Feast of our Founders

Homily: Mark 10: 24-30


THERE IS NO ONE WHO LEAVES HOME… FOR ME AND FOR THE GOSPEL WHO WILL NOT RECEIVE A HUNDRED TIMES AS MUCH IN THIS TIME AND ETERNAL LIFE IN THE FUTURE WORLD. Jesus sought to inculcate a very profound faith in his followers and a confidence in God the Father. He introduced these words just cited by a sweeping statement that discloses his own confidence in his Father: All things are possible to God. Each of us is confronted with this challenging belief at various points of time in life when some choice stands before us which we experience as surpassing our powers, whether of mind or of body or, often enough, of both. The demands of fidelity to God and conscience at times seem too much for us. We shrink before them and our instinct is to evade or reject them.

We are no different in this reaction than were the apostles and many of the saints who sought to put our Lord's teachings into practice. The biographies of the saints as well as the Gospels reveal to us innumerable instances that illustrate this very human tendency. We must learn from them how to deal with this temptation constructively. For to draw near to God we must confront such exacting demands in ways that engage all our resources of faith and trust. Only through faith and the surrender of trust can we hope to obtain the strength and determination requisite to take on the attitudes and behavior that Jesus characterizes as worthy of the kingdom of God. We exercise this faith in prayer which at such times is marked by a strenuous struggle with our emotions and our thoughts.

That is what occurred one day to the apostles when Jesus told them that trusting in riches and the possessions and the attachments of this world, far from being an enviable indication of prosperity, is a hindrance to ultimate happiness with God. If that is the case, they said, who can be saved? This view of things, they understood, turns human values upside down. Jesus does not correct this impression; on the contrary, he affirms it but goes on to say, in effect, giving your all for the kingdom is the best way to spend your life. Even in this world you will get much more than you give, and have all eternity in which to enjoy the kingdom of God. He knew this doctrine entailed suffering, as his own example would later reveal. But suffering that is fruitful and leads to an increment of life is not something to be avoided but assumed.

This fundamental teaching of the Gospel was unquestioningly accepted by the founders of our Order whose feast we celebrate today. Saints Robert, Alberic and Stephen had heard this call of Jesus to follow him in poverty and with total trust. When they came to realize their way of life no longer represented such a total gift of self, though their course would involve conflict and suffering, they did not turn away from conscience. Rather their prayer became a wrestling with the weakness of their human attachments until they found the light and the strength to act firmly, decisively breaking with their past and stepping out into the unknown and unchartered future with little else than their trust that all things are possible to God. In the years that followed this resolve and this trust were tested many times and in various ways. The most worrisome was the lack of support and understanding from people they respected. Their desire to pass on the form of life they so laboriously created seemed to be destined to be frustrated when for years no new members came to join them. But they continued in prayer and trust and looked only to God for help. They learned that prayer is more than consolation in God; it is also a field of battle where we must overcome fears and face the loss of all that has made life sweet and dear. Only then do we become capable to accepting the hundred-fold in this life, and find in our communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ the living support we risked in leaving the world behind. As we know their perseverance was met with eventual success and our presence here today is a fruit of their fidelity and courageous constancy.

Celebrating the feast of our Founders today at this Eucharist is an occasion for renewing our determination to follow their example in taking the words of Jesus to heart. In this communion with our Lord we receive the same pledge that sustained them: the Lord is with us because he loves us. He seeks our all because he wishes to give us his all and to share with us his life in and with the Father who sent him for our sake. Let us then put aside our fears and our petty concerns; let us look to Jesus, who stands before the Father to intercede for us and who sends his Spirit as our advocate. And with confidence let us resolve to follow him through the challenges and trials of this passing world so that we merit to share, all of us together, his glory in the world to come.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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