At fixed times all the abbots/abbesses come together. They discuss there the salvation of their own souls and of those committed to them. They take measures regarding the observance of the Holy Rule and of the Order where there is something that needs to be corrected or added. They foster anew among themselves the benefit of peace and charity. They devote themselves to maintaining the patrimony of the Order and safeguarding and increasing its unity. (C.77)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homily of The Abbot General at Mass for the closing of the General Chapter, September 28, 2011.

As we gather for this last Eucharist together in the course of this General Chapter and move towards thinking of our journeys home the liturgy of today’s Mass puts before us in a number of ways people who are also on a journey and not just any old journey or trip but journeys motivated by the call of God in their lives.  We heard first of Nehemiah, living in exile, and doing well there.  On hearing of the state of Jerusalem, he is moved to sadness and concern and decides to return home to rebuild the city of God, the community and its worship.  And, we are told, the kindly hand of God was with him.  

In the Gospel Jesus has started out on his journey to Jerusalem where he too will do God’s work in the city of Jerusalem and fulfil God’s purposes.    Today we learn of three different encounters with people Jesus met on his way.   They all teach us something about following Jesus and the demands it can make on us.  The first encounter is with someone, who sounds young and full of spontaneous good will and enthusiasm:  “I will follow you wherever you go!”  Jesus replies with a dose of realism that points out to the man the cost of following Jesus.   It is a call to think well before making the decision, to realise what one is letting oneself in for.  The following of Jesus cannot be sustained by a spontaneous bright idea of ours, nor a momentary appeal which does not measure the consequences.  At another moment Jesus speaks of assessing your forces before going into battle and seeing if you have the material to finish the job before you start building your tower. 

The call of Jesus can also make demands on other human and earthly bonds – the demands of filial piety and the courtesies of family life.  This call is not to be taken as a rule of life in every situation but it shows us the demands that the service of the Gospel can at times make on the life of the follower of Jesus.  Each of the demands is made to individuals and should not be generalised and applied to all. We are not talking here about norms but rather indications of a spirit and an attitude that takes God and the Good News seriously.  They show us what may be asked of us and call us to a spirit of recognising the priority of God in our lives.  They are indicators of the kind of choices we have to make not only at the moment of first being called to follow Jesus, but are challenges that face us each day as we journey to our heavenly homeland.   Despite making decisions with forethought and consideration we cannot always know all the implications of our choices.  Just as the disciples in the Gospel were put before moments of truth when they were severely questioned about their ideas of what the kingdom of God would mean and the reality that Jesus proposed, so it is with us.   From the “Lord this must not happen to you” of Peter to the “we thought he was the one who would set Israel free” of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the realisation of Peter “Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the message of eternal life” the pattern will be no different.  Life and relationships are made up of expectations, surprises, disappointments, and joys – the learning that is part of our schooling in love, our growing relationship with the Lord Jesus.  

The journey continues and life will continue to surprise us and we will have to learn these truths again in new situations.  God’s plans and purposes are always much greater than we can ask or imagine.  The important thing is to keep on the way to keep our eye on him who leads us and to be ready to be surprised. The prayer of today’s Mass reminds us that we need to continually ask God who is merciful and forgiving to pour out his grace on us as we make our way to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the blessings promised by God where we will become participants of eternal happiness.    May this Eucharist, this celebration of the mystery of faith renew our faith and trust in God, strengthen us for the journey ahead with our communities and may he, Christ, bring us all together to everlasting life.