Readings: Genesis 12: 1-4; Acts 4: 32-35; Mark 10:17-30
Fifty Years ago, during Vatican II, we religious were mandated to return to the spirit of our founders. Our Cistercian Order had begun as a reform of Benedictine monasticism at the end of the Eleventh Century. Our Twentieth Century return to the spirit of our Founders did not signal a romantic look to the past but a vital connection to our roots to heed God’s call to us in the Twentieth and, now, the Twenty-first Century.
In our monastery at Holy Cross Abbey today, we redouble that effort, investing the coming year to review those efforts to conform to our Order’s renewal. We are applying ourselves more intentionally to deepen our commitment to live together the authenticity and creativity of our Founders in today’s world. That is no small task! As such we trust in God’s grace promised to all who ask it, confident that nothing is impossible for God. This is our earnest intention as we ask each of you , our friends devoted to this community, to support our commitment by your prayers.
I have been reflecting on today’s three Scripture Readings and they suggest a pattern for our renewal.
The First Reading from the Book of Genesis describes Abraham leaving behind his past and going into unknown territory to follow God’s call. What monk does not learn that we not let our past bind us? I need to be open to what God now asks of me and to trust God’s guidance into the unknown.
The Second Reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us about the first Christians forming the Jerusalem community. It warns me against trying to force what I would want to happen and, rather, disposing my heart, to lay what I find there at the feet of my brothers. That way we could, together, seek out our common good.
Finally, in Saint Mark’s Gospel we meet the rich, religious man who turns down Jesus’ invitation to follow him. This man would control his own future; the apostles, in their turn, are shocked at Jesus’ words that this man would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If the religious well-to-do person can’t be saved, then who can be saved? Jesus has to remind them that this is not within the powers of anyone. What is impossible for us to achieve for ourselves remains possible for God. All things are possible for God. And that may be the greatest challenge for the monk as for anyone. My future security is not in my power. Will I trust God, my heavenly Father, to provide what is best for me, what he wants for my life? What if I don’t want what he wants? Can I trust him anyway? Or do I take it all back?
These same spiritual challenges face our community now as they face every person since the human race emerged. These three Readings could guide us through the coming year. I must face the impact of my past on me; I must know what to let go of for the good of my brothers; I must admit that whatever I hope to see in the future will fail if I rely on my own efforts. The work we are called to do is God’s work. We commit ourselves to that so God might achieve in us, through us, what he judges best. This can only be the fruit of prayer, as Jesus demonstrated throughout his own life. And in his death–part and parcel of his resurrection to new life! Only then is his Spirit poured out upon the Community.
So may it be for us.