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.

June 03, 2006

For the Solemnity of Pentecost

John 20:19-23

Today in the Gospel, we return with the apostles, the Church and the Spirit to the day of the Resurrection itself, the first Easter Sunday.
On the day of his resurrection, our Lord shows us HIMSELF and the power of the Holy Spirit.
First: he shows us his BODY— with his pierced hands and his side stabbed open.
It is his real BODY, risen from the dead.
Second: the Risen Lord BREATHES on us, and says, “Receive the Holy SPIRIT.”
Third: he says:
If you FORGIVE the SINS of any,
they are forgiven….

Three important things:
one, his BODY;
two, the Holy BREATH or SPIRIT of God;

Something similar or parallel to these three things took place at the beginning of human life on earth:

In the first book of Sacred Scripture, “The Book of Genesis,” we see the Lord create the universe and humanity.
In creating us, the Lord God formed us of dust from the earth: a BODY.
So, the first important sign the Risen Lord gives in his Resurrection Gospel is the BODY.
In his Resurrection, the Lord shows us his real BODY— raised from the dead and now eternally glorified— but a real human body nonetheless.
The Book of Genesis tells us that after God shaped the body of the first man from the clay of the earth, the Lord then BREATHED his own BREATH, the SPIRIT of Life, into the earthly BODY of man.
So, in the resurrection of Christ, the second important event is the BREATH of God, the giving of the SPIRIT.
In his Resurrection, the Lord BREATHES out the Holy BREATH— God’s Holy SPIRIT— upon the first members of his Church which is his BODY— just as long ago the Creator had BREATHED his Holy SPIRIT of Life into the earthen BODY of Adam.
After the Lord God formed Adam’s BODY and BREATHED into it his own SPIRIT, Scripture tells us that living man later went on to SIN against God.
So, the third signal event in the resurrection of Christ is the giving of authority and power to FORGIVE SINS.
In the Resurrection of Christ, God creates our humanity all over in a new way:
the BREATH or SPIRIT of God;

The apostles were the first to know these truths and pass them on.
On the first Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after Christ rose from the dead, God publicly revealed these truths and their power in the midst of the apostles, publicly in the midst of the Church.
The Resurrection of Christ together with the Power of the Spirit is the New and Final Truth of the Human Race— the New Beginning of the human race.
The New Beginning is handed over to us.
It is planted in us— and we are planted in it— by the sacraments, especially Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
Most especially in the Eucharist, our real BODIES receive the promise and the beginning of resurrection, and God’s Spirit BREATHES within us.
In the Eucharist, the present world of bread and wine comes to an end.
In the Eucharist, there is only the reality of Christ in his Real Body and Real Blood— with the unity, truth and power of the Holy Spirit.
We eat and drink the glory that God offers to his sons and daughters.
What will we do with our bodily lives, what will we do with the Holy Spirit and the glory that God has already given us— the glory that we eat and drink and celebrate this day?
What will we do?

That God Be Glorified in All

May 29, 2006

For Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter

John 17:20-26

Today in his Gospel every sentence our Lord speaks is about unity:
our unity or union with Christ the Son of God;

the Son’s union with his Father;

our union with the Father through union with his Son.

This holy union is SPIRIT.
The Church’s faith in that fact comes out when she prays through the Son who lives and reigns with the Father IN THE UNITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
So today Christ our Lord comes to us, his Church, praying for us and with us that we might have UNITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
UNITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT … from the Father … and through the Son.
If we are to grow in loving Christ and his Father, it will come from unity of the Holy Spirit.
How do we come into unity and holiness of the Spirit?
Christ our Lord tells us today that unity of the Holy Spirit comes FROM and IN the Church of his apostles.
He speaks and prays today from the Last Supper, in the upper room, in the presence of his apostles.
Praying in the presence of his apostles, his Church, he tells the Father:
I do not pray for THESE only,
but also for those who believe in me through THEIR word,
that they may all be ONE;
even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Union with God our Father comes through his Son … in the Spirit … from the Church … to the world.
For the world, this is a scandal at least twice over.
It would be easier in the measure of the world, if union with God were a purely spiritual matter … easier if God had not become a man of flesh and blood … easier if his holy Church were only a spiritual reality, not also a gathering of sinful men.
As our Lord prays for Holy Unity of the Spirit, his gathered Church has at its core twelve SINNERS.
One has already gone off to set up his BETRAYAL.
All the others will RUN away once the Lord is betrayed.
Their chief spokesman, Peter, will even LIE three times that he does not know the Lord.
The Lord does not ask us to defend or ignore the sins of the Church.
Rather, the Lord wants and prays that we believe in him through the word of the Church of Apostles so that we may be one in the Spirit with him and the Father.
He says:
I do not pray for THESE [my apostles] ONLY,
but also for those who believe in me through THEIR word,
that they may all be ONE.

