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.

May 05, 2006

For the Fourth Sunday of Easter

John 10:11-18

The next and last time Jesus will speak about shepherd and sheep will be in a confrontation with his apostle Peter.
We know that when Jesus was arrested Peter ran away and three times denied knowing the Lord.
After the Lord rose from the dead, he confronted Peter and demanded to know if Peter really loved him.
When Peter answered that he cared for the Lord, the Lord gave him three commands about being a shepherd.
Feed my lambs!

Tend my sheep!

Feed my sheep!

Then the Lord predicted how Peter would one day die for the sheep of the Lord.
Today’s gospel describes the death and resurrection of Christ.
It describes Peter’s cowardice in running away.
It also describes how Peter, in the end, would die while faithfully feeding and tending the sheep of Christ.
Listen again to part of today’s Gospel, and see how it foretells Peter running away at the arrest of the Lord.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd,
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf … scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

The rest of today’s Gospel describes Jesus; but it also describes the faithful ending of Peter’s life.
I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

As we have seen, the next and last time the Lord speaks of sheep and shepherd will be when he asks Peter if he really loves him.
Today’s Gospel, then, about shepherd and sheep, is also about real love.
Real love is self-sacrifice for the good of others.
Feed my lambs!

Tend my sheep!

Feed my sheep!

A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

There is something mysterious about the death of Jesus the good shepherd; and he speaks today of the mystery.
I lay down my life in order to TAKE IT UP AGAIN.
No one TAKES it from me,
BUT I lay it down ON MY OWN.
I have power to lay it down, and power to TAKE IT UP AGAIN.

Real love, then, not only lays down its own life for the good of others.
Real love even has power to rise from the dead.
Let us take courage from that when real love demands self-sacrifice from us.
When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Jesus was not asking about Peter’s feelings.
Peter and his “feelings” RAN AWAY when the soldiers arrested Jesus.
When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Jesus was asking for a decision, a choice, not for feelings.
Real love is not a mere feeling.
Real love is a decision, a choice, a conscious use of freedom, an act of the will.
That is the reason for the last words Jesus spoke today.
I have power to lay down my life.
This COMMAND I have received from my Father.

Obedience to the command of real love comes from making a decision, from the will, not from the feelings.
It’s true that feelings, often strong feelings, go hand in hand with real love.
However, our feelings and the demands of real love also go at each other in hand to hand combat.
Real love does demand choices that sometimes contradict our feelings.
Natural common sense tells us that.
We don’t need divine revelation for us to know that.
Our own parents show us that the strength of love for children and for spouses … the strength of love does not lie in feelings, but in the choice to serve even at the cost of self-sacrifice.
Christ is the Good Shepherd.
Parents, too, are shepherds, feeding their lambs and tending their sheep.
In his Eucharist, Christ the Good Shepherd, is also a Lamb, the Lamb of God, giving himself as food for the sheep, taking away on his own back the sins of the sheep, laying down his life in sacrifice to save the sheep and to give glory to the Father.
God is real love: the freedom and the power to lay down his life, the freedom and the power to take it up again.

