My cup overflows

Homily for All Souls Day (Year A)
2 November  2014 – 7am, 8:30am, 10:30am, 12:00pm
St. Jude Catholic Parish – Indianapolis, IN
Wisdom 3:1-9  |  Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6  |  Romans 5:5-11  |  John 6:37-40
Image source

Good morning. My name is Deacon Mike Keucher, and I’m in my sixth and final year of seminary at St. Meinrad Seminary, so I’ll be a priest in June.  I’m so happy to be here today.

Today we celebrate two things: All Souls Day and Vocations Sunday.  These two celebrations come together nicely in the story of David.  Many scripture scholars believe that when David wrote that psalm we sang this morning—Ps. 23, the Lord is my Shepherd—he was nearing his death.  I imagine an elderly David, lying on his bed and remembering the vocations God had given him and the joy he found in them. He remembered that day that he was anointed king. He remembered learning that his wife was to pregnant with his tenth son. He remembered what it was to be a husband and a father to so many. He probably turned his mind back to those days of shepherding as a young man. He remembered that first poem he wrote.  And the more he reflected, the fewer words he could find. He ends up summarizing his life with these words: “My cup overflows.”

Somehow, David had come to realize that he felt most blessed, that his cup felt most filled when he was pouring himself out. He uses that image of a cup to describe his soul—and so it’s a beautiful image to consider on this, All Souls Day.  Imagine a cup and an endless pitcher of water flowing into that cup. That’s what it is like for us with God.  The beauty of God is that there is always more—and he is always pouring that “more” into our lives even into the deepest parts of our souls.  He pours to the point that it spills over and we find ourselves like David, pouring ourselves out in the vocations, the callings that he issues to us.

I was invited here to tell a bit of my own story.  I will give you a small chapter of a larger book. I want to take you back to my junior year of high school. My class left early for the Confirmation retreat at St Meinrad–way early. It had been snowing and we’d been praying for a cancellation.  But alas.  That afternoon, we were given some time to do whatever at St. Meinrad. I went for a walk. I got lost.  I remember looking up into the snow as it came upon my face. I saw no vision, heard no voice, but I had a strong sense of God’s presence and peace and love at that moment. I also felt a sense in me: “You will be back here one day.”  And I knew it was a seminary, a place where men go to become priests.  It’s something like David’s story.  At that moment, my soul, my cup felt like it was being filled to the brim and more.  And at the same time, I felt like I was coming to know a bit more of how God wanted me to pour myself out in response with my life.

And you know what? God keeps filling my cup to the brim and keeps calling me to pour myself out. Anyone who follows a vocation knows this.  God has given me a vocation that has put me to work in over a hundred hospital rooms, in Guatemalan slums, in classrooms around the diocese and in retreat houses; a vocation that has me sitting around countless dining room tables and in chapels and in the rooms of the forgotten about in nursing homes. My vocation has had me baptizing children, preaching the word, and burying the dead. My vocation has given me six happy years of seminary life at the most beautiful place in the world, St. Meinrad. My vocation keeps me busy. Just this week I was at a Halloween party on Friday night, leading a Confirmation retreat all day yesterday, preaching here, and the off to ICYC this afternoon. I will return to the seminary at 11pm, and will begin my paper due tomorrow. Like yours, my vocation keeps me a bit busy sometimes.  But you know what? God has filled my cup with the greatest joys in and through it all—he has made my cup overflow.  To quote my rector: God has made me love everything my vocation demands, and he has made me love him through it.

That’s not to say all is perfect or should be.  The thing about an overflowing cup is that it spills, it gets messy.  Following a vocation doesn’t mean all will be perfect or neat or in order.  Anyone who has followed a vocation—to priesthood, religious life, married life, sacred single life—knows that while it brings countless blessings to the deepest parts of our souls, messiness is a part of it. Angelic babies are perfect to gaze upon, what a blessing, but they leak all over: they poop and fart and slobber and drool, and they turn into children who get in playground fights and adolescents who slam doors and adults that make mistakes. Marriages get messy too, and so do priesthoods.  But the cup still overflows, in and through it all.  That is God’s promise to us.

Soon we will receive to overflowing God’s presence out of those cups and into our own, our souls.  One sip, one drop of his Precious Blood is enough to fill us to overflowing. Let us pray that every soul in this church, every soul in purgatory, every married soul and every soul in the seminary and priesthood and religious life might be filled with God’s overflowing Goodness, and that all souls might discern well how God wishes them to pour themselves out for the sake of the Kingdom—so that everyone might praise God at this moment, on their death beds, and forever in heaven—echoing those words of David:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,
beside restful waters he leadeth me;
he refreshes my soul.
You spread the table before me…
my cup overflows.

