Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Nativity of St John the Baptist - Homily

'His name is John' Cistercian Breviary   

Birth of John the Baptist,. (24 August,2012)
            Homily  11.00 am
John the Baptist is the only person outside the Holy Family to have two days set aside for him in the Church’s universal calendar.  He is obviously an important person in the life of the Church.  John links the two Testaments.  He is born in the Old to prepare the way for the New.  In later life John comes over in the gospels as rather a fierce character.  Films, plays, and even opera have portrayed him as a wild man, even a fanatic.  It makes for good theatre.
There are people who preach religion but for all their fine words reveal only themselves.  There are others who never get in the way of their message  but point beyond themselves.  John was caught up by his love for God and the desire he had to bring the hearts of people back to God.  However blunt his words, he did not claim anything for himself.  John was humble.  When he recognised Jesus, John knew his work was nearly over.  “He must grow greater”, he said and, “I must grow less.”  John knew when to let go.
As an only child born to elderly parents who had long ago given up hope of having a family, John the Baptist must have been a much-loved child.  At the same time it is very likely that he was a spoiled one as well.  .  Elizabeth and Zechariah knew that their son was even more special than other children.  The meaning of his name is “God’s gracious gift”.  The name, John, broke with the tradition of his family and yet both father and mother had independently picked it.  They were of course inspired by the Holy Spirit
The people throughout the area were speaking about the unusual circumstances of his birth.  He was quite a little celebrity.  And it was the same when he began his ministry.  Crowds flocked to him and, for a while, he was again a celebrity.  This time the whole of Jerusalem were talking about him.  Some were saying openly that he was the Messiah.  Talk like this could go easily to a man’s head.
And yet, somehow John was aware, deep within himself, that he was not the one the people thought he was.  He knew that there was one coming after him who was more important than he was and that his job was to step aside and make way for him...This labour without reward or recognition must have been hard at times.   As he lay in prison hearing about the crowds now following Jesus, he must have wondered if he had toiled in vain and had exhausted himself for nothing.  Surely there must have been times in that prison when he hankered again for his younger days when people were over-awed by him and he was both popular and successful.
John’s experience is a kind of model for all those whose best days are behind them.  Men and women who were once well-known and had succeeded in their lives, inevitably have to give way to others younger than themselves.
We should remember such people as they try to cope with the changed circumstances in their lives.  They are not now useless, simply that their circumstances have changed.  They do need to adapt to a changed reality where their usefulness is not ended but different.  They can always do something else.  And, if that becomes too difficult, they can certainly be themselves. 
John himself remains a model for us in that he shows that we can and should step aside so that Christ is the one who stands first in our lives.  We find Christ when the time comes for us to step back and let the other people in our lives and our work move into a more central role.
John let go when the time came, and - with his help - so can we!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ.

Community Mass of Corpus Christi

Intro Mass Body and Blood of Christ, year B 2012
Today is the solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. It is also the beginning of the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, which continues for the whole week.
The purpose of the Congress, as it is of today’s solemnity, is to celebrate and understand more fully the legacy left us by our Lord of his body and blood in the bread and wine of the altar. He imparts to us his risen life. That is what we receive and celebrate. It is not his physical, earthly, body and blood as he was then but as he became and is for us now in his risen life. This new life is forever a new beginning for us as we try to rise above our faults and sins.
1 Lord Jesus, you raise us to new life. - Lord, have mercy.
2 You forgive and free us from our sins - Christ, have mercy.
3 You reconcile us to one another in your own body.
- Lord, have mercy.

Prayer of the Faithful
Intro. As one body, let us prayer to our Father
who gives life to the world..
Concl. God our Father, may the gift of food we eat at this table make us strong, and may all of your gifts fill our lives as we seek your kingdom in heaven.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Novice Habit - Abbot's talk on the Reception Br. Seamus

Monday, 11 June 2012

Novice Habit - Abbot's talk on the Reception Br. Seamus

Sent: Sunday, 10 June 2012, 16:25
Talk on reception of the habit  
After Lauds, the Chapter of the Community was present for ceremony of the habit given to the Novice, Seamus Conway.  
The Reception of a Novice is a very practical activity but full of symbolism. On this occasion for the time, the Sacristan was asked to photograph the happy event, as the pictures attached.

Talk on the Reception of the Habit     

Seamus Conway          10 June 2012

Traditionally the abbot uses this talk to remind a postulant on the day he receives the habit what his vocation is about, what he has come to the monastery for.  God calls people to the monastic life by various roads but always to the same end.  That end is truly to seek God.  The means to it are many.  The chief of these are prayer and love of the brethren.  Unless we remind ourselves of the need to keep God in our sights and to keep walking with him, we will falter on the way.  

