What Does the Voice of God Sound Like?

Once upon a time, a rather inebriated ice fisherman drills a hole in the ice.  He peers into the hole and a loud voice says, “There are no fishdown there.” He walks several yards away and drills another hole.  He peers into the hole and again the voice says, “There’s no fish down there.” He then walks about 50 yards away and drills another hole.  Again the voice says, “There’s no fish down there. He looks up into the sky and asks, “God, is that you?” “No, you idiot,” the voice says, “It’s the ice rink manager.”

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.”  What does the voice of God sound like?

In the Middle East, the shepherd spends a lot of time with the lambs.  The purpose is to familiarize the animal with the shepherd’s voice. Even if the flock mixes with another flock at night in the sheep pen, in the morning when the shepherd comes to call the sheep, they know his voice; they hear his call; his voice resonates within the ears of the sheep.  They follow their shepherd.  It is almost as if the shepherd and the sheep are one.

What things prevent us from listen acoustically to the voice of our shepherd? What deadens the resonating voice of the Lord is jealousy among his disciples.  Paul and Barnabas are powerful preachers in the synagogues.  One day the whole city comes out to hear them preach the Gospel.  And when the skeptics see this, they are filled with jealousy…they are filled with sharp pangs of resentment.  And instead of listening acoustically to the voice of the shepherd through Paul and Barnabas, they listen more to their suspicion, to their own evil desires, and they respond by hurling violent abuse at them.  Their thinking is “groupthink”:  God’s order is my order.  God wants what we want; God desires what we desire:  this lack of listening acoustically to the voice of the shepherd has serious consequences for our souls.

Today, what does the voice of God sound like?

The voice of God is the voice of Jesus.  The voice of Jesus is found in the Body of Christ.  That divine voice is heard in Anthony Borges, Kendrick Castillo, and Riley Howell.  All three died as they shielded their classmates from gun assailants who walked into their schools to murder people.  That divine voice is heard in Stephanie Land, a single mother. Passionate about her life, she writes a book entitled, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive.  Her “passion is giving a voice to the working poor in America,” especially women who are the majority of “domestic workers.”

Jesus tells us today, “My sheep listen acoustically to my voice.” It is the voice of the Good Shepherd who calls us to protect the defenseless lambs in our community.  There is no one social issue greater than another: whether it be guns, poverty, abortion, or racism, The Lord remains our Shepherd and we are his flock called to care for one another.  It is the whole meaning of the reception of Holy Communion.

Fr. Becket

4thSunday of Easter

Cycle C

Horn blower

 

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Follow Me

(I wish I wrote this homily.  Many of these words come from the pastoral theologian, Alice Camille.)

“Follow Me.”  These are the first words that the disciples hear from Jesus.  Today, they are the last words they hear from him.  And between these times much takes place.

Both times they find themselves at the shore of Galilee.  “’Follow Me’ must have sounded like a lark, a young man’s game, an adventure with all sorts of wonderful possible outcomes.”  What do the disciples think about when they say yes?  “This teacher might become famous…” And we?  We’ll become the “first graduates of his school.”  “This preacher might wind being a great leader…” And we? We’ll “assume powerful positions in his regime.”  “This healer might be a holy personage in God’s plan…” And we?  Well, “who doesn’t want to be at the side of the next Moses?” “At the very least, it” beats living a “normal life as a fisherman and a family man…” So, why not do it?

But, “Follow Me” is “twenty chapters, three years and a legend ago.”  “Before miracles rocked the senses,”

  • Before “deep clashes with authorities,”
  • Before those “terrible signs that made lips quiver and legs wobble.”
  • “Before the supper, the arrest, the trial, the cross.”
  • “Before horrible days and nights spent in hiding.
  • “Before the dawn of Easter, the whispers of an empty tomb…”

“Follow Me,” sounds different now.  It isn’t “a game, a mere adventure.” It is “for keeps.”  “’Follow Me’ has a very different ring to it, now that they’d seen Jesus hauled away, saw him beaten and abused, saw the lifeless body with the gaping wounds. Once you’ve stood at the tomb, walking in the footsteps of Jesus doesn’t sound like a stroll along a sandy beach.”

