helps us-with us-in our place

Posted By on Jul 21, 2014

(Fr. Cyprian) I always make a point of pointing out that on most Sundays throughout Ordinary Time the second reading, which is usually from St. Paul, has nothing to do with the first reading, which is usually from the Hebrew scriptures, or with the Gospel, because those readings are on separate cycles. So we usually look in vain for anything but a remote connection between the three. It’s the first reading by way of the responsorial psalm that points ahead to the Gospel, like today, there’s the theme brought out to us in the 1st reading from the book of Wisdom (12:13-19) and especially in the responsorial psalm (Psalm 86) that is meant to lead us into the Gospel (Mt 13:34-43)––that God is good and forgiving, as we sang. Wisdom tells us that God is patient, God is lenient, clement; God is good. But there is also a subtle underlying assumption in the Gospel that coincides with that: not only that God is good but that we are good, too! It almost goes without saying that it follows that if we are in the image of God and God is good–-then we are good. Did you ever notice how often the Hebrew Scriptures are condemning the sinner, casting out sinners, especially the psalms. But Jesus never casts out sinners, never attacks sinners (outside of the religious hypocrites); Jesus attacks sin. God is good and forgiving, and we are good, made in God’s image. Jesus doesn’t cast out sinners; he casts out demons, and seeks out sinners, and sends his disciples, too, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But also today, even if it’s only incidental or co-incidental, there actually is a key for me in the second reading from the Letter to the Romans that can unlock something in the Gospel. Paul is famous for twisting Greek words around to get them to mean what he wants them to mean, and even sometimes for inventing words if he can’t find the right one. And he does that today with this word syn-anti-lambanetai––the Spirit helps us-with us-in our place. In other words, the Spirit does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In this section from Chapter 8, St. Paul is specifically referring to prayer––probably the most sublime teaching on prayer in the Bible: because we do not know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit syn-anti-lambanetai–helps us-with us-in our place––but this notion of the place of and the work of the Holy Spirit is actually a recurrent theme throughout the letter to the Romans. At the risk of seeming to contradict Jesus’ interpretation of...

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st. benedict's spirituality

Posted By on Jul 11, 2014

(Fr. Robert) St. Benedict is a towering and ecumenical saint, celebrated on the Catholic, and also the Episcopal/Anglican, and also Lutheran Calendars. And he is reverenced in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Without him the Camaldolese wouldn’t be—we Benedictines who follow St. Benedict’s Rule. Now would our Oblate family be, since our shared charism is also Benedictine. One thinks of the thousands of abbeys, monasteries, convents down through the 1500 years following the Rule of St. Benedict, the hundreds of thousands of monks, nuns, sisters, Oblates and others influenced by his spirituality. Many hundreds of books and articles have been written about Benedict’s spirituality as expressed in his Rule. Where does one begin in exploring that spirituality. The highly reputed scholar of St. Benedict, Fr. Terrence Kardong, O.S.B., recommends that we begin with a foundational theme of the Rule, that is there all the way through, explicitly or at least implicitly. He terms this: “The Divine Approach, the Presence of God.” He notes that St. Benedict stresses this Divine Presence in every aspect and element of the monastic day (and night), in every nook and cranny of the monastery. We would hold that this would also be true of every Christian home and life. So we are called, the Rule teaches, to open our eyes to the “deifying light” and the ears of our hearts to “the voice from heaven which daily calls out to us: If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” It doesn’t depend just on our efforts to remain open to this Presence, but primarily to God who is constantly reaching out to us, anticipating our yearning. And so St. Benedict quotes Isaiah quoting God: “And even before you ask me, I will say to you, “Here I am.” Not just there I was, or will be, but right now, right here, here I am. And this echoes the great I Am of God’s self revelation to Moses in Exodus, and to Jesus’ several revealing of himself as “I am.” And this Divine Presence isn’t a severe, judgemental Presence, God’s spiritual voice not terrifying for the committed monk (and Christian) St. Benedict insists: “What, dear brothers, is sweeter than the voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in His love shows us the way of life.” Of course Christ Himself is that “way, truth and life,” and so St. Benedict’s injunction that “nothing is to be preferred to the love of Christ.” All this is not always evident at first, but St. Benedict assures us that with our effort and God’s grace, this awareness and spirit becomes more ongoing in...

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