Sunday, May 12, 2019

Easter 4 C - Sunday, May 12, 2019

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Bernard Delcourt, OHC
Easter 4 C - May 12, 2019


Acts 9:36-43
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

When Jesus calls himself the Son of the Father and yet one with the Father, he is giving clear primacy to relationship over being as a separate reality. “The Father and I are one.”

Who we are is who we are in the ever-active Creator. That is our meaning and our identity. Jesus says to his listeners, “The Father and I are one.”

And this Oneness is the model of who we are too. In this Season of Easter can we awaken to this everlasting truth? Christ gives us eternal life, and we will never perish. No one will snatch us out of His hand.

*****

Further in the gospel according to John, Jesus says:

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23)

The three persons of the Trinity are not self-standing and smugly independent of one another. They are inter-dependent. They are in a relationship. That relationship is one of continuous self-emptying and of creative outpouring of love. The three persons of the Trinity are not independent beings. They are One.

*****

Neither are we Humans independent beings. Nor is any part of creation an independent being. All Creation exists in radical relationship; from galaxies to sub-atomic particles.

We are all unique and differentiated, yes.
Yet we don’t exist outside of relationship with everyone else and everything else in the universe. We are One.

To the Western mind, it is so important to be self-made and independent. Our ego likes that idea and is attached to all sorts of stories that tell how different my being is; how I am separate;
how I am better than that mineral, that plant, that animal,
how I am better than those other human beings.

The Oneness of all is a challenging concept to the ego. That is one of the reasons contemplative prayer is a helpful mode of growing spiritually. It calms the ego and can give the soul an experience of oneness.

Our personal relationship with God is important, for sure. But that relationship to be truly with God cannot isolate us. We cannot be in relationship with God entirely on our own. We are in God relationship within communities. And ultimately, our communities, in concentric circles englobe this whole planet and this whole universe.

*****

The essence of God is Being. I Am that I Am. Each creation is a unique manifestation of beingness. Each of us is a manifestation of the divine.

And yet, we are One in God, as Jesus and his Father are One, as Jesus is in each of us, and the Father is in Jesus. We can say I am with I Am.

God is. And God is relationship itself. With Richard Rohr, I would name salvation as simply the readiness, the capacity, and the willingness to stay in relationship.

As long as you show up with some degree of vulnerability, the Spirit can keep working.

Self-sufficiency makes God experience impossible! That’s why Jesus showed up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one, a defenseless baby lying in the place where animals eat.

Talk about utter relationship! Naked vulnerability means I’m going to let you influence me; I’m going to allow you to change me.

In the life of Jesus, God shows us how willing God is to relate with us as we humans are. And Christ is in relationship with each one of us as we are. There are no conditions on this relatedness. It is. But we get to choose how active we are in this God relationship.

The Way of Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating — on earth as it is in the Godhead. Self-emptying and outpouring love.

We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness. To choose to stand outside of this Flow is the deepest and most obvious meaning of sin. Do I choose to neglect my relationship with God or do I willingly and actively engage in this Flow?

We call that Flow Love. We really were made for love, and outside of it our souls wither very quickly.

*****

Father, Mother, help us to learn and to live that we are One, as You are One;
help us know of your presence in us;
help us keep giving consent to your action in us;
Help us do the works that we do in Your name, that we may testify to You in our being, in our doing (and sometimes even in our speaking).

Amen.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Third Sunday of Easter - Sunday, May 5, 2019

Holy Cross MonasteryWest Park, NY
Br. Aidan Owen, OHC
Third Sunday of Easter - Sunday, May 5, 2019

Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

Click here for an audio version of the sermon.


+ In the name of the One God, who is Lover, Beloved, and Love Overflowing. Amen. +

Our attachments will destroy us.

Whatever we cling to becomes a kind of rope to bind us and bring us before the judge, as surely as Paul did the early Christians. It’s easy to see how we make idols of our fear, our pain, our desire to have what we want, when we want, as we want. But our so-called “good” qualities can just as easily, and much more subtly, become links in the chains that bind us. Our desire to be good, to be right; our sense of justice and our outrage and injustice; our striving for spiritual gifts; even our love of the people and places that form the foundations of our lives—all these and more can numb and paralyze us, lock us into place like thicket of brambles.

Peter and Paul, the two great pillars of the early Church, and, for that matter, of the Church today, learned what we must all learn if we are truly to become Christians. We must, to paraphrase Tolstoy, learn to renounce the fantasy of a freedom that is not real and to embrace a dependence that we do not feel. Or, as Dorothee Sölle so beautifully put it: we must learn to be empty in a world of surplus.

