Friday, September 11, 2015

An Augustinian Eucharistic Prayer

Below is a Eucharistic Prayer that I wrote to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary's original founding when myself and Bp.Christopher Tobin professed our first vows to the new community in 1993.

I had the opportunity to use it last month at our Annual Chapter and First Church Synod(Gathering). I share it here for any to use with appropriate permission from their own ecclesial authorities.

An Augustinian Eucharistic Prayer

Holy are you, God, Trinity of persons, source of Love, Love itself, and the fruits of Loving. You call us into being as your children making us in your own image. You enflame our hearts with Your love, burning with desire for union with you.

(Sung: Feed us now with the food of that loving desire as we sing to you forever and ever: Amen)

God of Abraham and Sarah, in the fullness of time, your Word was incarnate by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. You became the Source of Grace, the Source of Good Counsel, and the Source of Consolation. One like us in all things but sin, and for us in all things bar none.

(Sung: By your Grace, flood your Holy Spirit in our midst now and forever: Amen)

By the power of that same Holy Spirit, make these simple gifts of bread and wine, symbol of your life giving creation, + the real body and blood of Jesus, Our Christ.

On the night Jesus was to initiate your recreation of the world by his supreme act of love and reconciliation, he took bread, gave you thanks and praise, broke the bread saying, “take, eat, all of you, THIS IS MY BODY which will be given up for you.

At the end of the meal, he took the wine, again gave you thanks and praise, gave it to his disciples saying, “take, drink, all of you, THIS IS MY BLOOD, the blood of the new covenant, shed for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”

Sung: Condemned by justice, but Redeemed by Love, we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

Dying you destroyed our death…

Holy One, by the mystery and power of Jesus’ body and blood here present, make  all who share in it, one in mind and heart on our way to you. Make our community in Jesus’ name a place of faith, hope, and charity. Grant the fullness of life, especially to all who are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, and all who seek your truth with a sincere heart.

(Sung: May we be reconciled with each other by the power of your cross and resurrection now and forever. Amen)

Loving Father, keep, by your strength and wisdom the Ecumenical Patriarchs strong in faith, and our Bishop, N. a loving shepherd.  Keep us one in mind and heart by prayer and the charity of obedience. Remember all bishops, priests, and deacons who minister in your name by Word and Sacrament. Remember, too, those charged with the service of being called Prior. Give them all, by Grace, what they need to be true examples of your Christ in our communities.

Divine Love, remember all those vowed to a life of prophetic prayer and apostolic mission as exampled by Our Holy Father, Augustine. Give them the strength to love as Jesus loved and to pray as Jesus prayed.

(Sung: Make us all faithful to our baptismal profession now and forever. Amen.)

Womb of eternal life, grant to our confreres, family, friends, and benefactors, who precede us to your heavenly throne, the vision of your glory. (pause) By the reconciliation of Jesus’ paschal mystery may they be judged by their baptismal renewal of faith and join the communion of Saints in your heavenly City with Mary, Our Mother of Grace and Good Counsel, Augustine, Monica, Rita, Nicholas, Thomas of Villanova, and all your Holy Ones given to us as examples of discipleship.

May we join them in the praise of your glory as it was, is now, and will be forever,

Sung: Through him, with him, in him…


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fifteenth Sunday in OT Homily: Foot Soldiers of Christ

I ask you to think about the images that come to mind when I speak the word military. Now do the same for the word Church. With regard to the military, I would bet that most picture foot soldiers, or soldiers in a tank, or flying a jet, the rank and file enlisted doing their duty not generals or admirals in the Pentagon. With regard to the Church, I would bet most first think of bishops, or a pope, or priests offering the Mass, not the foot soldiers in the pew, the laity.

Today's Gospel reading from Mark where Jesus sent out the Apostles in twos to minister is often a Gospel story used to rally a cry for vocations to the priesthood or religious life as it should, but it can and must also be seen as a call to ministry for the church at large, the laity in the pews. The Twelve received authority to preach repentance, drive out demons and heal the sick. While the Church has sacraments which rightfully remind and pour forth encounters with God for all, the sacraments only work on those who come to them. The laity have a special gift and call to minister these realities of God's presence in the midst of their lives, their work place, their family and friends.

The faithful can preach repentance by being examples of forgiveness and mercy to those around them. They can preach by witnessing to forgiveness in their own relationships. They can expel demons by speaking out against injustice in the workplace, neighborhood, and culture. They can minister healing, by being a source of comfort and compassion to those in need where they find them.

