Sunday, November 25, 2012

Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe

Jn. 18:33-37

In today’s Gospel, Jesus stands trial before Pilate. Our Lord says that He has come to bear witness to the truth and all who are “of the truth” hear His voice.  We may ask with Pilate, “What is truth?”  The ancient philosophers would tell us that truth is WHAT IS.  St. Thomas Aquinas would tell us that we must be humble before the truth.  It is what it is and our duty is to seek it, find it, and then embrace it.  Unfortunately, modern philosophers and pendants would tell us that truth is what we decide it is.  How do we decide?  Well, of course, according to our own convenience!  So, what is true becomes what we like, what gives us pleasure, advancement, praise, or whatever we want at the moment.  Pilate decided that the politically convenient solution was “true” and so he condemned an innocent man to a most cruel death.  When an unborn child proves inconvenient to his or her mother, then our society has decreed that this child is not a human being.  The truth about marriage is contested by those who find pleasure in “alternative lifestyles”. 
Our Lord has said in another place that He, Himself, IS the truth.  He is also the way to the truth and He is the life that comes from the truth.  He is the standard by which we judge all of reality.  Origen, an early Christian writer, says, “There should be in us a kind of spiritual paradise where God may walk and be our sole ruler with His Christ.  In us the Lord will sit at the right hand of that spiritual power which we wish to receive.  And He will sit there until all His enemies who are within us become His footstool.”
Few of us have the opportunity to fight the Lord’s battles on the stage of world history, but each of us has the responsibility to do so on the field of our own hearts.  Our Father St. Francis began the reform of the Church and his society by first reforming himself.  Let us follow his example by conforming our lives according to the truth that is Christ.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Full and Lasting Happiness

Last year the church gifted us with the long awaited new translation of the Roman Missal.  At Bethlehem monastery we have often reflected together and commented on the riches of the prayers that are now directly available to us.  This Sunday’s opening prayer for Holy Mass is no exception.  “Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good.”  Here we ask God to give us constant gladness and are reminded of the true source of all joy.  We spend much of our time seeking happiness in the wrong places-physical or emotional comforts, the esteem or admiration of others, power and self assertion.  Even Poor Clares, although our resources for such vain pursuits are by our own free choice more limited, can also fall into the trap of seeking superficial rather than lasting joy.  It takes a deep faith to see that full and lasting happiness is found only in God, the author of all that is good.  In Him is ALL the good we are seeking in those other seemingly more attainable “goods”.  Someone has said, “God is enough, God is enough, and everything else is not enough”.  It is only in loving and serving Him, not sporadically but with constancy, that we will find that fulfillment which will at last quiet the longing of our hearts.  The paradox here is that in the Kingdom, to serve is to reign, to die is to live and losing is so much gain.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Giving Our Two Cents Worth

It is said that our Father St. Francis gave two coins to God:  his body and his soul.  But are these not paltry gifts to give, if not for St. Francis, then surely for us, with all our faults and failings, our wrinkles and our warts?  Would it not be better for us to give the Divine Majesty some wonderful work or some magnificent sum of money for His greater honor and glory?  But if we ask this question, then we show that we are losing sight of the truth that God is first of all a Lover, and Christ is the Bridegroom of every human being, not their CEO.  And what ardent lover would ever be satisfied with anything his beloved gave him if she withheld herself?  Of course, whoever has the means to do great things ought to use them, but all is worthless in the sight of God if it does not spring from and is an expression of the essential self-gift of love.

We little Poor Clares are icons of this glorious reality.  Like the poor widow in today’s Gospel, we are without an earthly husband, without material possessions, and of little worth in the sight of men.  But we joyfully cast our “two cents worth”, our bodies and our souls, our entire selves, into the treasury of the Church, confident that we are precious in God’s sight and that He will use us to enrich His Kingdom.  And we hope that when you feel “like two cents”, that you will think of us and rejoice to know how valuable you are to God.  You are worth the Precious Blood of Christ!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Eventful Week

 It has been an eventful week at Bethlehem Monastery!  Hurricane Sandy was due to arrive here on Tuesday, so we had all our array of battery operated hurricane lamps, flashlights and extension cords ready to keep our 21st century lives going should our electrical power be blown away.  Thank God we do have a generator which gives us light and outlets in our hallways plus keeps our mechanical room and kitchens in operation.  The rest is left to our ingenuity and experience of many power outages over the years since we moved to Mt. St. Francis.  Since it looked as if Sandy was determined to disrupt that very significant, bi-monthly event in our feminine monastery known as “Washday”, my own ingenuity was working overtime.  Delaying washday creates havoc in our domestic scheduling, so I had determined to take my life into my hands in order to save the situation.
 When we rose at midnight for our usual prayers and office of Matins on Tuesday, the power was out.  So afterwards, I went down to the laundry, and although most of the equipment had warning tags on their electrical cords threatening me with personal injury or death if I dared to attach an extension cord, I did so anyway.  At least I was prudent enough to choose two older model washing machines that did not have the warning tags.  But I could not help wondering if there was some intrinsic evil I was committing.  However, by morning, (wonder of wonders!) the power had been restored and I could remove the forbidden extension cords.  Not trusting in the permanency of the miracle, I washed everything (and dried it too) before our 9AM Mass.

By Thursday we had lovely autumn weather to celebrate the great feast of All Saints.  This was also the day set for our novice, Sister Marie Elise, to make her Sacred Promises and to receive the black veil of a professed Sister.  She is a finally professed Sister from an active congregation, so instead of professing temporary vows, she simply promised to observe her vows according to our Holy Rule.  She also made a vow of enclosure which is unique to our Poor Clare Order.  The ceremony took place during Holy Mass and we were so happy that Sister Elise’s own blood sister, Mia, was able to attend.  

We love having another black veil among us!

Friday, the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, we visited our cemetery where three of our Sisters are buried.  There we offered our Rosary and other prayers for the repose of their souls.  The whole day was also one of prayer for the souls in Purgatory.  Indeed, the entire month of November is dedicated to that intention.  It is also the month when we begin our “monastic advent”, a preparation for the great Advent of the Church.  In spirit we join with Mother Nature in her slow and glorious dying, and that waiting for new life which is the coming of the Lord.  Most particularly we set our sights now on election day, praying that our new leaders will guide our nation and local governments on the path of life.