We commemorate today a monk named John Cassian, born into privilege in the mid-fourth century in what is now Romania. As a young man he was struggling as a follower of Jesus at a time when the church and world seemed to be falling apart, and for many of the same reasons familiar to us today. As a young man, Cassian traveled to Bethlehem, then to Egypt to be formed by some of the great desert hermits. At the beginning of the fifth century, Cassian moved from Egypt to what is now southern France, and there founded a monastic community for monks, and later a community for women.
Cassian was a prolific writer. His most famous works, still in print and quite relevant today, were his Institutes, dealing with the external organization of monastic communities, and his Conferences of the Desert Fathers, dealing with the training and perfection of the heart. Cassian’s influence was vast in both the eastern and western churches. Benedict of Nursia – his Rule of Life – and Ignatius of Loyola – his Spiritual Exercises – owe their most basic ideas to John Cassian.
Romans 16:3-9, 16, 22-27; Psalm 145:1-7; Luke 16:9-15
Luke’s Jesus speaks about money a great deal; or perhaps more precisely about possessions and the money or wealth which make them ours. Of course, these things—wealth, money, possessions—have but one original source: the generosity of the God who brought all things into being.
As Br Geoffrey so rightly made clear in his homily yesterday on Luke’s parable of the dishonest steward or manager, all things which we call ours—possessions, relationships, power—are given to us in trust. We are made stewards of all that we possess. We may receive them with an avaricious or selfish attitude and come to be possessed by them. Or we may come to realize that all we hold in trust is much better, more shrewdly or astutely, used for the building of community, for the nurture of a community in which God’s gifts to us—and the responsible sharing of them—create lasting well-being for all.