Sunday, January 14, 2018

Second Sunday after the Epiphany: January 14, 2018

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Robert James Magliula, OHC
Second Sunday after the Epiphany- Sunday, January 14, 2018

To hear the sermon in its fullness click here.

Br. Robert James Magliula
To be called by God means that God knows one’s name and being known by one’s name, is a powerful influence on us. To be called by God is an act of intimacy and divine urgency. This truth is woven through our readings this morning.

In the summons to Samuel, God instructs Samuel first to listen. An old man and a young boy collaborate to hear God’s call and vision. The old man knows the ways of the Lord and guides Samuel in the art of listening. 

Although Eli failed to pass on faithfulness to his own sons, he now serves as a spiritual parent to his young charge. It takes the attentiveness of the young Samuel and the wisdom of the old Eli to birth this new thing God is doing. Human speaking and hearing now become one of the main means by which the light of God’s revelation breaks into the world. This listening, hearing, and responding becomes a communal affair.

The communal nature of God’s call is articulated by Paul to the Corinthians. They are not their own but were bought with the cross of Christ. Freedom comes from belonging to Christ. What glorifies God is what is beneficial, not principally to themselves, but to their community. Paul interprets being members of Christ in a radical way by proposing that this intimate union with Christ is analogous to a sexual union. For Paul, the body is not just an ephemeral entity inferior to the soul. Rather, it is the locus of the union with Christ in the life of the Christian. Paul urges them and us to remember that because their bodies are united to Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells in them, making their very bodies sacred temples.

In John’s Gospel Jesus is deciding not just where to go next but who to call and take with him. All the Gospels agree that it is not enough to believe in Jesus. The call to discipleship consists in following him. Jesus had the capacity to see a person in their true light. The encounter with Christ is a potent force that propels Philip and Nathaniel. It is the sheer presence of Christ that draws them. Their call is not so much a call to mission as it is an invitation to an epiphany, or more accurately, a Christophany. Jesus the Son of Man is the ultimate ladder stretching between earth and heaven. He is the point of contact between the finite and the infinite, the conjunction of time and eternity.

Our call to relationship, as that of those encountering God in today’s readings, is a two-way street, involving talking, listening, and responding. How do our preconceptions of God and God’s activity prevent us from an authentic encounter with God? We have heard the phrase “created in the image and likeness of God” so often that we don’t appreciate what it says about us. Our family of origin is divine. We were created by a loving God to be love in the world. Our core is not original sin, but original blessing. Good theology cannot make up for negative anthropology. From God’s side, we are always known and loved subject to subject, just as the persons of the Trinity know and love one another. We are never an object to God. Yet, like Samuel, all too often we are sleeping, not fully sensing the divinity around us or within us. Our hearts, minds, and souls are dulled so that we can spend our lives in the temple, but never hear or recognize God’s call.

Discipleship and Christology fit together closely because discipleship is first of all a willingness to walk with Jesus. Christology unfolds in the course of discipleship. It is not obedience to an abstract set of codes, but consent to a costly, life-giving relationship. In walking with Jesus, we learn who he is. As we learn who he is, we learn what it means to follow him.

All relationships take nourishing—the one with God more than most. So many things draw us away from it. We live on the plane of the tangible and feed it with things and events and people. Those are the things that occupy our minds. The spiritual plane we take for granted, though nothing affects us more than the loss of it. When we’re lonely or depressed or agitated or frightened, the material is of little or no help. What we really need then is the anchoring that only the spiritual can bring. We need the awareness that though life is not in our hands right now, it is surely in the hands of a God who loves us. It is this anchoring in the spiritual that lifts us above the pressures of the present to the renewed consciousness of the eternal stability of the God.

The hallmark of a Benedictine community responding to God’s call lies in its prayer life. It is the essential foundation of our life. Prayer is a cultivated state. It takes time. It takes attention. Most of all it takes consistency.

Consistency is what raises simple regularity to the level of relationship. It is the awareness of God that draws us, whether or not we feel any immediate personal satisfaction.

