Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well is very familiar to us; it’s been part of Lenten catechesis since the early Church. We see His method of arousing her curiosity and through dialogue (not without humour) and gradually drawing out her faith, which is what He’s really thirsting for. It has obvious similarities with, for instance, our Sunday gospels for the last few weeks where in John Ch. 6 Jesus, a few nuggets at a time, reveals Himself as the Bread of Life.
Now isn’t this in fact the Lord’s method with each of us? As we look back over the course of our lives, in our prayer, our listening to the Word, and in the hidden workings of our heart, hasn’t He all along been speaking to our hearts, calling us, arousing our curiosity through successive glimpses of His loving presence in our lives, inviting us bit by bit to a deeper understanding, a deeper trust and love, and ultimately to the default setting of our lives, to will what He wills?
For most people the result of this dialogue which we may be largely unaware of, will be the grace to serve God faithfully through good family lives and virtuous occupations within the Body of Christ.
This building we’re in, however, is a sign that for some people God’s plans are a little bit different, though directed to the same end, that is, forming us into living stones making up God’s house of prayer, His holy temple which is Christ’s Body. This is the primary human vocation, an invitation to all peoples as our first reading from Isaiah says.
Today we’re celebrating the anniversary of the Dedication of our Abbey church in 1860 by Bishop Brown. That day the Pontifical Mass was sung by Abbot Guéranger of Solesmes and a new dawn seemed to herald a monastic and a more general Catholic revival in our country. This very building speaks eloquently of that hope; no wonder we love it. The tide of history and of the Faith ebbs and flows and today at Belmont we see a united monastic community, attracting novices, offering God beautiful worship and listening to the Holy Spirit for ways to witness to Christ in the 21st century.
Each Belmont monk has his own fascinating story of being drawn by God to the monastic life in this community. Some receive the call very young and never deviate from their purpose. Others of us are surprised by our vocation and may have quite a battle with the Lord until at last we give in, in the face of His insistence and His love.
For some, there may come an extra call, to the ministerial priesthood. As you know, today is the happy occasion of the Silver Jubilee of ordination,of Fathers Brendan, Matthew and Martin. This call comes from God and from the Church and it is a call to service, to serve as Jesus’s instrument so that God’s people can hear authentic teaching, and can share the risen life of Christ through the sacraments. It’s a call to be His voice. When the priest says “I” or “my”, as in “I absolve” and “this is MY body”, he says it in the name of Christ, in persona Christi. His hands are anointed with oil, a sign of the Holy Spirit, and they are destined to serve the Lord as if they were His hands at work in the world.
Here’s a question: does Jesus know how to use a computer?
Yes, of course, in a manner of speaking, He does, because when Fr Brendan is typing a sermon or a retreat conference the Lord is working through him to carry into the world the witness of His love.
The sheer magnitude of what Christ wishes to do through His priests, especially of course in the sacrifice of the Mass, can be daunting. We can be tempted to say, as Peter did, “Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man.” Couldn’t He have chosen someone else, someone more capable, more holy?
St Gregory the great, whose feast we celebrated yesterday spoke for us all when he lamented “infirmitatem suam,” his weakness. But, 25 years ago, Jesus fixed His loving eyes on Doms Brendan, Matthew and Martin, and consecrated them, and they have carried on being His friends and co-workers through times perhaps of doubt and discouragement and have continued to trust in the look in His eyes.
We who have benefitted these past 25 years from their generosity, their first saying “adsum”, “Here I am”, to Our Lord’s invitation, we today thank God for their life of service to our community and to the wider Church.
Fr Matthew and Fr Martin are celebrating their Jubilee elsewhere, but here, dear Fr Brendan, we your community, family members and friends, we celebrate with you and pray for you. With the Lord 1000 years are like a day, so 25 years isn’t so long. With God’s blessing, try to go for gold. Ad multos annos, my dear Father and may the Lord bring us all who worship in this place into his house and gate of heaven.