With the Right People…

This is a true story from the magazine, The Christian Century:

“Years ago, the brilliant but cantankerous Baptist preacher Carlyle Marney was speaking to some students at a Christian college. At one point a student asked, “Dr. Marney, would you say a word or two about the resurrection of the dead?” Marney replied, ‘I will not discuss the resurrection with people like you: I don’t discuss such things with anyone under 30.  Look at you all: in the prime of your life. Never have you known honest-to-God failure, heartburn, physical problems, solid defeat, brick walls or mortality. You’re extremely apt and handsome—white kids who have never in all your lives been 30 miles from home, or 20 minutes into the New Testament, or more than a mile and a half from a Baptist or Methodist church, or within a thousand miles of any issue that mattered to a kingdom that matters. So, what can you know of a world that makes sense only if Christ is raised?'”

My point?  Without suffering, can we make sense of the Resurrection?

What compels the Maccabean mother to watch her seven sons die slowly at the hands of torturers?  They refuse to eat pork and violate the covenant of God.  In turn, one by one, they lose their limbs, their tongues, their skin and their very lives for the sake of the Mosaic covenant.  In their torture, it is their mother who encourages them to persevere.  Her bravery is honored in a stain-glass window of the renovated cathedral of Christ the King in Superior, WI.  She stands tall and triumphant with an arm around a palm branch and her hands holding a shield named fortitude.  How did she know about the strength of the Resurrection two hundred years before the time of Christ?

If we know defeat, then maybe we can make sense of the Resurrection.

But, there are some questions that remain.  What compels my sister-in-law to continue living after her husband of thirty years dies on the bathroom floor at the age of fifty-seven?  What compels many of us to come back here Sunday after Sunday amid our own pain and struggles?  Because like me, we-look-for-hope.

When people do not believe in the Resurrection, when people do know Redemption, they tend to make up nonsense.  Look at the Sadducees, the priests in the time of Christ.  They invent a story to trap Jesus.  Of course, in their male perspective, they use the example of a woman whom they pass down from husband to husband after the death of every brother.  Such nonsense, Jesus tells them.  This stuff does not exist in the kingdom to come.

So, are we in need of some hope?  Am I need of some resurrection?

Remember the opening story about Carlyle Marney?  Before he died in 1978, he preached at First Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, about death, resurrection and the church. On the way back to the hotel, one of Marney’s friends said, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you believed in the resurrection.” Marney quickly responded, “Well, I do . . . when I’m around the right people.”

The right people are those who know defeat, pain and suffering.  How we embrace these events life throws at us is the fine line between redemption and resentment.   When we are around the right people, we receive encouragement.  It means “strength of heart.”  Since it can be difficult to believe in the Resurrection every day, you and I need to surround ourselves with the right people to give us “strength of heart.”  To paraphrase St. Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians:  We are here today because of the love and encouragement of Christ Jesus.  It is the Spirit that directs us. Even when we walk face first into that brick wall, we can stand up, brush ourselves off, and start over because people of the Resurrection support us.

The Mother of the Maccabees encouraged her sons.  St. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians.  After Holy Communion, the Lord Jesus encourages us to be people of Redemption.

          Fr. Becket Franks, O.S.B.

Mother of the Maccabees

O LORD, lover of souls

Sometime I find the best cartoons in The New Yorker magazine.  One day they print a cartoon about God.  God is a small, balding, middle-aged, skinny guy in a loincloth sitting on a throne beneath a sign that says “God.” A puzzled middle-aged guy dies and goes to heaven.  He stands in front of God and stares in a very unbelievable fashion.  Finally, he says to God, “You know, you don’t look anything like your picture.”

We all know the story of Zacchaeus.  He is short and rich.  He is a tax collector, and, he is Jewish.  Zacchaeus knows well what the crowd thinks of him.  They believe he is rich because he is a tax collector, stealing this and stealing that.  Thus, they do not allow anyone of his kind to mingle with holy people. This little man whom the crowd believes to be a cheat and a thief wants to see Jesus.  He hears of miracles.  He knows stories.  What better way to find Jesus than to run ahead, climb a tree and wait to catch a glimpse of the “wonder-worker.”  This is how Jesus knows that Zacchaeus is an honest faith-seeking person.