Every spiritual tradition forms a person in some kind of regular practice designed to focus the mind and heart. Our regular prayer here reminds us that life is punctuated by God, encircled by God. To interrupt the day with prayer draws us beyond the present to the timelessness of eternity. Prayer and regular spiritual practices remind us of what we are doing, why we are doing it, and where our lives are going. It sustains us on the way. It is the effort to put ourselves in the presence of God over and over again in the course of the day that prepares us for the abiding Presence that is our home.

Prayer is not a spiritual vending machine. It is also not meant to be an escape from life. Real prayer plunges us into life. It gives us new eyes. It shapes a new heart within us. It makes demands on us. It’s so easy to escape into the small self and call the escape holiness. Those who truly invest themselves in God invest themselves in others. We are put here to love, not for the sake of the other alone, but for our own sake as well. When our prayer is a journey into the heart of God, then we come to understand ourselves: our fears, our darkness, our struggles, our resistance, our choices. All too often, for social approval, or fear of risk, or self-doubt, we have learned to resist the call of God to our full development. Prayer does not simply reveal us to God and God to us. It reveals us to ourselves at the same time. The round of daily prayer can become the way we are brought to encounter ourselves.

It is our self-knowledge that equips us to love another as a person, rather than an idea.  In loving we turn ourselves over to be shaped and reshaped in life. The people who love us do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. They release the best in us. They carry us through the rough times. They stretch us beyond the confines of our own experiences to wider and truer visions. They show us the face of God.

Our call to relationship in the spiritual life is meant to be an adventure between God and the soul. Without prayer, without attention to the incompleteness in us, a relationship with God is impossible. God cannot enter and we will never be at home in ourselves until we come to who we truly are in God. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Feast of The Baptism of our Lord : January 7, 2018

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Josép R. Martínez-Cubero, OHC
The Feast Baptism of our Lord.- Sunday, January 7, 2018

To hear the sermon in its fullness click here.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and I can hear the challenger thirteen-year-old me asking the question to Padre Heraclio or Sor Davida: “Wait, why did Jesus have to be baptized? Isn’t He the Son of God?” Here at Holy Cross, our Magnificat and Benedictus antiphon for this feast goes like this: “Christ is baptized and the world is made holy; consecrated by water and the Holy Spirit.” 

In his addresses at the church in Jerusalem around the year 350, St. Cyril describes baptism this way: “Baptism, whether ancient or modern, is the hinge upon which Christian identity turns. Jesus sanctified baptism when he himself was baptized… He was baptized in order that he might impart grace and dignity to those who receive the sacrament.”

The baptism of Jesus is one of the few events of his life recorded in all four canonical Gospels. The Gospel according to Matthew tells us that Jesus wants to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). But perhaps more importantly, is that this account of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan is the first public revelation and the perfect embodiment of the triune God. The Father’s pleasure in the Son and the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is a beautiful image of the Trinitarian nature of God, the ultimate reality that is about relationship, indwelling, and interrelatedness. And the Good News of Jesus is that we are invited into that fellowship of eternal loving, and self-outpouring, and to be in holy union with that source of life that is beyond any limit we can imagine, through the life of Jesus Christ.

The practice of baptizing is mentioned directly or indirectly in most of the New Testament books. The experience of baptism was not merely an act of religious initiation, but rather, the explicit way in which a believer became related to Christ, and through Christ to God. So, the Feast of the Baptism of Christ is the feast of our baptism, too.  To be baptized is to be “in Christ,” to be members of his body, the church, and thus to share a common way of life. St. Thomas Aquinas called baptism “the door of the sacraments” because it integrated the diverse human reality into a single body, thus establishing the fundamental ground plan of unity in faith.

Like with all other sacraments, baptism presumes faith. Without faith, it becomes an external ritual without internal meaning. Faith is God’s gift to those who recognize and trust this Incarnation-presence of God and who have been incorporated into this self-disclosure of God in Christ. In his essay The Structure of Christian Community, The Rev. Dr. Louis Weil writes: “Faith is given sacramental articulation through incorporation in baptism, and this unity is in turn signified and deepened through the common Eucharistic meal. Without faith, the sacraments are like a body without breath or blood.”

