Christmas 2014

Along with this homily for the fourth Sunday of Advent, allow me to extend to you my prayers, blessings and best wishes for a holy and happy Christmas. May it be for you a renewal of the presence of Christ in your life and your consent to the workings of God’s love.
 
Today’s gospel, the story of the Annunciation, is an intimately beautiful cameo of the mystery of God’s love for the human race. It has been embellished through thousands of literary interpretations, sculptural concretizations and magnificent paintings. All of these images are the fruits of artistic imagination, individual interpretation and personal faith. It is fascinating to see the variety of truly beautiful expressions of this visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary and her consent to God’s will. Very often, especially in the high Middle Ages, we see magnificent paintings of Mary dressed as a noblewoman surrounded by the accoutrements of a royal palace. Somehow or other, even with these exaggerations, she takes on the homely, individualized aspects of the artists’ time, nationality, and geography. Perhaps we could say she is given a certain relevance to the viewers for whom the artists are painting. This is a recognition that the mystery of the Annunciation is not confined to the village of Nazareth in the first century.

We really do not know the circumstances of this mystery, where Mary was at the time, what she was doing, and even how old she was. All we know about the angel is that his name was Gabriel and he was sent by God.
 
Theologically the Annunciation marks the real beginning of the Jesus story. If you want to put it in more sophisticated terms, it represents the presence of God in the human race in a new and unique way. It is a real answer to the one time popular song “What If God Became One of Us”. Or, as St. John puts it, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
 
It is because of this mystery that Mary has been given such an exalted place among the mysteries of Christian revelation and the devotion of the Christian church. As some of the early fathers like to put it, our salvation, the incarnation of the Son of God and the redemption of the human race was dependent upon the consent of Mary.
 
It would seem that in some ways, this does not entirely make sense. How could this insignificant nobody make such a decision. This is especially true when you consider that Mary did not realize the impact of what she was doing, had no idea of its magnitude and had no particular status in the hierarchy of the human political pantheon. How could she then be a spokesperson for the human race? How could her personal faith, her theologically uninformed consent inaugurate the presence of God in the bosom of his earthly creation as a human being? Concretely how could she speak for the human race? For the human race today? Even more concretely how could she speak for you and for me?
 
In a very real sense, the answer to these questions is that Mary could not do these things. Her consent enabled their possibility but it’s concrete application in our lives depends upon our consent. Through an incredible variety of manifestations, God sends his angel to each one of us, and we are given the opportunity to take our cue from the Virgin Mary and to say, “Be it done to me according to your will.” We are even given this opportunity to enter into the mystery of the Annunciation many times. Today, here, in our world, yours and mine, the presence of Christ depends upon our consent. Every blessing, every joy, every suffering, pain and tragedy that enters into our lives calls forth from us the same loving, humble consent that Mary gave. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word”.
 
Christmas is a reaffirmation of this mystery. It is an acknowledgment that we consent to the presence of Christ in our midst. That we are willing to recognize that whatever we do to the least of our brothren, we do to and for Christ who is present among us. That we are one with Christ even as he is one with the Father. That he has sent us the Holy Spirit to be his continued presence in our world and to remind us of all that he has taught. That he is born into this world through the consent of Christians and that his peace, which surpasses all understanding, is ours only through our humble, loving and personal consent to the words of the angel Gabriel: “The power of the most high shall overshadow you.”
 
It is especially at Christmas that we are invited, along with Mary, to bring the Christ into the world, into our personal worlds. We are reminded that, not only on Christmas, but every day of our lives the angel of the Lord comes unto us and calls forth from faithful and loving hearts our consent to God’s will on earth even as it is in heaven.


May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
 
Father William Meninger

November 16, 2014

The story in this morning’s Gospel of the servants and the talents must have been read, reflected upon, and preached about millions of times in the history of the Christian church. One wonders if it’s possible to say anything new about it. But of course we have not heard all of these millions of reflections and so there is just an off-chance that I might be able to hone in on one of them  that you have not heard.
 
