One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

February 23, 2015

For Monday of the First Week of Lent

Matthew 25:31-46

On Ash Wednesday, as always, we began this season of getting ready for the Easter renewal of our Baptismal promises as the children of God.
The Ash Wednesday Gospel reading is always the one where Christ tells us to seek the goods of kinship with God the Father by secret ways of prayer in solitude, hidden fasting, and anonymous giving of alms.
Alms as a word comes through Old English and Church Latin from the Greek word for mercy.
In today’s Gospel reading Christ told us of sundry ways he expects us to give mercy to others.
He said in today’s Gospel reading that he will return to sift the Blessed from the damned.
He will bless the righteous to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.
God brought all mankind into being out of nothing, and will give the righteous his kingdom as his sons and daughters.
He created them from nothing, and he would clothe them in his own image and dignity.
They came from nothing, and he would enrich them with his mercy.
He created them from nothing, and he would give them himself as their food and drink.
They were nothing, and he would give them life, salvation and holiness.
He created them from nothing, and he would embrace them as his children and royal heirs.
Compared to God’s goodness to us whom he made from nothing, it is nothing for us to turn to feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, and welcome strangers.
To clothe the naked, comfort the sick, and visit prisoners is nothing compared to God’s will for the righteous whom he made from nothing with the rest of mankind.
On the other hand, merely to neglect mercy to the needy is to turn away from God.
Christ the King will banish the neglectful, as he said in his Gospel today:  Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
Those sixteen damning words are the unedited, unabridged, uncensored, LONG version.
The SHORT version— saying EXACTLY the same— is:  Go to hell.
When we dare say those words to others, we USURP the authority of CHRIST as king, as judge and AS GOD.
Ironically, some Christians today dismiss Christ’s authority in this matter, because their IDEOLOGY is that Christ would never tell anyone to go to hell— not even in the elegant, longer, original version.
Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For the people of God two thousand years ago, it was somewhat unheard of when Christ taught straightforwardly that hell IS and that it never ends.
Against the background of the Old Testament, no one had taught the truth of hell with such steady, open and brazen knowledge and words until Christ himself did so throughout his preaching.
What’s most frightening in today’s Gospel is that we don’t have to do evil to end up with Christ the King telling us to go to hell.
He says if we NEGLECT mercy to the needy, he will tell us to burn with the Devil.
What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.
The light in today’s Gospel is that even if we didn’t know it Christ the King counts our mercy to the needy as rendered to himself.
If we begin to imitate God’s goodness by our mercy to the needy, then we— whom God in his untold mercy made from nothing— we can begin to have God and his kingdom as our own unending blessing and inheritance.
In his mercy here at Mass as always, he gives up his body for us to eat, and pours out his blood for us to drink, telling us to turn in mercy to do likewise for others.
Do this in memory of me.

That God Be Glorified in All

February 21, 2015

For the First Sunday of Lent (22 February 2015)

Mark 1:12-15

Our Lord’s forty days in the desert came immediately after his Baptism at the river Jordan.
This two-sided event of his Baptism and his forty days in the desert was the beginning of his public mission.
This back-to-back event reveals our salvation because it reveals the One True God:  Father, Son and Spirit.
At the Jordan River and in the Desert we have first and foremost a proclamation and a presence of God.
If we look closely as Christ emerges from the flowing river and is driven by the Spirit into the parched desert, we find a key or a lens for reading the whole Gospel, the whole of Christ’s work two thousand years ago, and the whole of God’s continued work in grace, the liturgy and the Church.
At the Jordan River we witness that heaven is open and has a voice.
This is a mysterious image of God.
We are able to name this heavenly voice “The Father” only because this voice reveals a SON.
As Christ emerges from the water, the voice of the Father emerges from heaven.

You are my Son.
You are my Beloved.
You are the One Who Pleases Me Greatly.

Then two more signs from God appear on this day that begins by the Jordan and ends in the desert.
First we see that the Father’s Spirit (in the sign of a dove) rests upon the Son.
Then, driven by the power of the Spirit, Christ departs into the desert.
There in the desert, by the power of the Eternal Spirit, Christ offers himself to the Father in hunger, thirst, exposure, vulnerability and solitude.
Here already we see self-sacrifice.
Here already Christ of both the Cross and the Eucharist is present.
Here we recognize fully present the grateful obedience and the sacrificial gratitude of the Son in his love for his Father.
After his baptism in the Jordan and his penance in the desert, nothing substantially different really happens in Christ’s life and public ministry.
Grateful obedience and sacrificial gratitude!
In Christ’s life and preaching, in his good works, in his miracles, in his healing the sick and raising the dead, in his forgiving sinners, in his own suffering, death and resurrection, in his sacraments now in the Church— in all of these we witness and have the same realities that were present and revealed at the Jordan and in the desert.