Three times Jesus “asks Peter for his love.” Notice that it is morning and not night like when Peter sat at a charcoal fire.  To make up for that horrible night, Jesus enters into Peter’s chaos.  Three questions of love result in three specific deeds:  “leadership, service and care.” Jesus asks “for the absolute surrender Peter thought he was giving the first time- before he read the fine print on the contract.  Now when Peter answers, his response will be more meaningful.”

What is the lesson for us today?  Most of us here today made vows of marriage. Some of us took vows of monastic life.  Some of us went into careers or we are going into serious relationships.  When we said “yes” years ago does not mean the same “yes” now.  Many of us are widows and widowers- would you do it again?  The rest of us continue to celebrate 25, 50, 55, 60, 70, or 75 years?  How many times have we gone back to read the fine print on that contract?  After so much time, what does Follow Memean now?  What we know is this:  “’forever’ is better perceived, and ‘together’ is more clearly defined.”

When Jesus told me “Follow Me” he left out that addendum to the contract.  “Oh by the way, you’ll lose your mother, father and one of your brothers before you’re sixty-five.  You’ll undergo several surgeries and yes, some of your friends will leave you and some will die.”  I think I would have said no.  Why?  Because we all struggle like Peter who first said yes, then he said no, and then he said yes. In the words of Alice Camille, “these are the times to keep a look out for someone whom God will send to be a mystic for us, like John.”  He tells Peter, “It is the Lord.”  Everyday, the crucified risen Lord enters into my chaos!  He sends me mystics to support me and inspire me. And, like the seven at the shore of Galilee, Jesus feeds me everyday with the best of food.

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

Third Sunday of Easter Cycle C

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Wounds Worth Fighting For

Once upon a time, the agnostic poet and essayist, CharlesPeguy tells a story.   Someone dies and arrives at the Pearly Gates. “The recording angel [says} to him, ‘Show me your wounds.’  ‘Wounds?’ [replies] the man, ‘I haven’t got any.’  And the angel [asks] ‘Did you never think that anything was worth fighting for?’”

Wounds.  They hurt. They scar. They heal slowly.  When wounds are public, people stare.  Or, they whisper about us when they see them especially if they leave deep red scars.  Someone once said, “Wounds are liked locked doors.”   Dr. Alyce McKenzie, says:  “…When someone…is locked in, someone else has to be locked out.”  When the disciples lock themselves in, they also think that they lock everyone else out of the room, maybe Thomas, and then of course, the crucified risen Christ.  Yet even in the middle of his Resurrection the crucified risen Christ goes to comfort the scared, lost disciples locked behind bolted doors in the upper room.  There they must confront the wounds they ran from at the Garden and at the Cross.

Whom do we behold wounded themselves as they behold the wounded risen Lord?  We see Mary Magdalene, freed of demons; Peter, freed of assault with a sword and freed of blatant denial; and all the other apostles and disciples whom Jesus frees from the guilt of abandoning him when he needed them the most.

Theologians, Robin Ryan and Jurgen Moltmann, say two important things about suffering.  1.  Suffering is an open wound that we have to learn to live with in life.  2.  Suffering does not lead us to the question of “why.”  Suffering leads us to the question of “where.” Where can I find God in all of this pain and misery?  Like those in the upper room, we find God-in-our-suffering-together. Remember what the wounded risen Lord says to those suffering in the upper room: “Grope me,” he actually says, “grope me as a blind person gropes in the dark; know that I am real.” “When you know that I am real, you will know the blessing in your suffering.” Many of you lost a spouse; a child and a grandchild, blessed are you!  Some of you have a tumor or a demon called cancer, blessed are you!  Some of you are lonely, blessed are you!  Some of you are in deep physical pain, blessed are you!  Some of you are depressed, with suicidal thinking, or with feelings of abandonment, blessed are you!  Some of you have lost memory, blessed are you!  Some of you still struggle to fit in here, blessed are you!   Some of us struggle day after day and yet we still believe in God, blessed are you!  I think that the holiest among us are those who know our wounds and we remain faithful to the Gospel-to our baptism-faithful to the wounded risen Lord.