That God Be Glorified in All

For Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:60-69

On Holy Thursday, A.D. 2003, Pope John Paul II gave the Church a letter on the Eucharist.
He wrote nothing new in terms of our Eucharistic faith.
He simply restated our Eucharistic faith, and unfolded some of his own insights.
What IS the Eucharist?
The answer to that question also unfolds why sharing the Eucharist with those who do not share our Eucharistic faith would be an act of dishonesty, a glossing over of reality and truth.
We cannot really be sincere in our respect for those different from us if we merely pretend they are the same as us.
Today on the third Saturday of Easter we conclude our celebration of the sixth chapter of the Holy Gospel according to John.
For eight weekdays we have celebrated this chapter in the presence of the Risen Christ.
We Catholics do not merely judge that this chapter is to be understood in a literal sense.
We see that Christ himself in this chapter is DEMANDING to be understood in a literal sense— and not just in regards to his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood.
In this chapter he also demands to be taken literally regarding his FLESH-AND-BLOOD incarnation, his FLESH-AND-BLOOD death, his FLESH-AND-BLOOD resurrection, his FLESH-AND-BLOOD ascension and his FLESH-AND-BLOOD return to raise believers up in FLESH-AND-BLOOD.
For those without Christian faith, it is an offense against God, a mere fairy tale, or just a pious symbol to say that true God was born a true man of flesh and blood.
Then, for non-Christians, this symbol, fable or blasphemy intensifies with God dying a human death as a criminal.
Finally, that Jesus was true God, died on the cross and rose glorified forever in flesh and blood increase again the blasphemy or myth for non-Christians and atheists.
Today in his Gospel, Christ sums up the whole symbolic, fabled abomination of his Incarnation, Death and Glorified Bodily Resurrection with one question.
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

Christ is God— true and eternal.
He came down from heaven as a true man of flesh and blood.
He suffered and died.
He rose from death— in flesh and blood— and ascended to heaven— in flesh and blood.
That is what he sums up today in his Gospel with this single question:
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

However, he asks that question only because some of his listeners reject another summation he is making.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you EAT the FLESH of the Son of Man
and DRINK his BLOOD,
you do NOT have LIFE within you.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood

He proclaims that ETERNAL LIFE is SUMMED UP and RECEIVED in EATING and DRINKING his real FLESH and BLOOD.
The EATING and DRINKING of his FLESH and BLOOD are the absolutely necessary, life-giving summary, consummation and consumption of eternal salvation by his Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, Ascension and his Return at the end of time.

Today in his Gospel, Christ makes his Flesh and Blood the simple, absolute measure of faith in himself— the simple, absolute measure of Christian faith.
As some of his listeners begin to grumble at the offensiveness of this absolute measure, he tells them that some of them do NOT have faith.
He does NOT say they have WEAK faith.
He does NOT say they have LITTLE faith.
He does NOT say they have PARTIAL faith.
Today he simply says, “There are some of you who DO NOT BELIEVE”— who have NO faith.
Then his Gospel immediately testifies that he “knew from the beginning the ones who would NOT believe”— NOT have faith.
Living off the real Flesh of Christ as real Food, and living off the real Blood of Christ as real Drink— that is the absolute MEASURE of full Christian faith; and it is the absolute PROCLAMATION of full Christian faith.
Of this faith-measuring proclamation, the Lord in his Gospel today says, in effect, “Take it just as it is, or else just leave me!”
As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer walked with him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve,
“Do you also want TO LEAVE?”
Simon Peter answered him,
“Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
[—we have faith—]
and are convinced,
that you are the Holy One of God.”

Christ proclaims the Eucharist as the summing up of himself, his Gospel and New Covenant.
His Eucharist is the consummation of absolute faith in Christ.
His Eucharist is the single instance when he gives the stark choice EITHER simply to believe OR simply to go away.
He offers no compromise or gradual measure.
Faith in him is Eucharistic faith, or else, as he says, “Do you also want TO LEAVE?”
Yet, lest we Catholics presume to look down on those who do not have our Eucharistic faith, let us keep in mind that today Christ also says, “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Unconditional, uncompromising, saving EUCHARISTIC faith in Christ is a gift from the Father.
For those who do not have this faith, let us pray they receive it.
If we have it, let us give thanks to the Lord our God— but also pray never to sin against it in any way.

