Homily for the Solemn Consecration of Gerard Jonas Palmares

Genesis 12:1-4a; II Corinthians 4:1-12; Matthew 13:44-46

What a journey you have been on, Father Gerard Jonas!  While still very young, growing up in a fervent Catholic family in the rural outreaches of the Philippines, you desired to be a priest.  But there was great doubt this could happen, because you were a sickly youth.  You persevered in your desire and received great support from the person who was to become the Cardinal Archbishop of Cebu.  Ricardo  Cardinal Vidal saw something special in you and God cleared the way by restoring health to you just in time for you to enter the seminary.  The same thing happened as you neared ordination.  Health was restored and so you were ordained twenty five years ago by Cardinal Vidal on your mother’s birthday.

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Joy Never Ending — Nov. 13, 2016

Genesis 28: 11 – 18;  I Peter 2 : 4 – 9;  John 15 : 9 – 17

How awesome is this place.  This is none other than the House of God.  This is the very Gate of Heaven…  You are living stones, chosen and precious…  You did not choose me, but I have chosen you.

These are the Scriptures we have heard, my brothers and sisters.  These are the Scriptures which give meaning to our lives and to this day, this day we call JOY NEVER ENDING.  Together they form the envelop which surrounds us and in which we bathe, by which we are nourished and through which we are energized to run the race to the end.

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Homily for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) — June 12, 2016 Given by Fr. Joe Tedesco

The Christian journey is the journey to come to live the fullness of God’s life.  Jesus shows us the way.  And today we have in the scriptures examples of the process:  What must happen in us to come to our true selves at the deepest level.  We start with the recognition that we have constructed a false self to protect ourselves from pain, rejection, feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, of not feeling loveable. You don’t realize it until you have an encounter with self, a moment of insight, a recognition of weakness, of sin, a realization of a real need.  Then comes the moment of truth that this is not who you really are and we then come to understand that we are on two journeys in life.

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Christmas Vigil Opening — 2015

O holy night. Fall on your knees. God has come to us. The face of God appears in the face of a tiny babe. Jesus is the face of God and the face of God is Mercy. God is love. God is Mercy. As we enter into the Jubilee Year of Mercy, as we enter into this holy night where God-Mercy, where Jesus-Mercy pitches his tent among us and dwells with us, let us be mindful of the words of our own Trappist brother, Father Louis, Thomas Merton. I have always overshadowed Jonas with my mercy. Have you had sight of me, Jonas my child? Mercy within mercy within mercy.

Let us hear the echo of that mercy throughout the fourteen readings we will hear and the songs we will sing. Let us embrace the mercy who comes to us to save us and to lead us to the fulness of life.

Let us pray.

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Christmas Vigil — 2015 Given by Abbot Stan

Blessed Christmas, my brothers and sisters. Blessed Christmas from the monks of Mepkin to each one of you and to all your families. There are hardly any sweeter words we can say to one another than these: Blessed Christmas! Merry Christmas! And so, let us turn to each other and say it!

What a journey we have been on this evening. What a journey. And it all ends in the magnificent cadences of the Prologue to John’s Gospel. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. How often have we heard those words? How often have we meditated on them? Some Christmases that is all I have said as I sat before the crèche, sat or knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God has become human. God has pitched his tent in our midst. God has become one of us. God is not only “out there,” or “over there” or transcendently other. God is my brother, flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. Like me in all my vulnerability and in all my weakness and in all my frailty. Reflection on this phrase often led me to ponder that God did not just appear as an adult in majestic and manly power, but rather as a tiny, helpless infant; that God didn’t come to the palaces of the rich, but chose to be born of people who were poor; that God didn’t come to Rome, the center of power of the world at that time, but to an out-of-the-way place like Bethlehem and among the peripheries of society.