Look at the Paschal Candle.  They contain the five wounds of Christ. Look at the altar.  At the consecration, the bishop pours chrism oil first in the middle of the table and then around at four corners signifying the five wounds of Christ.  From this altar, we receive the broken body and the poured-out-blood of Christ. And we do this together.

When it is our turn to approach the pearly gates, there will be an angel there who will ask us to show our wounds. With our hands, our feet and our side, may we be strong enough…resurrected enough to say:  “Here, these were worth fighting for when I was alive as a follower of the wounded risen Lord.”

Fr. Becket

The Welcome I Receive with the Restart

Once upon time, a man, his wife, and his cranky mother-in-law go on vacation to the Holy Land. While they are there, the mother-in-law passes away. The undertaker tells them, “You can have her shipped home for $5,000, or you can bury her here in the Holy Land for $150”. The man thinks about it for a while and tells the undertaker he would just have her shipped home. The undertaker asks, “Why…. why would you spend $5,000 to ship your mother-in-law home when it would be wonderful to be buried here and spend only $150?” The man says, “Someone died here about 2000 years ago. He was buried here and three days later, he rose from the dead.” “I just can’t take that chance.”

But we have to- We have to take that chance.  Today we come to the end of the Sacred Three days: the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and now the Empty Tomb.  No one person witnesses Christ rise from the dead.  All they have is the phenomenon of a dark damp tomb that is empty.  The men do not believe that He is raised.  It is the women, especially Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus appears and says that she is to inform the men of the Resurrection.

What is going on here?  This divine victory is not something we might call “good.” The empty tomb is not something we might refer to as “nice.”  What God is doing here in Jerusalem is something we need to refer to as “new.” What is new is that the news of the divine victory of the empty tomb begins with women in first century Palestinian culture.  They are the ones who support Jesus financially. They are the ones who walk with him in his ministry.  They are the ones who go to Golgotha.  They are the ones who watch where they bury the body. They are the ones who first see the angel roll away the stone.  They are the ones to whom Jesus first appears.  They are the ones to whom Jesus says- “Go tell my brothers…” They take “that chance.” St. Mary Magdalene takes that chance and becomes the apostles to the apostles.  What does this have to do with us today?

To illustrate- meet Nadia Boles-Weber. In 2004, one of her smart, intelligent, fun-loving, delightful friends takes his life.  The group of friends that gather to support one another ask Nadia to eulogize their deceased friend.  And it happens- grace intervenes into her life and she hears the call to the ministry.  This tattooed, frank-speaking, no holds barred recovering alcoholic and drug addict person takes “that chance” and walks to the altar to be ordained a Lutheran minister.  One of her sixty spot sermons is entitled, “What’s New is Often Messy.”  She says:  “Jesus didn’t look very impressive when he was resurrected. Jesus still had the dirt from his own tomb under his nails.  Of course, the depictions in churches of the risen Christ never showed dirt under his nails.  It’s as if he needed to be tidied up so he looked more impressive, and no one would be offended by the truth.  I would never have agreed to work for God, if I believed God was interested in trying to make me nice or even good.  Instead, what I subconsciously knew was that God was never about making me spiffy.  God was about making me new, and new doesn’t always look perfect.  New is often messy.   New looks like recovering alcoholics.  New looks like reconciliation between family members who don’t actually deserve it.  New looks like every time I manage to admit I was wrong and every time I manage to not mention when I’m right.  New looks like every fresh start and every act of forgiveness.  And every moment of letting go of what we thought we couldn’t live without and then somehow living without it anyway.  New is the thing we never saw coming, never even hoped for but ends up being what we needed all along.  God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig ourselves through our violence and our lies and our selfishness and our arrogance and our addictions.  And, God keeps loving us back to life, over and over.”[1]