St. Cyril of Alexandria says that a person of Zacchaeus’ stature would never climb a tree.  St. Augustine says that the only way to see Christ is to get away from the crowd; it tends to get in the way.  And as Zacchaeus goes out on the limb of the sycamore tree Jesus knows that Zacchaeus does not look like his picture.  Chief tax collectors do not climb trees to see itinerant preachers.  So, as the story goes, Jesus looks up.  Zacchaeus looks down, and, calls Jesus, “Lord.”

Can I look at you right now and know for sure who you are; what you are; what you do; what you say and how you act?  Can you do the same with me?  I doubt it.   Here is the point that I want to make today:  we dislike when people turn us into caricatures but we waste no time in turning other people into cartoons.

If Jesus passes through our little community today where would we find him?  I think that we might find Jesus with one group of people:  those who break away from the crowds.  St. Augustine says that Zacchaeus climbs the sycamore tree, a tree with that foolish fruit.  While the tree bears this ugly ball of seeds, Augustine speaks spiritually.  In Christian terms, that foolish fruit is going out on a limb. That foolish fruit is separating one’s self from “group think” to see Jesus.  When we go out on the limb that is when salvation appears.

Behind every face is a story.  Inside every person is a struggle.  Some of us mourn.  Some of us suffer.  Some of us are always sad.  Some of us are always happy.  Zacchaeus did not allow his size or his reputation to prevent him from seeing Jesus.  So what if we use walkers.  So what if we are older.  So what if we are retired and we slowed down.  So what if we are smaller.  We can still climb the sycamore tree by what St. Paul calls, bringing to fulfillment “every effort of faith.” The Wisdom writer (one of the persons whom I want to meet when I die) tells us that God is a “lover of souls.”  God loves us so much that when we sin, or, turn away, Jesus nudges us over and over again and says, “I want to stay at your home.”

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

31st Sunday

Ordinary Time

Cycle C

Image

 

 

A Day to Polish Our Halos

Today God gives us another chance to polish our halos.

All of us who work for the Gospel are saints.  A checklist, you ask?  Do we need a checklist for heaven?  Well, among us are the confessors who publicly confess the Gospel and then are put to death.  Confessors are often martyrs and they are still found in the indebted countries of Asia, Africa and Central and South America.  Then, there are those saints among us who minister among the poorest of the poor and in the streets of our cities.  There are the hidden saints among us here at the monastery and at the villa- those who pray their prayers, go to mass, and do their good deeds of justice, hospitality, respect, and stewardship without notice, without fanfare, without Nobel Prizes.  Then, there are the saints who know that they need God, who suffer quietly, who are humble, and who put the rest of us to shame.  Then, among us are the everyday sinners who strive to be saints but try a little too hard because heaven cannot be won or earned.  We are saints because of the victory of Jesus Christ and that is why we celebrate a festival today.

Today at this Eucharist, we polish our halos as members of God’s elect.  These halos shine brighter when we depend on God fully, when we mourn with the sad, when we are humble with the proud, when we hunger & thirst for what is right, when we are merciful with the chaotic, when we act with pure intentions, and are peaceable with the warlike.  Our halos glow with grace when we understand finally that to be a saint means to undergo pain and persecution.  Plunging our souls into grace whitens our robes and glistens our halos.

A blessed feast day to all the saints.  Amen.

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

The Solemnity of All Saints

November 1, 2019

St. Procopius Icon_Brighter with Flecked Halo  (2)

St. Procopius, pray for us!

Confronting Soul Sickness!

Want to know a Greek word?  Hypocrite!  It means, “play-actor.”  In English, it is one who “feigns,” that is, pretends.”  If we want to see a hypocrite…look-in-the-mirror!

Poor Pharisees!  They really were not bad people.  In fact, some scholars claim that Jesus was once a member of the Pharisees but broke away to preach the Gospel as an itinerant rabbi.  The Pharisee we hear in the Gospel of Luke reciting all his spiritual accomplishments is not a bad person either.  I am not greedy (check), not dishonest (check), and I am not adulterous (check).  I fast (check).  I pay tithes (check) and I go to temples all the time (check).  Now, these are good.  However, all of a sudden the Pharisee crosses the line and goes down the slippery slope.  “God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity….like this tax collector.”  [check]

Each and every one of us is a little Pharisaical.  We put down others to raise ourselves up and above other people.

