A local guest prepared the following homily for his parish and then shared it with us before Vespers yesterday:
2 Samuel 7:4, 8-16
Romans 4: 13-18
May the words of my mouth + and the meditation of all our hearts
Be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
I am a little younger than 12 years old, in the fourth or fifth grade; I wake up one morning and decide I would play a bit of a trick on my mother. Mom always makes sure we are awake, up, and getting ready for school. This particular morning, I wake early, creep downstairs to the living room, and hide under the sewing machine table. When mom comes looking for me, I’ll pop out and yell boo. That’s the plan, anyway.
Mom goes to my room and doesn’t see me there. She goes looking for me… just not in the living room. When I hear commotion on the main floor, I decide to reveal myself. I come upstairs to the sight of my mom, eyes brimming with tears, in the open doorway to our apartment. My mother thinks I ran away or was kidnapped. My mother’s demeanor reflects very much what must’ve been Mary’s when she speaks to the twelve-year-old Jesus: “How could you do this to us? Did you not know that your step-father and I were looking for you?”
Unlike the account in this morning’s Gospel, no explanation on my part would have satisfied my mother. She was trembling, fearful, and yes, a bit angry. That look is burned in my mind and I swear to myself then and there that I would never hurt my mother by running away. And I never did.
Picture the scene of Jesus and his parents at the temple: Jesus, an innocent child not grasping the trouble he caused; Mary shaken, but relieved; and Joseph, as traditionally depicted in Christian art, is aged, with grey hair, and worn out from all the walking. According to current scholarship, Joseph was not an old man. He was likely closer in age to Mary than previously thought. If Joseph had grey hairs, Jesus probably gave them to him! Holy Scripture does not give us much information on Joseph, but in what is written, there is a wealth of spiritual wisdom.
Our Lord and his family are at the end of their Passover celebration: This account highlights sorrow that ends in the joy of finding Jesus, and with him, the joy of adjusting one’s focus on God’s love. Imagine your kid has gone off in a crowded city. Think back on the times that, for whatever reason, your children caused you anxiety. Many of us, if not all of us, have either been an anxious parent or have been the cause of a parent’s anxiety. It is not uncommon for children to wander astray from their parents loving instructions and guidance. Mary and Joseph’s three days of tireless searching for Jesus in Jerusalem is just one example of woes for this Nazarene family. It is not the only time that Mary and Joseph ask hard questions and are puzzled at the turnings of their lives.
Years earlier, when an angel visits Mary and gives her the news of Jesus’ conception, she, having never been with a man, asks, “How can this be?” I bet her next question was, “How will I explain this to Joseph?”
At some point, Mary tells Joseph that she is pregnant. We read in another Gospel account that Joseph is troubled at her news. He knows the rules of his society: you marry good girls who are virgins. Mary’s claims are just too wild. If he publicly exposes her infidelity, she will be labeled as impure and stoned to death. Imagine Joseph’s inner turmoil. Imagine the questions that run through his mind. He suspects that his fiancé has not been faithful to their commitment. Even worse, he fears that the woman he loves will be killed. Mary would know firsthand that “the law brings wrath.” Joseph decides to quietly dissolve their engagement. But it is the voice of love, come to Joseph by an angel in a dream that settles Joseph’s anxiety and convinces him to wed Mary anyway. God, who is always the God of life, intervenes and saves Mary and Joseph from ruin.
Mary and Joseph’s relationship is off to a rocky start when they should have been lost in the bliss of the honeymoon period. They have troubles all throughout their relationship. But, for Mary and Joseph, love is the guiding principle and foundation of their lives and their relationship. It is the root of love that binds Mary and Joseph together and by which they are able to nurture and bring forth the fruit of her womb.
Among Christians, Joseph has long been honored as a saint. Engaged and newly married couples have asked him, their patron, for prayers on their behalf. Like Mary and Joseph, may we always answer the demands of our marriages and various relationships with love.
After their child’s birth, in order to escape the slaughter commanded by Herod, Mary and Joseph seek refuge in Egypt. Joseph is the patron of so many things! Here we find reason to believe that Joseph takes a special interest in refugees. Mary and Joseph are faced with more sorrow, but they stick together and through love bring Jesus safely into the world. Joseph’s intercession has also been sought as the protector of families and children. May we always see the face of God in the faces of our children.
Joseph has been a special saint for me also. At Confirmation, I chose a patron saint– a lifelong spiritual companion and model of Christian living. I chose Joseph of Nazareth, because he is totally dedicated to Jesus and Mary. Joseph focuses on the Lord and helps bring our Savior Emmanuel into this world. Total dedication to Jesus with the saints, focus on the Lord, and bringing our savior who we know as “God with us” to the world is the joy of every Christian!