Brothers and sisters, this is the meaning of the empty tomb.  God does new things. Darkness gives way to light. Death moves over for life. Emptiness evolves into meaning. Wounded humanity transforms into Wounded Divinity. As we move towards the Easter Eucharist, the Risen Lord wants us to restart. Throw out the old yeast of wickedness and malice and let the bread of love and kindness ferment in our souls. In conclusion, allow me to quote a lyric from Mumford and Sons:

It seems that all my bridges have been burned,

But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works

It’s not the long walk home

that will change this heart,

But the welcome I receive with the restart.

[Christ is Risen!]

[1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we_RvIQ7CEA

Sunlight

God Journeys into God-forsakeness

Today, “God journeys into God-forsakenness,” so says Bishop Robert Barron.

At least once in our lives we felt forsaken, that is, we find ourselves in some abandoned, deserted emotional place where we feel very alone. Maybe we felt forsaken by the death of a parent, a spouse, a best friend, a child, or a grandchild.  We said to ourselves, or, still say to ourselves, “God, where are you?”  With Jesus we say, “My God, my God, have you abandoned me.”  It is a forsaken place we believe even God does not live there.

Emotionally there is no right or wrong.  We have a right to those feelings.  Nevertheless, if I remain feeling and thinking that God forsakes me in the middle of my grief then I will descend into the dark abyss and the rest of my life will not end well.  Why?  Because it is a lie- if God does not exist in my “forsakenness,” then God does not exist, then there is no Resurrection, and there is no empty tomb.

So what do we do when we feel God forsaken?  We wrestle with God.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  If we feel forsaken, we ought to wrestle with God.  In the words of Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, “…the first half of our lives” we struggle “with sensuality, greed and sexuality.”  The last half, our older age, we struggle “with anger and forgiveness.”  However, “in the end, our struggle isn’t with regret.  It is with God.”

We blame God for death, we blame God for addiction, and we blame God for our horrible lives.  We blame God for everything. In our misery, we forget that a relationship is an equation; life with God is no exception.

Did anyone notice that in the Passion of St. John, we do not hear Jesus cry out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  It is not that he did not say it like in the Passion accounts of Matthew and Luke.  Since John’s Gospel is about witnessing and testimony, Jesus knows He, and his Father are one.  Jesus is in control of his life and his death.  Therefore, the Suffering Servant is able to say at the end, “It is finished.”

So, when we feel forsaken, when we begin to wrestle, to be bold with God, where is the hope?  Good Friday tells us in the words of Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, “Underneath and beneath us and our universe is a well that nothing exhausts.”  God is a well that nothing exhausts.  Is this your hope?  I hope so.

Fr. Becket, O.S.B.

Good Friday 2019

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Replicate the Towel

Sometime after President George Bush leaves office, he and his wife Laura begin to lead a somewhat decent private life again.  One night, after the two enjoy their dinner quietly at home in Texas, Mrs. Bush walks into the living room.  Here is the description of what happens according to George:  “So, I’m lying on the couch and Laura walks in and I say, ‘Free at last,’ and she says ‘You’re free all right, you’re free to do the dishes.’ So I say, ‘You’re talking to the former president, baby,’ and she says, ‘consider this your new domestic policy agenda.'”

Holy Thursday, if you will, gives us Christians a new domestic policy agenda.  A lot happens at sacred meals.  Angels of death pass over us.  Words of freedom speak to us.  Jesus hands us the Bread of Life. Jesus gives us the Cup of Salvation.  Jesus establishes the Eucharist, ordains leasers and calls us all to charity.  To grasp these importance issues we must, in the words of Dr. Walter Brueggemann, “replicate the towel.”  We must repeat the actions of Christ.

