Homily at Mass
End of Oblate Weekend
Monday, July 31st 2012
Dear Sisters and Brothers how great is our enthusiasm when we first set out upon some good path by the grace of God. So it is with the Christian life; so it is with monastic life; so it is with oblation.
The story is told by the Desert Fathers of the monk who was a hard worker who appeared to his spiritual Father to be becoming crushed by his work – so he observed him closely to see what was happening and how this was coming about. He also prayed that he might be enlightened spiritually as to what was going on.
Very soon as he observed him he saw that all the time a dark little demon was at his side as he worked, urging him on. Whenever he rested or slowed in pace the little demon would frenetically goad him into excessive work and action and so it was by day and by night so that he was unable to pray or do anything useful and would indeed soon fall ill.
The spiritual Father prayed more and then approached the monk and the monk who up until then whose eyes had been unable to see the little demon – his eyes were opened and he saw the trap into which he had fallen and by God’s grace was restored to health.
So it is with zealous Christians and monks and Oblates too – especially the zealous aspirant. The devil seeing that he cannot attack that zeal goads it to an inhuman excess to break the will and spirit. Prayer going out the window the trap is closed and to quote the first reading – like the loincloth we become ‘good for nothing’.
Recently I’ve had aspirant Oblates devouring spiritual books, men and women full of zeal, voracious for prayer, for the Divine Office, usually the whole office and perhaps the monastic office, spending long periods in lectio and every other practice and devotion they come across. Being in the middle of their lives they often have children and sometimes dependent parents in old age, demanding work with unreasonable hours etc, etc. Finally I get a letter saying that Oblation is just too much. Their commitments and duties are just so great that they have no time left for Oblation.
I then think of the little demon and the misplaced zeal that drives to distraction and says Oblation is just ‘one more darn thing’ – the straw etc.
On the contrary our Oblate life is our whole life – not the holy bits. We cannot opt out of life – God’s gift.
Oblation is like the mustard seed or the leaven that grows and grows till the whole is transformed, but the mustard seed needs the rest of the world to grow in and the leaven, the yeast needs all that flour and dough.
Oblation, as also monastic life, as also Christian life, is the whole transformed reality, transformed world, transformed life. The essential ‘bit’, the mustard or the leaven, is worse than useless on its own. Oblate life is life with a capital L, Life transformed in Christ. If we’ve no time for this transformed life we have no time for Christ. Christ is the life of our souls as Blessed Columba Marmion said. Christ came with the leaven of the one thing necessary without which we do not grow; indeed without Christ we cannot rise. Let us not be afraid to expose the dough of our life to Christ’s leaven by our Oblation, our self-offering which we renew today.