Some random thoughts about the cross from the rector

“Here are some random thoughts:
The serpent and the saraph. ‘Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.’ Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.  It is interesting to me how the instrument of death, the thing that tortured the Israelites, becomes a ubiquitous sign of healing, an almost universal anthropological signification.  The thing that tortures heals. The thing that destroys creates.

“Random thoughts:
Today on the 14th of September I always remember a priest/mentor of mine who died on this day now 18 years ago. He was the priest  the one that said to a timid, spotted young man: You should go to the seminary. You should be a priest. This is the priest that was also a raging alcoholic, but abusive only to himself. This is a priest who was so haunted by his past that he became a great priest in the midst of suffering. His wounds gave him an open heart and he died of a heart attack at the age of 45. I loved him in his woundedness.

“Random thoughts:
I was looking at the opening hymn for last Thursday in the Breaking Bread hymnal. It was 657. My mind wandered over the page. I looked for a minute at 658. And this was the line from 658. ‘Fountain of mercy, grace flowing free, streams of salvation, spilling with love from a tree.’ Then my mind wandered up to the cross here. Spilling with love from a tree…”

Father Denis Robinson, O.S.B.
Homily for the Feast of the
Exaltation of the Holy Cross

St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel
14 September 2014
Read it all here

Opening day last week

Photos taken by my friend and brother Minh Vu, seminarian for Louisville, on behalf of the Development Office. More here.

The deacon class, serving at table (as is proper to our order)
Taking a bit of a break…
I got to serve as deacon a solemn vespers
At the dinner, one of the best philosophy profs of all time, Gill Ring, was honored. He is still teaching one class, but this year is his first year not full time.  He’s been teaching philosophy here for 40+ years
A laugh.

Our house of prayer, dedicated 82 years ago

We’ve been back here at Meinrad a while now, what with the busy times of orientation week and spirituality week and the day of prayer with Cardinal Collins from Toronto ending just yesterday. 

And so it felt strange today to just now be celebrating opening day for the Fall 2014 semester.  But now it begins.

And here it begins, in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel.  I was honored to be the deacon the opening Mass and Solemn Vespers, both celebrating the dedication of the seminary chapel, dedicated September 1932. That’s 82 years ago.

What a holy and sacred space!

Novice Charles Penalosa, OSB

Mary, the priesthood, and glory

The first reading recounts how overcome with joy Ezekiel was to be in the temple with God and his brethren. I hope we feel a slice of his joy here in this chapel. I was struck this morning about how different we are.  Some have the strangest last names I’ve ever heard (but who am I to speak?), some have written books, some have been thrown down wells, and some have the nastiest toenails known to man–and the ability to describe them very vividly. And yet here we are together. I recently read a book by Kathleen Norris called The Cloister Walk. She says in there, “Only Christ could have brought us all together, in this place, doing such absurd but necessary things.” That seems to me a good description of seminary and formation.  It is good to be here.

So I’ve been asking God in prayer lately, “How might this year of seminary, this year of priestly formation be different?”

And yet in prayer I kept thinking about Mary this past week. I guess it makes sense: first there was the feast of the Assumption, then the feast of St Bernard who wrote some incredible things about Mary, then there was Pius X, whose encyclical on the Immaculate Conception is quite famous. Then there was the Queenship of Mary yesterday.  And then there is today, a Saturday, the day of the week the Church uses each week during Ordinary Time to celebrate Mary in a special way.

I wonder if the Lord didn’t do this intentionally–that is, I wonder if he didn’t put all these Marian days in a row just as we settle into our first–or sixth–year of priestly formation…I wonder if God did this for a reason, in order to remind us of the importance of staying close to him by staying close to his Mother during our time here at seminary, and of course beyond.

Maybe God is reminding us that Marian devotion and spirituality is not just a nice thing, but rather it is the expectation and hope of the Church for all her people–especially for her priests.

Why?

Because, in bearing Jesus, Mary brought and still brings to earth the very GLORY that the first reading and the psalm reference.  Ezekiel talks about how his temple was filled with glory, but the psalmist does him one better. He says: the whole land, the whole world is filled with God’s Glory. It is everywhere.

And what is glory?  The word at its root means the manifestation of God’s presence, and that is what Mary brought and brings to earth, it is what Mary brings to each of us, and it is what we are called to bring to the world in turn, especially as priests.

And we can’t do it without a relationship with Mary, the one who brings God’s glory, his presence, to earth most perfectly–and I mean a real relationship, not an empty set of pietistic prayers uttered by those with widened phylacteries and lengthened tassels who shake their rosary beads in order to be seen and heard. No, I’m talking about a real relationship with the Blessed Virgin, who teaches us how to bring glory to this earth.

I will never forget the last day of my Christology and Marilogy course with Fr. Guy. Some of his last words to us in the course were these: “If you become a priest and do not have a solid relationship with Mary, one of two things will happen: either you will not remain a priest, or, if you manage to remain a priest, you will be a crappy priest.”