Our Jewish ancestors ate their sacred meal standing, as if in flight.  Historically, the Passover Meal is a freedom celebration, freedom from slavery and oppression.  Our Lord and his disciples ate the first Eucharist on couches.  They reclined at table.  In the middle of the room stood the food table with couches in a semi-circle.  Sometimes the host sat in the middle.  Nevertheless, for the most part, the host usually sat at the left end with the honored guest at the other end of the “U” shaped table.  They reached over into the middle to eat; their feet at the end of their couch.

At that first Eucharist, Jesus realizes a teaching moment.  Maybe he notices how they vie for position next to his couch.  Already, according to St. John, Jesus knows that Judas betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver.  With that in mind, Jesus gets off the couch.  He rises from supper: his place of nourishment, his place of honor, his place of luscious lamb and wondrous wine.  He takes a towel and wraps it around his waist.  And he comes up behind the disciples, that place of vulnerability, and begins to wash their dirty smelly feet.

Are we like Peter?  “Nope, Lord, you’re not going to wash my feet as a slave.  I don’t want you to do this.  This is not my idea of who God is in my life!”  Are we like John?  “I sit on the couch right next to the Master.  I get to lean into his chest because I’m the Lord’s favorite.  Are we like Thomas?  “They call me the Twin because they think I look like Jesus.  But I am not quite sure about all this cross stuff.  I doubt that he will ever allow himself to die such a death.”  Are we like Andrew?  “Sometimes when things get tough I wish I still followed John the Baptist.  He always knew the right things to say.”  Are we like Judas?  “I really wanted this guy to make things right.  But I got a better offer, and, I made a lot of money in the meantime.”  On the other hand, are we like the other apostles who ran away when they come to arrest Jesus?

To model love and service, Jesus assumes the position of a slave.  He picks up the towel and becomes its identity.  Not even the lowest of Jewish slaves washed feet.  Then he says to his disciples as he says to us, “Do you realize what kind of action I just did for you?”  Mandatum novum!  I give you a new commandment:  “Love One Another,” he says.  This is how we love: we rise from what we are doing that minute and we serve, we clean, we bend, we break our daily doing of things to serve Christ in one another by replicating the towel.

St. Paul says that on the night he was handed over, Jesus hands himself to us.  “Take and eat, take and drink,” he says.  “Then take me to those people in need.  Replicate the towel and take me into the world repeatedly until I come in glory.”

           Holy Thursday 2019

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

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Now we begin the week we call, “HOLY.”

Now we begin the week we call, “HOLY.”

During this week we call HOLY, be like Christ.  Do a humble deed this week.  Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not equate himself with divinity.  Instead, he humbled himself.  He emptied himself of divinity, pouring all of his “Godness” into his humanity.  So sometime this week we call HOLY, I can lower myself and do some mundane deed.

During this week we call HOLY, be like Joseph of Arimethea. He asks for the body of Christ.  He goes to the cross and takes down the broken, bleeding dead body of Christ.  He welcomes into his arms, the one died who for us.  So, during this we call HOLY, help take down a brother or sister off their cross…and care for her, care for him.

During this week we call HOLY, be like Mary, the Mother of God.  She goes to the place of crucifixion and stands side by side with her dying Son.  As Joseph of Arimethea lowers the Body of Christ, she becomes the pieta for the broken body of her Son.  During this we call HOLY, welcome the wounded, the suffering, the bleeding, the hurt neighbor who is in need of open arms.

Maybe, somehow this week we call HOLY we can accompany them out of their tombs and into the light of Resurrection.

Parkland school shooting

Parents wait for news after a reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Primum, non nocere

My mother always told me:  “Sticks and stones may break my bones.  But names will never hurt me.”  She never told me that this is a lie. Sticks and stones do hurt, and so do names especially when a person is the center of hypocrisy.

Such was the case at the Temple where I was praying when the Pharisees and scribes showed up.  It was evident that something was very wrong.  They were dragging a woman by the wrist. And when I stood up to see this commotion, I witnessed them making that poor woman stand in the middle of the crowd.

