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.

August 21, 2006

For Monday of the Twentieth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 19:16-22

Our Lord traveled non-stop in the final months or years before he died and rose in glory.
We know, even by name, several women who, out of their own wealth, provided for the Lord and his twelve apostles.
One of these women, Joanna, was the wife of the administrator of the royal palace.
Joanna was also probably one of the women who are again mentioned as benefactors of the Lord who watched him die on the cross and provided supplies for his burial.
In fact, Joanna is again mentioned by name as one of the women who saw the angels at the tomb on Easter morning and went to tell the apostles.
After the Lord’s resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, Joanna definitely remained one of the famous figures in the first days of the Church.
So, her name is preserved more than once in the Gospel.
Today our Lord meets an unnamed man, not famous, like Joanna, but possessing great wealth.
The rich man wants to know what he must do to have eternal life.
Our Lord’s first answer is generic.
“Keep the commandments!”
The young man then asks, “Which ones?”
Now the Lord begins to get quite specific.
There are ten commandments.
The first three commandments are vertical, referring us to God himself.
Our Lords skips over these first three commandments, and tells the rich young man that he must keep the horizontal ones that tell us how to live in human society.
The young man now tells the Lord that he has obeyed all those.
“What else must I do?”
You would think that now the Lord would tell him he has to obey also the three VERTICAL commandments, the ones that keep us face to face with God.
Instead, the Lord now gives him a commandment that is both horizontal and vertical.
If you wish to be perfect,
sell what you have
and give to the poor….

Then come,
follow me.

The young man’s possessions are more important to him than his neighbor and more important than God.
So, the Lord tells him to give them away horizontally, to his poor neighbors.
However, as for the vertical, as for how to give GOD his due, our Lord tells the young man something whose implications are astounding.
Instead of the first commandment, that is, “The Lord is your God: you shall not have strange gods before him,” Christ now tells the rich man:
Come, follow me!
For in effect and in truth,
I am the Lord your God.
You shall not have strange gods before me.
Come, follow me!

That is too much to ask.
So, the man goes away in sorrow, forgotten and unnamed, unlike Joanna the famous and wealthy benefactress and disciple of the Lord.
She abandoned the palace and a society-page reputation to follow a homeless preacher, spending her wealth to support him in life and death.
In the name of Christ, we are sent to tell the world that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and God.
If we are to have eternal life, we must keep the commandments and hold Christ dearer than everything else— as Christ himself will tell us tomorrow— more dear than our houses, siblings, parents, children or country.
Everything must take second place to Christ.
There is unavoidable exclusivity in the teaching of Christ.
However, that exclusivity comes from Christ’s desire to include everyone in the full embrace of true salvation.
It may be difficult to explain the exclusive demands and prerogatives of faith in Christ.
However, to do less than that is to offer less than the truth.
Christ never offered less than the whole truth.
In fact, he called himself Truth itself: the Way, the Truth and the Life.
In like manner, he gives us the all-consuming demands and all-giving gift of his Eucharist.
What must we do to have eternal life?
He tells us:
Unless you eat my flesh
and drink my blood,
you have no life in you.
He who eats me
will live because of me,
for I am the Lord your God.

That God Be Glorified in All


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