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Br. Luke’s Funeral Mass

Luke-Funeral

Homily by Abbot Peter McCarthy: 12-19-2012

 

My brothers & sisters,

     It seems clear that for ancient Israel God was first a God of Hospitality… and so scenes of Hospitality are woven deeply throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and therefore Jewish Spirituality as well. So it was that in practicing Hospitality the Patriarchs (especially Abraham – the father of faith-) entertained angels – those most intimate messengers of the Presence of God! This practice of the spirituality of Hospitality has a very practical & every day intent.I am reminded of an ancient Hasidic tale from Rabbinic Wisdom literature. It goes like this:

“A disciple of Rabbi Shmelke’s begged his master to teach him how to prepare his soul for the service of God. The Rabbi told him to go to Rabbi Abraham Hayyim, who at that time – was still an innkeeper. The disciple did as he was bidden and lived in the inn for several weeks without observing any vestige of holiness in the innkeeper who from the Morning Prayer till night devoted himself to welcoming & serving the guests. Finally the young disciple asked the old Rabbi what he did all day. “ My most important occupation, “ said Rabbi Abraham, “is to clean the dishes properly, so that not the slightest trace of food is left, and to clean & dry the pots and pans, so they don’t rust.” When the young disciple returned home & reported to Rabbi Shmelke what he had seen & heard, the Rabbi said to him: “Now you know the answer to what you asked me…for this is true holiness…this is truly serving God.”
Tales of the Hasidim

     Just this last week I discovered in Br. Luke’s personnel file a copy of a note he sent to then Abbot Bernard (some 30 years ago) who asked to review his daily work commitments. Luke responds to his abbot Although I may have forgotten something here or there I think this is close to correct. Then follows a half sheet of paper with the hand written title:

Br. Luke’s Schedule

from rising time to Lauds – reading, prayer, letters,etc

During Lauds…Prepare breakfast for Guests

After Mass…on duty in Porter’s Lodge – answer phone until 8:15AM…when Guests disperse, wash dishes & clean up, etc.

Then, Go to regular work; maintenance of machinery & vehicles.

On Tuesdays- work in Porter’s Lodge all morning as Br. Martin cooks for the community.

In the afternoons make beds & prepare rooms for guests. After lunch –  on duty in Porter’s lodge until 2PM wash dishes, clean up, take food back to kitchen:

Evening – on duty in Porter’s lodge from 5PM to 6:30PM – have supper – go back to Porter’s lodge clean up, load dishwasher, bring food back to kitchen, attend Compline – half hour of meditation – go to Porter’s lodge – prepare for breakfast – unload dishwasher- mop floor lightly – GO TO BED when finished in Porter’s Lodge!!!

 

My sisters & brothers, I would hazard a guess that for many of us here this morning, Br. Luke was the first monk to welcome us to this Abbey & our earliest memories of him are around washing dishes or putting food out for our meals… A very every day, Ordinary & Laborious work carried out graciously, and gently, and quietly; a sacred ministry of welcome, at the heart of this community. Actually a sacred ministry at the heart of monastic life itself. And so our Rule of St. Benedict states:

“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt25;35) …All humility should be shown in addressing a guest on arrival or departure. By a bow of the head or by a complete prostration of the body, Christ is to be adored because he is indeed welcomed in them.”  RB 53

 

You see, for the earliest Christian Community, standing on the shoulders of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, hospitality took on a very intimate & transforming reality in Jesus Risen…it is our Emmaus Gospel this morning.

 

“Jesus himself drew near & walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. As they approached the village to which they were going, He gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “stay with us, for it is nearly evening & the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened & they recognized him.

     My sisters & brothers, the Emmaus Gospel, & Br. Luke’s ministry among us, has taught me that to do this Hospitality ministry faithfully – this ministry of the heart – I must let go of my own self consciousness – for me that translates “stop whining about your life, what you wanted or expected & didn’t get, stop trudging through it like a burden, rather HOST your everyday life for the enormity of gifts that fill it –  moment by moment.”

If we were to enter Br. Luke’s room right now in our senior wing, one of the first things you would notice (on the floor & on the desk) are stacks of wide spiral binders filled with pages of his clear handwriting & covering over 50 years of his life as a monk. Initially I didn’t know what to make of them; they really aren’t reflections or reactions like you would expect in a personal journal / diary… only in these final days of his life among us did it come clear to me… these twenty plus binders are “gift registries” page after page of what was given him to see, to hear, to experience in each day. And there doesn’t seem to be any prioritizing…you have the astronauts’ lunar landing & a new set of screwdrivers for the machine repair shop sharing the same page… the latest Notre Dame victory & the arrival of the L’arche group for their Advent retreat are mentioned with equal focus.

The gift & blessing of Emmaus, of our God of Hospitality, is the gift of Br. Luke’s life among us… pleading with us to ease up on our over developed & anxiety ridden critical / judgmental grip on our lives. And challenging us to notice, to Host our everyday realities as if they were a personal gift from a loving & Risen friend. 

Every day   (writes the poet Mary Oliver)

I see or I hear

Something

That more or less kills me

With delight,

That leaves me like a needle

In the haystack

Of light.

                    It was what I was born for –

                    To look, to listen,

To lose myself inside this soft world-

          To instruct myself

Over & over

In joy, and acclamation.

Nor am I talking about the exceptional,

The fearful, the dreadful,

          The very extravagant –

                    But of the ordinary,

                    The common, the very drab,

The daily presentations.

          Oh, good scholar,

                   I say to myself,

                   How can you help

But grow wise

          With such teachings as these –

                   The untrimmable light

Of the world,

The ocean’s shine,

          The prayers that are made

                   Out of grass?

+ Abbot Peter



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