The love of the Father is revealed.
The power of the Spirit is revealed.
The obedient gratitude of the Son is revealed.

In all these revelations we worship the One True God in whom we find our salvation.
The penance of Christ in the desert points to the naked truth of humanity’s original relationship with God.
It reveals the naked truth of the divine Son’s relationship with the heavenly Father.
The penance of Christ in the desert reveals the deep meaning and power of penance.
Sin hides.
Penance exposes.
Penance leaves us naked, hungry and vulnerable.
Penance is our first deliberate step in loving God, because love cannot grow in those who forever protect themselves.
Sin hides.
Penance deliberately exposes.
Christ began his public ministry of love by doing penance.
Then he began his public preaching by preaching penance.

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  [Mt. 1:17]

This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
and believe in the Gospel.   [Mk. 1:15]

The love of God and the power of his Spirit do not grow in us without the willing vulnerability that penance can bring about in our lives.
After the first sin, Adam hid the nakedness of his body from God.
In the Eucharist, Christ exposes to us and to the Father the vulnerability of his Body and Blood.
That is a paradox, for in the VULNERABILITY and SACRIFICE of his Body and Blood he reveals and gives to us the POWER of the Spirit and the LOVE of the Father.
Christ’s baptism at the Jordan, his penance in the desert, his preaching, his ministry and his whole Gospel all coincide with his Eucharist and his Cross.
In the Eucharist and on the Cross, the vulnerability of Christ is a willing vulnerability unto death.
Greater love than this, there cannot be.
Sin obliges us to do penance, for in sin we refuse to love.
Through penance we can begin to learn our freedom to love as Christ loved on his cross and to love as Christ loves in his Eucharist
For this reason, we always take up the tiniest cross of a one-hour fast before we receive the Eucharist.
We do that penance and all penance for the sake of love, for in the Eucharist we receive the challenge, the example and the event of love exposing its naked self.

That God Be Glorified in All

February 19, 2015

For Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Luke 9:22-25

Yesterday in his Gospel, Christ told us each to share secrets one on one with our heavenly Father.
Our Father rewards the prayer, fasting and almsgiving we offer secretly to him.
He himself is the greatest reward.
Believing and hoping for deep closeness with God is the inspiration for our prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
St. Benedict tells us to offer these Lenten sacrifices with the joy of the Holy Spirit... while we look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.
Easter begins with the vigil we keep after nightfall on Holy Saturday.
On that night, Church believers stand together before the altar, and with one voice renew the oaths of baptism.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ....  he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.  [Nicene Creed]
In today’s Gospel Christ spoke of his resurrection.
He said anyone wishing to come after him into the resurrection must deny himself and take up his cross DAILY.
So, the life of EVERY Christian is to be a CONTINUOUS Lent, just as St. Benedict said for monks.
However, who is strong enough for that, and why do it?
The reasons for lifelong daily penitential sacrifices are JOY and LIFE.
Today’s first reading from the Word of the Lord said:  Choose life... by loving the Lord... and HOLDING FAST to him.
Penitential sacrifices can train us to stop grabbing at and HOLDING FAST to life and joy as objects to imprison in our hands.
Sacrifices can train us for HOLDING FAST to God himself.
Adam and Eve instead let go of God, and tried to grab life and joy for themselves.
Until then, God himself was their life and joy.
Once they chose to grab for themselves, they condemned their own grabbing hands to keep on working just to stay alive on the earth— though only for a while.
They condemned their own grabbing hands to work just to have anything earthly to enjoy— though only for a while.
With their grabbing, death entered their world.
Life and joy that are free, open-ended and everlasting can come only from the Creator.
If we would have them, we must stop grabbing.
Because of sin’s hold on us, we need deliberate effort to stop grabbing.
Deliberate penitential sacrifices train us to stop grabbing.
Christ did not grab at all.
He let go.
He let men TAKE, eat, and drink his body and his blood.
He let men GRAB his earthly life and joy.
He suffered and died.
In baptism we have chosen, entered and embraced his suffering, death and resurrection.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  [Nicene Creed]
Baptism is a washing, a drowning, a birthing and a rising from the dead.
By baptism we as sinners are drowned into the death of Christ.
Then, the water breaks, and we are washed and born into his resurrection as children of God.
God has again freely put life and joy into our hands by putting us— baptizing us— into his life and joy.
Whoever stops grabbing, whoever lets go, or— as Christ says in today’s Gospel— Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Our secret penitential sacrifices are acts of love that call forth and strengthen our intention to stop grabbing, to let go, to lose our lives for the sake of Christ, so that by Christ we save our lives.

