Thursday, October 04, 2012

Send Out Laborers

Send Out Laborers

October 4, 2012
Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi

I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon  the dust; Whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another's, shall behold him, And from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing.  Job 19:25-27

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.  Go on your way."  Luke 10:2-3a


The sixth degree of humility
is that a monk be content
with the poorest and worst of everything,
and that in every occupation assigned him
he consider himself a bad and worthless workman,
saying with the Prophet,
"I am brought to nothing and I am without understanding;
I have become as a beast of burden before You,
and I am always with You" (Ps:22-23).  Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7


The hand of God has struck Job and left him with the hope that his eyes will see the Lord.  Despite the tragedy in his life, Job is still possessed of the Holy Longing to see God.  His path has not been an easy path yet he lives on in hope.
Jesus also warns his disciples that their path will not be an easy path either.  He is sending them out like lambs among the wolves to build the Kingdom.  He repeatedly reminds them that the Kingdom of God is at hand.  However, that Kingdom will not be built without their labor.
Today on the Memorial of St. Francis, we reflect on the work of another laborer who worked to physically and spiritually rebuild the Church. 


Sometimes the old-fashioned snail mail delivers interesting messages.  Yesterday when going through the items delivered there was a newspaper dedicated to commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II and the work of Pope John XXIII to reform the church.  Right after that I opened an envelope inviting Beth and I to join in a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the ordination of Abbot Emeritus Oscar Burnett, OSB.  How interesting.  The year 1962 offered to the Church both Vatican II and the ordination of Oscar Burnett of Savannah, Georgia. 
Fr. Oscar (as he was known at the time Beth and I were in students at Belmont Abbey College before he was elected Abbot) was the campus minister.  Oscar was a builder in the tradition of Jesus and Francis and Job.  The Masses he celebrated, the retreats he organized and the service projects he inspired truly helped to build the Kingdom of God in the hearts and minds of the students, faculty and friends of Belmont Abbey.   As Abbot, he oversaw a critical period both in the spiritual life of the monastic community (Mary Help of Christian Abbey) and the college. 
Fr. Oscar was known for many things but chief among them was his uproarious laughter -- something that no one whom he ever met will ever forget.  That laughter might have gotten him a stern rebuke from Benedict of Nursia (Eccles. 21:23), but the laughter also indicated the heart of the obedience and humility that has placed an indelible mark on his community.  Not the dazed and confused students trying to find and make their way in the world of yesterday, today or tomorrow. Not the families who were touched by his kind homilies for one of his passing brothers or friends.  Not the poor widows who benefited from Oscar making Christmas an every day event with student volunteer labor to fix up their house long before anyone popularized the term "Christmas in April."  Oscar made Christmas in May, July, October and everyday a reality.  
Who helped to build the Kingdom of God in your heart?  Thank them today.
Thank you, Fr. Oscar.  I hope the efforts of those you have inspired lead us to be even a fraction of the laborer you are.  You have been a channel of peace to so many.  May your special celebration on November 10th give you an opportunity to sit back, laugh and rest as your community and your friends and your Lord say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

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