For the longest time the idea of Joseph as totally dedicated to Jesus and Mary is merely a nice abstract to me. It isn’t until most recently that my connection to Saint Joseph becomes personal and apparent in my life.
Working as a teacher’s aide, I often ask Saint Joseph, the patron of workers and of children, to pray for me, my co-workers and the students. I ask for God’s grace to bring the staff’s capacity to love and nurture through the door of every classroom we enter.
For more than half my life, I have sought the Lord Jesus Christ and to live in his love. I have seen so much goodness, love, life, and joy in people, and in community, because hearts are gathered around Christ. In response to the love that I have known, I seek to give myself and my talents to the work of sharing the good news that God’s love is for all people. I often ask Saint Joseph the patron and protector of the universal Church for prayers when I do anything related to the Kingdom of God. It is such an honor to speak to you today on the feast of Saint Joseph, my patron saint!
Today’s message is about journeys, our journeys through life, our journeys with God, in God’s love. At the heart of today’s message, the beginning of Jesus’ journey is a young Christ who is listening to others and asking questions. Love in the flesh enters the world that Love created; Love enters in and listens and asks its questions. Love poured out, abundant life, and relentless grace is the business of the Father that Jesus is concerned with. Jesus wants us to enjoy and share what he has prepared!
LOVE MUST BE EMBODIED ALSO IN US and enter into the lives we are given. Love in us must seek where God’s love is waiting, wanting to be found. We need to listen to each other and ask questions. We all want answers for the struggles of this earthly life. But, we cannot neglect the seeking of the right questions as well as the right answers. Caution in our lives is not unreasonable. However, we mustn’t allow fear to prevent us from the work of sharing God’s love.
After all, isn’t love the basis of everything? In reality, all we do on a personal, familial, communal, national, and global level is based on how much or how little we love. Too often our communication falls short of love and serves to show us and others how right we are. But, in all things, our business with God, our good Father, is to listen lovingly and to ask the questions of love—the love that is of Christ.
In today’s gospel, Love proceeds from the midst of the learned men in the temple and goes home with Mary and Joseph. There, he grows and gains favor with men and with God. With Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, may we learn to be “at home” together– living, growing, and loving in harmony with each other and with God.
Jesus, Love in the flesh, goes through his entire life to bring wisdom, healing and strength to all. Through his work, he builds up his community: touching people of all walks, daring to reach beyond all boundaries. Our journey through Lent will acquaint us with the difficulties and opposition that Jesus knew in his ministry. But, not even fear of death makes Jesus waver from his love for us. How much Jesus must be influenced by the example of his earthly father! Like Joseph does with Mary, we are to bear each other’s burdens! Our Lord asks us to follow his path, to be busy with the Father’s business of love for all… even while taking up our crosses.
The way of love is not always easy. Mary and Joseph’s journey, despite troubles, does not end in sorrow, but in blessedness. It is assumed that Joseph dies in the arms of Mary and his savior. Certainly, our Lord would have said to him, “Come, you that are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” For this reason, Joseph is regarded as the patron of the dying. Joseph’s faith and life with Christ was not the way of a dead-end but the beginning of the journey towards true and everlasting life! Let your journeys go this way. Let love’s light be triumphant over the shadows of death that darken the various corners of life.
Looking back on your lives, perhaps you too will find that throughout your journeys Joseph and Mary have been your companions? Trusting in God and convinced of love, look ahead with Christ, and go forward boldly!
Finally, I leave you with the Blessing of Saint Joseph:
May the poverty of my sweet and suffering little child be your riches;
his sighs and tears the consolation of your days;
the love of his heart, all your earthly treasure;
and the clear vision of his adorable and glorified humanity,
your eternal joy and recompense.
Evagrius Ponticus was a 4th Century Desert Father and spiritual writer. Sister Donald wrote the following poem during a trip to Cairo in 1986.
Evagrius was with me…
Evagrius was with me—
Imperceptible on the tour bus
A return visit
After nearly 1600 years.
Monk of the then flowering desert—
He mused again at Great Cheops___
Where did death go?
That mummy at the British Museum?
And he, poor resurrection monk___
Still guiding in the holy sand.
Sister Donald Corcoran, OSB, cam
Cairo 1986, © 2017
In the light of recent tensions, Sister Sheila was moved to write the following, which she read at the end of the Sunday Vigil Mass a couple of weeks ago:
“Peace” is the motto of the Benedictine Order, along with “Work and Pray”. Our mission as a contemplative Benedictine community is to provide an oasis of peace and prayer, centered on Christ our Savior, Redeemer and King, in a troubled world.
