Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

[Scripture Readings: Is 55:1-3; Rom 8:35-39; Mt 14:13-21]

On a certain occasion, back in 2004, while taking part in a monastic formation program in Rome, my fellow students and I met several representatives of the St. Egidio movement, a very charismatic Catholic community who minister to the street people of Rome. A nun in our group, a little exasperated, asked one of the St. Egidio missionaries: “How do you respond in a Christ like manner to all these street people, who you run into on almost every corner! You can only give them so many coins, and at a certain point, it's overwhelming, all these people looking for something to eat!” The missionary answered the nun: “You can give them coins if you like. What I myself do is just take a moment to stop, look them in the eye; ask them how their day is going; and listen for a minute or two to what they have to say. This is worth so much more to them than a few coins. To be recognized as human beings with a little dignity; that's what they are really hungry for.” The group was silent a moment, and I can't say what the others were thinking, but I imagined myself stopping to listen to every street person I met in Rome, and feeling a bit overwhelmed, said to myself: “Okay, so what he's saying is those street people calling out to me 'Padre! Padre!' aren't just looking for a sandwich to eat. It's me they want. They want to eat me! Is that it?” The gospel we just heard proclaimed implies the answer is “Yes.” Are you a follower of Christ? Then, as Mother Theresa used to tell her sisters: “You are to go out and be eaten by the poor.” Now, that sounds a bit dramatic and maybe not something most of us can see ourselves doing. And yet, the prospect of your being eaten by the poor, may be nearer at hand than you think. Actually, this can be accomplished, by simply turning to the person seated next to you and letting yourself be possessed by the mystery that person is.

In today's gospel Jesus, shaken by reports of John the Baptist's execution, wants to be alone, and withdraws to a place by himself. But he is followed by crowds of people who are sick and frightened and in need of healing. As evening approaches, the crowd is getting hungry. Jesus' disciples propose what you might think Jesus would approve as a good idea: “Send the people away. Tell all these people to go away and find something for themselves to eat.” Jesus' response may surprise us: “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Think about that. If those five thousand people disperse, breaking ties with one another and fan out in all directions toward a multitude of different destinations, with the purpose of each attending to and feeding himself, then, when and if they ever gather together again into a community they will have learned by experience that the community cannot feed them but that, caring for themselves, requires breaking away from the community. This is not a lesson Jesus wishes his followers to be taught and so he insists: “They do not need to go away. You feed them.” Now the disciples know, and you and I know that, if they let themselves be made responsible for feeding five thousand people, it is the disciples who are going to be eaten and this, evidently, is Jesus' plan. How do we know that? Because it is what Jesus himself does. If you pay attention to what is happening in this gospel you will discover that the “bread” being broken and shared with the five thousand is precisely Jesus himself. Jesus, seeking solitude after John's death is pursued and his solitude is shattered by the five thousand people. The possibility of returning to himself; finding repose and renewal in himself, or of defining himself by this return and self-absorption in the mystery he is as a person, this blissful repose, at arm's reach, is taken from Jesus, seized upon by the crowd, and smashed to pieces. Jesus is showing us what we can expect from an encounter with the other; with any person who is not ourselves.

The person sitting right beside you is a mystery; a mystery that will never be contained or made intelligible by any concept or idea, but who approaches you precisely as that which can never be reduced to an object of certain knowledge, but must remain a mystery. If you let yourself come to this realization, if you do not block it by reassuring yourself that you have defined and understood your neighbor; if you meet your neighbor as the mystery he or she is, this experience will break you; it will shatter your self-sufficiency and make you food for your neighbor. When the disciples say, “Send them away,” what they are really saying to Jesus is: “Spare yourself, SPARE US! Spare us from being overtaken subjugated, chewed up and swallowed by the mystery we encounter in our neighbor.” But Jesus would have us meet our neighbor, not fed by being sent away, but fed by you and I suffering to be caught up with and met by our neighbor, broken by her approach; broken and made bread for our neighbor to eat. That is the vocation of a man or woman who, following Christ, would become like Christ.

