With Fr. Robert away at the Regional Meeting, Sunday Chapter was given by our Prior, Br. Joseph Vantu. In the face of all our recent losses–two funerals, three weeks apart and in the same period, two more brothers having to move to nursing homes–Br. Joseph addressed our experience. He approached it as “Downsizing” at Holy Cross Abbey; the provocative title already had me thinking. Who, after all, can effect that sort of downsizing? For me it was a reminder that our current situation is in the proverbial hand of God; and it’s an opportunity to discern what God could be doing in our midst.
Br. Joseph reminded us of the story of Gideon, one of the Judges of Israel described in the Book of Judges. Specifically, he focused on Gideon’s encounter with the invading 120,000 Midianites; by contrast, Gideon was only able to raise an opposing force of 30,000. The odds were not at all promising. Except from God’s perspective. In fact, God communicated to Gideon that he needed to downsize the Hebrew forces. Why? So that they would not conclude that it had been their own strength, power or strategic intelligence that saved them. Step by step, the Lord had Gideon reduce his army to a mere 300; that was enough for God to work through.
Our Prior pointed out that we are not besieged by Midianites but financial issues, lack of vocations, future leadership, how we relate and build each other up. Like the Israelites, we invoke God to rescue us from our distress (Ps 106:13), that your love be upon us, O Lord (Ps 32:22). Isn’t it interesting that our relationship with God is not simply vertical? It is not just one-to-one but horizontal, through the community–how good and how pleasant it is when brothers live in unity (Ps 132:1); and it is concretely located in the world God created: How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord God of hosts (Ps 83:2).
Living out our contemplative life in communion with God and one another could be our way to draw God into our needs and to discover what plans, what saving action God has in mind for us, even under present conditions. Brother concluded with the following verses from the Letter to the Ephesians: I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to lead a life worthy of the vocation to which you were called. With all humility and gentleness and with patience, support one another in love. Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit–just as one Hope is the goal of your calling by God.