I walked over.  Like everyone else, I was nosy and I wanted to hear the situation.  Whoa! They caught her in the very act of adultery.  I thought to myself, if they caught her in the act itself…are they not culpable, guilt too of sin?  I was a stunned at their accusation.  I know some of these guys…they are no more honest than the man in the moon.  Then something else bothered me about this scene.  Where was the other party to the adultery?  Where was the guy who was with this woman? According to the law, Deuteronomy 22:22…both the man and the woman are to be punished!  Those darn hypocrites!

They want the rabbi- his name is Jesus- to decide the matter.  It seemed like a trap.  These people knew the law. They knew the law and they wanted Jesus to decide. They knew the law but they allowed the man to run away.  They knew the law and they break it all the time.  I looked to see what Jesus is doing.  I was a little anxious and a little scared.  Did Jesus know these guys like I did?  I can’t see him…then all of a sudden I see him doodling in the dirt.  He did not care about their accusations…it was as if he was not even listening to these fools.  He was silent.  Was it because Jesus was more concerned about their hypocrisy than her son? That poor woman, she stood in the middle of them shaking like a leaf because my religious leaders were about to stone her in front of us all.

Then something else happened.  Jesus stood up straight and said, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  I looked around. I closed my eyes and covered my ears hoping that I would not hear the screams of this woman. I hoped that the stones would not fly— I know these guys…if their wives only knew…if their mothers only knew…if God only knew. Seconds seemed like hours until I opened my eyes and saw the elders.  They dropped their stones; they were angry.  I smiled.  Tee-hee…I think…”these guys are idiots and they are so self-righteous. “ In the words of the spiritual writer, St. Augustine, they go away because they are “terrified of their consciences.”

I backed up to return to my prayer corner. And as I did so I noticed that Jesus stood up again (he likes to doodle in the dirt) and spoke to the woman. A few seconds went by, and she walked!  They parted ways, and, there was no stoning, no condemnation! Wow!

I went back to my prayer.  But, I cannot sit straight for something unsettles me.  Why do I feel so guilty?  Why didn’t I say something?  I know a lot of these scribes and Pharisees!  I know what they do on their days off!  I know what they hide.  Those sinners made the woman stand in the middle and I didn’t say anything. What if they stoned her and I did not say anything?  I could have helped Jesus, or, better, I could have yelled out “hypocrite” at these guys.  That would have stopped them…and I didn’t do a thing. Now, my conscience terrifies me!

Where are you in all of this?  Do you connect with anything at all? This scene of Jesus and the woman forces me to see something I refuse to look at- my hypocrisy.  I know sin when I see it and I do not stop it.  I know duplicity when I hear it and it is also in me.  I know one writer who says that hypocrisy is ubiquitous…it is everywhere, in everyone and in every place around me.  So, what do I do?  Well, when I fall, I get up, brush myself off and I start over. A writer by the name of St. Paul writes that I am never fully in possession of the prize.  I forget what lies behind and look at what is before me…the goal…the prize.  Sticks, stones and names do hurt me.  So does hypocrisy.  But there is one who does no harm[1], that one is Christ.

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

The 5th Sunday of the Season of Lent Cycle C

[1]Primum non nocere:  “First, do no harm.”

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The Prodigal God

God is a well that nothing exhausts.[1]

We always talk about the sins of the sons in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  What a shame that both take their inheritance from their father.  The younger son runs off to dissolute debauchery.  The other son stays home and lives a life of bad zeal so that he can give himself permission to murmur.  Nevertheless, what about the exuberance, the inexhaustibility, the powerlessness, the patience and the prodigal personality of the father, i.e., God?[2]  The word prodigal means “wastefully extravagant and lavishly abundant.”[3]  God is wastefully extravagant and lavishly abundant in mercy, love, patience, forgiveness and beauty.   And-we-struggle-with-this-image-because-I-want-God-to-be-prodigal-with-me-but-not-with-you.  You hurt me.  You abuse me.  You do not like me and I do not like you back.