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

[Scripture Readings: Eccles 1:2, 2:21-23; Col 3:1-11; Lk 12:13-21]

During a period of time, when I was in my mid-twenties, I got excited about simplifying my diet and used to make meals for myself consisting of whole grains, especially, short grain brown rice, various kinds of beans, and fresh vegetables, especially root vegetables. I found, cooking for myself was fun, it was creative, the food gave me energy, I was slim, and I felt great. Of course, sticking to a diet like this can be tricky when most of the people around you, are eating pizza, Coca Cola, and ice cream. But I was committed, and my enthusiasm for simple wholesome food made for some awkward moments among family and friends. One day, at a family gathering, I'd made a plate for myself of carrots, lentil beans, and brown rice. My mother, who had gone to some trouble preparing the meal, saw me sit down at table with my carrots and brown rice and suddenly found my zeal for health food a bit much, and she commented, A little annoyed: “Bobby , you seem to discover one truth at a time.”

That incident took place over thirty years ago and, reflecting back on it, I realize, if those words had been spoken to me by anyone except my mother, I probably would have concluded I was being insulted, and might have worried about my relationship with the person. And yet, while I might have been a little stung by my mother's words I never seriously imagined she was belittling or insulting me. She's my mother, the woman who carried me in her womb and who nursed me in her arms as an infant. As the person in whose womb I received the breath of life, I realize now my mother was calling me back to life. As one who loved me, she was simply cautioning me that too much focus on one pursuit could blind me to the wider context of my life, to the network of important relationships with other people who might not share the intensity of my latest passion, and whose thoughts and feelings I ought to give more consideration. Words that might have sounded like an insult from anyone else, coming from my mother, I recognize now, were inviting me to return to life; to the source of life; and to the possibility of more abundant life.

In this morning's gospel, a rich man is seen filling huge storehouses with grain, Increasing his wealth and surplus of this world's goods to insure his future security and happiness. God, watching his exertions, calls the rich man a “fool”. “You fool!” says God, “Do you not realize this very night your life will be demanded of you?” What does it mean when God calls a man a fool? Is it the same as when a man calls another man a fool? In the second case, someone is usually being rejected and diminished. Hence, Jesus taught: “You are to call no man a fool.” And yet, Jesus called men “white-washed tombs”, “hypocrites”, and “fools.” So, if it's not rejection . . . then what exactly does it mean when God calls a man a “fool”? It is clear that God talking and a man talking are not the same thing. God's word is creative. God said “Let there be light” and there was light. God said “Let man be made in our own image,” and man was created. God creates man with a word, and with a word He Gives him a name. When God calls you a name, this marks, not the end but the beginning of a relationship; the relationship we call “creation.” And what God calls you is what you are. Now, if I hear God say: “You fool!” then, I have not been rejected by God. I am, after all, not just any fool. I have been named one by God, named as one who is a child of God, made in God's image. Hearing myself called a “fool” by God, I realize, I have the astonishing capacity to hear God's voice, I can hear God speaking to me, and this recalls me to my own God-like dignity. Finally, it seems to me, a man whom God calls a “fool” hears not so much a word as a voice. It is something like the voice of my mother I heard that day long ago, the voice of one in whom I found life in the beginning, calling me back to my original dignity, to the place from which my life began.

In recent months, our community has been blessed with the presence of several men seeking admittance to our monastery as Postulants. Walking back from work the other day, we were sharing with each other our experiences of “falling in love” with monastic life. I was surprised how similar our experiences were. The call to monastic life is a mystery, but you might think of it this way: A man, supposing he was rich, hears God say: “You fool! Very soon, your life will be required of you.” Hearing this call, a man enters the monastery, and enters as a “fool” who, in obedience, surrenders his life to God. It is as if the man were saying: “Did I hear you call me Lord? And do you call me a fool?” But I am ready to acknowledge what I am. And if I am a fool, then I am saved because it is God who told me I am, and I praise God and give him thanks, because I can hear his voice. And, for all the days remaining to me, I will rest in the true knowledge that I am a fool for God's sake, who made me and gave me my name.

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

[Scripture Readings: Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Dph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35 ]

In today’s readings, Saint Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. If we follow the virtues—Faith, Hope and Charity—religiously, we can be assured of fulfilling God’s will.

In the Gospel, Matthew relates that Jesus, hearing of the death of John the Baptist, went away to a separate place by boat. When the crowd found out where he went, they followed. Jesus did not get disturbed and dismiss them. Rather, he preached to them at length. They had nothing to eat. We know how Jesus was not about to send them away as suggested by the Apostles. Rather, He performed the miracle of blessing the five loaves and two fish, and so fed the crowd of men, women and children.

