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 13, 2006

For the Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 15:1-8
Acts 9:26-31
1 Jn. 3:18-24

Today in his Gospel, our Lord speaks about spiritual LIFE and spiritual GROWTH.
He says his Father will cut off his unproductive branches— unproductive Christians— and these will go into a fire and be burned.
That is frightening.
We usually think “hellfire” is for those who do EVIL.
However, today the Lord says burning in fire is for those who simply do NOTHING, those who bear no fruit.
It is not enough for us to belong to the vine of the Church, not enough to say, “I am a Christian,” and not enough to call Jesus “my Lord and savior.”
Today in his Gospel, the Lord tells us, “Bear fruit or be burnt in fire.”
He does not tell us these things just to scare us.
He tells us these things because he wants to see us arrive at true joy.
Right after today’s Gospel passage, the Lord goes on to add:
These things I have spoken to you
that MY JOY
may be IN YOU,
and that YOUR JOY
may be FULL.

What is it, then, to grow and bear fruit, so that we are not caught off guard doing nothing, but work towards receiving the FULL JOY of GOD HIMSELF?
The Lord begins to explain that today in this Gospel.
Our heavenly Father is the vine grower.
Christ is the vine.
We are the branches of Christ.
Unless we as branches stay on Christ the vine, we can do nothing and we bear no fruit.
The Father cuts off from Christ every branch that does not bear fruit.
The Father also trims and shapes each branch that DOES bear fruit so that it bears MORE fruit.
With the teaching of Christ as his pruning shears, the Father trims and shapes us to grow rightly and bear plenty of good fruit.
The teaching of Christ aims at cutting out of our lives whatever is not healthy, not true or not good.
This means that sometimes the teaching of Christ is going to wound us— just for a time— like a pruning knife or shears, so that we grow into a better shape, grow in a better direction, grow stronger, and bear good fruit in plenty.
The Father’s pruning knife, his shears, is the teaching of Christ.
We present ourselves for the trimming and shaping by being obedient to Christ.
After the pruning, what is it, then, to grow and to bear fruit?
We learn what growth and fruitfulness are when we read what follows today’s Gospel.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my COMMANDMENTS,
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s COMMANDMENTS
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.

We heard the same thing in the First Letter of Saint John today.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him and he in them.

Growth and fruitfulness come from remaining in Christ’s love.
Remaining in Christ’s love comes from keeping his commandments, just as Christ keeps the commandments of his Father and so remains in the Father’s love.
What are those commandments?
Christ goes on to say.
This is my commandment:
love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this:
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Love grows, and love bears fruit.
However, the great love that Christ commands is not a mere a feeling, thought or idea.
No one has greater love than this:
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The great love that Christ commands is self-sacrifice for the good of others. [Our mothers show us that beginning with pregnancy and especially in the act of giving birth, and then throughout our lives. Happy day to all you who are mothers!]
Self-sacrificing love is not a mere a feeling or a thought.
Self-sacrifice is a choice and an action.
Self-sacrificing love avoids the fire by presenting itself to be cut, trimmed and shaped by the knife of the Gospel.
Christ says:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.

In his Eucharist, Christ fulfills for us his own joy-giving commandment of self-sacrificing love.
His Eucharist is his choice and his action of self-sacrifice in his real flesh and blood.
This is no mere feeling or idea.
In his flesh and blood, Christ lays down his life and takes up the resurrection for his friends as well as his enemies.
In this he shows that his is the greatest love of all.
If we wish to remain in his all-surpassing love, and not have the Father cut us off to be thrown into fire, then we must honestly live out the “Amen” we speak when we dare to eat the Eucharistic covenant of Christ’s flesh and blood.
We must keep the covenant commandment of his example: battling to the death against sin, and rising constantly to holiness by living for Christ.
Here in his Eucharistic covenant, Christ has cut himself open for us.