In baptism, we are charged with following and imitating Jesus in ultimate self-sacrifice for the salvation of the world. We are to participate in the identity of Jesus- prophet, priest, and servant- and in his mission of establishing the Reign of God in this world, and to persevere in resisting the Kingdom of Satan, that is, the evil caused by human choice, both individual and societal, personal and systemic. This is the mission to which we are called at baptism when we reaffirm our renunciation of evil. We renounce Satan and all his works. That is, we disaffiliate from the reality construction of the Evil One, and become members of Christ’s body.

This resistance against evil cannot be done through “flight from the world”, by avoiding, ignoring, or not wanting to have anything to do with the values, and behaviors of the world, and living the Christian life as purely as possible within the ecclesial community or “away from it all”. It cannot be achieved entirely by picking up the pieces of the destructive work of evil, caring for the oppressed, the sick, the orphaned, the imprisoned, the homeless. Yes, caring for these victims of the world is important, and good work. These approaches can be Gospel-motivated, and they are blessed by Jesus. They are well-intentioned, and even often effective. But they address the effects of evil rather than its roots, and express a kind of acceptance that, “that’s the way things are”. So we offer as much help as we can to the victims of evil because, well “that’s what good Christians do”, as we make our way, we think, to heaven. Doing good in the world is not Christian ministry. It is a directive for all human beings and does not have to flow from any particular faith commitment. You do not have to be a Christian to be a good human being.

Jesus did not flee the world. And his miracles of healing, feeding, exercising, and so forth, were not just palliative care for those fortunate enough to come into contact with him. Jesus really intended to establish the Reign of God here on earth. As baptized Christians we are called to continue the mission and ministry of Jesus, to subvert the Kingdom of Satan and to foster the Reign of God. This demands that we place the good of others before our own, even to the point of giving our own life completely, in love, even to the point of death. It requires humility, obedience, surrender, and the cross. As Jesus did, we die but are also raised to new life.

In her book, Buying the Field, Sister Sandra Schneiders writes: “Jesus confronted every kind of death, not just natural mortality but the death caused by human evil. He healed the death of the senses in blindness and deafness; the death of the body in paralysis and atrophy and fever; social death by exclusion and marginalization because of gender or race or social status; economic death by poverty and debt; and especially religious and spiritual death by exclusion from worship because of sin or impurity. Jesus said, ‘God does not will or cause any of this and God can and will handle all of it. You are safe no matter what happens to you because God counts every hair of your head and can supply every need, and remedy every ill.’”

In baptism, we renounce all evil desires that draw us from the love of God. And, so, wherever we may go, and whatever we may do or have done to us, yet God continues to love us, accept us, and hold on to us. We are “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit”. (Ephesians 1:14). We are beloved children of God. With us, God is well pleased. Let us go forth and proclaim this Good News: “You are a beloved child of God. With you, God is well pleased.” And let’s see what happens. ~ ¡Que así sea! Amen.


  • Esther de Waal, Seeking Life: The Baptismal Invitation of the Rule of St. Benedict (Liturgical Press, 2009)
  • Jeffrey Lee, Opening the Prayer Book (Cowley Publications, 1999)
  • Charles P. Price and Louis Weil, Liturgy for Living (Morehouse Publishing, Revised Edition, 2000)
  • Arthur A. Vogel, editor, Theology in Anglicanism (Morehouse-Barlow, 1984)
  • Sandra Schneiders, IHM, Buying the Field: Catholic Religious Life in Mission to the World (Paulist Press, 2013)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Feast of The Epiphany: January 6, 2018

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Aidan Owen, OHC
The Epiphany - Saturday, January 6, 2018

To hear the sermon in its fullness click here.

Br. Aidan Owen, OHC

Not too much light.