EXCERPS FROM FR. JAMES' SERMONS
My experiences as a Catholic have been many-faceted. The church has inspired me, guided me, frustrated me, annoyed me, confused me, enlightened me, delighted me – sometimes all in a single day. Well, it is a relationship. The church is people, and we roll and tumble together.
The church has given me a mystery that is alive, that is life-giving, and that is something that I have learned to receive as well as give away.
We chant the night office every morning. Our chanting begins promptly at four, and I love that canonical office. The psalms are beautiful and as I chanted them this morning, the plight of the physicists came to me. The psalms do not purport to unravel the patterns of the universe. Nor do they offer answers to someone who is looking for clues to the origins of time, or matter, or being itself. The psalms are verse after verse of longing for the love and mercy of God. The psalms posit humanity as humbled before the grandeur of the Lord. The psalms learn of God’s grandeur from the mighty works He has done – the creation of the universe – to the smallest beauties of creation – like a bird and her wisdom in building a nest and caring for her young.
So it is that the psalms bring us back down to earth. We stand here, our feet planted firmly on the ground. We are encouraged by ancient words to stand humbly before God and to take in, as best we can, the beauty of all that He has made. We are of His breath – even though our lives are, indeed, like a passing shadow. We chant words that beg the Lord of mercy for life.
I’d like to think God loves something about gathering. For it is written, and we have chanted before Him, that he will gather all things unto Himself. It is then a mystery involving time and how He uses it to gather all He has made unto Himself. I want it to be a beautiful gathering, where nothing loved will be lost.
I have things to gather, too, in this brief life. I can only pray that I gather what is of some good, and not ask for much more, and hope that God takes your life and mine and weave it unto Himself. He is a God who seems to be in a family kind of way, and the best we can do is learn from the psalmists. Yes, be like the birds of the sky, and take flight to God so as to be gathered by Him into His heart.
God is a careful and tender Gatherer, working as he does within and without the veils of time, shrouded in mystery. The universe may resist revealing its secrets to us. But there is a voice that speaks to us from it. It asks that we gather our lives and each other with love. The voice is everywhere. Look at a bird, and gather a bit of Wisdom as she visits and then takes flight, bringing to your window more than she can ever possibly know.
Embers of Pentecost
I like to think that ordinary life is smoldering with embers, embers that glow and sometimes create fires that give light, hope, warmth, and faith. We move and live from flame to flame.
So I have had some real highs and real lows. It has been quite a ride, but a wonderful one. I do not think I have accomplished much in my life. But I know when I look back, that God has been moving and shifting through all the loving embers that came my way. They kept me warm and hopeful, and the best I can hope for is that I hold them close and not be afraid of the fires that burn wherever there is love, life and passion.
Christmas for Those Who Follow Stars
What does it mean to love a person and be with them? Friends know love through each other. They can ride miles together and something good, perhaps the best that life gives, seeps into them through the miles and days.
Something strange happens when we love. Those we love enter us. They become a part of us. Not long ago I read words by the poet Mark Cox. “It’s hard, this life,” he wrote. “What we love we lose, and because we love we can never forget.”
There are nights I want to take the whole world to me, to think about and love all the people I have known and loved as best I could.
It’s a beautiful night. The sky is filled with stars and there are jets making their approach to the Atlanta airport.
I should soon walk back to the main building of this cloister, walk beneath the stars that are so far but yet burn so bright. I will walk gently beneath such beauty. Christmas draws near. Long ago Wise Men followed a star and found a child. that child lives in us and is born again and again, when we love. He loves in us. We live and love from the Child born beneath a star. What a joy to love all of them, to follow the light of a star that still beckons. 2000
After so many years, I must say that I have learned that friendship is the one abiding good thing in life, if not the very best thing.
We grow, and are given friends, and get to where we need to go, guided by a love given everywhere we go, revealing itself through the ways of friendship.
On to a New Year
New Year’s Eves are always quiet here at the monastery. I don’t know of any monks who stay up through midnight. Most of us are long asleep by the time the New Year rolls into town. For me, the New Year brings on a host of past memories. I think of those I have loved and who are now gone. I think of the good times we had, and how when I shared those times with them, I did not appreciate the beauty and wonder that they brought to my life.
Someday, it will be time for me to move on, to leave this life and pass on to the next. I have no control over that, which is something to ponder on this day and age when we think we can exercise control over almost everything. But not our lives, not our deaths. We belong to God and He is the one who has the last and hopefully good say in all things.
I hope there is a welcome area in Paradise. I like to think that Mom and Dad will be waiting for me when I arrive, for that flight will surely be on time. And I will cry with joy and hug then and kiss them, and ride across the waters of eternal life, into a year that lasts forever. I believe that will happen. It is the truth I knew here, the truth they gave me, in the best of times.