We could all live the rest of our lives as good, loving Christians, which is to say as people who profess the name of Jesus and avoid at all costs the demand that name makes on them. Or we could consent to our total dependence on the one whose very name is Love. And we could allow that One to guide, correct, empty, and fill us however and whenever we need to be guided, corrected, emptied, and filled.

Part of the problem for those of us who call ourselves Christians today is that the story is too familiar. It doesn’t often blind us with its radiance. It wasn’t familiar for Peter, and it wasn’t familiar for Paul. And so they have something of an advantage on us.

Walking down the road to Damascus, on his way to persecute more of the early followers of Jesus, Paul was overcome by a light so bright it revealed the blindness in which he had been living. He knew he must change his life. And so he did, never turning away from that light again, so that he could write to Timothy, “I am already being poured out like a libation. […] From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:6-8)

Peter had denied his friend and lord three times before that friend’s brutal death. And so his joy at Jesus’ appearance colors around the edges with regret and longing and a love so poignant we can’t help but be swept up in its wake. He’s so overcome that he loses his sense and puts his clothes back on before lunging into the water to touch Jesus. He, too, knows that he must change his life. And he does, never again denying the One who fed him bread and fish on the shore of the lake, witnessing to the transforming love of the Resurrected One, even in his own death on a cross.

In their encounter with the Risen One, both of these men recognized that their entire lives would have to change. But still they consented to those changes. They still said their “yes.” And they renewed that yes every day of the rest of their lives, until they could, when it counted, pronounce their greatest “yes” and die in witness to the love of the one who had already died and risen for them.

And how could they lay down their lives? Because they had already given those lives back to the one who had given them in the first place and who had renewed them day by day.

All this talk of death may seem somewhat macabre, but it isn’t. Surrender to God, the willing return of one’s life to source of life is the consummation of the greatest love story we know. This death and the new life in the spirit it enables begin and end in love.

Father Alan Whittemore, perhaps the greatest mystic our Order has produced, had much to say of this topic in an essay he wrote on the real reason for becoming a monk or a nun. I quote at length:
The real reason, the only truly sufficient reason, for becoming a monk is to be crucified. That is what happens. The religious life is a contrivance of the Divine ingenuity whereby the soul may be crucified with Christ. The vows are the nails with which we are nailed to the cross. Incidentally we may spend many years in the religious life before the full significance and the dreadful pain of these nails is brought home to us.
That all sounds very grim. But it is true. Do not attempt to become a monk or nun unless you intend from the bottom of your heart to surrender yourself wholly to Jesus, to hang up with Him on His Cross in perfect submission to the will of the Father and on behalf of the souls of [all].
Still, there is a beautiful secret which I have saved to the last and which makes all the difference in the world. It does away with the grimness and renders of the religious life the dearest, sweetest, blessedest thing in all the world. The religious life is a love affair.
All souls are invited to become the brides of Christ. But the religious does not wait for the life beyond the grave. He steals a march on the others. 
Earlier in this chapter I gave several reasons for becoming a monk or nun. Did you notice that I omitted that which many folk outside the religious life imagine to be the true one? I have the feeling that most people think that monks or nuns were “disappointed in love.” 
Perhaps some of them were. God has many means of drawing souls to Himself. All I can say is that, though I have known a great number of monks and nuns very intimately, I never have happened to strike one who came to the cloister because he or she had been disappointed in love. 
On the other hand, I have known very many—please God, it is true of all of them—who were successful in love beyond all dreams or imagining. For they have heard in their hearts the whispering of the perfect lover. And it has been their deepest passion and their joy to surrender themselves to Him unto death, even the death of the Cross.

What Father Whittemore has to say of the monk or nun is equally true of all who would bear the name of the Crucified and Risen One. Bound up into the great love affair with God in Christ, we find that the choice to surrender all our lives to the one who poured out his life for us, who pours it out still, is not dreary after all. It is the most beautiful way we could live, the best and, really, the only way, to enter the flow of divine love within and all around us.

It is, finally, only love that enables our response of love. Jesus comes to each us in the most ordinary and the most extraordinary moments of our lives, reach out his scarred hands to embrace us, and says to our souls, “Yes, I love you more than these. I love you more than your fear. I love you more than that your joy. Now come, follow me.”

