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.

December 24, 2006

For the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:39-45
Micah 5:1-4a
Hebrews 10:5-10.

The Holy Spirit fills the voice of St. Elizabeth, and shouts.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

This is the first testimony in the Gospel to the bodily presence of Jesus on earth.
He is the fruit of Mary’s womb.
He is the eternal Lord, and Mary is now his mother in flesh and blood.
The arrival of the pregnant Blessed Virgin Mary becomes the moment for St. Elizabeth’s own unborn son, John the Baptist, to leap for joy within her.
The divine pregnancy of the Blessed Virgin Mary fills St. Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit.
All of that happens because Mary believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.
The angel of the Lord told Mary that her child would save the world from sin.
Because salvation from sin has now begun, the Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth.
Because salvation from sin has now begun on earth, John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother’s womb.
Joy … we all really want it— and we want it never to end.
God wants us to have joy that never ends.
Where can we find it?
How can we have it?
The bigger question is, “Why don’t we have it, why don’t we have joy that never ends?”
The deepest and oldest answer is that sin derailed the universe.
Original sin: the first man and woman straying from God.
Ongoing sin: every man and woman straying from God.
The test of our faith now is that even if we obey God we have no guarantee that our life on earth is going to be pleasant.
Even though the Son of God remained perfectly faithful, his own earthly life ended on a cross.
In the Letter to the Hebrews today, we heard of the death of Jesus.
When Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me….
… behold, I come to do your will….”
By this will we have been consecrated
through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Mysteriously, the sadness and the death of Jesus open the way for us to have everlasting joy and life.
Like a groom to his bride, God the Son has consecrated himself to our humanity:
I promise to be true to you
in good times and in bad,
in sickness and in health.
I will love you and honor you
all the days of my life.

God in Christ united himself to our human realities, even united himself to a human death.
But God and death are irreconcilable, so there was an explosion: the resurrection.
God’s resurrection!
God’s HUMAN resurrection!
The resurrection of Christ is the renewal and everlasting triumph of God’s wedding vows to humanity!
I am true to you
in goodness and salvation.
I love you
and I honor you with the resurrection.

He did not rise from the dead for himself.
Rather, in rising from the dead he took our humanity into undefeatable, everlasting joy and life.
Even though we still die, we acknowledge that God in Christ has opened the way for us to live and rejoice without end.
We can begin to taste the everlasting joy that God has opened for us.
We can begin to taste it if we begin to open ourselves to God.
We open to God by time spent in prayer and worship.
We open to him by serving the welfare of others.
We open to God by wise and balanced use of earthly goods— and by remaining awake to the danger of attaching our hearts to things as if they were gods.
Through all of that work we can begin to taste the everlasting joy that God has already opened for us.
Then, one day St. Elizabeth can say to us what she said to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

On that day it will be our inheritance to echo the other words of St. Elizabeth.
And how does this happen to me,
that through the Body and Blood of my Lord
his joy and life should come to me?

Then, with St. John the Baptist, we also shall leap for joy.

- - - -

The Preface of the Mass for December 18-24

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets.
The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.
John the Baptist was his herald
and made him known when at last he came.
In his love Christ has filled us with joy
as we prepare to celebrate his birth,
so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer,
our hearts filled with wonder and praise.

And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:
Holy, holy, holy….

That God Be Glorified in All


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