26 May 2008
Exactly 57 years ago, today...
May 26, 2008
Monday of the 8th Week of Ordinary Time
1 Peter 1:3-9; Mark 10:17-27
Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
It was on this date in 1951 that a small band of white-robed monks processed to the top of the ridge overlooking the property they had acquired with the help of Porter and Gabriella Chandler. There Fr. Gerard McGinley planted the foundation cross, on which were inscribed the words: "Foundation of the Monastery of Blessed Mary of the Genesee, May 26, 1951. May God be glorified in all things. Serve the Lord with gladness." We are heirs to the monastic journey that was begun by those heroic and visionary pioneers.
The hymn of praise they intoned that spring day is ours to continue and to pass on to future generations of monks who will come after us. Following their example we proclaim with joy and heartfelt abandon the words written by St. Peter. "All honor, glory and blessing be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead" (1Pet. 1:3). As monks, we have dedicated our lives to "run on the path of God's commandments, allowing our hearts to overflow with the inexpressible delight of love " (RB, Prol. 49).
As disciples of Saint Benedict, we are to act in accordance with the Law of the Lord and to listen attentively to the Word of God. Our commitment to the Opus Dei and to Lectio Divina bears witness to the importance of placing the Word of God at the center of all things. Our lives are rooted in the Gospels. For us, the Gospel is the supreme rule. By preferring nothing to the Gospel our vocation remains vital and life-giving.
In Chapter 73 of his Rule for Monks, St. Benedict wrote: "The reason we have written this rule is that, by observing it in monasteries, we can show that we have some degree of virtue and the beginnings of monastic life. But for anyone hastening on to the perfection of monastic life, there are the teachings of the holy Fathers, the observance of which will lead him to the very heights of perfection. What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life? What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator?" (RB. 73. 1-4)
In order for our lives to bear fruit for the salvation of the world, we must grow in our love for the Rule, in our love for the place, and in our love for the brethren. By cooperating with the grace of God we are transforming this valley that once had been the Eden of the Seneca Indians into a claustral Paradise, dedicated to the Mother of God and to the service of Christ our true King. Gathered on these "Pleasant Banks" we fix our gaze on that other shore in our heavenly homeland. We are called to follow Christ without compromise, even though we may be burdened with trials and hardships.
This monastery has been built on the Genesee bottomland, but our humble and hidden service to the Father raises us to the heights of the heavenly kingdom. It is here, in this place, that the genuineness of our faith, that is of greater value than fire-tested gold, will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed at the end of time (Cf. 1Pet. 1:7). By the power of the Holy Spirit our monastic observance becomes a living exegesis of the Word of God and a continual manifestation of the presence of the risen Christ is our day.
We live by faith, not by vision. We are all familiar with these beautiful words taken from the Letter the Hebrews. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not yet seen" (Heb. 11:1). Even though we never seen Christ, we love Him and follow Him wherever He may lead. This is underscored by these words we just heard from the first Letter of Saint Peter. "You have never seen Him, yet you love Him. Without seeing Him, even now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible joy that has been touched with glory" (1 Pet. 1:8). This monastery was founded so that men of faith could live the fundamental values of the Gospel. By so doing, we grow in union with the Triune God and cultivate fraternal communion among ourselves. The more perfectly we become the Church that has been established in the Valley of our Lady's Smile, the more authentically we will proclaim to all baptized Christians and to all seekers of the Truth that they are brought together by the Word, to be conformed to the Word and to walk by the light of His face.
We should always keep in mind the little detail Saint Mark included in his account of the encounter between Jesus and the rich young man. "Jesus turned His face towards the young man and looked intently at him. As He gazed upon the youth he was filled with heartfelt love for him" (Mk. 10:21). We nourish our faith by our daily celebration of the Eucharist, by our chanting of the Opus Dei, personal prayer and by listening to the Word of God in Lectio. By a hidden apostolic fruitfulness we become beacons of hope for all of humanity and glorify our Heavenly Father. Our way of life is strongly committed to the realization of the Kingdom of God. I will let St. Benedict have the final word in this homily. "Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then with Christ's help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners. After that, you can set out for the loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we mentioned above, and under God's protection you will reach them. Amen" (RB 73. 8-9).