Especially in times of conflict in civil society, we remind ourselves of St. Paul’s words: “Since you have been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died and now the life you live is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3: 1-3)
Benedictine communities in Rwanda and the Ivory Coast are admirable examples of monastics from warring ethnic groups making a concerted effort to live together in peace by staying focused on Christ. We would like to propose this model to all who come to worship in our chapel.
Some of us are delighted at recent political developments, others are extremely upset, and then there are those in the middle. We would like people of all political persuasions to be able to find the peace of Christ in our chapel. Christ ultimately is our peace.
To this end, we would like our chapel and the area between the chapel and the sacristy to be a politics-free zone. If you would like to get together with Father or the Sisters to discuss the political situation, we’ll be available to talk at another time, in another place, but please, not before or after this sacred time when we come together to meet Christ in the Eucharist.
Jerry (tall, with the beard) and Jengo (small, with the tail) were our overnight guests last night. They did several performances at First Knight, New Year’s Eve festivities in Windsor, sponsored by local churches and the Community Center. Jerry brought us a gift of cinnamon swirl whole wheat bread that he had made himself. They were delightful guests, and we hope they’ll come back some day.
Yesterday, we celebrated the birth of Love with Christmas. Today, we memorialize a man, who filled with Love, came up against the cruelty and harshness of the world and was killed by those who could not see Love. December 26th is the feast of Saint Stephen, the first martyr. His story is as follows:
When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. And Saul approved of their killing him. (Acts 7:54-8:3)
As I was driving to Transfiguration Monastery in Windsor, NY, I passed my high school, where up until about a month ago a young man, a freshman, also attended. My heart sank to think of him and how his parents must be grieving him, their son whom they lost to suicide. My heart sank further to think that it was cruelty in this world that killed him, the cruelty of his fellow classmates. Yesterday, I was speaking to a friend of his parents and learned how students constantly taunted him for being small-framed, and called him “gay.”
This young man was not gay. Gayness and sexuality is not the point. Cruelty is. It is very much the point that we must persist in the doing of all good works that Love has prepared for us to walk in; we must continue to teach our children love. We must refuse ignorance and teach our children that individuality is not something of which to be afraid, something we must push away from us. We must open our eyes to the truth of our commonality—this young man was a son, a grandson, a friend. He was a student with his own dreams, a hope for our future. He laughed, cried, loved, learned, and wanted to be included in his community the same as we laugh, cry, love, learn, and want.
It was more than stones that killed Stephen. It was the anger of the men which blinded them to Love that killed him. Stephen only lost his body in death. They could not kill Stephen’s spirit—even at the point of being stoned, in love for those who were cruel to him, Stephen prayed. Stephen did not lose sight of Love. In reality, the greater death here was not Stephen’s, but his community’s. Like Stephen, we must fix our gaze on Love.
It says that Saul approved of their killing Stephen. It says in other translations that Saul “was complicit” in Stephen’s death. Saul was later converted and worked for the love of the same community that he once persecuted. He was renamed Paul and joined the ranks of Jesus’ Apostles. It is Love that brought both Stephen and Saul to peace. It is Love that saved them.
We do not want to be a community complicit in death. But, if we do not teach our children to respect each other, to see themselves in each other, that is what we have—a community complicit in death. That is not what living together in this world is to be about. We are here to live life, to praise life, to love life. To be alive and thrive in this life, we need what we desire in the deepest parts of ourselves—love. We are beings that are sustained by love permeating every facet of our lives. We must love Love.
With Stephen, let us gaze to the heavens if we must. But, each of us, let us gaze within ourselves—then we will find an opening to the vision of where Love stands. Let us see Love and in Love let us know how to live fully who we are. Let us love so much that we pray for each other’s forgiveness in our part of wrongdoing. Let us love so much that we drop our stones that they draw blood no more.
We may in some corner of our thinking be like Saul, hardened against love and life. But we can become Paul, we can become people of life. We can defend life by teaching love. We can love our lives that we cherish for ourselves so much that we ensure that others can live. Eventually, Love came around and it is what converted Saul and renamed him Paul. Each of us, doing our part, can covert our community.
If we are persecuted, we can sling stone for stone and hope to come out on top. Or we can be like Stephen. We can refuse to let anything that others do to us detract our gaze from Love. We can refuse to let hatred cycle through us and creep into our thinking. We can be like Stephen and love at all costs. If we find ourselves in unkind situations, we must have faith that our actions of returning love for hatred will have an effect. Not allowing cruelty to continue with us; one by one, perhaps this is the only way we can truly honor the life of that young man from my high school who shot himself.