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Sunday - Sunday, April 21, 2019

Holy Cross MonasteryWest Park, NY
Br. Josép Reinaldo Martínez-Cubero, OHC
Easter Sunday - Sunday, April 21, 2019

Romans 6:3-11
Luke 24:1-12


Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

They had hoped he would save them from the oppression of Roman domination. He had promised God’s reign of justice and peace. Now Jesus’ followers were afraid, confused, and feeling abandoned by God. They were paralyzed, and hiding in the shadows. Well, the men were paralyzed and hiding, apparently not the women!

All four gospels have unique elements in their resurrection stories.  Mark, regarded as the primary source, has only eight verses on the first Easter.  Both Matthew and Luke expand the story in their own individual directions according to their audience. And that is disconcerting to us twenty-first century humans who are so attached to facts and certainty. But the Gospels are about meaning and truth not facts.

In the case of Luke’s Gospel one of the most notable features is that it has the most women on the scene. Three are named: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, but also “the other women” were with them. Those women at the tomb are given the message of the Resurrection, and it was terrifying, but they heard it, and it made sense to them. Those women returned from the tomb, and told the apostles what they had experienced, and their words seem to the apostles an “idle tale, and they did not believe them.” The women were not heard. (And all the women in the room are probably thinking: “Ain’t that always the case!”) Those apostles were too caught up in their fears and their disillusion, not being able to reconcile Jesus’ execution with their hopes and dreams of a new world. If God could let the best of them die such a horrible death, then perhaps God was no god at all. And don’t we still ask that very thing? If God can let the horrendous sufferings, about which we all know, happen, then perhaps God is no god at all.

We want a God who will take our responsibility away from us; who will erase the messes we create for ourselves; who will save us from the times we live in, the circumstances of our lives, from ourselves. We refuse to see that in Jesus’ death, God dies.  God in, with, through and beyond us, God woman, God gay, God transgender, God black, God in prison, God raped, God the latino from a “shithole country” seeking asylum at our southern borders, God dying again and again. We forget or refuse to accept that the mystery of the Incarnation reveals that divinity is not exclusively transcendent and different from humanity. For Christians who want to grow up and take responsibility, our humanity, personal and corporate, divinized in Christ, is the instrument, and the focus of God’s salvific and liberating work.

So, here we are today, at the fundamental and nonnegotiable experience at the heart of Christian faith- the Resurrection of Jesus. As the shock slowly went away, and they came to realize that those women’s experience was no idle tale, the apostles began to realize that the tomb was indeed empty because it could not hold Jesus anymore than death could take him from them. Jesus lived in, with, through and beyond them, and his presence continued to mold them into a new reality. They began to experience Jesus after his human death in a way that assured them that Jesus, in the full integrity of his personal humanity, was alive with an entirely new kind of life. The disciples experienced Jesus as present among them, and able to interact with them. The disciples experienced Jesus as living within them. And because of this indwelling, they were now Jesus’ post-Easter body, the instrument of his presence in the world just as our natural bodies are the instruments of our human presence in the world. Jesus had done the work of God dwelling in him. Now Jesus’ followers were carrying on Jesus’ own work in the world as Jesus dwelled in them. They began to understand that death, while horrific and very real, is no longer final. Life can be lived fully. Love can be given extravagantly. Justice is the way to peace, and is worth seeking.

Saint Paul explained it to the Romans and the Corinthians, and the Gospels present it through the Easter narratives. Jesus now lives the absolute, eternal, and indestructible life of God. But his life is fully personal, truly human as well as divine, because the Risen Jesus remains fully and truly human. This is the fullness of life that Jesus came to bring, that whoever truly believes in him will have eternal life.

To be Christians is to be people of the Resurrection. More and more of us today know that Jesus did not die to save us from some fallen state. More and more of us know that Jesus did not die to appease an angry God. Jesus didn’t save us from the past. Jesus showed us that we too have the capacity to be the light of the world! We already possess the ability to evolve and become. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection show us the way to be LOVE; that power at the very heart of reality. Our call is not to leave Jesus hanging on the cross but to join him as God’s people of the Resurrection. When we finally let go of the fears that enslave us, Resurrection happens. When the Mary’s, Mary Magdalene’s, and Joanna’s of this world are heard, Resurrection happens. When we welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, Resurrection happens. When we give voice to the voiceless, Resurrection happens. When we embody LOVE Resurrection happens again and again.

I will close with the words of the wonderful poet, Lucille Clifton:
the green of jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet smell of delicious jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of jesus and
the future is possible
 Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!