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Joy Never Ending

Genesis 28:11-18; I Peter 2:4-9; John 15:9-17

How can we celebrate the feast of Joy Never Ending this year without thinking of the two brothers we buried this year after over a century of monastic living at Mepkin? Joy captures and defines Brother Robert and Father Christian more than any other virtue or characteristic could. The two of them have given us an example of what monastic life is all about. It is about Joy. Not the surface, peripheral, ha-ha type of joy. No, the deep down freshness kind of joy. The joy that permeates us to the core, that says: Life is good, because God is good and God is here. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you: abide in my love…. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. Our two brothers lived this reality to the full. When did we ever see Robert without his infectious smile? I lived with him for over 50 years and I can remember him angry or sad only once. He kept perspective in his life and would not allow the little daily annoyances to swerve him from the deeper reality of Joy Never Ending. And Father Christian’s constant mantra was: “Where there is more truth there is more joy.” His companion mantra built on this: “Joy is the main characteristic of the Christian…. There is no such thing as a sad Christian.” A Christian who may be sad, yes, but a sad Christian? No. Didn’t the new pieces to the monk crèche, crafted by our friends who are here with us, Karen and Michael, capture this so well? Robert’s smile and exuding happiness as he drove his mowing tractor, and Father Christian zipping around pushing his walker with the big smile on his face. With such examples before us, how can we not be inspired to make such joy our own?

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Thirty-Second Sunday of the Year (B)

1 Kgs 17:10-16; Psalm 103; Heb 9:24-28; Mk 12:38-44

God’s immeasurable generosity can be the only context within which to hear these wonderful, familiar readings.  For the One who rescues us from death by offering his life for us and to us – our high priest – is the presence of God’s generosity and as we are nourished in this celebration of the Eucharist joining ourselves to Him in offering His prayer to the Father, we are strengthened to be givers after the pattern of Jesus, in communion with both the widows mentioned in the scriptures this morning.  Our monastic tradition teaches us that we are created in the image and likeness of God – the giver – who inspires the poor widow of our first reading to respond to Elijah’s request to be fed by sharing the little she has.  Similarly out of love for God, the widow of the temple gives her two small copper coins and receives recognition from our Lord who tells us she has given more than the others for she gave not from her surplus but from her meager budget – “all that she had” – nothing left over.

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Brother Robert’s Entrance Into Novitiate. 10/31/15 given by Abbot Stan

The troparion we sang at Vespers, Brother Robert, is the first song I heard of the music of our monastery of Tamié in the French Alps. Our Brother Conrad gave it to me on a cassette he had in 1980 to help me prepare for the visit I was to make to Tamié later in the year. The song gave me goose bumps that first time I heard it; it still gives me goose bumps every time we sing it now. It contains an image that has haunted me for over thirty-five years and continues to inspire me and move me. The image of this grand mosaic with thousands of small pieces which, in the end, make up a single picture, the glorious Christ.

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Twenty-third Sunday of the Year (B)

Is 35:4-7; Psalm 145; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37

The promises of the first reading are arresting, consoling, comforting, encouraging and — fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to take time over a Christology lesson here.  The first reading and gospel make us feel we are at Christmas Eve mass at Mepkin with the cornucopia of promise and fulfillment readings that usher us into our celebration of Jesus’ nativity!!  And so our souls give praise to God for loving us and acting in our behalf as demonstrated in Jesus’ birth, ministry, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and sending forth the Spirit.

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Brothers Juan and Martin’s Entrance into Novitiate

Some 4000 years ago and 8000 miles from Mepkin, God appeared to a certain Abraham in the flourishing city of Ur of the Chaldeans.  God invited him to leave his country, his kindred and his father’s house and come to a land that God would show him.  Reflecting on this story some 2000 years later, St Paul remarked that through Abraham’s obedience God was able to make of him the Spiritual Father of us all.  Moving ahead another 400 years, we find John Cassian in the Egyptian desert sitting at the feet of Abba Paphnutius.  The old man is telling the young monk that this call of Abraham is still very much alive and is at the heart of the monastic vocation.  We, too, Paphnutius enunciates, are called to leave our country, our kindred and our father’s house and to follow Christ even to death on the cross.

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Job 38:1, 8-11;  II Corinthians 5:14-17;  Mark 4:35-41

Be still, my soul: the Lord is at your side…. Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end…. Be still, my soul…. Be still, my soul…. Be still, my soul.

