50 Days of Easter Tide
The drive to the monastery provided splendid assurance that God’s favorite color is green. And whoever said that green and blue do not belong together? Green rolling forests and spotless blue skies, yes! -- especially when sprinkled with patches of Daisies along the entire route.
The Roses on the perimeter of the Garth are particularly colorful this Spring -- red, yellow, pink, white -- prolific enough to be brought into the Church and placed at the icons along the hall in order to extend the Easter celebration. The Easter Candle persisted, the banners shouted, the stoles emitted pure whiteness, and “Alleluias” freely interspersed our liturgy. Plastic flowers edged the bottom of the Black Madonna tapestry in the Refectory. Everything seemed determined that we would have all 50 days of Eastertide in fullness.
A letter from one of Br. Andrew’s children indicated that he is now safely established in Paris -- with his daughter being a doctor in France. The Bishops of the U.S. met recently over the situation of President Biden and the abortion issue, resulting in a call for a Eucharistic Conference to be held in three years. During this time, Catholics are called upon to deepen their devotion for and their practice of the Eucharist. Missouri bishops decided to call upon the three monastic communities in our area to spearhead this appeal with our prayers. So over a week ago, a mass was held here with the three communities at which time a pledge was signed by the leaders. Afterwards there was a banquet, with the sisters providing music. Br, Andrew was honored, and each community subsequently held a send-off for him. But, alas, the expense encouraged him to leave without his cherished books. # Fr. Basil has returned from the Motherhouse in Vietnam indicating that all there is well. # Br. Hilary will be leaving in a month to study theology for four years, leaving us a bit short. But Brs. Roberto and Ignatius have both received appointments with the Embassy; and if all is successful, they will be coming here perhaps by September. # Br. Austin spent the week in his cell. suffering from a severe migraine headache. # Appearing on the Bulletin Board was a note apparently written by the returning Swallows, composed with a Vietnamese accent, protesting the less than hospitable manner in which they were greeted this spring. No apology has yet appeared. # The perennial physical cold is still being gratuitously shared by the monks. # The grass in the Garth was mowed early Tuesday morning, so, as I suspected, soon thereafter our guests were a three-person TV crew from the local PBC station to prepare a Christmas feature. # Fr. Alberic [AA] is still in the free Rosary Repair Business, to which I can give personal testimony. + Apparently the fountain is turned on for the season, but at the moment it is not even a good rendition of a sinking battleship. # Years ago we had a lighted clock mounted on the Church wall by the Sacristy. In time, one of our Abbots removed it, apparently witnessing that monks live not by chronos time but kairos time. This week there reappeared a clock, this time a digital one, mounted at nearly the same spot. So each of you can “figure” out the possible significance. + The garden has not yet begun this year, in part because of heavy rain; but plants are awaiting in tbe Green House. + A couple was with us this week as retreatants, only sporadically participating. A single retreatant was here for the weekend.
Our homily Tuesday began with an incredible event. St. Paul had been preaching the Good News in Lystra, when he was betrayed, taken out of the city, and there stoned and left for dead. But the Christians there encircled him, prayed, and he underwent his own resurrection -- rising and walking confidently to the next town. What a test of faith -- that a person would risk his very life for a Jesus that he saw only once in a vision. And even more, dared to return to this very town that almost killed him, because he wished to reassure the Church there that all is well -- that the Good News is indeed good, good enough to be trusted both in life and in death. All of this gives us cause of ponder -- what IS IT about the Good News that is so good that one is not only willing to give one’s life for it but then risks yet a second time? If each of us were asked to express in one word what is good about the Good News, what would it be? Today’s gospel from John does just that. The one word given is “Peace.” “Peace is my farewell to you,” declares Jesus, “My peace is my gift to you.” Yes, “peace” is the one word, peace of a very special kind -- for, as Jesus declares, it “conquers both distress and fear.” Our war-torn world is crying out for peace, but the hymn wisely sings, “Let there be peace on earth, [but] let it begin with me.” Each time that the risen Christ appears to his disciples, his first word is “Peace” -- “Peace be with you!” So it is that St. Francis famously prayed, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace” -- in the face of hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness, sadness -- in the face of everything to the contrary, “Lord let me be peace.” This is what it means to receive the Holy Spirit -- to be gifted with a PEACE that passes all understanding, for it withstands every possible threat. No matter what happens, through it all, one’s soul remains tranquil and serene -- yes, at peace. This is good -- very, very good news. And St. Paul understood the source. This kind of peace comes from knowing that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” How fine if we would take from this Easter Season as a mantra for Ordinary Time this one word that captures what is good about the Good News -- “Lord, give us PEACE.”
The opening scene for Sunday’s homily should not be a surprise for those of us who have had much experience with the Church. You guessed it -- they were having a controversy. The issue is circumcision, which doesn’t sound like a huge issue. But actually it is. At stake is whether the Church is to remain a Jewish sect, or whether it is to become a new religion open to every person on the face of the earth! And how they made their decision was to stand as model for key decisions that the Church was to make from then on. In the midst of their arguing, Peter arose and reminded the assembly that Christ had given them the gift of the Holy Spirit for just such a time. The group grew quiet and very still. And soon the decision became unanimous. Now listen carefully to how they described what happened. “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and thus to us . . .” The Holy Spirit had decided! The decision happened not by one side surrendering to the other; or by voting so that there were winners and losers. Rather it was through prayer that a unanimous decision was possible -- by listening carefully to both sides, and then in silence feeling beneath the words the tug of the Holy Spirit, as, deeply within, the will of God was quietly birthed. And so it has been with most crucial decisions made during the Church’s history; but there were also times when the Church went astray, deciding in a secular win-lose fashion, leaving the Church split, bruised, and sometimes bleeding. Vatican II realized this, and so it affirmed what they called “the sense of the faithful” -- meaning that it is the whole body of the faithful who shares Christ’s prophetic office. Therefore when there is a consensus, they “cannot err in matters of belief.” So when the Church declared the infallibility of the Pope, what was meant was not that the Pope was give a singular power of declaring the truth TO the Church, but was given the responsibility to express the truth OF the Church FOR the Church. It is the whole Church who by consensus discerns the will of the Holy Spirit. Thus Pope Benedict made clear that when the consensus of the Church is not available, a definitive decision is not possible. And when a consensus is not available, then Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Francis all agreed -- that it is one’s own conscience that must then be obeyed. And this is the way in which we should make the important decisions in our own lives. We are to gather the best information that we can, consult others that we trust, and then sink quietly into the depth of God in openness to be led. To be a Christian means living, as did Jesus, not according to our own will but according to the will of God. As the Christian poet T. S. Elliot put it, in each new moment it is through prayer that we are to touch the yearnings of God, experienced as hints and guesses, and only then followed with action.
May the celebration of Ascension this coming Thursday (observed on Sunday in some places) take us one step further -- into belief that the humanity which Jesus assumed in the Incarnation and glorified in the Resurrection includes all of us as it takes up ongoingly the works of our hands into the Kingdom, as God is becoming All in all.
What more could we possibly want? Maybe Pentecost on the following Sunday -- empowering us to become pentecost! :-)