Saturday, 13 October 2012

Abbot Mark Golden Jubilee

Golden Jubilee Bouquet from Sisters

Introduction to Mass        -     Golden Jubilee of Monastic Profession.

The Church has called us to celebrate a Year of Faith, inviting and encouraging us to renew our belief in God.  Pope Benedict wants us to see the Holy Spirit at work in our world and in each of our hearts
Today is the Golden Jubilee of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on 11th October, 1962.  On that same day fifty years ago I made my profession as a monk.  So it’s not just because we are celebrating the opening of Vatican II that you have been invited here today.


Fr Mark’s Golden Jubilee of Monastic profession.
I’m sure you will all have vivid memories of the glorious years of Vatican II.  (Well, maybe not all of you!|)  Fifty years ago today Pope John XXIII opened the Council with a great flourish.  He announced in vibrant terms that Christianity was not about gloom and doom but the joy of the Holy Spirit.   Much water has passed under that bridge and has at times been diverted into some waterways.  Those were stirring times, but not everyone found them pleasant.  It must be admitted that some of the enthusiasm did go over bounds.  But the spirit of the Council is still a thing to treasure and to look back to.  It gave us much to be thankful for and to learn from.  But, fifty years on, our world has moved on to some extent and our needs have to be reassessed.  Even so, there are treasures in the Council’s documents that have yet to be mined, and perhaps some of those we have already taken up have still to be properly understood.

Today’s scriptural readings are from the ones that would normally be used for today.  As always, when we look close enough, the Spirit gives us surprises even within our ordinary routine.

‘Are you mad?’ is the encouraging way Paul speaks to the Galatians.  Some time ago I was listening to a radio programme on religion.  There were a number of atheist and believers on it.  One of the atheists was quite fanatical.  
He said, without any attempt to moderate his view, that anyone who believes in God was mad.  So, Paul must have got it right!
Seriously however, Paul was referring to the way the Galatians had forgotten the real meaning of religion; they had put their faith in externals, forgetting that the new life promised by Christ came from within.

In the Gospel Jesus uses several images telling his disciple that they had to ask, seek, knock, if they wanted to receive the Spirit who is life.  Faith is not an object that we are given and can keep in some safe place. 
Refectory - buffet 
 It is a living thing that will grow or become less within them depending on how it is lived.  Asking God should be a permanent attitude that we have whenever we need help.  Friendship with God is a relationship that should find us looking for and seeing God as we go about our daily round.  Like any human lovers, Christian disciples have God in their minds and hearts as they go perform their daily tasks.  Jesus tells the disciples that God is behind the door.  If they knock on it, it will be opened to them.

This is another interesting coincidence in today’s readings.  Pope Benedict has written a special letter for this anniversary entitled, as these papal letters are, by the words Porta Fidei, (the Door of Faith.)  It is Pope Benedict’s wish that this year, beginning today, will be a Year of Faith in which we revisit the sources of our faith in the scriptures.  The Vatican II documents were an attempt to do just that.  They looked to the Word of God and the traditions that sprang from it through the years and tried to teach us how we should live them in our own time.  Now, fifty years later, we are being asked to do the same.  Other Christian Churches were represented at Vatican II and will no doubt be encouraged to contribute to the happenings of this new Year of Faith.
We have an ongoing need to revitalise our belief in God.  We need a vision that will carry us forward, one that will support us as we try to live with full hearts and generosity in our following of Christ.  And we need to let that overflow in some way or other for the benefit of our neighbour.  They should be happier that we are around.  Not everyone can be a sparkling companion but being what God wants us to be in ourselves should somehow communicate itself to others.

Those who were caught up in the spirit of the times all those years ago won’t have lost that spark of life that held so much promise for the future.  As often happens, history has its own ways of diluting positive experiences.  Like all good living, so too with the gospel much effort is required to embrace and assimilate its values.  The cross that Christ dies on was not a symbol but a reality for him.  It is a symbol for us of what he achieved.   To be true to it we must ourselves accept the crosses that we have to meet as we try to follow the path to life that Christ opened up for us.
 My monastic life in the past fifty years has had its ups and downs.  (I’ll spare you the telling of those.)  But the things that happened at the various sessions over the four year period of the Council has always stayed with me.  The optimism generated by the Council was a wholesome and life-giving thing..  The yearning within many at the Council and outside it  for new and fresh initiatives is what the Gospel is all about.  Not everything that was hoped for saw the light of day, and not everything that was advocated deserved to survive the scrutiny of the Council Fathers.  But it is also true to say that some things did not come to fruition because people were not ready for them or they were not properly implemented.
Marie and Vincent(brother) Caira
 and  Br. Philip
What happened at Vatican II is what happens to all of us in our lives.  Some things we win, others we lose.  A vocation is just like that.  There are negative forces at work in our lives as well as, thank God, positive ones.  They are the making of who we are and how, strangely enough, God draws us to what we are called to be.  Some of the negative forces may well be of our own making.  If so, we will stumble and fall down.    But falling down is not the problem.  Scripture says the just fall down seven times a day.  What determines our character, our destiny, our holiness, is the getting up.  However, if we get up and allow our minds to remain in the mud, we might as well stay there.  If, on the other hand we don’t give up on our initial ideal and vision, we will not stay down for very long.  That attitude remains true for the Church as well as for people in general.  It is also true for each one of us as we strive to follow God in the ways he beckons.  To misquote Tony Benn who, in his eighties, said ‘Life gets better the longer you live it.’
I thank God for showing that to be true, and you also for coming to share this day with me.

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