I would like especially to look at the very first lines of the gospel. A master going on a journey invested three of his servants with different amounts of talents. A talent, at the time of Jesus, was a Roman measure of monetary exchange of considerable value in silver. Notice one servant was given five talents, another three talents and another one talent. But the thing I want to emphasize this morning is the next line that says each one was given talents according to his ability. It is interesting isn’t it that the word talent, as we use it today, is a result of this gospel. It has come to mean precisely what that verse says, an ability.! When we say someone has a talent for a particular activity we mean he has an ability to do that activity. And so it is obvious to us as we look at ourselves and those around us that we all have different abilities some more and some less.

So as the master expected from the servants that they would develop their talents according to their ability he would have been satisfied if the servant with the least talent brought him the least profit from his investment. But the servant was afraid to take a risk. I think we would say today that he was lacking in faith both in God and in himself. We cannot use the excuse  that we lack talents, that we lack abilities. Everybody has at least some talents, some abilities, in fact, everybody has  many abilities if we would only recognize them and not bury them in the ground, as it were.
 
Notice that the gospel says nothing about how these talents were invested. Perhaps that is not important to the story. It is simply important to state that the talents were used. But then it becomes important to us because to use our talents and not bury them away we have to know what they are. Sometimes today we use the word talent as referring to a very special ability that would, for example, make us famous or wealthy. But that is not at all what Jesus means by talent. We have simply to look at our abilities and how we use them.
 
For God to reward us for our talents, we have to be aware of them, use them, appreciate them, and allow others to benefit from them. This is why we are given talents.

Just to appreciate that, let’s look for a moment at some of the many talents we do have and who does benefit from them. Keep in mind that we are given talents according to our abilities and so some are able to make greater use of them than others. But this does not matter. What matters is that we take the one talent, or the three talents, or the five talents and not bury them in the ground but use them for the benefit of ourselves and our neighbors. Look at the ways we do this. Look at our educational system, look at our governments, our political systems, look at the structure of our economic system, our health system even our prison system, as good or bad as it might be, and see how many hundreds of thousands of people are involved in exercising their talents through these things for the benefit of others. Look at how we use our talents to support one another in our families, in our church communities in our neighborhoods. To feed our children physically and spiritually, to educate them, to correct them, calls forth from us the use of our talents and abilities.

Whatever our occupations are, however we earn our living, whatever it is we do for the benefit of the society in which we live, locally, nationally or internationally is to exercise our abilities our talents. The results may not be discernibly great. It’s possible we may never  get even our 15 minutes of fame. But nevertheless our abilities are needed and heeded by a God who sees the fall of even the smallest sparrow. The Lord has given us many or few talents but they are all needed because he has also given us, each in our own situation, those who need our abilities to grow physically, intellectually and spiritually.

As we use our abilities and talents for ourselves and others we are storing up treasures in heaven. Nothing of this treasure is lost. No one can steal it, Rust cannot corrode it. It returns to us full measure, pressed down and overflowing. It is through our abilities, great or small, that we love God and one another. There is no other way.


May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
 
Father William Meninger

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The doctrine on Original Sin as taught by by the Catholic Church has received greater or lesser prominence throughout its history. Prior to the fifth century does not seem to have been prominent. After the fifth century and the writings of St. Augustine, it took on a more significant place. In our day, or at least in my lifetime, it has been prominent indeed. Its meaning has always been somewhat obscure because it is a mystery. At the same time precisely because it is a mystery of faith it has to be relevant to our daily lives.
The Catholic Catechism teaches us that Original Sin is not a sin as we commonly understand that word but rather it is a state or, you could even say, a matrix in which we are born and live out our lives. One of the results of Original Sin is that our understanding of God is obscured and, on our part,  we have lost that awareness which sees God as a loving, compassionate, nonjudgmental source of our very being and the goal of our lives. Our traditional understanding of Original Sin also obscures for us one of the most important, supportive, and encouraging teachings of our faith. We are created in the image and likeness of God. And while Original Sin may obscure this reality it can never erase it.
 
