Thursday, May 25, 2017





The Church allows the faithful to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension either on the traditional Thursday, or on the following Sunday in order that more of its members can participate. Here in the monastery we celebrate it today, so we’d like to share with you part of the reading we hear at Vigils. It's from a homily by St. Augustine:
Ascension, Giotto (c. 1305)
As he was about to ascend, he spoke the last words he was to utter on earth. At the moment of going up to heaven, the head commended to our care the members he was leaving on earth, and so departed. No longer will you find Christ speaking on earth; in the future he will speak from heaven. Why will he speak from heaven? Because his members are being trampled underfoot on earth. He spoke to Saul the persecutor from above, saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I have ascended to heaven, but I still remain on the earth. Here at the Father’s right hand I sit, but there I still hunger and thirst and am without shelter.’
...My friends, you have Christian hearts. Think, then; if the words of one who is on the way to the grave are so sweet, so precious, so important to his heirs, what must the last words of Christ mean to his heirs as he departs, not for the grave but for heaven! When a person has lived and died his soul is borne away to another place while his body is laid in the ground. Whether his last request is carried out or not, it matters little to him now. He has other things to do or suffer. His corpse lies in the grave, feeling nothing. And yet his dying wishes are carefully obeyed! If that is so, what will be the lot of those who fail to observe the parting words of the one who is seated in heaven and who looks down to see whether they are flouted or not – the words of him who said: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? and who reserves for the Day of Judgement all that he sees his members suffer?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sixth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

At the Last Supper, Jesus prepared his disciples (and that includes us) not only for his Passion and Resurrection, but also for his Ascension to the Father (Jn. 14:15-21). Yet he promised he would not leave us orphans. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.

Pope Francis spoke about this gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, 2013:
Holy Spirit, Bernini (St. Peter's Basilica)
The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ.
The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter,” who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel!
The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission? Today let us remember these three words: newness, harmony and mission.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

Nine years ago, on April 20, 2008, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium while visitng the United States. He commented on the Mass readings, drawing a parallel between the increase in numbers of the early Church recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:1-7) to the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States. The full text is given on the Vatican website; here's a small selection of his words:
Christ Pantokrator (St. Catherine's, 6th c.)
Authority” … “obedience.” To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a “stumbling stone” for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom. Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ – “the way and the truth and the life” – we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words.
The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. “In his will is our peace.”
 Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on “the mind of Christ” (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the “apostolate” of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God’s saving plan.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

“I am the gate for the sheep,” Jesus tells his disciples (John 10:1-10). “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” This Gospel passage continues the Easter celebration of the central mystery of Christianity: Jesus saved us from our sins by giving his life for us on the Cross and rising from the dead. Here's part of a commentary from the early Church Father St. Clement, a convert from paganism and bishop of Alexandria, who lived  ca. 150-215:
In our sickness we need a savior, in our wanderings a guide, in our blindness someone to show us the light, in our thirst the fountain of living water which quenches for ever the thirst of those who drink from it. We dead people need life, we sheep need a shepherd, we children need a teacher, the whole world needs Jesus!
Pasture us children like sheep, Lord. Fill us with your own food, the food of righteousness. As our guide we pray you to lead us to your holy mountain, the Church on high, touching the heavens....
How bountiful the giver who for our sake gives his most precious possession, his own life! He is a real benefactor and friend, who desired to be our brother when he might have been our Lord, and who in his goodness even went so far as to die for us!