That God Be Glorified in All

May 04, 2006

For Friday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:52-59
Acts 9:1-20

Today in the book of Acts we witness the dramatic event of St. Paul’s conversion.
Christ gave Paul little room for choice.
Christ did VIOLENCE to Paul, lashing out at Paul from heaven, throwing him to the ground, and striking him blind.
Christ himself demanded out loud, “WHY DO YOU PERSECUTE ME?”
Christ is the one whom Paul had thought to be a mere dead criminal executed for lies and blasphemy.
Christ does not INVITE Paul to believe, but ORDERS him into the city of Damascus.
There, after three days without sight or food and drink, Paul receives his sight again together with Christian baptism at the hands of a follower of the same Jesus Lord and God.
This is Paul’s conversion and salvation— a fearsome and violent crisis.
Paul came to know many sides of the Lord, perhaps more sides than any one of us might be willing to face.
All this week, including today, the Lord in his Gospel has put in our own faces a crisis demanding our faith.
It certainly was a crisis for his first followers.
Because of what the Lord is teaching this week, many of his first followers decided to break away and no longer follow him.
Let us remember: it is the Lord’s proclamation of the eating and drinking of his body and blood that determines in the Gospel who would believe in him and who would not.
The Eucharist is the first, the last and the ONLY instance in our Lord’s Gospel in which he gives his followers the choice of leaving or staying.
In his Gospel the Lord gives his Eucharist as the bottom-line condition for the FULL and UNCONDITIONAL faith in HIM and ALL that he reveals.
Christ, who is the Son of God, IS SPIRIT AND LIFE together with the Father.
His entire self, his real flesh, his real blood and his words are spirit and life.
He gives us the same spirit and life he has with the Father, the same spirit and life with which he rose from the dead.
The Eucharist is Christ’s proclamation in his own flesh and blood that he is the Son of God born in human flesh and blood.
His Eucharist also proclaims that he rose from the dead in glorified but still human flesh and blood.
To receive the Eucharist is to receive and renew the resurrection of our own bodies— the resurrection that is really ours through baptism and faith.
To receive the Eucharist with faith is to remain in and with Christ as sons and daughters of God.
In the Eucharist itself, here and now, we celebrate and consume all that Christ proclaims, all that Christ is.
Let us be faithful to him, living as he lived, so that we might live as he now lives.

That God Be Glorified in All

May 03, 2006

For Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:44-51

Today in his Gospel, Jesus tells us: where he came from, who he is, what he does and how we can share in all of it.
The people who hear him today know that he is a man of flesh and blood.
They know his parents, Joseph and Mary.
However, Jesus upsets his listeners by saying he has come down from heaven.
He has seen God, and God is his own father.
So, even though Jesus is a man of flesh and blood, he has come from heaven, and is the Son of God whom he knows and has seen face to face.
Today Jesus does not explain that.
He just says it.
He doesn’t make it any easier for his listeners to understand or accept.
Even though they know he is a real man of real flesh and blood, he simply tells them, “I came down from heaven; I have seen God face to face; God is my Father.”
If he is who he says he is, then why did he come down from heaven?
Today he says he has come to give his flesh and blood for the life of the world.
No explanation.
Jesus says at the end of time he himself will raise up to eternal life whoever believes him and eats his flesh and drinks his blood.
No explanation.
Instead, he will go on further in this Gospel to make it worse, harder to accept.
It is clear that Jesus is packing everything about himself into his flesh and blood.
that he has personally come down from heaven;

that he personally knows and sees God face to face;

that he is the Son of God in person;

that he is eternal life in person.

He is all of that IN FLESH AND BLOOD.
God made us flesh and blood.
At the end of time, he plans to raise us up in flesh and blood.
So, then, it is a wonderful honor— it is a wondrous gift of love that we who are creatures of spirit, flesh and blood can receive the Spirit of salvation by really eating and drinking the real flesh and real blood of Christ.
Today, Jesus does not explain this.
He simply says it is so.
Perhaps someone you know or you yourself have a hard time believing this to be literally true.
How can we take Jesus simply at his word today?
Today Jesus tells us how.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him.

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.

That’s the only explanation Jesus gives today.
If we listen to the Father, the Father will teach us, and that is how we come to believe the teaching of Jesus.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

As Jesus continue this teaching in his Gospel, he will make it even harder to accept.
He will even make it the final condition for staying with Jesus or leaving.
The Eucharist, the real flesh and blood of Christ, is the “be all” and “end all” of complete faith in Jesus the Son of God.
Today and always, let us listen to the Father in prayer, ask him to teach us, increase our faith and bring us to eternal life through the flesh and blood of his Son.