There is something or someplace within us which belongs entirely to God. Which has never been darkened, defaced, or obscured by the errors of our intellect, the meanderings of our imagination or the brutalities of our will. It is present within us and, if we let it, it will shine forth through the shadows of our discouragements and failures, it will be a bulwark in the face of our weaknesses and a never ending hope to call us forward in spite of personal misfortunes and social or even worldwide tragedies.
 
We seldom hear this preached on a Sunday morning but it is a basic teaching of our Christian revelation. It has never been lacking in the mystics or those who seek God in contemplative prayer. Julian of Norwich says, “There is that higher part of us that has never known sin and never will”. St. John of the Cross reminds us that the human soul, as unruly as it may be, in its natural state is as perfect as when God created it.
 
It is not difficult to get in touch with this place within us and the God who dwells there. Love, in all its many manifestations, comes from here and finds its fullness here. That is why love unites everything, as Henry Nowen says, “The heart of God, the heart of all creation, and our own hearts become one in love.”
 
This is not just a pretty theological abstraction. There is an intimate union in the depths of our own heart of God’s Holy Spirit and our own inmost secret self. He is, Julian of Norwich tells us, closer to us than we are to ourselves. We are God bearers. We carry God into all the events of our lives. If we will but permit it, God will be a part of every relationship. He will transform every failure. He tells us, “Before you call upon me, I say to you, here I am.” Not only is God present in you as an individual but he is present, whether you recognize it or not, in everyone else. You and I are called to recognize the glory of God in each other. It is, as Thomas Merton says, “like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a son that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely”.
 

May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
 
Father William Meninger

22nd Sunday, 2014

I think that historically in the United States the Catholic Church has missed the boat, if you will, regarding three secular holidays. They should long ago have been baptized and brought into the liturgical calendar as religious holidays. Those days are Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and Labor Day. These are days in which, in various ways and for various reasons, the entire nation turns to God without the prompting of any church or religion.

So this weekend, we are celebrating Labor Day. Even if the church has not done so, the Benedictine and Cistercian orders of monks have, since at least the fifth century, baptized and sanctified the notion of labor, of physical work. St. Benedict says in the Holy Rule that a man is truly a monk when he earns his living through the work of his hands. And the motto of the Benedictine family is “ora et labora”, work and  prayer.

In the traditional language of the Christian church each one of us is called to express his Christian commitment through what are known as ‘The Works of Mercy’. They are known as corporal works of mercy if they have to do with physical activity, and they are known as spiritual works of mercy if they have to do with spiritual activity. There are seven corporal and seven spiritual Works of Mercy. It would be helpful if I just list them for you at this point.

The corporal works of mercy:

feed the hungry

give drink to the thirsty

clothe the naked

shelter the homeless

visit the sick

rehabilitate prisoners

bury the dead

 

The spiritual works of mercy are:

instruct the ignorant

Council the doubtful

admonish the sinner

Bear wrongs patiently

forgive offenses

comfort the sorrowful and the afflicted

pray for the living and the dead

 

A little reflection will show that these works of mercy actually embrace all of the multiple types of labor that each one of us engages in in our daily lives in order to serve God, ourselves, and one another. What we must never lose sight of is that this labor, these works, are holy. They are the manifestations of our Christian commitment to one another and to God. These are the works that occupy most of our waking hours. They are the ways in which we earn our living. They are the ways in which we contribute to our nation, our community, and to the human society of our talents, no matter how great or small they may be.

Whatever your present life work is, however you earn your living, however you live your retirement you are involved in the service of your neighbor, of God and of yourself by way of one or more of the corporal or spiritual Works of Mercy. You might hold a high political office, or be a busboy; You might work on the stock exchange or be a cashier in City Market; You might bake monastery cookies or drive a delivery truck for Costco. In all of these things, if you have the right intention, your labor is sanctified and becomes your contribution to the support of the human community, whether  to those close to you or to the world at large. Yes, you have to work to earn a living but if you are a Christian, it has to be more than that. It is not at all unusual, and I find it personally heartbreaking to hear, someone speak of his work as ‘the rat race’. Your labor, your work, whatever it may be, exalted or menial is a work of mercy and should be a labor of love.

