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 17, 2006

For the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Mark 14:12-16,22-26
Exodus 24:3-8
Hebrews 9:11-15

Today the unified testimony of the Gospel and the Scriptures proclaims that God ties himself to humanity by a bond— a COVENANT— of flesh and blood.
The highest, deepest and eternal covenant is the one in which God ties himself to us in the flesh and blood of Christ.
Before Christ, God tied himself to humanity by the blood of a sacrificial animal.
Today in the Book of Exodus we see Moses take the blood of bulls.
Following God’s instruction, Moses pours half the blood on the altar.
The altar represents God.
The blood on the altar is the sign that God is making a life and death promise binding himself to the people.
After the people promise to obey God, Moses then sprinkles the other half of the bull’s blood on the people.
The blood on the people is a sign of their life and death promise binding them to God.
This is not God’s blood or human blood.
It’s just the blood of an animal.
However, the death and the blood of that animal was made into the chosen sign of a life and death promise between God and Israel to be faithful to each other.
Before there were any human beings, before there was a universe, the Son of God stood before the loving Father in the Spirit of gratitude and communion.
Before they made the universe— with or without the universe— the Son and Father have one Spirit as their eternal covenant with each other.
The eternal Son came to earth two thousand years ago and received the name “Jesus.”
On the day of his earthly arrival, a human heart, a human mind, a human body— human flesh and blood— began to belong to the Son of God in person.
Alive in the human flesh and blood of Jesus is the covenant— the relationship— of the eternal Son with his eternal Father.
When we eat and drink the flesh and blood of Christ, we are not just entering a relationship with God.
In the flesh and blood of Christ we are entering God’s relationship with HIMSELF.
The second letter of Saint Peter [1:4] dares to say it this way: we become participants taking communion in God’s own nature [theías koinonoì phúseos].
With these true and daring words, Saint Peter stops short of saying we become the equals of God.
In the Eucharist, God lets us eat, drink, live off and share in the relationship of God the Son with God the Father.
Not just our relationship with God, but God’s relationship with God!
On the day Christ calls us to rise from the dead in the new heavens and the new earth, we will know and enjoy with unspeakable pleasure that God’s love for HIMSELF is alive in us— alive in our own personal hearts and minds, alive in our own personal flesh and blood.
Let us keep in mind the relationship of Christ and the Father as we hear the words of the Eucharist today.
…looking up to heaven,
to you his almighty Father,
he gave you thanks and praise.
He broke the bread,
gave it to his disciples and said,
“Take this,
all of you,
and eat it.
This is my body
which will be given up for you.”
When supper was ended,
he took the cup.
Again [almighty Father] he gave you thanks and praise,
gave the cup to his disciples, and said,
“Take this,
all of you,
and drink from it.
This is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.”

On this solemn festival day of the Body and Blood of Christ, we offer the following prayer at the end of Mass.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You give us Your Body and Blood in the Eucharist
as a sign that even now WE SHARE YOUR LIFE.

Together with Christ, and by the power of the Spirit, may we always live for the Father.
Together with Christ, and by the power of the Spirit, may we always rejoice in knowing that the Father lives for us.

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I have posted further comments about the Eucharist as “covenant” on my other blog.

Click HERE for it.
That God Be Glorified in All

June 16, 2006

For Saturday of the Tenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 5:33-37

Through Noah, Abraham and Moses, God repeatedly offered reconciliation to the human race.
That reconciliation is perfect in Christ.
Christ is reconciliation in person, because he is both God and man.
Even though the reconciliation is already perfect, God’s offer of it still must be met by our individual, personal acceptance and pursuit of reconciliation.
The reconciliation God offers is reconciliation with all of sinful humanity.
So as we approach God, we must each be reconciled with our fellow human beings.
The sin that divides neighbors is also a barrier to approaching God.
So yesterday our Lord told us that before we approach the altar we are to go and be reconciled with our neighbors.
Though we are unfaithful sinners, God is forever faithful in offering himself to us.
So yesterday our Lord told us that God’s eternal fidelity is the model for husband and wife in offering themselves to each other.
Finally, God’s faithful offering of himself to us is simple and true.
So today our Lord tells us to be simple and true.
Say “Yes” or “No”, and let it be simple, direct and true.
Today and these last few days in his Sermon on the Mount, our Lord is putting before us a final and eternal decision.
We either accept to be reconciled with God or we don’t.
God offers himself faithfully, eternally, simply and truly.
When Christ first taught about his Eucharist, he did so with the same language of fidelity, permanence, simplicity and truth.
My flesh is real food.
My blood is real drink.
If you do not eat my flesh
and drink my blood,
you have no life in you.

Some of his disciples would not accept what he was offering.
They left.
Our Lord offered no compromise.
He let them go.
When it comes to giving his word, his life, his flesh and blood, his Spirit— when it comes to giving himself, God never compromises.
God offers himself to us faithfully, eternally, truly, simply— even in flesh and blood.