A sermon written by a bishop long ago was read during prayer at the monastery. It said: Love is the ladder by which all climb to heaven and God. Let us make our ascent together!
Let us ascend to higher thinking, Let us ascend to being more pro-active in our community. Let us rise and meet our challenges so that no more parents will feel they have failed their children, that no more students will feel that one of them is so unbearable that they must put one outside their margins, that no person be pushed out of life altogether, that no more teachers are left wondering what more could they have done to protect the students in their schools.
Let there be no more death, except the death of harshness, derision, ignorance, and hatred. Let all that is against life, life for all, be killed by your love. Let all that is against precious life be what love kills.
© 2016 Daniel E Crocker Jr
Prayer for Balance – Jennifer Lothrigel
Oh Bringer of butterflies and bumble bees— Creatrix of cockroaches and caribous, whisper the truth upon our bones, that we may never forget the place of all things within the grand Universe, including our own unique being and that of the person whom we dislike most.
Oh Composer of remarkable accomplishments, ladders to climb and couches to rest upon with our feet up, may we marvel equally upon contrasting moments as if each one is a divine love letter from God herself.
Oh Trickster, dear Spinster— please spare us your jokes when our egos lead us astray. For we are prone to loss of consciousness, particularly during hard times. May you ease our life lessons by settling us back gently into our heart of hearts. And may those steady heart beats be the chords of wisdom that plug us back into our soul.
Oh You, whoever might lift just half the sorrows— leave us only the most important lessons you have in store for our human race. And if you must persist in teaching these lessons, give us each other in a more accessible way that we might set aside what we fear about one another and work together to transcend them.
Oh Great Creator of the original essence that permeates all living things, forgive us for creating things that pollute our Earth home.
Lastly, oh Earth Mother, may we not feel separate from You. Reweave our chords of light so that they descend to us directly from Your lineage so we may all see that we come from the same ancestors once and for all.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s life’s may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives with forethought
Of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.
The following was submitted by our good friend, Rosalie Krajci:
Odyssey of an Oblate
It didn’t take much to persuade me.
A couple of years ago I made a short retreat at Transfiguration Monastery. One of my purposes was to learn more about monasticism. Not that I was thinking of entering the monastery, but rather, drawn to the spirituality of monasticism, I wanted to learn about the “monastery of the heart.”
The very concept of monasticism – the totality of its dedication to the interior life, to a growing intimacy with God – had appealed to me long ago, even in my teens. But life takes us on different paths and here I was, close to where I had wanted to be so long ago.
After a short but substantive conversation with Sister Mary Donald, she gave me copies of some of her articles, along with the Esther de Waal book, Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict. That sounded like just the thing, as indeed it was!
I resumed going to Mount Saviour Monastery which is less than a ten-minute ride from my home and had some conversations with then-prior Father Joseph Gabriel. He told me I needed to write him a letter requesting acceptance as an Oblate of Mt. Saviour. I composed and sent the letter that very day. He later described the simple process: I would attend a brief rite to publicly express my desire and choose a name. This part was easy too, and just seemed to pop out of my mouth. My patroness? Mary Magdalene whose feast just “happened” to be within the next 10 days!
Father Joseph steered me to the writings of Michael Casey, OCSO, who explores in depth every word of the Rule. I was formally received last year, shortly before Father Joseph left.
While the whole process of my becoming an Oblate seems very short and maybe even inordinately swift, I must emphasize that this had been in my mind and heart for many years. The decision was relatively quick only because it had been gestating in my spirit for literally decades, even if at times it had been submerged beneath other activities.
How did I decide so spontaneously on Mary Magdalene? Certainly, Thérèse of Lisieux has long been a favorite of mine since girlhood. But Mary Magdalene seemed closer to the adult me. She was one of the few to endure watching the lengthy dying of Jesus crucified. How much love and strength did that require! She was then the first to see and speak to the risen Christ. In her great love and joy, she threw herself at his feet, clinging to him, not wanting to be separated from him. Christ commissioned her to give the good news to the brother apostles. He had total trust that she would do this, even though this was a very bold action for a woman.
There is much we do not know about Mary’s apostolate after that. Pope Francis has just “upgraded” her feast day, July 22, to the same level of celebration that is accorded to the other apostles. After so many centuries when she was associated with practically every fallen woman in the Gospels, it is a true grace to have her honored in this way.
Yes, she had needed serious help from our Lord. Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus had expelled seven demons from her. Like any other Christian, she undoubtedly was flawed. And with us, all of us flawed, she received forgiveness with great joy and gratitude. I’m in good company.