Therefore, we need to be careful.  The Lord is a God of justice who knows no favorites.  If there were any people on earth who catch God’s eye the most, it would have to be the lowly, the oppressed, the poor, and, those targeted because of the color of their skin.  To illustrate, in August of this year, a young white man (I say these words on purpose) walks into a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and targets 46 people, killing 22 of them.  Many of them are Latinos.  We discover later that the gunman’s writings contain anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant language that includes support of white nationalism.   This horrendous incident throws the El Paso community into deep grief and shock.  As a response, Bishop Mark Seitz publishes a pastoral letter stating that white America must begin to confront its racism.  “If we are honest, racism is really about advancing, shoring up, and failing to oppose a system of white privilege and advantage based on skin color. When this system begins to shape our public choices, structure our common life together and becomes a tool of class, this is rightly called institutionalized racism. Action to build this system of hate and inaction to oppose its dismantling are what we rightly call white supremacy. This is the evil one and the ‘father of lies’ (John 8, 44) incarnate in our everyday choices and lifestyles, and our laws and institutions.”  [Part 1, par. 14]  “The theologian Father Bryan Massingale has aptly named all of this soul sickness.” [Part 1, par. 15]  When we practice, verbalize and enact racism, literally we say to another, Tú no vales. You don’t count.  [Part 2][1]  It is a SIN when Christians say, You-do-not-count!

According to Sirach, the prayer of the lowly person is like an arrow that pierces the sky and does not stop until that prayer rests in the heart of God!  What if that prayer that flies to God is about how badly we people of faith treat someone of a different race or gender or nationality?

Our prayer ought to be the prayer of the publican/tax collector, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.”  Period.

As we move towards Holy Communion, we remember the late Benedictine Archbishop, Basil Cardinal Hume of Westminster, England.  When the doctors tell Basil Hume that he has terminal cancer, he is tempted to feel that if he could go back do things over he would want to be a better monk, a better abbot and a much better bishop.  Then he tells himself that maybe he could go to God “empty-handed” and asks God to be merciful to him a sinner.  [Check]

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

30th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C

[1] https://www.hopeborder.org/nightwillbenomore-eng

Charles Wells drawing

Servant of God, Dorothy Day, Oblate of St. Procopius Abbey

Drawing by Charles Wells

We are NOT God’s Indirect Objects

Once upon a time, this very cold harsh man dies leaving behind his wife as a poor widow. He leaves her with only $20,000 to her name. After everything is done at the funeral home and cemetery, she tells her closest friend that she has no money left. The friend says, “How can that be? You told me you still had $20,000 left just a few days before your husband died. How could you be broke?” The widow says, “Well, the funeral home cost me $5,000. And of course, I had to make a big donation to the church.   The rest went for the memorial stone.” The friend says, “$15,000 for the memorial stone?  “How big is it?” Extending her left hand, the widow says, “Three carats.”

There is nothing more formidable than an angry widow.  Widows must have been feared in St. Luke’s community.  For one, St. Paul instructs the widow’s family to take care of the woman.  And if the family is unable, then it is the task of the Christian community to provide for the “older woman who is not married.”  But when justice is not served in the world and in the community, what does the widow do to live?  In the first century world, it is a man’s world where women are marginalized.  It is a society filled with bribery, injustice and backroom deals.  In this context, St. Luke tells us a parable about a widow who badgers an unjust judge so much that he grants her request for fear that she will walk up to him and give him a black eye.  There is nothing more fearful than an angry widow and I think many here in the Villa assembly know what I am talking about.  Personally, there was no one more formidable than my 89 year-old grandmother, Emilie Franks, who died in 2000.  Of Polish decent and small in stature my “nanny” had a loving heart and a strong aggressive personality. If you cheated her in her grocery bill, watch out!  If you did not give her the senior citizen’s discount, watch out!  If the social security check was late, watch out!  My grandmother was so tough that when she realized she was getting off the wrong exit on the highway, she would stop and turn the car around fearing no one or no thing!

My grandmother, the widow of the Gospel and many other widows throughout the world…you know what they teach us today?  You and I are NOT God’s indirect objects.  St. Paul tells us to preach the word, whether convenient or inconvenient.  Who are the models of ministry among us here at Villa St. Benedict?  It is you widows.  You are lectors and ministers of communion.  Many of you are the first to arrive for mass and the last to leave.  You teach us that if we really want something from the Lord, we need to pray as if we are going to give someone a black eye, maybe, even God?