Yes, the laity are the foot soldiers called to action in today's Gospel message. The laity can in many ways be an even greater sign than the clergy of what Paul spoke about to the Ephesians:
     " In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions,
            in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us."

So today in this hearing of God's Word, we are all called and sent out with authority, the authority of the Son of God made flesh in our midst.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

An Easter Promise: The Empty Tomb

My homily from the Easter Vigil 2015

When I went to college, I was blessed to have a wonderful second hand car to take with me to school. On one occasion, feeling a bit guilty at having such a benefit, I loaned my car to a friend who wanted to take a new girlfriend to dinner. He got into a small fender bender. As the car was in my dad's name, I had to tell him. I told him the truth of what happened and he did not doubt me. He said he knew me and believed that I would feel that way, do what I did, and not lie to him.

This night we are told the story of God's work in salvation history: creation, covenant, freedom from slavery, and hope by prophetic message. The story ends with Mark's account of the Gospel. The tomb was empty and they went and told no one. Wait...told no one? Yes. This is the actual ending of Mark's Gospel account.

We are left simply with the empty tomb and asked, rather challenged to believe. Having heard all that Jesus did, hearing all that God accomplished, and having the covenant and promises of God revealed, we are left with an empty tomb ans you believe? Do you trust that God is, and always has been, truthful to us? Then what does the empty tomb mean? That God has raised Jesus from the dead and given life to those in the grave and all believers for all time. God has conquered sin and death and given us hope for all ages.

In a moment we will be asked to affirm our yes to this promise of God in the new waters of Easter. We will then be asked to go out and live a life of Easter joy for and with others. Let us go knowing our God and that he would not lie to us for he has the words of everlasting life!

Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen! Alleluia!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Holy Thursday Homily: Grain and Grape Crushed

When I was teaching Theology some year back, a course on Christian Justice, we read a story about the power of a snowflake. During a snow storm, snow began to accumulate on a tree branch. Each snow flake nearly weightless fell on the branch. Eventually, the culmination of the many, many snowflakes brought down the sturdy tree branch. No one snowflake could know that it would be the one to tip the balance, but they all did their part together.

Tonight we gather to celebrate the mystery of the passion memorialized and lived in the Eucharist. The Eucharistic elements of bread and wine, St. Augustine comments, are the image of the Church. The bread we use that becomes the Lord’s own body is made up of many, many grains and the cup of wine, made up of many, many grapes. But first, these grains need to be crushed. They need to die to themselves to yield something more, something greater, the body of the Lord. The grapes, too, must first be crushed, many of them at a time to yield the wine which is his blood.

Thus, our first image and lesson from tonight is we must each be willing to be crushed for something greater. We must be willing to sacrifice ourselves to be the Body of Christ. We must be willing to be less significant on our own, but something greater together in the community of the Church given shape at this meal.

Second, for what is this something greater? Our Lord answers this, as well... love. “Do you know what I do for you? Then you must do this for each other.” We sacrifice ourselves, unite our desires, and become the very Body of Christ in and for love. Our sacrifice becomes a power beyond understanding, a power to transform, a power to give life. Jesus’ being crushed finds ultimate power in the uniting with his Body in the world, to transform all of creation in the new life of the resurrection.

Like the snowflakes, we can not know the power individually we can assert until we are united together to bring down a mighty branch. But first, like Christ we much be willing to be crushed, serve others first, forgive in mercy, and then be untied in the love and power of the resurrected Body of the Lord.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Violence!

Again religion, faith, freedom, and violent terrorism grips our world. And, many different voices are taking different stances and focusing on different aspects of the tragedy in France and across Europe. I offer my own simple reflection on these events as I see them relate to larger issues from my perspective as a liberal Christian.

Freedom. A word many like to throw around but few really understand. Many focus on the individual aspect of this word that one can act, think, proceed as they like. I am free to do as I wish. However freedom has a have to be willing to honor and respect the freedom of the other the same as your own. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We have freedoms that often contradict. The challenge is to do the hard work that respects them all. You can not claim freedom to practice your religion while denying others the right to do the same, or none at all. If you have none, you must respect those who do, even when aspects are displayed in public, within reason and law. You can not claim freedom of speech or expression if your speech tears at the heart of others most treasured identity. You can not claim freedom of speech if your speech is somehow seen as ultimate truth beyond all other. There are subtle difference between good reasonable criticism and passionate debate, and violent disrespect. Political discourse and the sharing of ideas was the intent of the constitutionalists, not hate speech designed to incite rage or violence against another. I mean for right and left to reflect here. The words of our lips give indication to the desires of our hearts. (Augustine of Hippo)

Responsibility: Freedom requires a sense of adult responsible respect. The right is quick to denounce acts of Islamic terror as fundamentally evil, and it is, and does not represent the best of their faith teaching. However, Chrisitan fundamentalism has brought about the death of doctors and personnel at women's clinics, the bombing in Oklahoma, and acts of violence against LGBT persons. "Before you take the splinter out of your neighbor's eye, remove the beam from your own." The left also has failures in this regard. The inflammatory disrespect with which faith is often treated dilutes the real and honest criticisms of religious practice in public life that are often necessary.

