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.

April 09, 2006

For Monday of Holy Week

John 12:1-11

Today in the Gospel is six days before Passover.
In the Biblical way of counting that means Monday of Christ’s original Holy Week— today, in fact, in our own celebration of Holy Week.
Today in the Gospel: a most unusual dinner!
Lazarus— a man four days dead whom Jesus raised from the dead— Lazarus and his sisters host a dinner for Jesus.
Not only that!
A large crowd has come from all over to see Jesus, having turned to faith in him because he raised Lazarus from the dead.
How do you thank a man who has raised you or your own brother from the dead?
Serving him a dinner does not begin to be enough.
Pouring out a treasure of rare scented oil upon his feet and wiping his feet with your own hair do not begin to be enough.
Yet, these doings— a dinner, an extravagant anointing and a lavish pedicure with your own hair as the towel for his feet— these doings are sincere and sacred signs of honor, reverence, gratitude and love.
Christ the Lord, the Resurrection and the Life, is pleased to accept these sincere rites of worship with blessing and respect.
He always wants us to serve the ever-present poor, as he himself did.
Yet, he is also pleased to have us serve him directly, exclusively and abundantly in rites of worship.
You always have the poor with you,
but you do not always have me.

In the rites of Holy Week, we pour out an overflowing vessel of precious and formal worship at the feet of Christ the Lord.
It never begins to be enough.
So, it always needs the sincerity of a humble sinner who manages only to say, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Christ spoke of such a penitent as going home “right with God.”
That penitent did not serve up a banquet for God.
He did not spend anything on scented unguents for God.
Yet, he bothered to go to the Sacred Temple, and that was where he beat his breast and said only, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
That was enough for him to go home right with God.
Whether our motive is a sinner’s abject contrition or a former dead man’s lush display of gratitude, it is right with God for us from time to time to leave behind our sins and pride, or even to leave the poor alone for a while, and to go face to face before God.
It is right in the eyes of God for us to offer up the ceremonies of Holy Week with both contrition for our sins and gratitude for God.
Christ the Lord has declared:
where two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I in the midst of them. [Mt. 18:20]

So, in the midst of our rites of worship, Christ gives himself to us.
Yet, what about the ever-present poor, the hungry and thirsty, the homeless, the sick, the prisoners, the dying and all who suffer?
Today the Lord says:
You always have the poor with you,
but you do not always have me.

Why do we always— why do we STILL— have poverty and suffering with us?
If Christ overcame the grave in himself, taking the human psyche and the human body up into glory, why has he not fixed this broken world?
We don’t know why.
What we know is “not yet”: he has not yet fixed this broken world.
That provokes another question, “When?”
Also: “How?”
Every Sunday we faithfully profess “we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
The “world to come”: mysteriously we know that God is not just going to “fix, mend, repair or patch up” the world of ever-present poverty and suffering.
Rather, he is going to change it through and through.
That is our faith.
Our rites of worship— even this present Eucharistic hour— our rites of worship proclaim the same faith.
We come here to Christ in his Eucharist with sorrow for our sins and resolve to work for change.
We come to give him thanks for his life, suffering, death and glory.
We worship him present in our midst.
We worship him for what he will do for us one day in “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
With our worship, we also express and promise— AND EVEN PARADOXICALLY TEMPT— our own faith-filled, hope-filled, loving PATIENCE … worship-filled patience as we wait for the Lord to fulfill finally the promises he has made.

- - - -

(Today’s Preface for the Liturgy of the Eucharist)

Father, all powerful and everliving God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The days of his life-giving death and glorious resurrection are approaching.
This is the hour when he triumphed over Satan's pride,
the time when we celebrate the great event of our redemption.

Through Christ the angels of heaven offer their prayer of adoration as they rejoice in your presence for ever. May our voices be one with theirs in their triumphant hymn of praise: Holy, holy, holy….

That God Be Glorified in All


Anonymous BlogReadingPerson said...

What a beautiful meditation, Father! I have often felt this same impatience, even lamented over the "When?" and "How?" But you manage to present the "Why?"-- that we may grow in faith and hope as we practice the patience He requires of us; and that does provide a satisfaction, particularly when we learn to trust in Him and His Providence. Hard to do for the control freaks among us sometimes.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...


I'm good at control freaking.

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Candi said...

I have often struggled with "When" and sometimes I ask God how He can stand to see all pain and suffering on Earth...and not come back to us and recreate the world.

Not to be morbid, but one of the reasons I look forward to death is the fact that maybe then I will get all the answers to my questions! :-)

Candi the Oblate

2:04 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...


Candi, you might find helpful Pope John Paul II's letter "The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering."


2:40 PM  

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