What amazing words we sang after our five minutes of reflection and prayer on the tragedy which has occurred in our midst in these last days.  What a powerful Gospel to hear on this first Sunday after such a senseless massacre of human life in our city.  Quiet, be calm, be still, Jesus cries out.  Can we hear him?  Can we repeat: Be still, my soul…. Be still, my soul when everything within us is in turmoil, in anguish, in deep sorrow and deep anger?  There is only one thing that gets us through these kinds of tragedies: our faith.  As we sang last night: when we pass through the storms of life, increase our little faith.  These are not our words to others, these are words to ourselves.  We are not preaching to others, we are speaking to our own souls: Be still, my soul: the Lord is at your side…. Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.

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Isaiah 35:1-10;  II Corinthians 4:13 – 5:10  John 14:1-9c

“What a piece of work is a man!  How noble in reason!  How infinite in faculty!  In form and moving how express and admirable!  In action how like an angel!  In apprehension how like a god!  The beauty of the world!  The paragon of animals!  And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”

Father Christian Aidan Carr, Conventual Franciscan for 31 years and Trappist monk for another 46, spent all his life grappling with this question.  And his great gift was to lead others to face it, uncomfortable as this always is.  What is this quintessence of dust?  We are never finished with all the real questions of life, nor was Christian.  Even on his death bed he declaimed this Shakespearian monologue by Hamlet in perfect diction.  What is this quintessence of dust?  We go from insight to insight, from partial grasp to partial grasp.  As with the divine reality, so human life is a mystery before which we constantly are called upon to fall down and take off our shoes.  In that context, what are some of the intimations of truth we can glean from the life and the wisdom of the man who lies before us?  What legacy does he leave with us?

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Fifth Sunday of Lent (A) ~ March 22, 2015

1st Reading Ez 37:12-14: Open your graves/put my spirit in you
Psalm 130: With the Lord there is mercy & fullness of redemption

2nd Reading Rom 8:8-11: The Spirit of God will give life to mortal bodies
Gospel Jn 11:1-45: Raising of Lazarus. Thomas said “let us also go to die with him…untie him…let him go free.”

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is a turning point in the unfolding of Jesus’ travel to Jerusalem and ultimately his death. This “SIGN” (the seventh sign in the gospel of John) cements the fear among both religious and government leaders that brings them to the conclusion that Jesus must be exterminated. It is quite clear that none of us can restore another person to life. Yet Jesus has done so in this passage. And it is not jealousy of that power or ability, but rather the fear flowing from the assumption that their own power would be compromised, by allowing Jesus to live, that initiates the circumstances we now know as Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.

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Brother Michangelo’s Funeral ~ March 4, 2015 Given by Abbot Stan

Lamentations 3:17-33; Philippians 4:4-9; Matt 11:25-30

Jesus tells us in several places in the Gospels that unless we become like little children we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. And in today’s Gospel Jesus models for us what it means to be child-like. It does not mean to be childish. Nor to be superficial or without depth. It means to speak what you feel and to feel what you see with unveiled eyes, with faces turned outward and not focussed within. And so Jesus can cry out in awe and wonder: I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

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Brother Robert’s Funeral ~ February 7, 2015

Sirach 11: 20-28;  Colossians 3:12-17;  Mark 10:17-30

In answer to Peter’s question in today’s Gospel, Jesus enumerates what is prepared for us, ending with the promise of eternal life.  Eye has not seen nor ear heard, but we can imagine the scene which took place at 3 AM last Saturday, earth time.  There was Robert running with open arms and there was Jesus, himself with open arms running to greet his child, his son, his beloved.     “Come, enter into the joy of your master”.  “Come, share the paradise of the Father — where the verdant pastures never end, where all the beauty you have seen on earth is magnified a hundredfold and where you can roam in field and forest, river and mountain, and never grow tired.

Joy, joy, joy.  Such is the gift which Robert tastes now and forever.  And such is the gift, I believe, which he gives to each one of us.  Joy was his trademark.  He always had a smile on his face.  His greeting never left you wondering if you were welcomed.  The smile was infectious.

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