When you are invited, at the offertory of the mass, to gather around the altar, you bring more than your physical self. You bring as an offering to God your talents, your service, your labor, the works of mercy in which you engage yourself. I would like to say that all of these things become transformed into the body of Christ but it would be more true to say that they are transformed into the body of Christ when you actually perform them and at the Sunday mass you simply bring Christ to Christ. You are the real offering.

How sad it is to think of how much labor is really wasted. How the greater part of someone’s life is simply thrown away in order to get money, to achieve power, to amass material things. This very same labor can be transformed by a transformation of our mind, of our attitude, of our intention.

What a difference it can make in our lives if we see our labor as a work of mercy, as a service to one another, as an offering to God. This Is what Labor Day should mean to us.  it is a reminder that God has given us this world to be transformed by the work of our hands. It is a celebration of the ways in which we use our world and its resources, our talents and our jobs to better the lives of one another.

May you be happy,

May you be free,

May you be loving,

May you be loved.

 

Father William Meninger

20th Sunday 2014

This morning’s gospel really calls for some careful examination.  It is really a parable in action. Jesus told any number of parables but he also acted parables out.  Some obvious examples are: the cursing of the fig tree, the reception of the little children, the raising of Lazarus and the healing of the lepers.  Today’s gospel  has to be seen in that light, a parable in action.
 
On the face of it, it is not a very pleasant incident.  Throughout his ministry Jesus showed himself to be loving, compassionate,  merciful and understanding.  At times he used his kindness as a way of offsetting a lack of compassion in his disciples. We see his loving concern in raising the son of the widow of Naim, in his dealings with the Samaritan woman, in the parable of the good Samaritan and in many other instances. But in this parable – in – action, he is in Tyre and Sidon,a place where the majority of people were Gentiles.He came to them.  He was dealing with a mother’s love, with the mothers frantic desire to obtain a healing for a sick child.  And what does he do?  He says, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
 
This is not the Jesus we have come to know and love in the Gospels.  This is rude, harsh and cruel.  However, if we are to understand this as a parable – in – action, it presents a very different picture.  Obviously Jesus knew from the very beginning that he was going to bless this woman and her suffering child with a healing.  This was a parable given for the instruction of his disciples.  Remember they actually pleaded with Jesus to send the woman away because she was bothering them with her incessant pleas.  Jesus seemed to go along with them by saying he was sent only to the Jews, but he knew what he was going to do.
 
He was going to give a lesson, a parable – in- action to the Church, to his disciples, to the Gentile woman, and to you and me this morning. What does he say to the Church?  I think he says something that Pope Francis said shortly before his election.  The church has got to stop being so self relevant and open the door to let Jesus out.  By that he meant that the church has got to preach Jesus, not canon law.  The church has got to express compassion, concern and inclusiveness, always mindful that she is called to deal with real, living people and not bureaucratic red tape, ecclesiastical rules and harsh restrictions.
 
What does he say to the disciples?  Their  role is not to send people away but to facilitate their coming to Jesus.  They should be  reaching out to suffering people, interceding for them, bringing them to the Lord for healing.  They must see people not according to race,gender, sexual orientation, marital status or even Creed but according to their needs and in the light of their sincerity and their faith in Christ (and even sometimes without it).
 
What does he say to the Gentile woman, that is, to those who do not belong?  He says, “Your faith will be tested but come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest”.  He doesn’t say, Are you baptized?  Do you go to Sunday mass?  The Gentile woman did not belong to a circumcised people, the equivalent of baptism nor did she attend a synagogue, the equivalent of Sunday mass.  She simply had needs and she had the faith to turn to Jesus, And he said to her, “O woman how great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish. And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.”
 