Just as the Son of God’s Human Incarnation, his Death, Bodily Resurrection, Bodily Ascension and Bodily Return in glory at the end of time are all scandals or hurdles to unbelievers, so the Church itself is a scandal.
The Church is assembled of sinners who are called nonetheless to be one and holy … AND APOSTOLIC.
The Lord himself says today that faith in him comes from hearing the word of the apostles for whom he prays.
The word of the apostles is handed on in the Church: one Church, holy Church, universal Church, apostolic Church.
Yet our sins scandalize the world.
How, then, might we reach union with God in holiness of the Spirit and so bring greater credibility to the word we speak to the world?
We are within the anniversary of those several days between the Lord’s Ascension and the public revealing of the Holy Spirit in the Church at Jerusalem.
The Word of God, the Book of Acts, tells us that the apostles devoted themselves with one accord to prayer TOGETHER WITH MARY THE MOTHER OF JESUS.
Mary received the word not from the apostles, but from an archangel.
At Nazareth, in the presence of an archangel, Mary entered the overshadowing unity of the Spirit BEFORE the Church and FOR the Church, the Body of Christ.
She did so not as a passive object, but by freely speaking, “Let it be to me according to your word!”
Mary lived her obedient freedom all the way to the cross, even though the Church of sinners had run away.
From the cross, our Lord recognized and spoke to Mary first, and only then to the disciple behind her, telling the disciple to receive Mary as mother.
For ten days after our Lord’s Ascension, Mary, Mother of Disciples, brought her obedient freedom into the prayer of the apostolic Church. [Book of Acts, chapter 1, verse 14!]
With the apostles, let us with one accord devote ourselves to prayer together with Mary our mother, the mother of Jesus, that we may receive unity and holiness of the Spirit.

Lord! Let it be to us according to your word! Receive us as you have promised! Do not disappoint us in our hope!

That God Be Glorified in All

May 28, 2006

For May 31, the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 1:39-56

Pope Urban VI set up today’s feast.
The year 1389 was the last year in his life.
He became pope in 1378.
Later that same year a faction of cardinals proceeded to elect a rival who took the title Clement VII, the very first in a series of false popes who for thirty-nine years challenged the true popes in Rome.
In 1389 Pope Urban prepared to institute the feast of the Visitation as a way of praying for the unity of the Church.
Pope Urban died while preparations were underway, but his legitimate successor, Pope Boniface IX, carried through the plan of Pope Urban.
Given the ever-present challenges in the Church, today is a good day to pray with the Blessed Virgin Mary for the unity of the Church.
However, in the Visitation we also celebrate the first historical sign of the work of Christ our saving God in the flesh.
He is only an embryo, but his Spirit carries Mary out to her cousin.
He is only an embryo, but his Spirit awakens Elizabeth to his divine presence.
He is still an embryo, but his Spirit charges another gestating child, John the Baptist, with leaping joy.
Today we celebrate the Spirit and power of the work of Christ in the flesh conceived of the Virgin Mary.
The Savior’s human life is just in its beginning stages, but Mary’s song of worship on this day celebrates salvation as already present and fulfilled.
We hear this if we listen to a proper translation, such as today’s in the lectionary.
Mary says:
God my Savior HAS looked with favor
The Almighty HAS done great things
He HAS shown the strength of his arm
He HAS scattered the proud
He HAS cast down the mighty
He HAS lifted up the lowly
He HAS filled the hungry
He HAS sent the rich away empty
He HAS come to the help of his servant Israel
He HAS remembered his promise of mercy.

Mary sings of salvation as ALREADY FULFILLED— not merely in progress, not merely on the way.
SALVATION ALREADY FULFILLED— even though the Savior is still too small to swell the womb of his mother.
Mary’s song comes out of FULFILLMENT.
For this reason the Church most appropriately uses Mary’s Visitation song as its own song in its official prayer at sunset, the FULFILLMENT of the day.
Today is also a day for celebrating FAITH— our faith, but Mary’s faith also.
The Gospel tells us today that the Holy Spirit, speaking through Elizabeth, tells Mary:
Blessed are you who BELIEVED
of the Lord’s words to you.

Precisely upon hearing the Holy Spirit bless her for her FAITH in the FULFILLMENT of Lord’s words to her— precisely at that moment Mary launches into her canticle of FULFILLMENT.
Pope John Paul II, using Mary as an example, told us what faith is.
To believe means to abandon oneself to the truth of the living God,
knowing and humbly recognizing
“how unsearchable are his judgments
and how inscrutable his ways” (Rm. 11:33).
Mary, who by the eternal will of the Most High,
stands, one may say,
at the very center of those “inscrutable judgments” of God,
conforms herself to them in the dim light of faith,
accepting fully and with a ready heart
everything that is decreed in the divine plan. [Redemptoris Mater, 14]

The Gospel holds out to us the word’s of Mary’s faith-filled answer to the plan of God.
Behold I am the slave of the Lord.
Let it be to me according to your word.