That God Be Glorified in All

For the Feast of Sts. Philip and James

John 14:6-14

Today in his Gospel, Christ again asserts his divinity.
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
I am in the Father and the Father is in me.

Christ is saying, “To see me is to see God.”
If Christ is God, what does it mean that those who have faith in him will do greater works than his?
The Lord gives us the beginning of a clue today.
The man who has faith in me
will do the things I do,
and greater far than these.
Because I go to the Father.

He is ascending to the Father.
While he walked on the dust of the earth, Christ kept his public ministry within the borders of Palestine, and he aimed his public ministry specifically at the Jewish people.
He clearly tells his apostles to take his message and his work into the whole world, to all races and all lands.
He gives both a motive and a goal for spreading his message and his work.
Whatever you ask in my name I will do,

That is the greatest work in the world: TO GLORIFY THE FATHER.
The second greatest work in the world is to do good to our neighbors.
Yet even doing good to our neighbors has the motive and the goal of GLORIFYING THE FATHER.
We must not do good in order to glorify ourselves, or to put our neighbors in debt towards us, or even to make them love us back.
Any other motive or goal than the glory of the Father is less than pure, less than worthy.
To spread the message of Christ is a great work.
To spread it beyond Palestine is something he did not do, but left to us.
There is at least a second possible way in which our work is greater than the work Christ did on earth.
He preached to his own Jewish people.
They already believed in the one true God.
Those non-Jews, who also heard Christ all believed in some sort of god.
Today, you and I must do something greater than preach to people who already have some religious faith.
We must bring the message of Christ to our own culture and time that go so far as to reject any notion of God.
Christ worked in Palestine.
He worked as a Jew in the land and the faith of Judaism.
We now must do much more.
For that we need to ask his help, just as he tells us today.
Whatever you ask in my name I will do,
so as to glorify the Father.

That God Be Glorified in All

May 01, 2006

For Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:30-35

We are in the middle of eight Easter weekdays during which the Church celebrates the sixth chapter of our Lord’s holy Gospel according to John.
In this chapter, we are listening to Christ make a string of claims about himself, his personal identity, his origin, his real body and his real blood.
He weaves together all his claims with graphic words insisting that unless we EAT and DRINK his flesh and his blood we will starve and die forever.
Today in his Gospel, says:
I AM the bread of life.
He who comes to me shall not hunger,
and he who believes in me shall never thirst.

For the next few days, he will enlarge this teaching.
He will end up by again saying what he says today— but with stronger words [6:53,57]:
Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood,
you have no life in you.

The living Father sent me,
and I live because of the Father;
so he who eats me will live because of me.

The teaching of Christ concerning himself, particularly here in this chapter, is an exaggeration, or the result of insanity or an outright lie … unless he is divine— unless he truly is the Incarnate Divine Son of God.
In putting before us the absolute necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, the man born in Bethlehem and who died in Jerusalem is putting before us the consummation and the INCARNATION of his claim to be the Son of God born in human flesh and blood to ransom the human race from its own sins.
To reject the reality of the Body and the Blood of the Son of God in the Eucharist is ultimately to reject the Son of God himself as born in flesh and blood, dead and risen in flesh and blood.
To receive the Eucharist with faith that it is Christ’s real body and real blood is to make a flesh and blood proclamation that Jesus is the Son of God born, dead and risen in human flesh and blood.
The very Eucharist has preserved authentic Christianity and the authentic teaching of Christ in the world up to this very day, hour and minute.
The Eucharist is the real sign, real instrument and real presence of the Son of God Incarnate in real flesh and blood.
Without the Eucharistic Flesh and Blood of Christ, the Church, the Christian faith, would likely have died out at its very beginning.
That likelihood, that probability, is clear in the words of Christ later in the present chapter [6:53].
EAT my
you have

What Christ now does here at the altar has made everything possible for two thousand years.