And what does he say to us, to you and me this morning?  He says, “As I have loved you so also ought you to love one another” and “Whatever you do to one of these the least of my brethren you do unto me.” No one is outside the pale of that love.  We must  be aware and responsive in our own personal lives to the Gentile woman who is pleading, to the outsider who is seeking our help and especially, most especially, to those who would come to the Lord, not according to our own specifications, but according to their own needs and their own faith.  His house is not a house of self-righteous inquisition but a house of prayer that shall be to all people. 


May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
 
Father William Meninger

2014 17th Sunday

I would like to read to you a brief story from “Tales of a Magic Monastery” by Theophane The Monk.  This is the very first story in his little book and it relates to this morning’s gospel as it is called, “The Pearl of Great Price”. On my first visit to the magic monastery a monk asked me what I was looking for. “Frankly,” I said, “I’m looking for the pearl of great price.”

He slipped his hand into his pocket, drew it out AND GAVE IT TO ME!  It was just like that.  I was dumbfounded.  Then I began to protest, “You don’t want to give it to me?  Don’t you want to keep it for yourself?”

When I kept this up, he said finally, “Look, is it better to have the pearl of great price on to give it away?”

Well, now I have it, I don’t tell anyone.  From some there would be disbelief and ridicule.  “You have the pearl of great price?  Hah!”
Others would be jealous, or someone might steal it.  Yes, I do have it.  But there is that question?  “Is it better to have it, or to give it away?”  How long will that question rob me of my joy?
 
“Is it better to have it, or to give it away?”  Somehow this little story is yet another confusing parable about the kingdom of God.  Jesus said the parables were given in order that “Hearing they may not understand.”  What he means by that is that the parables, like Theophane the monks little story, are intended to make us think.  And by making us think, it does not allow us to take something for granted.  To have the Pearl of great price and keep it to yourself is to take it for granted.  The Pearl of great Price, like the kingdom of God must be appreciated, lived concretely and shared.
 
We have with us on retreat this weekend a group of people who have the Pearl of great price.  They are people who have received, appreciated and supported  centering prayer as taught by Contemplative Outreach.  They are called the Circle of Friends.  Just about every one of them has his or her own special story of how the practice of contemplative meditation called Centering Prayer has been for them a Pearl of great price.  And so they have committed themselves not to be robbed of their joy by keeping it to themselves but to increase their joy by letting go of it and sharing it with others,by giving it away through their teaching, supportive practice , and financial aid.
 
Letting go, not holding something selfishly or addictively to oneself for fear of losing it.  Letting go is at the heart of the Christian commitment.  Letting go is foundational to the spirituality of the 12 step program.  Letting go and letting God is an essential part of the beginning, the middle, and the end of the spiritual journey. It was expressed beautifully in the Prayer of St Francis:
“O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

I was told the following story by a friend.  She had invited another couple to dinner one Sunday afternoon together with their three-year-old son.  She also had a three-year-old son and the two children seem to have been playing nicely together during the afternoon.  Her own son seemed quite generous in sharing his toys with the young visitor.  However as they were leaving ,the visiting little boy grabbed hold of a little stuffed dog which was a favorite of her son, wanting to take it with him.  Her son crying copiously grabbed hold of the dog and tried to pull it away from the resisting young visitor.  Seeing this as a teachable moment. my friend persuaded her child that he had many  stuffed toys and would not even notice or miss this little dog if he let his  visitor take it with him.  Tearfully the boy consented.  That night  my friend went in to tuck her little boy into bed and as she pulled the blankets up to his tear stained face she noticed that he had something in his hand tightly clasped even in sleep.  When she opened his little fist to see what it was, out fell the tail of the little stuffed dog.  He had refused to let go. But all he got for his struggles was the tail of a little stuffed dog.
 
There are many pearls of great price in our lives as there are many little stuffed dogs.  When we hold onto them, that’s all we have.  When we let go, we have infinitely more because it is in giving that we receive.  This is not only in regard to material things.
 
