My Dear brothers and sisters in Christ
The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you. The last time I celebrated Mass here, I talked about my experiences on retreat at Conception Abbey in Missouri. As you may remember, it was a beautiful experience of praying with and working with Archbishop Hanus, who is retired there, as well as the other monks living there. In fact, it was such a good retreat experience, that I continue to reflect upon some of the things I read and prayed while there. The monks have a very regimented, predictable routine of prayer and work and part of what I love is being folded into their this lifestyle. It starts promptly at 6:00 am with 35-40 minutes of quiet, peaceful praying of the psalms and listening to sacred scripture and the fathers of the church. Then, we get some time to go off and pray silently by ourselves before we gather again at 7:15 for morning prayer, which lasts about 20-25 minutes. On Tuesday at morning prayer, I was starting to feel like I was getting back in the rhythm of prayer. At one point, we stand, fold up our chairs, and then step forward, rest our books on the top of the chair ahead of us, and chant a part of the gospel. They had a slightly different wording of the gospel than the one I have memorized so, on top of holding a prayer binder, I had to hold an extra piece of paper balanced on the binder. Now, picture this, me holding a binder balanced on the back of a chair and balanced on top of that is a piece of paper at 7:30 in the morning. I closed my eyes in order to soak in the beauty of the prayer and really hear what I was praying and then I started to feel the piece of paper falling forward. So, I adjusted my hands on the binder to try and secure the paper but, instead, I lost control of the binder and it fell forward onto the ground making an extremely loud, echoing crash. And then, in true cartoon fashion, I looked down in frozen horror unable to prevent the plummeting wooden chair, which had been nudged by my falling book just enough so that cruel gravity could act upon it. “SLAM, BAM, CRASH, BOOM!” The entire monastic community quickly looked up at me and I realized I had brought the entire prayer to a virtual stand-still. It felt hours but was, in reality, seconds for the monks to recover and finish the prayer. As I exited the chapel, I fully expected either the Abbot or Archbishop Hanus to take me aside and ask me to leave and never return, both actions I felt they would have been completely justified in taking.
Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. As we transition from the Easter Season to Ordinary Time, we focus first upon this central mystery of our faith. We believe in one God who has manifested himself as three divine persons. They are distinct but not separate nor confused. They are of the same substance and all three are eternal. The most common image that is used to try to understand the trinity is love. We heard this most explicitly today in the Gospel from St. John, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The church has consistently taught that we were created out of love. The Father loves the Son and the Holy Spirit is the love between Father and Son. But, real love cannot be contained or limited. So, the love of God overflowed Father and Son with such intensity and grandeur that it created humanity. While on my retreat, I had an opportunity to read a book by Cardinal Walter Kasper called “Mercy” in which Cardinal Kasper says the love of God needs to be intimately connected with divine mercy. Why create humanity? Why make something that you know will hurt you, blame you, hate you, deny you exist, and, ultimately, sacrifice you so they don’t have to suffer the punishment they deserve? Only because God is much more merciful than our created minds can grasp and because this mercy is at the very essence of God’s being, in other words it is his love.
After the incident at morning prayer, as we left the chapel, neither Abbott Gregory nor Archbishop Hanus said anything to me. That afternoon, I had an opportunity to work with some of the monks weeding a flower garden. I fully expected one of them to say something, but none of them did. In fact, it seemed like they went out of their way to be gracious to me, as though they knew I was embarrassed about what had happened. At first, I thought I had dodged a bullet but then it became clear that, actually, they do that with each other all the time. They forgive each other because they want the other monks to forgive them when they make a mistake. They live out the meaning of the phrase from the Our Father, “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I started to think about all the times that I have been angry and frustrated by someone else’s mistakes long after those mistakes were made. I thought about the times when I have gossiped about other people’s mistakes instead of helping them learn. And, I thought about how hurt I’ve been when I’ve become aware of people, especially parishioners, complaining about something I’ve said or done when they haven’t talked to me personally or when we simply disagree about something. Love and mercy are two sides of the same substance at the heart of Trinitarian love. Being loving and merciful, therefore, is also how we are called to live our lives, especially to those hardest to love. What is one grudge that God is calling you to let go today?