Since we believe him, we have hope:  I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  [Nicene Creed]

That God Be Glorified in All

February 15, 2015

For the Sixth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46
1 Corinthians 10:31 to 11:1
Mark 1:40-45

A life-and-death Gospel reading!
Leprosy threatened life in two ways:  first, Biblical lepers had to live in quarantine outside the camp of the living; second, true leprosy kills.
Christ told a leper, Be made clean, saving him in the twinkling of an eye.
Then, warning him sternly, Christ gave the newly healthy man three commands.
First:  to tell no one anything.
Second:  to show a priest that he was free of leprosy— because priests were the officials who lifted quarantines.
Third:  to take to the priest the sacrifices that Moses said God required from those cleansed of leprosy.
Christ worked a wonder for a leper today, and would do other wonders for other persons, but he did not want tales of his wondrous might to spread.
That is a buried clue that Christ would not fulfill his earthly mission by working wonders.
Rather, he would go on to say and say again that he must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed.
The reason is in another buried clue in today’s Gospel.
Christ told the man to offer up what Moses said God required from those cleansed of leprosy.
Someone recovered from leprosy was to offer sacrifices of two kinds.
One was thankful worship, and the other was atonement for sins.
Those two kinds of sacrifice are the same that Christ offered in his own death, resurrection, and ascension to the throne of God:  worship and atonement.
There is a third buried clue in Christ’s commands to the man cleansed of leprosy.
When a man newly free of leprosy sacrificed an animal in atonement for his sins, the priest would mark the man’s body with blood from the animal, thus sealing together atonement for sin and health for the body.
The sacrifices of someone recovered from leprosy point to the sacrificial death and Eucharist of Christ.
Sin brings about the leprosy of souls.
To receive the forgiveness of sins, we must turn to the priestly ministry of Christ in his Church, and let the Body and Blood of Christ touch our bodies and our souls.
Christ gave up his Body and poured out his Blood for the forgiveness of sins, as he told us at his Last Supper.
We let his Body and Blood touch our souls only when our repentance is a sincere commitment to obey God.
We are to repent of all sins— sins against God and his commands, sins against our parents, sins against life, sins against marriage, sins against truth, sins against neighbors, and even sins that hide inside us, such as coveting or greed.
Perhaps the sins that hide within us are the most harmful kind.
They rot us from within.
Sooner or later, they push us to sin against GOD MOST HIGH and against NEIGHBOR— that is, against the GREATEST, the LEAST and any between.
In the teaching of Christ, our sins against the LEAST are the same as sins against GOD.
He said whatever we do or fail to do to the LEAST of his brethren we do or fail to do to him who is LORD.  [Mt. 25:40]
The least of his brethren:  the smallest, weakest, and youngest of them are children in the womb.
If the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness does not belong to the smallest, weakest, and youngest from the first moment of life, then all rights at any stage of life— and all sense of right and wrong— shake and crumble on the shifting sands of each day’s prevailing opinion.
Abortion is a deadly leprosy that men and women perpetrate within INDIVIDUAL bodies, but the defense of abortion rots our WHOLE BODY POLITIC from the White House to houses on any street.
Abortion is NOT the ONLY sin in the world.
However, abortion IS the sin that the MIGHTIEST in the laws of our land uphold tyrannically as a RIGHT against the smallest, weakest and youngest.
God the Son said:  as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.  [Mt. 25:40]
Abortion as a legal right is a leprosy that quarantines our nation OUTSIDE the Kingdom of Heaven.
However, ANY grave sin of ANY individual quarantines that soul outside the Kingdom of Heaven.
Some grave sins threaten EARTHLY lives, but all grave sins threaten ETERNAL lives.
What can we do about it?
Mark well that leprosy threatened a man’s life in today’s Gospel, and Christ saved him, but then commanded him to offer up WORSHIP and ATONEMENT.
That’s a description of the Mass, which we are celebrating at this moment in this place.
Sin threatens our eternal lives, but Christ is here to save us in WORSHIP and ATONEMENT.
We join him here in offering to his Father the Great High Sacrifice of WORSHIP AND ATONEMENT— the Body and Blood of Christ— just as he commands:  Do this in memory of me.
In what he calls this new and eternal COVENANT... for the forgiveness of sins, God binds himself to us, BUT— since he calls it a COVENANT— he expects us to bind ourselves to him.
If we hold fast to this covenant we shall rise, body and soul, to invincible life, liberty, and happiness in the glory of God.
Take to heart and keep in mind:  we celebrate the Mass as a matter of life and death.