As Moses prayed he tired.  With the support of his brothers Aaron and Hur, Moses remained persistent in prayer as he overcame his enemies.  Maybe we know a widow who needs our help.  There are many widows under the age of sixty-five.  One of them is my sister-in-law, Betty.  Or, maybe we know a poor elderly widower who wants our assistance.  Remember my brothers and sisters, the Eucharist we receive here in this chapel is the same Eucharist that extends out these doors…into the hallways…into the dining rooms…into our apartments….into our chapter room…onto our sidewalks!  Fervent in prayer, busy about justice these are our tasks today.   We are not God’s indirect objects!

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

The 29th Sunday

Ordinary Time, Cycle C

new-cross-22

 

Aggressive Seeking of Entrance

Where do rejected people go to receive kindness?

According to Fr. Donald Senior, People tend to set boundaries creating exclusion. When the sick and outcasts are in need in scripture, they tend to break those boundaries to find what they need.  In the words of Fr. Senior, “One definition of faith is the ‘aggressive seeking of entrance.’”

This is what the book of Leviticus says about lepers and those with skins ailments:  persons with such infectious diseases must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their faces and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the infection they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.  Leviticus 13:45-46

It is these types of people who aggressively seek entrance into life.  They know Jesus as Master.  They hear of his mercy.  He will not reject them.  Jesus tells them to go to the temple where the priests can proclaim them clean and acceptable to society and to religion. The scabs, the abrasions, the leprosy (whatever it was) disappear.  But only one returns to say “thank you.”  Only one is grateful. (Eucharist)

Naaman goes to the prophet.  In the Gospels, where do the rejected go?  They go to Jesus.  But they ought to be going to the Church, us, to find what they need. When people tell us that we are ugly, old, fat, short and dumpy, when religion tells us that we are evil or misconstrued or disordered, where do we go?  We go to Jesus, and you know what, Jesus will meet us at the boundaries. Look where Jesus meets the lepers- on the boundary of Galilee and Samaria.  Look whom Jesus heals- people on the boundary of society.  Look who returns grateful- the Samaritan who is on the boundary of society and religion. A long time ago, when my dad and I celebrated mass with this Gospel of the ten lepers he always asked, “Do you think the leprosy came back for the other nine lepers?  They never came back to thank the Lord.”  I wonder.

For those of us on the fringe, on the boundaries, Jesus desires that our faith become an aggressive seeking of entrance.  Pope Francis names the Church as a “field hospital.”  Those of us called to serve are ministers of mercy.  Again, in the words of Fr. James Keenan, “Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another.”  There are many people of faith searching for an aggressive entrance into life.  Poor people of color, young gay people thrown out of the house, migrants and refugees fleeing war and terror, their faith and their need for freedom is a basic right we Christians must protect.  St. Paul says that the Word of God is not chained.  If we refuse mercy for a brother or sister, Jesus will pass us by and find others to heal.  We then face the danger of our own leprosy returning.

Here at the Eucharist, Christ meets us at the boundaries of our lives.  At the feet of Christ is where you and I can aggressively seek entrance into the kingdom.  Our response ought to be, “thank you” (Eucharist).

The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle C

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

100_0932

St. John Henry Newman, pray for us

Picture copyrighted by Fr. Becket, 2009, London.

 

Stretch Me, O Lord!

“Lord, increase our faith.” When the apostles ask the Lord to increase their faith, they are really saying, “Lord, stretch our faith; make our faith longer; add-on to our faith.”  It takes a lot of faith these days to know that God is really in charge.

Habakkuk’s name means, “to wrestle.”   As he watches the decay of his society six hundred years before Christ, he asks, “Why?”  “God, why do you not do something?”  “God, where are you?”  “God, why do you not help your people?”  God does not respond (at least right away when we want God to respond…which is right away).  Finally, God answers the prayer of Habakkuk.  But it is only because Habakkuk wrestles enough, that divine inspiration speaks to him.  God stretches Habakkuk’s faith so that he wrestles enough with God to find divine vision.

Vision is found in prayer and in the words of St. Paul.  However, he says, “vision” needs to be stirred into flame.  According to MIT professor Peter Senge, vision is always shared.   “A shared vision is not an idea…it is rather, a force in people’s hearts, a force of impressive power.” Shared vision is not wishful thinking either.  Shared vision among faith-effort people is one that fuels the fire for learning, for change and for revitalization.  Shared vision is always positive and like the prophet Habakkuk, God tells us, “Write it down so that one can read it readily!”

