Saturday, October 28, 2006

Homily for Wednesday of the 29th Week in OT

[This is the text of a homily preached during the Canonical Visitation at Prinknash Abbey on Wed, 25 October, 2006]

"The Son of man is coming at an hour you least expect."

By contrast, the Ordinances of our Congregation require of the Abbot Visitor 30 days' written notice. Besides that, in our English Province, one can be quite certain that even this notice will appear every third year.

One does hear it jokingly said at visitations that the community is 'on its best behavior'--this usually said in jest. An impending visitation can of course provide an impetus for certain changes to the life or just a simple tidying up.

One of the aims of the visitation is simply to state back to the community what the community has to say about itself. Hearing this from the visitors, who should therefore aim to refect this self-assessment objectively, the community can have some light shed in unexpected ways on the actual state of the life. The presence of an 'Other' in our midst helps us to reawaken to our real condition, to re-focus us on our goal of following Christ in seeking God alone. And by comparison of the person or community that we are with the person or community that we are called to be, we can set our course forward with more firmness of purpose.

This assistance afforded us by the visit of monks 'from far-off lands' may be a key to understanding why Saint Luke records this curious question by Saint Peter, a question that Saint Matthew omits from his telling. We have all heard this parable from our Lord countless times. As is the case with much that is in the Gospels and the liturgy, this very familiarity with the teaching of Christ can unintentionally lull us into the torpor against which is was meant to guard. As usual, Peter unwittingly puts his finger on the problem: Jesus is the very Son of man Himself, standing in Peter's midst. The Lord's teaching (and His coming) is not simply a prophecy in a book, written down in some far-off time, portending events to occur in some equally far-off time. Rather, it is the proclamation of a pressing reality today: the Kingdom of God is at hand.

If we are awake to the Lord's visitation: in the Eucharist, in our brother or sister, in the Scriptures, and in the Church, then we have the opportunity each day, even each moment, to assess our situation properly. As in the Canonical Visitation this requires not only listening to the Lord's 'report' as it were, but also speaking honestly and without fear: 'boldly and with confidence' as Saint Paul puts it. So Peter is a reminder of the need of constant prayer and striving after the Lord to know His will. Thus, in diligent prayer and wakeful vigilance, we can mature into faithful and wise stewards in the Lord's household.

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Origen of Alexandria
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