That God Be Glorified in All

April 27, 2011

For Wednesday of the Octave of Easter

Luke 24:13-35

Emmaus may have been the home of Cleopas and his fellow disciple.
At least it was their goal to spend the night in Emmaus after leaving Jerusalem.
The Gospel testifies that as they drew near to Emmaus they thought the Lord Jesus, whom they did not recognize, was going on farther.
They stopped him, and asked him to stay with them in Emmaus for the night.
He would be their guest, and they would share their lodging or home with him.
Their mysterious road companion had made their hearts burn within them with his unfolding of the meanings of all the old Holy Writings that dealt with the Anointed One.
Now Cleopas and the other disciple wanted to host him as their guest.
This was thoughtful and kind of them, since night was drawing near.
However, surely they hoped also that he would go on speaking.
“So he went in to stay with them.”
By custom, the host was to take a place at the head of the table, break the bread, and give a share to the guest.
Not today, though!
The mysterious guest in Emmaus failed to act as a guest.
He went against custom.
He took over.
He, their guest, broke the bread for them.
In doing this, he overturned their relationships, making himself the host, the householder, the master, and making them his guests and followers.
Cleopas and his fellow disciple recognized in the takeover that before them was their master, no longer dead, but wondrously alive.
Let this be a lesson for us.
If we want him to warm our hearts within us, let us ask the Risen Anointed One to open the Scriptures for us.
Even more, let us invite him to stay with us in the darkness that befalls the world.
Let us invite him to take over our lives— to take over, overturn, and break our old customs of sin— so that we may know him in the breaking of the bread.

That God Be Glorified in All

March 29, 2011

For Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Matthew 18:21-35

Although his apostle asked him today how often to forgive a brother, the Lord Jesus answered with a parable likening the Kingdom of heaven to a king settling accounts with his servants.
The Lord did not start the parable by telling of a debt between equals— whether they were fellow servants or brothers.
Rather, the Lord began with a debt a man owed to his king.
The original language of the Gospel gives the size of the debt an actual number equal to the salary for one hundred and fifty thousand years of work.
A debt that might as well be EVERLASTING!
God our King brought us as EVERLASTING souls into being out of nothing but his own goodness.
He forever upholds us in being out of sheer mercy and goodness.
For us merely to live is to be in debt forever to God.
For us to be alive fully is to be mindfully and joyfully grateful to him.
We can never pay back to God the debt we owe for our everlasting souls, but we can choose to live for him lives of upright thankfulness.
Having said all this, I now wonder at how our debt both rebels against itself and multiplies itself blasphemously through any one of our knowing and willful sins.
Mercy indeed holds us in being forever.
How unimaginable and how unbelievable it is that God himself in Christ handed himself over to torture and the death penalty for all our debts against himself.
At the point of fulfilling the SUM— ConSUMmatum est— Christ said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
He paid our debt to his Father.
Yet— unbelievably and unimaginably— he also hands over the payment to us.
Take... eat... my body... given up for you.
Take... drink... my blood... shed for you... so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.

By agreeing and daring to take, eat, and drink the payment, memory commits us to give it to the Father to whom it belongs.
We are to give it to him from within our own bodies and blood in the lives we choose to live and in the mercy we bestow on our brothers as a small but nonetheless entirely required imitation of God’s everlasting mercy to us in Christ.
Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours, almighty Father for ever and ever.

That God Be Glorified in All

February 28, 2011

For Monday of the Eighth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Mark 10:17-27

Today’s Gospel tells us the Lord Jesus looked with love upon a man who had observed the commandments from his youth.
The man had other lovable deeds.
First, he RAN to meet the Lord.
Second, he KNELT down.
He showed eagerness, reverence, and submission, even before telling of his lifelong OBEDIENCE to the commandments.
“Jesus, looking at him, loved him....”
It seems the mood of this love was fatherly, for the Lord turned to his disciples, and said to them, “Children....”
We are the sons and daughters of the Lord Jesus.
As a father he loves us.
Precisely as a loving father he tells us to do the impossible.
It is impossible for men to inherit eternal life, impossible for men to enter the Kingdom of God, impossible for men to be saved.
Like the man who had many possessions, we may be sad at what the Lord Jesus tells us.
Like the disciples in the Gospel today, we may be “exceedingly astonished” at what he requires.
“For men it is impossible....”
He meant what he said, because the Gospel today marked three times that before speaking the Lord Jesus LOOKED at his listeners.
He LOOKED at the rich man, and then told him to sell everything, give to the poor, and follow him if he wanted to inherit eternal life.
He LOOKED at his disciples, and then said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!”
Again, he first:
LOOKED at them and said,
“For men it is impossible....”

With fatherly love he looks at us and asks the impossible.
We may be “exceedingly astonished” and tempted to go away sad.
For men it is impossible,
but not for God.
All things are possible for God.

All things are possible for God who is a loving father to us in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us RUN to him, KNEEL down before him, and OBEY his commandments.
Though he has all heavenly wealth as God, he sold himself as a slave to sin, and as a man like us he gave his all to our poverty, our impossibility, and our death.
Risen from the dead, God and man have together done the impossible in Christ.
He has himself become our eternal life, our salvation, and our treasure in heaven, the Kingdom of God.
With faith let us look steadfastly to his fatherly love, daring to hope for it, taking courage from it, and making bold to love and follow him in return.

That God Be Glorified in All