I have another very recent story of a friend whose young daughter was severely injured in an automobile crash.  When I visited them recently in the hospital her mother told me, “Father, I never knew what abandonment was (by abandonment she meant letting go) until I placed the broken body of my little girl at the feet of Christ.  At that moment he filled my heart with joy, a joy so great I could feel it even physically.  I still cannot understand it and I cannot explain it but it is carrying me through these weeks of suffering, surgery, and rehabilitation,”
 
What is your Pearl or pearls of great price?  What do you have that you are called to abandon?  To let go?  To lay at the feet of Christ. How do you carry the kingdom of God within you and how do you share it?

May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
 
Father William Meninger

Sermon June 29, 2014

(May I ask for your prayers for my godchild, Kenzie Langley, who is recovering from a serious automobile accident.  The real extent of her injuries are undetermined as of the present moment but there is a great concern for her ability to walk.  Thank you.)

Katie was four years old and was just beginning preschool.  The teacher had passed out to each child a blank piece of paper and a box of crayons.  As she walked through the classroom, she noticed Katie was especially intent on her crayon drawing.  “What are you drawing, dear?”,  She asked kindly.  Without lifting her head or pausing in her work Katie said, “I am drawing the face of Jesus”.  “But Katie”, the teacher said, “Nobody really knows what Jesus looks like.”  “They will when I’m finished.”  Katie replied.

I do not think that there is a significant difference in knowing what Jesus looks like or in trying to answer the question from this morning’s gospel, “Who do you say that I am?” We are all given our box of crayons and our blank paper in order to show the world what Jesus looks like or who  we say that he is. Not only do we have to display to the world in our own persons what Jesus looks like but we have to be able to recognize him when we see him.

Jesus was an emissary of the Father.  Better still, he was the Father present among us in human form.  This is why he could say to Philip, “He who sees me sees the Father.” In a similar way we are emissaries of Jesus and he who sees us should see Jesus in us.  But it is also true that the people in our lives, near and far, known or unknown are also emissaries of Jesus and that we are called to recognize Jesus in them.  “Whatever you do unto one of these the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”Followers of Jesus, Christians, are called to be the presence of Christ Jesus in the world today.  And the factor by which we are recognized as such is that we have love for one another.  I suppose that it is my duty as a homilist to be aware and to try to make you aware of the ways in which we must do this and especially in the ways in which we fail to do it.

But is that the only approach?  Might not the better approach, for a change, be not to criticize but to commend, to remind myself and you of the ways in which we do present ourselves to the world as Jesus and some of the ways in which we recognize him in the least of our brethren?
I think that I am in a unique position to attempt to do this.  I see it daily in the lives of the brothers of my community.  I see it in the commitment, temporary or for a lifetime, in the choice that monks make to live in , as the rule of St. Benedict says, the school of charity, to be examples of the Christ life in the midst of the church, even in spite of their failures, because of their constant willingness to begin over again and again.  This is the face of Christ recognized in the needs of one another and shining forth in the response to those needs.

I also see the face of Christ in visitors to the monastery , not only in those who come for the liturgy and those who come for retreats, but also in the wonderful people who welcome them, offer hospitality, a patient ear and compassionate counseling.  I see the face of Christ, both of suffering and ministering, in our neighbors, in local community churches, in our hospitals and in our schools.  Christ is constantly acting and being seen in an unceasing variety of tragedies, accidents and misfortunes locally, nationally and internationally.  When we pray for such catastrophes, we pray in the name of Christ and we pray for the suffering Christ.When we respond to them with our physical and spiritual resources, we are Christ responding to Christ.  As St. Patrick tells us Christ is within us, without us, before us, behind us, on our left-hand and right.

