A ND HE SAID TO JESUS: LORD, REMEMBER ME WHEN YOU COME INTO YOUR KINGDOM. The answer that our Lord gave to this prayer of the good thief is a source of hope and encouragement to all of us: "This day you shall be with me in paradise." Faith and trust in Jesus as Lord is rewarded without hesitation and without measure. To be a companion of our Savior, this is our desire, this our hope. Here we are shown that the response to such a prayer is not withheld from anyone who dies looking to Christ for his favor. Not even a sinner, repenting at the last hour and making his prayer for the first time is turned away when his words comes from a heart surrendered in faith to God's Son.
In the Epistle to the Corinthians that we heard a few minutes ago, St. Paul reinforces this hope and clarifies its significance by indicating that it includes the resurrection of our body when he writes: "Knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise you through Jesus and will place us with you in his presence." The whole of St. Paul's spirituality and theology is based on this conviction that we are to share in the glory of the risen Christ. He is keenly aware that this destiny surpasses the limits of reason and any merely human expectation. It will seem an illusion and foolishness to those who do not share faith in this belief, and so he goes on to point out that it is God's free gift that is the basis for such a sublime hope. In fact, he tells us, God places all things at the disposal of those who place their trust in Him. "For all things are for your sake so that grace, being multiplied, may abound through the thanksgiving of many to the glory of God."
How much hope we can have then for the departed brothers of this community whose life and death we commemorate today in this liturgy. They had, motivated by a strong faith, deliberately renounced their hopes for a happiness based on the rewards offered by the world. With their hope placed in Jesus as their Savior, they entered upon the narrow way, freely taking up their cross day by day to follow the Lord through death to glory. Much could be said about the various testings their faith was to pass through. We are particularly mindful today of their history on this day as we inaugurate the 50th anniversary year of the founding of this community. That history is chiefly composed of the works and struggles, the hopes and trials, the successes and failures that these men experienced in the course of founding and establishing this monastery. Anyone familiar with the story of our Order soon comes to appreciate how every undertaking to implant a new monastery presents the founders with fresh opportunities for growth, but at the same time with unforeseen difficulties that prove to be a test of faith and a challenge to hope. The history of this community which is being written at present will record in detail many specific events which were blessings for its members as well as the serious, quite unexpected reverses that took place in the wake of the early death of the three chief officers, the first abbot, the novice master and the cellarer.
But to God alone is known the struggles and testings that took place in the hearts of the men buried here. The monk's fidelity is measured not by the visible, outward happenings that he encounters in the course of his years but by the decisions of the heart, for it is the inner life that gives quality to this Cistercian way of life. The true work of the monk is that of purifying the heart. A monastery is built by this inner work above all; without it the buildings they construct and the fields they worked would remain devoid of any true significance. In addition to offering this mass for their eternal repose with the Lord, we can best honor the memory of our deceased brothers today and during this coming year by carrying on the task they undertook when they came to this place to establish here a community of men dedicated to the search for union with God. This entails above all dedicating our self to the interior work of purifying the heart in view of attaining to the realization of that same hope that motivated them, as it had St. Paul. The meaning of their dedication remains in a certain sense still open. What significance their lives had depends in good measure on our fidelity to the vi sion and the hope that inspired them as they lived out their days here. May the Lord who is pres ent to us here in his Eucharist grant us to fulfill and complete, as far as we are able with his grace, the work they have begun. And may we all prove worthy at the end to hear in our hearts the words of promise that we heard Jesus pronounce in today's Gospe: ""This day you will be with me in Paradise."
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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