What is God’s vision for your life right now?  How is God stretching us today?  How is God stretching my faith today?  Right now my Christian faith wrestles everyday with our political leaders.  Everyday God stretches my faith when I reflect on the present state of my monastic community.  I get fearful.  So, I pray.  I share with trusted friends.  I read and when I read and reflect, I remember the words of Benedictine Sister Verna Holyhead:  “Jesus wants quality not quantity.”  Maybe that is why Jesus tells us that in the end, “We are unprofitable servants. Do your duty.”  When my faith gets stretched, I do my Christian duty.  Faith is not dependent on age or ability or quantity.  I often hear, “Oh Father, I am too old; I am too young; I am too crippled.”  God’s vision for my life is based on “none of the above.”  I alone am to blame if I do not allow God to stretch me.

As we move towards Holy Communion, my duty as a Christian is to allow God to stretch my faith.  Who knows, maybe as I stretch out my arms to embrace God’s will for my life, I may rub elbows with you.  Then I will have found the vision as a member of the Christian community.

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

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle C

 

 

 

Close the Gap

Do rich people go to hell and poor people go to heaven?  Is this what St. Luke is telling us today?  I hope not because that means as the chief fund-raiser for the abbey I am making a serious mistake. What is the sin of the rich man?  That he dressed in purple garments and fine linen, a sign of royalty and wealth?  That he dined sumptuously each day?  This is the rich man’s sin:  he failed to recognize the poor person at his doorstep.  Or, put plainly, the rich man failed to close the gap, that great gulf between him and the beggar who sat daily at his doorstep.

This is the reason why the prophet Amos condemns the complacent rich.  Woe to those who dine sumptuously laying on their ivory couches listening to beautiful music while their poor neighbors lay on the ground picking up garbage scraps.  And even worse, woe to those of us who dine sumptuously at our dining rooms tables eating and drinking as we look out our dining rooms windows watching the homeless, the starving and those who have nothing.  Be careful, because one day we will be those who will lose everything.

Today’s Gospel contains the only name of a character in a parable.  The poor person’s name is Lazarus.  It means, “Blessed of God.”  Every single one of us has a Lazarus in our lives.  We all know a Lazarus whom we watch through the windows of our lives and we wish that he or she would go away.  We probably consider that person to be pathetic and tragic and we go out of our way to avoid him or her.  Maybe the person is ugly or annoying, or, maybe just plain boring.  Sometimes we step over them.  Many times we gossip about them.  Most of the time we complain about them. When I uncover a Lazarus in my life, I come to realize that there is a great gap between us.  I do not have anything in common with that person.  Therefore, I justify my opinion that I do not have to deal with him or her.  But I am a Christian and Jesus tells me today that I need to close the gap between us.  As we sing in the Gospel verse today:  Jesus was rich but became poor so that we could become rich.

Theologically, God sends us this person so that (in the words of St. Paul) we can lay hold of eternal life. God sends us Lazarus so that we can close the gap between rich and poor.  God sends us Lazarus to keep us honest.  God sends us Lazarus to make us virtuous.  God sends us Lazarus so that we can run after love, patience and gentleness.

         As we approach the time for communion, God closes the gap for us.  Here we can lay hold of eternal life.  If we are truly brave we might want to find out if our Lazarus comes to mass here at the chapel.  Next time, if we are truly virtuous, we might want to walk with them to the table for communion.  In the words of the poet Mary Oliver~

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.

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

 

 

 

Make Sure that Love does not Fly Out

The top movie of 1972 is Cabaret.  Joel Gray dances and sings with Liza Minnelli.

         …when hunger comes to rap, rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, at the window

         See how love flies out the door.

Money makes the world go around, the world go around, the world go around.

The setting is decadent Berlin, Germany during the rise of the Third Reich.  It is a precarious time.  It is a time of treachery, suspicion and fear of Jews.

See how love flies out the door!

In his book, The Rise of Christianity, Dr. Rodney Stark states that the main reason for the spread of Christianity was care for the poor in the Roman Empire.  Jesus commands the Christian to love in the Gospels, and the main method that the rich Christian loved in the first three centuries was by caring for the poor.  The scriptures condemn cheating.  The prophets condemn trampling peoples’ rights.  The Gospels condemn a conscience that refuses to connect love of God with love of neighbor.  Money without a conscience is idolatry!