That God Be Glorified in All

May 12, 2006

For Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 14:7-14

Today, Christ repeats his solemn assurance that those who have faith in him will not only do the same works he does, but will do GREATER works than his.
Yet, what Christian would ever dare claim to have surpassed the great work of Christ who is God?
However, doing GREATER works than Christ did is not to be our primary concern.
We also need to be concerned with WHY Christ worked.
What moved him ought to move us also.
His motive ought to be our motive as well.
Today he said in the Gospel:
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
Do you not believe that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you
I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me,

Christ performed works in order to reveal the Father … in order to show us that he, Christ, is in the Father and that the Father is in Christ.
Christ dared to say, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”.
That was the central scandal in Christ’s teaching.
For teaching that, he was rejected by many and put to death.
Our greatest work as followers and believers of Christ is to repeat the same proclamation: “Whoever has seen Christ has seen the Father”.
In order to see Christ, we depend on the testimony of those who saw him with their own eyes two thousand years ago.
We depend on the testimony those eyewitnesses, the apostles, handed on.
To hand on, to hand over— that is the meaning of “tradition”.
The Sacred Scriptures are a part of that tradition.
Those who saw Christ, and those who followed them, wrote down their testimony and handed it down.
The Scriptures are a sacred tradition handed down from generation to generation.
We don’t create new scripture for each new Christian generation.
No, we receive what has been handed down.
We safeguard it, and then we, too, hand it on to the next generation.
All of this is for the sake of seeing Christ and seeing in Christ the Father.
The disciples and apostles of the Lord have also handed down to us through the centuries the WORKS that Christ himself performed.
We are involved in one of those works right now.
Christ took bread, and gave it to his disciple, saying, “Take and eat— this is my body”.
In the same way he took the cup filled with wine and said, “Take and drink— this is my blood”.
That, too, is a scandal.
Yet, it is no less a scandal than for him, a man of flesh and blood to say, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”.
Whenever we celebrate and offer the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we are doing the work that he did.
We are proclaiming that God is in Christ— Emmanuel, GOD WITH US; and that in Christ— who is OUR FLESH AND BLOOD— we are now in God.
He— in our flesh and blood— has ascended into heaven and sits— in our flesh and blood— at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
God sends us, then, to let others see us in God, and to let others see God in us.
That reality is up to God.
Either showing it or concealing it is great work that is up to us.

That God Be Glorified in All

May 11, 2006

For Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 14:1-6

The Jewish people knew that God was the only LIVING God and the only TRUE God.
Today Jesus says, “I am the TRUE One, I am the LIVING One.”
I am the WAY
and the TRUTH
and the LIFE.

In short, he says he is the TRUE God, the LIVING God, and he is the WAY to God.
Jesus is the WAY for us to God, because Jesus who is God is also a man.
No one comes to the Father except through me.

The only WAY to the Father is to go the WAY Jesus went, to do what Jesus did, to live as Jesus lived.
No one goes to the Father except through that WAY: Jesus.
Here in his Eucharist, Jesus again and always shows us the WAY to the Father.
He gives himself as life-giving food and drink for the authentic and eternal welfare of others and for the glory of God.
None of shall go to God unless through the WAY Jesus shows and gives in his Eucharist.
We, like Jesus, must give ourselves as life-giving food and drink for the authentic and eternal welfare of others and for the glory of God.

That God Be Glorified in All

May 10, 2006

For Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 13:16-20

Today is the twenty-sixth day of the Lord's Resurrection.
Two weeks from today, on the fortieth day of the Lord’s Resurrection, we shall celebrate his Ascension into the invisible glory of heaven.
In the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, he blazes the trail ahead of us.
Christ also calls and sends us forward into Resurrection and Ascension— just as the Father sent Christ into bodily Resurrection and Ascension.
This season gives us, among other things, an opportunity to renew our desire for the return of the Lord.
His return will also be our arrival, our own stepping over the border into Resurrection and Ascension.
With that as our faith and our hope, we turn to the Gospel by which Christ blazes the trail for us.
In these forty days of showing us his risen glory before his ascending to the Father, Christ unfolds in his Eucharist and his Gospel the nature and the meaning of his identity and his mission, as well as the nature and meaning of our identity and our mission as his disciples.
Today in his Gospel, he points to himself as God.
I am telling you … so that … you may believe that I AM.

