’s churning beneath. Agreeing with another simply to avoid conflict too often comes back to haunt us in the form of inner turmoil, headaches and stomach ailments and a long history of unrestful emotions.
The guidelines Benedict offers to his followers may involve great personal cost. He seems to have an attitude of “nip it in the bud.” Confronting isn’t easy for most folks. Being the first to apologize can go against the grain. And, gracefully accepting another’s expression of regret is a humbling exchange. Benedict encourages us at the outset of our Benedictine journey: “Let peace be your quest and aim.” [RB Prologue 17] It’s difficult, some days more so than others. We are a flawed people. We have weaknesses, limitations, distractions that burden us and can cause us to be defensive, resentful and irritable. (Remind you of the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal?”)
We know Benedict is right when he says that seeking peace is the way to heaven – heaven in the after-life and a little bit of heaven here on earth. “If you wish to have true and eternal life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit; turn from evil and do good; seek PEACE and pursue it.” Another translation says, “Seek peace and go after it.” And yet another says: “Chase peace and pursue it.” Doesn’t that conjure up quite an image… one that I imagine is depicted here in this drawing from What Do you Do With a Problem? Can’t you see us – peace leading the way … dashing out of the chapel, into the dining room, down the halls, out the door, into the neighborhoods, climbing God’s holy mountain pursuing PEACE – never abandoning charity nor giving a false peace, peacefully performing whatever duties are entrusted to us and ensuring we have made peace before sundown.
Today, let us renew our commitment to make, to pursue PEACE so it is more than a concept that only we talk about. Make a daily pledge to be people of peace, to be a peaceful people. Make each day an echo of what Paul tells us in the Letter to the Corinthians “the old things have passed away; behold new things have come…. We have been reconciled through Christ and more than that, WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN A MINISTRY OF RECONCILATION.” Peace is up to you and me. Do you mean it when you sing: “Let there be peace on earth; and, let it begin with me?”
Another way to think about peace is expressed in this Chinese proverb. It shows us the progression of light within to peace in the world…
If there is light in the soul,
There will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person,
There will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house,
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
There will be peace in the world.
(Chinese proverb)Continue Reading
Sunday, May 12th is designated Good Shepherd Sunday, a day of prayer for vocations. We will certainly continue to pray for vocations to church ministries and for an increase in membership in religious communities. In addition to that prayer, our community weekly intention is an intercessory prayer for MOTHERS – including all who mother others… which in today’s society of broken families many daddies, too, serve in the role of both “mother” and “father” to their children.
The brief Gospel (just read) reveals Jesus as our unique “parent” – mother and father – our good shepherd. Jesus is our means to salvation – the “sheep gate,” the gateway, the threshold to eternal life. Jesus is the selfless, caring “shepherd” who provides protection and life itself. How consoling and reassuring his words: “No one can take you out of my hand. My Father, who has given you to me, is greater than all, and no one can take you out of my Father’s hand.”
A good shepherd’s life is not an easy one – the shepherd must be vigilant at all times, willing to keep the sheep close together (in community), lead them to green pastures and set a good pace sensitive to their endurance. Jesus explains the difference between the concerned shepherd and the hireling. The hireling is there only for the paycheck. When trouble comes, he runs away and leaves the sheep to be devoured by the wolves. The good shepherd, on the other hand, the shepherd who owns the sheep, has a vested interested in their welfare. Therefore, the good shepherd is willing to pay any price to protect the sheep, even if it means that he has to give His very life for them. Christ, the Chief Shepherd, knows our individual weaknesses and failings and watches over us with discerning love and sympathetic understanding. With infinite concern He notes the doubts, fears, trials, conflicts, and defeats that disturb our peace, and He swiftly comes to our aid.
You’ve probably seen the painting titled “His Master’s Voice.” It depicts a dog, looking with a cocked head, into an old gramophone. It’s an apt symbol of what Jesus is saying to us or Benedict’s call to heed the voice of the Master. Hear what Jesus says: “The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
The spiritual writer, Tony Campolo tells the story of a census taker who went to the home of a rather poor family in the mountains of West Virginia to gather information. He asked the mother how many dependents she had. She began, “Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey. There’s Johnny, and Harvey, and our dog, Willie.” The census taker interrupted her: “No, ma’am, that’s not necessary. I only need the humans.” “Ah,” she said. “Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey, Johnny, and Harvey, and….” At this the exasperated man interrupted, “No, ma’am, you don’t seem to understand. I don’t need their names I just need the numbers.” To which the old woman replied, “But I don’t know their numbers. I only know them by name.”
Sounds like Jesus in today’s Gospel – Jesus says the good shepherd knows his sheep by name. Although there may be several flocks sharing the same sheepfold, when the shepherds walk up to the gate and call their sheep, each one instantly recognizes the voice of its own shepherd or shepherdess. When they hear the familiar voice, they instinctively follow (they are led and they follow, they are not driven, that’s for goats). They will ignore the voice of a shepherd other than their own. We will hear many voices competing for our attention, but there is a special note to the voice of Jesus that demands our immediate and full attention.
To the untrained eye, the individual sheep in a flock may all look alike. A good shepherd, however, can tell them apart — often because of their defects and peculiar traits. A man who was tending a large flock explained it this way: “See that sheep over there? Notice how it toes in a little. The one behind it has a squint; the next one has a patch of wool off its back; ahead is one with a distinguishing black mark, while the one closest to us has a small piece torn out of its ear.” Jesus says: “I know my sheep and they know me.” (Reminds me of how we can detect who is coming down the hall by the sound of her footsteps.)
A man in Australia was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep. But he claimed emphatically that it was one of his own that had been missing for many days. When the case went to court, the judge was puzzled, not knowing how to decide the matter. At last, he asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he ordered the plaintiff to step outside and call the animal. The sheep made no response except to raise its head and look frightened. The judge then instructed the defendant to go to the courtyard and call the sheep. When the accused man began to make his distinctive call, the sheep bounded toward the door. It was obvious that he recognized the familiar voice of his master. “His sheep knows him,” said the judge. “Case dismissed!”
There is no question that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. The only question that remains at this point is this: Do you know the Shepherd? Do you recognize His voice?