That God Be Glorified in All

April 30, 2006

For Monday of the Third Week of Easter and for the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker

For Monday of the Third Week of Easter
John 6:22-29

Faith in Christ— the Son on whom God the Father has set his seal— faith in Christ is the work that gains the “food that endures for eternal life”.
The word he uses for “life” is not merely biological [βιος], but eternal [ζωη].
In this entire chapter of his Gospel, Christ is making claims about himself as DIVINE, about his DIVINE personal identity, about his DIVINE origin— but also about his REAL human body and his REAL human blood.
Without apology, he says his body and blood are REAL food and REAL drink that give ETERNAL life.
If we want to receive eternal life in the Eucharist, it’s not going to happen just because we step forward, take and swallow it.
The Eucharist feeds you for eternal life— of that, there is no doubt.
However, it is not magic.
It does nothing for you if you yourself do no work.
What is the WORK?
The crowd today asked exactly that question.
Jesus said to them,
“Do not WORK
for food that perishes
but for food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father—
has set his seal.”

They asked him,
“What can we do to accomplish the WORKS
of God?”

He answered and said to them,
“This is the WORK
of God,

Faith that the heavenly Father has sent his divine Son to us in flesh and blood— THAT faith is the WORK that gains eternal life from eating and drinking the real flesh and real blood of Christ.
That is why the Church does not offer the Eucharist to those who do not have the Church’s faith.
Otherwise, the skinny “wafer” will do no more for you than any other kind of earthly wafer— and it won’t even begin to fill your belly.
The New Testament in Christ [Jm. 2:24,26] tells us:
A man is justified by WORKS
and NOT by faith ALONE.
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead,
so FAITH apart from WORKS is DEAD.

Do our lives WORK?
Do our lives reflect our faith?
If not, we are dead, and it is pointless to be here today.
If we want to live, then let us be here today, and receive Christ in his Eucharist, but go out from here choosing to live and work the faith.

- - - -

For the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker
Matthew 13:54-58
Colossians 3:14-15,17,23-24
Is he not the carpenter’s son?

Joseph’s family is that of King David from the town of Bethlehem where Christ was born.
In the Gospel, only two men are called “Son of David”: Christ and St. Joseph.
The first time God sent an angel to St. Joseph, the angel of God called Joseph, “son of David.”
The name of Joseph’s own biological father was Jacob.
“Joseph son of Jacob.”
However, God sent his angel to call Joseph “son of David,” rather than “son of Jacob.”
The Son of God himself shares on earth the title “Son of David” only with Joseph, the carpenter who lives and works in Nazareth.
Everything the Gospel tells us about St. Joseph is wrapped up in obedient service to the mission of the Son of God.
St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians enjoins on us what St. Joseph’s silent obedience fulfilled:
whatever you do
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
be slaves of the Lord Christ

Joseph Son of David from Bethlehem is a carpenter who does everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Obedient as a slave to the mission of the Lord Christ, Joseph offers his service to the un-neighborly and small-hearted people of Nazareth.
In this way, St. Joseph the worker foreshadows the work of Christ himself.
Joseph is a son of David.
Christ is a son of David.
Joseph is a carpenter whose ancestral home is Bethlehem, a name meaning “house of bread.”
Christ was born in that place, the “House of Bread.”
He was born to be the “Bread of Life from Heaven.”
Yet as a human child, his life depended on bread earned by the work of St. Joseph.
Just like Joseph the carpenter who worked for the un-neighborly and small-hearted, Christ himself, the Bread of Life, serves the un-neighborly and small-hearted, not only in Nazareth like St. Joseph, but in all the towns of the world … even here … for us … right now.
As we eat and drink Christ the Son of God, we eat and drink the One who lived and grew and flourished on earth not only on the bread earned by the work of St. Joseph, but also on the love and example of St. Joseph.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph— pray for us!

That God Be Glorified in All