Today we had an Advent Day of Recollection.
Monsignor Edward Bradley, Newark archdiocesan minister for retirees, spoke on the Gift Received and Freely Given.
More than 50 men attended the two half-hour talks, plus Mass and reconciliation.
He centered his theme on Matthew 10:8 where Jesus called his twelve disciples and told them, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely have you received, freely give."
Ed shared a story by a priest, Fr.William Bausch, called "The rabbi's gift." According to this tale, there was once a famous monastery that had fallen on hard times. It was no longer filled with young monks and the local townsfolk no longer came for prayer and edification. Old monks shuffled through empty halls, mumbling prayers (if they bothered to pray at all) and complained about everything and one another. (Blogger's note: this was getting too close for comfort!)
Anyway, in the woods beyond the monastery a rabbi built a simple hut to which he would come from time to time for silent prayer and contemplation. Whenever the rabbi went to his hut, the monks felt sustained by his presence. One day the abbot decided to pay the rabbi a visit. The abbot saw the rabbi waiting for him with arms outstretched in welcome. The two embraced like old friends. Then they stood smiling at one another. The rabbi motioned for the abbot to enter. On the table was a Bible. As the two men of prayer sat at the table, the rabbi began to cry. The abbot also cried his heart out. The two cried till the tears no longer flowed and all was quiet. "You and your brothers serve the Lord with heavy hearts," the rabbi said. "I will give a teaching. I will say it only once. And you must only repeat it once." When the abbot indicated he was ready to receive the teaching the rabbi whispered, "The Messiah is among you."
The abbot assembled the monks in the community room and announced the rabbi's teaching. "The rabbi says one of us is the Messiah!" The monks were dumbfounded. Could it be true? Who could it be? The result was that their attitude toward one another and community life changed. They treated one another with deference and respect. Their prayer was more joyful. Before long, people were coming from far and wide on pilgrimage to be with the holy monks. Young men once again asked to join the community.
They lived as if they had finally found something. They prayed the Scriptures as if still looking for something more.
The gift they received is the gift of the presence of God.
Monsignor Bradley then read a section of Cardinal Bernadine's book, "The Gift of Peace", written just before his death. The chapter dealt with the difficult final years when Bernadine overcame sexual misconduct allegations followed by his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Like Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, the Cardinal described it as "The best of times; the worst of times"---worst because of the humiliation, pain and fear; best because of the reconciliation, support and prayers he experienced.
Bernadine learned if you place your life totally in the hands of the Lord, good will prevail. He encourages us to release those things that inhibit us from an intimate relationship with the Jesus. Letting go is never easy. It is a life-long process. It takes a lifetime to learn these truths.
For the rest of the day, Bradley encouraged us to think about what the obstacles were to our letting go? What things can't we put aside to make room for Jesus.
Finally, from St. Augustine wrote: Let us sing alleluias here on earth in our insecurity. Sing to lighten our labors. Sing to make the journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep on going. Keep making progress in virtue, true faith and right living.
Each of us is here for some mission and it continues as long as we are alive.
Like Ananias who helped Paul remove the scales from his eyes, we are where God wants us to be to fulfill God's purpose, although we might never know what part we played in God's plan until the next life.
Today is World AIDS Day. Alas, gone are the days when our Maryknoll Center buzzed with activity to mark this date. Although Maryknollers continue AIDS ministry in many countries around the world, here at Mission Central there are no more 40 Hours Vigils, no prayer service, no prayer cards, no photo exhibit, no memorial quilt and no special Mass. Still, I want to publicly acknowledge the work of Ms. Susan Weissert who headed the now defunct Maryknoll AIDS office that coordinated our awareness programs for many years.
Aging pipes (see post below on Wikileaks) seem to be at the root of yesterday's gas leak and it will take some time to replace. Till that time, the gas will be cut off to the entire building. Kudos and thanks to the Physical Plant people who have been working non-stop with Con Ed and the fire department. And special thanks to the Sodexo staff for their stepping up to the challenge to give us hot, cooked meals.
Truth be told, had you not known the gas stoves were off-line, you'd never have guessed it from the fine food that continues to come out of the kitchen. Short ribs of beef and pasta with butternut squash, plus roasted tomato bisque were this evening's offerings. What's their secret? In the finest mission tradition, they made do with what they had, namely steamers and electric broilers. But even these have their limits, so starting Thursday they will be cooking our meals at St. Teresa's and the Sisters' then transporting them to our dining room. "Above and beyond the call of duty,"