Our daily reading, our regular attendance at the Divine Office and our openness to the calls on our time at awkward moments – when others have a real need – are also means to keeping God before our eyes.  We need to plan our days and to work within the structures of the monastic timetable, but it’s amazing how often we have to drop our own plans because of other circumstances.  We can be busy doing God’s work and yet at the end of the day wonder what on earth we have been doing all day.  The time has flown and we don’t seem to have done anything constructive.  We must not use this experience, which hopefully won’t happen too often, as an excuse for not planning our day.  An ordered day does matter. It is pleasant to do the things that we like, but it is better to get on with the things we have to do whether we like them or not.  That is the way monasteries came to be built over the years and how holy monks came to be formed. 
and Br. Seamus
To grow as a person and to become steeped in monastic wisdom is not just about filling the mind with information, though that is important and part of our formation.  True growth is more of a mentality and a training of the heart.  Life can be hard.  In ancient monastic folklore and in the annals of monastic history it has been known for newcomers to the monastic life to be asked to do foolish or ridiculous things.  The famous one is being told to plant cabbages upside down.  Daily living in community is difficult enough without spending time creatively thinking of ways to make life more difficult for newcomers.  There are enough of us who can create that kind of situation naturally without trying.  Part of community living is to put up with such situations, though the community should try and put a stop to such things happening.  The funny thing is that we almost always think that some people do go out their way to make life difficult for us.
However these times in our lives can be the very ones that lead us closer to God because they force us to go to God like the psalmist, and plead for help.  We learn quicker our need of God.  These times are also moments when we can get a better awareness if we really do have a call to the monastic life.
Our fellow monks are there to help us on way to God.  We should not let any quirks or peculiar personal oddities they may have to throw us off course.  St John of the Cross, I think it was, said that if we want to have love in our lives, we should put love into life and then we will find it.
That, Seamus, is what you have before you.  You came to us with your own particular gifts and you will add to them by receiving the gifts that the other members of the community themselves possess.  Fullness of life comes from giving and receiving what we all have to share.
These are only some of the things that have drawn you to the monastic life.  Our vocation is to seek and find God, to hold fast to him in good times and bad.  That is the way offered to you.  After your experience over a number of months in this community, it is time for you now to decide if you wish to continue living with us as you continue to seek God’s will in your life. 



Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Holy Trinity

Homily for Holy Trinity, 2012                                         
 11.00 Mass

When we think of the Holy Trinity, due to our upbringing and the particular focus of theological thinking in the Church of our time, most of us normally think of three Persons in the One nature of God.  Sometimes this can make our understanding of God seem far away and ‘up there’ - very remote from everyday life.

In fact the knowledge of God which Jesus gave his disciples was very personal.  He spoke to them of the experience he had with the Father.  His Father was not an idea but a Person.  That seems quite a concrete but because of the way he went on to talk of the Father, the disciples found it difficult to understand him at times.  We can find it difficult enough to understand each other so it is hardly surprising the disciples having this problem, too, on hearing Jesus’ words.

Jesus was an immensely attractive individual.  All sorts of people were drawn to him by the force of his personality and the compassion he showed to the poor and the needy.  Some looked to him for new life and others to find reasons for doing away with him because of the threat he was to their lifestyle.  So Jesus was someone who touched on the lives of others for good or for bad.  Life is never neutral.  During the course of it we will make choices for what is life-enhancing or what is ultimately selfish.  We cannot stand by and not take part in the drama of life.  Our lives are either increased or diminished by Christ’s coming on earth.

So what is it that made Jesus so different from the rest of humankind?  He was first of all concerned not for himself but for others.  He gave from what he himself had received.  That came from this close but mysterious ‘Father’ Jesus spoke about to the disciples.  They had lived with him during his years of ministry, so they knew him well enough to know that what he told them was somehow true, even though they may have found it hard to understand  him fully.  There was always room for misunderstanding.  But those grains of truth had been sown.  When he rose again from the dead those grains of seed came to life and bore fruit in their new awareness of who he was.
And who was this man Jesus?  He is the one who spoke of God as his Father.  No son was as close to his father as he was to his.  No married couple or closest of friends were as intimate as he was with his Father.  At times he spoke as if hewas the Father or that the Father was him.  At other times he said he was doing the work of the Father and that he did nothing that was not from the Father.  Jesus said that he must go to be where he was from the beginning.  It is all so unusual!

And then there is the mention of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told the disciples that he had to go or the Holy Spirit would not be able to come to them.  When he came he would reveal the full meaning of all he had told them.  This Spirit was the expression of the love, of the being, of Father and Son

Jesus told us he was one with the Father.  But now there is a difference.  Jesus, true Son of God the Father and true son of man, has risen from the dead, and has ascended with this humanity into the Godhead. 

The Holy Trinity which we honour today now contains some of our humanity.  With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, this same risen Jesus said he would return to be with us always.  But the Father would also be with us because Jesus said that he and the Father are one.  Together they would remain with us.  When we are alone in times of sorrow, or when we are feeling deserted, they would still be with us in their care and friendship.

The bishops and theologians in the early centuries of the Church’s existence were so convinced of Jesus’ words about the Father and the Holy Spirit that they stated clearly that there are three Persons in the One reality of God.  This is not a puzzle to be worked out but more a bond of love and relationship which embraces all of us.

Today’s readings at Mass do not give us the main texts of the gospel which speak of the relationship of Father and Son.  But they do speak of the mystery of God and of the mission to go and preach that good news to our world.  Grace, love and fellowship are the blessings we receive from Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.  These gifts of such a marvellous God are what the Church proclaims to the world.   We are called to be true to them and to express them through the lives we lead.

Abbot Mark