Twice in his Gospel today, he also solemnly declares the communion between our identity and his, as well as the communion between our mission and his.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever receives the one I send
receives me,
and whoever receives me
receives the one who sent me.

He revealed to us the same truth with the first words he spoke to his apostles on the very day of his resurrection.
“As the Father has sent me,
even so I send you.”
And when he had said this,
he breathed on them,
and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit….”

We are apostles— emissaries, missionaries, envoys— because Christ sends us on his behalf.
Christ, for his part, together with the divine Spirit, is also an apostle, emissary, missionary, envoy— whom the Father sends to us.
Our communion with Christ is the Spirit that the Father shares with Christ, and that Christ breathes for us and upon us.
This Spiritual Communion with Christ, his being the Son and his mission all invite our obedience and collaboration.
How do we learn and fulfill this mission?
The Church treasures the ways and means.
The sacramental liturgy is the highest and greatest of these.
It is also the source of all other ways and means.
Here, in the liturgy, we have the real PRESENCE, the real WORK, the real WORD and SPIRIT of God in Christ.
In the Eucharistic Sacrament and his Flesh, Blood and Gospel, we witness and commune with the identity, the person, the nature, and the mission of Christ.
Monks have an extension of the sacramental liturgy in the daily discipline of lectio divina, “divine reading”.
Alone with God, each monk reads the Word of God; and each monk allows God to read, judge, teach and send him.
Daily lectio divina invites the work of mindfulness and fidelity, together with a reverent spirit of worship and humble honesty.
It is the same with the daily sacramental liturgy.
Each day we come here to acknowledge, worship and receive Christ whom Father sends in his Holy Gospel, his Body and Blood.
Here, the fulfillment of our mission in Christ begins with the simplicity of mindfulness and daily fidelity, together with a reverent spirit of worship and humble honesty.
We receive Christ and the Spirit here.
In them, the Father receives us and the Father sends us.
He sends us to be ascension and resurrection in and for the world.

That God Be Glorified in All

May 09, 2006

For Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 12:44-50
Acts 12:24 to 13:5.

Today in the Gospel it is late in the day on Palm Sunday itself.
Earlier in the day, the crowds shouted royal praises for Christ entering Jerusalem.
Afterwards, while he was speaking to the crowds, he suddenly said, “Father, glorify thy name!” [Jn. 12:28-29]
Then a voice came from heaven,
“I have glorified it,
and I will glorify it again.”
The crowd standing by heard it….

There are a few other occasions in the Gospel when the voice of God the Father comes out of the sky.
Today in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we have something more rare: we have the voice of the Holy Spirit.
On some occasions the Scriptures tell us that someone is speaking by impulse from the Holy Spirit.
Today instead, the Scripture reports:
the Holy Spirit said,
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them.”

So, today in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit speaks out loud.
Today in the Gospel, Palm Sunday, the Father has already spoken out loud.
Today in the Gospel, Jesus also speaks out loud.
In fact the original language of the Gospel says he shouted, he yelled.
He yelled at the crowd.
He yelled that they must believe in God by believing in Christ.
Whoever sees, hears and obeys Christ sees, hears and obeys the Father.
God is the only source, only cause and only foundation of true and everlasting happiness.
If we want true and everlasting happiness, we must go to God.
If we want to find God, we must look to Christ, to see and find in Christ what God wants for us.
So, we come repeatedly to the Gospel and the Eucharist to meet, hear, touch and consume Christ the Son of God.
From time to time we must accept the fact that he is shouting at us in his Gospel.
His Eucharist shouts, “I sacrifice!”
“My Body— GIVEN UP for you!”
“My Blood— SHED for you!”
His Eucharist also shouts, “I am risen from the dead!”
“The EVERLASTING Covenant!”
Today in his Gospel Christ shouts that he is the Light of the world.
In his Eucharist he comes as Light in ACTION.
In his Eucharist he is the light of immediacy, the light of availability, the light of surrender as food and drink to be taken and swallowed.
Do we follow his SHOUTED command and example?
Do we do as he does?
Do we allow ourselves to be consumed by the demands and commands that follow from choosing to believe in God?
In the end there is nothing here but advantage— supreme advantage: salvation, eternal life, unending, boundless happiness in God who is the first, last and only source of true happiness.
When he returns as judge on the last day, may the Lord find living proof to count our lives as a shout of praise to his name!