Now, if we can manage money and budgets and stocks and bonds and investments, why is it so difficult to manage our spiritual lives?  This is why Jesus tells us today that the children of the world are better managers than the children of light.  People of the world know how to manage money and they know how to cheat people very well too.  The lesson for us is managing not stealing.

At every mass before communion, we pray The Lord’s Prayer.  The word “trespass,” actually means “debt.”  “Forgive us our debts as we forgive the debts of others.”  That is the prayer we pray at every mass.  But the prayer is conditional:  Will God still drop our debts if we refuse to drop others’ debts?  See, this is where we can learn much from money management.  Many of us who joined Villa St. Benedict prepared for the future by saving money, by investing and setting aside certain amounts of money for retirement and the last years.  We saved up a lot of money for retirement.  In just the same, we need to prepare for eternal life.  Our task as Christians is to make sure that love does not fly out the door.

As we prepare ourselves for Holy Communion, God wants us debt free.  Is love in our lives about to fly out the door?  Is there a debt we need to drop?  Is there some anger that will not go away?  An argument left unsettled?  Is there “an amend” I need to make?  St. Paul tells us in his first letter to St. Timothy, that when we pray we need to pray with holy hands uplifted without anger or argument.  The late Fr. Henri Nouwen writes that when we pray with open hands we let go of that garbage that blocks out the forgiveness of Christ.  We cannot serve God and money.  We cannot serve God and anger.  We cannot serve God and cheat our neighbor even if they deserved it!  If we can feel great when the credit cards are paid off think of how we will feel when we meet the Lord face to face without any baggage! Our task as Christians is to make sure that love does not fly out the door.

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

25th Sunday

Ordinary Time C

new-cross-22

 

 

 

The Demands of the Mercy of God

The Lost and found:  the place where we dump those lost items.

While we find God everywhere, we find God mostly in the lost and found.         In the words of Milwaukee bishop, Richard Sklba, “parables tell us more about God than about ourselves.”  Today, Jesus wants us to learn something about God.  In her commentary on today’s scriptures, Sister Verna speaks about the character of shepherds in first century Palestine. They were thieves, ritually unclean, rejected by the upper class and outcasts.  So, since we can find God in the lost and found, Jesus uses the image of the shepherd as a model of God’s “inexhaustible mercy.” Sister Verna also tells us that shepherding is also a “communal event.”  When a shepherd goes looking for the lost, he needs the assistance of the others to watch the ninety-nine.

“What [person] among you…?” Jesus asks.  “What [shepherd] among you goes looking for the lost?”  “What woman among you puts on an apron and picks up a broom?”  That lost coin is important.  It is probably one day’s wages.  It could have fallen from her headdress as a dowry before her wedding. Wherever the coin was, Jesus makes a profound point by using the image of a woman sweeping and searching as a model of God’s “inexhaustible mercy.”  Notice that her joy becomes a communal event:  “…she calls together her friends and neighbors…” for a banquet.  God’s compassion is not only inexhaustible.  It is also extravagant.

I wonder how many of us would look in the lost and found for God.  The people of the Exodus story struggled so much with the image of God that they gave up and fashioned a golden calf.  “Other people have molten images, why can’t we create our own gods?”  That is probably why we will not find the presence of the Divine in the lost and found.

Most of us remember where we were eighteen years ago on 9-11. We cannot forget the images, the videos, the pictures, the pain and the horror of that time.  And God?  God was doing what God does best.  We found the presence of the Divine in the responders, the helpers, those searching for loved ones, those who responded to the call of the Coast Guard to dock their boats at Manhattan to rescue hundred of thousands of people trapped at the southern end.  We found God in churches, hospitals, in the streets and off the streets.

Every place has a lost and found and so does the kingdom of God.  Where is the lost and found here at the Villa, at the Monastery?  As we ponder the question, we should not be surprised that this question morphs into not “where,” or, “what,” but “whom?” Whom will we find here in the lost and found?  It is the primary task of this community to ask this very important question because the Mercy of God demands that we go looking for the lost.

In the words of St. Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  He considered himself the greatest of sinners. That is what we call mercy because one day when we find ourselves in the lost and found, we will need the help of our brothers and sisters.

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

24thSunday Ordinary Time

Mother Teresa

copyright, St. Procopius Abbey

Photo by the late Fr. Robert Buday, O.S.B.