Now carrying her fulfillment and the whole world’s fulfillment in her womb, Mary visits Elizabeth.
Like Mary, we also belong to the Son of God.
God has commissioned us just as much as Mary to carry within us the fulfillment of the world.
By the Eucharistic Flesh and Blood of Christ, we are commissioned to be God-Bearers.
Let us work and pray to bear God truly, and so serve him by bringing authentic joy and fulfillment to the world.

That God Be Glorified in All

For Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

John 17:1-11

As we worship God who saves us by the Gospel and the Eucharist, we are present during those few days between the ascent of Christ into heaven and the Spirit-powered, public descent of the apostolic Church from the upper room.
What do we see during those days?
Obeying Christ, the apostles returned to that upper room where the Eucharist was born.
There they chose to await the Spirit-Promise of the Father, as Christ had told them.
In the same room where the Eucharist was born, the apostles with one accord devoted themselves to prayer together with Mary from whom Christ was born.
At some point during those days of prayer awaiting the promised Spirit of the Father, St. Peter told the gathered disciples, about 120, to seek a successor for Judas as an apostle.
St. Peter told them the new apostle would have to have been with them as a witness from the day of the Baptism of Christ right through the resurrection and the day of the Ascent of Christ.
St. Matthias was revealed as the new apostle.
Now as an apostle, St. Matthias continued with the others to pray in waiting for the promised Spirit of the Father.
These few days in which Christ’s apostolic Church awaits its public Christening and public commissioning in the power of the Spirit— these days before Pentecost witness already the great foundations of the Church’s holy mission.
Days of prayer in the birth-room of the Eucharist!
Days of prayer with Mary the mother of Christ and his disciples!
Days of prayer with Mary, the first person on earth to receive Christ, offering herself as a servant in submission the word of the Lord!
Days of prayer with Mary who told servants to do whatever Christ told them to do!
Days of prayer in which we see the active headship of St. Peter and the first historical instance of apostolic succession!
Days of prayer waiting to receive public commission in the Holy Spirit— and to receive it in the same room where they first received the Eucharist!
The Eucharist Christ Gave the Apostles— Prayer, Obedience and Service as Mary Prayed, Obeyed and Served— Testimony to the Resurrection— the Traditions of the Apostles: all of these are the foundations for the Church’s mission to be empowered by the Spirit and sent into the world to call the world to worship and salvation in Christ.
We might do well to call these few days the first “retreat” in the history of the Church.
Days in which the saints first gathered with Mary to learn from her how to receive the Spirit of Power that had already shaded her in Nazareth!
Days inside the upper room, the first “church,” birthplace of the Eucharist!
Today in the Gospel, we hear the prayer that Christ himself offered on the same night and in the same room where he first gave the Eucharist to his apostles.
In the Gospel,
in the prayer of Christ himself,
in his Eucharist,
here in this church,
here at this altar where the birth of the Eucharist is daily present,
here where we learn to listen and pray with Mary, the apostles and the saints,
here where with the apostles we testify to the resurrection:
here in this place—
even this very hour—
the Spirit gives us the power and the mission to live lives that glorify God and announce the peace of salvation to the world.
If we hold ourselves accountable to receive, learn and practice what these few days first gave to the Church, then we may say to Christ at his return what he himself says today in his Gospel to his Father.
I glorified you on earth
by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.

Then we will give Christ the pleasure of fulfilling for us the blessing he foretold in a parable.
Well-done, good and faithful servant!
Enter into the joy of your Lord!

That God Be Glorified in All

For Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

John 16:29-33

This is a thoroughly paradoxical teaching.
Today Christ says we will scatter and abandon him— but he will not be alone, for the Father is with him.
We may have peace in Christ— but he tells us we will still suffer in the world.
Christ was going to die less than a day after speaking these words— but still he said he has conquered the world.
What does he mean by “conquered the world”?
Is the world his enemy?
Both yes and no!
Much in the world surely opposes him.
However, Christ has come not to destroy the world, but to save and glorify it in himself.
Yes, Christ and the world are in opposition, and Christ was to suffer deadly destruction at the hands of the world.
However, Christ’s victory over the world that killed him was not by reciprocated destruction, but resurrection.
He rose from the dead still personally one with the flesh and blood of the human world.
However, when he rose from the dead in real flesh and blood, that flesh and blood were also vessel of the Spirit of God.
When he ascended bodily to the right hand of the Father in the glory of heaven, the world in his flesh and blood was not destroyed, but reached its highest destiny and dignity.
In the bodily ascension of Christ, the world of flesh and blood is no longer in opposition to God, but at home with him.
The Eucharist of Christ’s Flesh and Blood is the sign, the instrument and the real presence of all this good news.
It still looks, feels and tastes like the world of food and drink.
However, Christ has really conquered the way it looks, feels and tastes— without destroying the way it looks, feels and tastes.
Even in the Eucharist he comes in person saving the world, not destroying it, but bringing it into communion with himself.

That God Be Glorified in All