Also I think it is good for us to be aware of the presence of the needy Christ and our Christlike response to him in the intimacy of our own families.  In parents who make heroic sacrifices for the sake of their children.  In the patient, loving care for sick and elderly family members.  In simply putting bread on the table and performing household chores for the comfort, security and health of our families. How many parents and others in our own communities spend most of their lives to support the costs of educating children, of health costs, of supporting indigent relatives even in other countries by holding down two jobs and even more.We also recognize and display the face of Christ in rejoicing, and celebrating marriages, and the birth of children, in graduations from kindergarten, high school and universities, in birthdays and anniversaries.  Christ is not only served and recognized in suffering but also in celebrations.  It is good for us to be aware of this.

It has been said that the church is too much into the business of sin.  Pope Francis said we should be more concerned with letting Jesus out from our midst and sharing him with the world. Yes, let us be concerned with war, disease, environmental destruction, hunger and child abuse but let us also rejoice in what we do and see others do in terms of bringing about peace, healing the sick, protecting our natural resources feeding the world and educating our children.The face of Jesus is within us and all about us. Let us continue to work with our crayons to show his face. As Robert Frost so pithily puts it, “Earth is the right place for loving, don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”

May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.

Father William Meninger

May 25, 2014

This morning’s gospel is incredible. It contains the key to understanding the whole of the authentic Christian tradition, the life and teachings of Jesus and gives comfort, strength and meaning to our own personal lives. It is taken from chapter 14 of St. John’s Gospel and is a tiny part of the final talk that Jesus gave to his disciples the day before his death. Historically, this talk, presented to us as given by Jesus at the Last Supper,represents a magnificent compilation of His essential teachings. For me it amounts to a kind of Bill of Rights for the Christian church. It is in fact the new covenant, the new agreement, between God and his people; between God and us between God and you and me.

Even to begin to do it justice I would need at least three hours to comment on it. Father Joseph agrees with this and says that I can preach until noon time. Now you may not agree with this so I will give you two options. The first option is that I will preach for three hours, the second option is that I will preach for the usual 10  minutes and you will do some homework. I am assuming you opt for the second choice. So your homework is this: sometime soon, preferably today, either alone or out loud with a companion, read chapters 14 to 17 of St. John’s Gospel. These are the readings of the Easter season which is still in progress, Chapters 14 to 17. I promise you,you will find it a graced experience and it will even make your day.

So now then as my time is limited, I am only going to talk about a few small verses from chapter 14, Verses 18, 19 and 20. “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me but you will see me because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” This is a promise that does not come from the man, Jesus of Nazareth but comes from the God – made – man, Jesus the Word, the second person of the holy and undivided Trinity. It is the power and the glory of God in us. As such, it is fulfilled by the mere fact of its utterance. Like the Jesus who spoke it, it comes from God but through the mouth or rather the heart of a man. God speaks it by way of the man Jesus of Nazareth because he wants it to be filled not with the awe and wonder of a divine oracle but with the warmth and intimacy of a loving mother or father. “I will not leave you orphans”.

These words were spoken to you and me and it is a theologically sound observation to say that Jesus literally had us in mind and that they are still being spoken. In the historical context they were spoken to the 12 apostles who, to most appearances, were going to lose their teacher, their Rabbi, their source of comfort and strength. This is what it appears to be and what they emotionally will feel.

They have lost Jesus. They are alone and frightened and helpless. Have you ever been in that position? Has it ever seemed  that God was lost to you? That you were completely alone and helpless?

I am not simply drawing a comparison here between us and the 12 apostles. It is more than a comparison. We are living in that time when Jesus seems to have gone. We do not experience him walking in our midst and teaching us. We do not see him healing our sick and raising our dead and comforting us in our grief. But we do have his promise, if you will, our Bill of Rights, ” I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you, and  you will see me because I live and you will live. ”

We shall celebrate this reality soon on the feast of Pentecost when we liturgically acknowledge that the spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, has been given to us and that he will remind us of all that Jesus has taught us.

This morning, in the name of the church, I will offer to myself and to you the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We will then experience in faith,in sacrament and in truth, that Jesus is with us, that Jesus is the way, the life, and the truth and that he has not left us orphans.

 

May you be happy,

May you be free,

May you be loving, 

May you be loved.

Father William Meninger