That God Be Glorified in All

May 08, 2006

For Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 10:22-30

Today in his Gospel, confronted by unbelievers, the Lord asserts that he is the Messiah, the anointed Savior.
Then he tells us what a relationship with him as Savior demands of us, and what he promises and makes possible for us.
First, we must believe in him.
We must listen to him and follow him.
To listen to him and to follow him are the conditions that make it possible for us to receive what he promises.
I give my sheep eternal life,
and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.

At this point, he adds a further claim to his promises.
My Father, who has given my sheep to me,
is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.

With these promises and claims, Jesus has told his persecutors that he is God.
For this, as the Gospel will go on to tell us, they immediately snatch up stones to stone him to death for blasphemy.
Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code, calls himself Christian, but he contradicts Jesus’ claim to be God.
With that, Dan Brown stones Jesus to death in his own heart, and tramples upon the promises that only God can or should make:
I give eternal life.
My sheep shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.

The fruit of faith that Jesus is Savior and God, the fruit of listening to him and following him is that he gives us eternal life NOW.
He does not say, “I SHALL do it.”
He says, rather, “I GIVE them eternal life.”
Let us now approach our shepherd in his Blessed Eucharist, with hearts and minds prepared by his own words.
My sheep hear my voice.
I know them,
and they follow me.
I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish.
The Father and I are one.

That God Be Glorified in All

May 07, 2006

For Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 10:1-10

Today in his Gospel, Christ calls himself “the gate for the sheep.”
He also speaks of two other roles: the GATEKEEPER and the SHEPHERD.
All three serve the sheep that follow Christ.
The goal is for the sheep to have new, abundant, everlasting life beyond what the world can contain or imagine.
If we settle for less, then we throw ourselves into what Christ describes as the sway of “thieves and robbers” who come “only to steal and slaughter and destroy.”
In order to receive new, everlasting, abundant life in God, we need to recognize his voice, listen to him, and follow him.
We see the NEW, ABUNDANT AND EVERLASTING LIFE in the resurrection of Christ.
God’s plan is for our bodies no longer to suffer any weakness, fatigue, disease, pain, disability, injury or death itself.
Such LIFE from God will banish all fear and sadness.
We shall grasp truth, reason and understanding with clarity and without mistake.
We shall arrive at choices and decisions without hesitation and without departure from truth, goodness, unity and beauty.
The life God wants us to have will echo with joy in every fiber of our being—our feelings, our thoughts, our choices and our bodies.
Unfortunately, sin presses on us.
It is hard to follow God on the road to heaven.
So God in Christ came down from heaven to join us, as it were, on the road to hell.
He never sinned— but he chose to pick up the entire weight and history of sin.
He willingly carried it with freedom and personal innocence, freely letting it press him unto death.
Having carried all the history and reality of sin into death, he left it there— he left sin dead.
He left sin so dead that the human body in Christ was free to rise from death no longer able to suffer anything.
He left sin so dead that the human mind and the human will in Christ are set free of all confusion and error, free to rise from death into no other experience outside of truth, goodness, beauty, unity and joy— and all of that without measure or end.
As he promised in his Gospel today:
I came so that they might have life
and have it more abundantly.

We have two choices here.
On the one hand, we can believe his promise and follow him through whatever work or crucifixion we might meet along the way of growing freedom into resurrection life in everlasting abundance.
On the other hand, we can doubt his promise and settle for less— but then we rob ourselves now AND FOREVER.
Here in his Gospel and here in his Eucharist, he asks us to make the choice.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved.

God in Christ gives us his Body and Blood as his new, everlasting, invincible alliance with us— the covenant that can free and raise up our bodies, our hearts, minds and wills— if we believe and say “Amen” to it in all the details of our daily lives.
Let us not waste the Eucharistic choice he offers us.

That God Be Glorified in All