No wonder we struggle with God.  We avoid the “f” word, says Sister Verna Holyhead.  Yes, the “f” word- forgiveness.  A long time ago, sixty-six years ago, someone hurt me and I never forgave her.  She thrived.  She married well.  She and her husband raised a great family.  They had money, and position and many friends.  So I became jealous with them and angry with God that God allowed this to happen. Wow, is this the attitude with which I will die?  Be careful, “forgiveness” is “a nonnegotiable condition for going to heaven.”  Remember the author, Morris West?  In his book, A View from the Ridge, “…he suggests that at age seventy-five you need to have only word left in your spiritual vocabulary-‘gratitude…’”  Gratitude is that instrument that cauterizes “the hurts in your life.”[4]

The author, Nikos Kazantzakis once spent a summer in a monastery.  In a series of conversations with an older monk he asked, “Father, ‘do you still wrestle with the devil?’  The old monk relied, ‘Not any longer…I have grown old now, and he has grown old with me.  He doesn’t have the strength…I wrestle with God.’”[5]  In the words of St. Paul, God forgives us in Christ and hands over to us the ministry of reconciliation.  The day we wrestle with God is the day we wrestle the “f” word.  The day we forgive is the day we enter deeper into the prodigal character of God.  The day we mature into God is the day we will know gratitude.  The day we know gratitude is the day when we fall into God, that well that nothing exhausts.

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

4th Sunday Lent

Laetare Sunday

Cycle C

[1] Jean-Claude Renard.

[2] A great book on the topic:  see, Ronald Rolheiser, Wrestling with God.

[3] Rolheiser, pp., 145-146.

[4] Rolheiser, p. 175.

[5] p. 127.

Font

One More Year for Fecund Compost

Once upon a time, an executive sits at his desk.  He is frustrated.  He cannot seem to get anything done.  Just as he thinks these thoughts, there is a knock on the door.  The door opens slowly.  Covered in a big black robe with its head hooded, Death crosses the threshold and enters the room.  “Oh, thank goodness you’re here,” says the executive, “I can’t accomplish anything unless I have a deadline.”

The beginning of the third week of Lent, what are we learning about ourselves?  Let us see:  if we are alike, this is what I know:

  • Lent is difficult.
  • Praying more escapes me.
  • Fasting from something I like is a pain.
  • Being nice, speaking less, and listening more is difficult.
  • Moreover, I still become extremely angry and I need to apologize more in Lent than other times.

In the words of the author, Peter Woods, “The failures and hurts of the past are the fecund compost of today…”  That is correct.  I said “fecund.”  It means “fertile.”

Today, Jesus compares us to fig trees.  Our roots go down and our branches go out.  Where is the fruit? Where is the fruit of our labors, the produce of our prodigious faith?  On the other hand, in the words of Sister Verna Holyhead, am I a case of all “take” and “no give?”  Do I exhaust the soil and bear no fruit?  Maybe it is because I am not learning from the hurts of the past.  On the other hand, in colloquial English, When am I going to learn my lesson?

In the words of the author, Peter Woods, “The failures and hurts of the past are the fecund compost of today,” and, he adds, “Our lives have deadlines.”

The parable of the fig tree has an interesting dialogue between the orchard owner and the gardener.  The owner wants the tree cut down- there is no fruit.  However, the gardener asks for another year to fertilize it and water it more.  One-more-year, one-more-year.  Jesus the gardener intercedes for us and gives us one more year.  Right now, we get one more day to cultivate that bush that might burn and show us God.  We get one more day to cultivate that bush that might speak God’s name.  We get one more day to cultivate that bush that wishes to free us from slavery.

In the words of St. Paul, we baptized need to stop grumbling, and learn from our failures.  Then we will learn how to deepen the fecundity of our faith in Christ.

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

3rd Sunday of Lent

Cycle C

Abbey Church Crucifix