Faith and Religion: Persons of deep faith use their religion as a tool or set of tools and practices to help them develop their spiritual relation with their God, higher power, etc. Religious people often elevate their religion beyond their faith putting the former before the a priori latter. One can be a deeply faith rooted and religious person in healthy maturity, some are just spiritually mature not claiming an organized religion, but it is often fear and spiritual immaturity that leads one to hide behind their religious practice without prioritizing and doing the really challenging work that their faith demands. Fundamentalists on the right often are guilty of this, while extremists on the left fail to understand or appreciate the struggle and difference between faith and religion in which the vast majority of religious people engage.

Today's readings from scripture both Hebrew and Christian relate stories about God calling and human response. Samuel first missed God's call as coming from Eli. He did not understand. It took time and inquisition before he could say, "Here is your servant Lord, I am listening." Jesus' first disciples were originally John's who came to Jesus by experiencing his mission and John's testimony and then their numbers grew again by word of mouth and personal experience. "We have found the Christ...come and see"
For us as lovers of freedom, we can take example here how to have freedom of both religion and speech and freedom from violence: take time to listen to your faith's source and spend time seeking the truth by lived example and personal testimony. Listen, watch, pray, and respond with love and deep awe that God has reached out to us, and we are graced enough to recognize the Spirit in our midst. Finally, respond to God's call for others in the same gentle and loving way God deals with us. This is the true strength and deep conviction of the freedom of God's children which we all are.

Friday, December 26, 2014

For You I Am Bishop

When I was 15, I had my first official tennis match as a member of the Varsity team. I looked fabulous, of course, in my uniform with matching colored striped socks, and wrist and bandana head band. But, I was scared to death of actually having to play. I even threw up before the match, but my coach would not let me sit out the match. I played! I ran, I hit, I served. I LOST. But, I played and was ready to play and do better next time.

"I am fearful of what I am for you, but I draw strength from what I am with you. For you I am a bishop, and with you I am a Christian. The former designates an office received, the latter the foundation of salvation."

These are the words of St. Augustine of Hippo on the occasions of his anniversary of ordination as bishop. He did not want to become a bishop and fought for a long time against the moves that were made to make it so. He had great fears about that office of ministry. He finally accepted out of obedience and a sense of love for the people to whom he was asked to serve. Love was always the bottom line for Augustine. Loving God whom you can not see, by loving those whom you can. He played and played well as history recounts.

Tomorrow I am to be ordained to the office of bishop for my Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Church community we have formed. This comes at a time when I was seeking to find ways to slimline my ministry, focus more on my religious life, and engage in less administration and more personal one-on-one/small group ministry. As my long time friend, and co-founder of the Order, Bp. Christopher always says, "If you want to make God laugh, then tell him your plans." Well, God must be getting quite a belly laugh at me right now. I for my part feel like I did before that first tennis match. But my brothers and sisters in community, like my first coach, won't let me sit out this match.

And growth and new life always comes with pain and a cost. The growth of our Order necessitates us leaving the church in which we found ourselves and some good people there. But, in the season of Advent and hope, you go where the Lord leads and trust in his providence to get you to where he want you to be. Now it is Christmas, and we must become the Word made flesh to others. This in fact is the motto I have chosen to govern my term of office. We must be pregnant and ready to birth the Word of God, the Good News of salvation, in what we do and say wherever God leads. God is found in our incarnate existence, the day to day life in which he formed us, It is in making that existence holy that he grants us a share in his divinity and life.

So, I and our Order/Church go forth now trusting in God's Holy Spirit in our midst, impregnating us with the Word, as he did Our Immaculate Mother of Grace, whose example is always in the forefront of our minds and prayers, to give birth to the Good News to those who have no hope, to be a voice of justice to the voiceless, a center of prayerful calm to the disturbed, a source of resource to those whose means are few. We go now inflamed with the love of God, one in mind and heart into His life made flesh here among us, and in the life promised us to come. It's time to play the match, we need not win, just play with our whole heart, mind and soul, for love of God.