Celebrating today God’s gift of one hundred and four years on earth leaves me taking a day at a time and not trying to figure that out. Acceptance of God’s Will—which I learned when I was capable of understanding the teachings learned by the Apostles when they asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Like all here—the monks and guests—to celebrate The Birthday, we learned to pray at our Mother’s knee. At an early age, we learned of Jesus, He whom God the Father sent to earth.

My Father and Mother glorified God in prayer; and it is your story as well as mine. We were educated as to the Sacraments and fulfilled what we believed. Our dear fathers and mothers raised families to know and to love God. We as monks learned that marriage was not for us but a life in a monastery and we followed what we believed God wanted. So here we are celebrating. We have eaten our bread needed to grow physically; we needed the Eucharist and we learned to love God under the wings of those Monks who went before us, who were dedicated for life in what they chose to do. Our lives are different, but we all have the same Mother—Mother Church—and God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Let us smile and look up at God and our faces never need to be ashamed [Communion Antiphon from the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time. See Psalm 34:5]

Silence. Stay in Love. Enjoy Christ’s expanding love. Jesus came to give glory to God. Do his will today, too. Today, we honor Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Welcome now to silence and reception of the Eucharist. Thank you to all who have journeyed here.

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

[Scripture Readings: Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23; Col 3:1-11; Lk 12:13-21]

I thank you God. I adore You, I love You. For You are the Source of all that IS. You are the Maker of all that is! We, this Monk and Abbot Brendan and all my brother Monks — to honor Thee and to embellish that honor with love and to thank You for bringing us together as a Community to acknowledge the Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. Jesus in silence and awaiting to be embraced within our hearts Eucharistically, Jesus Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, Eternally and Forever.

All of you dear friends, have travelled long distances to join with us and I love you all. I thank you for your presence, so precious to me.

My brother Monks, silent we are to each other physically, but loving in hearts bonded by God’s love. I can pray and do pray for each of you daily by name and I see you as figures of Jesus and receiving Him Eucharistically every twenty-four hours, being thereby fortified to meet the coming day.

To all you dear freinds I was tempted to take you visiting monasteries around the world. But rather than do that I thought to bring you something of our silence and to assure you that you and all those for whatever purpose, you are in our prayers and our Eucharistic Celebrations.

I thank You, God the Father, for my parents and my family, for the richness of their faith and their adhering to Your teachings and passing on to us love of the most Holy Trinity, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”


Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

[Scripture Readings: Is. 55: 1-3; Rom. 8: 35-39; Mt. 14: 13-21]

Fr. NeilProbably most of us at one time or another have found ourselves confronted with a situation or a job to do that was beyond our capabilities. The more pessimistic among us may simply give up in frustration at that point. The more practically minded will make the best of the situation and muddle through, hoping for the best. At times we may be surprised at the results and discover we have talents we were not aware of. At other times we can find ourselves in the situation of the disciples in this morning’s gospel. The situation is impossible and yet I think this is the task that God has given me to do.

In that case I need to ask myself whether the problem is with the task God is calling me to do, or am I assuming that I need to accomplish it relying on my own resources. There is precious little, if anything, in the service of the gospel that we can accomplish on our own. Am I willing to admit that the situation is beyond my control and the first thing I need to do is to give up my desire to control it? Am I willing to give up my insistence on doing everything my way and be docile to the Holy Spirit teaching me God’s way? We can accomplish God’s will only by co-operating with God’s Spirit and when we co-operate with God the initiative is always with God.

Give them something to eatIn one of his writings Tielhard de Chardin makes the point that frequently we think the challenge we face is to see the heroic task off in the distance and we need to muster the courage to accomplish that task. More often the challenge we face is to see the next step and no further, and we need the courage to take that step. That courage will only come from faith in Christ’s promise to remain with us. True, the task I see in the future may well be beyond my capabilities; but if God is calling me to do it, God will enable me to do it. Am I willing to take the first steps, trusting that God will provide what I need at the appropriate time? Whatever God calls us to do, he calls us to do in Christ and with Christ’s Spirit in us. As St. Paul wrote to the Romans there is nothing in this world that can separate us from Christ. Only our own unwillingness to follow him can accomplish that.

Perhaps the greatest source of discouragement is the feeling that we have been left alone. We are not alone. We are one member of the body of Christ united with other members. We have God’s word to enlighten us. We have the Eucharist, the true bread of life, to strengthen us. We have the Spirit of Christ poured into our hearts to guide and support us. Our task is to accept the gifts God has given us and take the next step.