That God Be Glorified in All

June 15, 2006

For Friday of the Tenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 5:27-32

We’ve all heard the divorce rate is high and creeping higher.
However, no one is proposing that Catholics throw out exclusive marital fidelity—strict monogamy— in favor of free marriage or even polygamy.
And yet … people ARE proposing something similar about the celibate priesthood.
Only a small percentage of priests has ever been accused, so much as proven guilty or admitted being guilty of unchastely abusing a minor.
The scandal of unchaste priests is not a support for making celibacy optional.
What we need today in the Church is a renewal of chastity— which means purity— a renewal of chastity both in the institution of marriage and the celibate priesthood.
Both marriage and celibacy are gifts from God to the Church.
The divorce rate among married clergy of other Christian denominations is as great as in the general population.
Do we want to drop an increasingly high divorce on top of an already troubled priesthood?
I am absolutely sure that no one wants that.
The signs of the times then really are NOT that we need to make celibacy optional now.
What we need more than ever is for both married persons and celibate priests to know their promises and keep their promises.
Christ is God in person MARRIED to our human nature.
Precisely in THAT he was a celibate.
The problem in the priesthood is not one of celibacy— optional or mandatory.
The crisis is one of sin, sickness and stupidity.
The answer needs to be one of fidelity, health and wisdom.
Fidelity, health and wisdom— may God grant us these gifts of the Spirit through the Body and Blood of Christ his Son!

That God Be Glorified in All

June 14, 2006

For Thursday of the Tenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

[In the universal calendar of the Church, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which is today, June 15, 2006. However, the Vatican has approved the U.S. observance of it on the following Sunday.]

Matthew 5:20-26
1 Kings 18:41-46

Yesterday in the Liturgy, we witnessed the final Old Testament showdown between the 450 prophets of a false religion and the one and only remaining prophet of true religion, Elijah.
The reading ended yesterday with the Lord God answering the prayers of Elijah by sending down fire from heaven— fire that not only consumed Elijah’s sacrificial offering together with its water-soaked firewood, but also annihilated the stone altar, the surrounding trench and the water that filled.
Upon the seeing that, the people prostrated in worship, and cried out, “Yahweh is God!”
Yahweh is God!”
Yesterday’s reading ended there at verse 39.
Today in the liturgy, that story of Elijah has continued, beginning, however, at verse 41.
The lectionary skips one verse, verse 40.
In that omitted verse, we see that Elijah commanded the people to round up the 450 false prophets.
Then Elijah himself, one by one, cut open the throats of those 450 men.
This violent and horrifying verse, this violent and horrifying event has been skipped by the lectionary.
I take the trouble to point this out in order to dramatize that today in the Gospel, while nothing has been omitted, there is a specific essential detail which we of the later twentieth century are quite guilty of minimizing and even entirely ignoring.
It is the threat, the liability, the risk declared by the Lord of being punished by burning in hell.
If anger provokes me to insult and hold in contempt my brother, the Lord tells me today in his Gospel that I risk “fiery Gehenna”.
Today in his Gospel our Lord is continuing his “Sermon on the Mount” that he began this past Monday.
When we call to mind the “Sermon on the Mount” we usually think of the comforting “Beatitudes”, the eight blessings, with which the Lord began his sermon on the mount.
Yet, throughout this whole sermon, side by side with the promises of blessing, the Lord pronounces warnings and explicit references— as he does today— explicit references to the possibility of imprisonment and burning.
Surely, we can exaggerate or improperly fixate on the topic of hellfire and damnation.
And yet, never to consider the possibility is also an exaggeration.
Nonetheless, the Lord himself incites us to hope and not to despair.
When we stand before the Lord, he sees everything that we are and do— both the good and the bad.
When we look upon the Lord in his Gospel, we should see and hear, look and listen to everything he does and says.
Otherwise, our picture of the Lord and our relationship with him are both unrealistic and even dishonest.
Our “relationship” and our “picture” of the Lord….
Later in his Gospel, the Lord tells us that when he returns in glory he will sit on his glorious throne [Mt. 25:31-46]:
Before him will be gathered all the nations,
and he will separate them one from another
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
and he will place the sheep at his right hand,
but the goats at the left.
Then the King will say to those at his right hand,
“Come, O blessed of my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” . . . .
Then he will say to those at his left hand,
“Depart from me, you cursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” . . . .
And they will go away into eternal punishment,
but the righteous into eternal life.

Sheep and goats— right and left— the blessed and the accursed— the kingdom of God or the eternal fire with the devil
Punishment in hell does not appear in the Old Testament.
It was Jesus himself who brought the definitive news of the existence of hell.
Acknowledgement of punishment in hell is an unavoidable part of HONEST acceptance of the Gospel and our relationship with God.
Yet, fear of punishment can be self-centered.
The desire for the reward of paradise also is a real part of our relationship with God.
Yet, the desire for reward can also be self-centered.
Only one thing can draw us into unselfishness— only one thing lasts and counts forever— only one thing is worthy of our desire: the goodness and love of God.
This we now approach with hope, wonder, thanksgiving and worship in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

That God Be Glorified in All

June 13, 2006

For Wednesday of the Tenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 5:17-19

Christ forbids us to ignore or sidestep the smallest part of the letter of the law.
The law is the first step in holiness.
If we do not take the first step, then we are never on the road to holiness.
Yet even though we obey the letter of the law, Christ says that is not enough.
Without ever abandoning the law, our holiness must SURPASS mere legalism, or else we will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
What is to never disobey the letter of the law, while not getting stuck in mere legalism?
Christ himself is the answer.
By love unto self-sacrifice Christ both fulfills the Law and surpasses it.
By love unto self-sacrifice we rise to holiness that both fulfills the letter of God’s laws and surpasses mere legalism.
In his Eucharist, Christ himself obeys and fulfills every dot and dash of his own divine law of love.
God exceeds himself by pouring out his fullness and his Spirit, spending his body and shedding his blood to fulfill in himself his law of love.
The Law of LOVE given and personally fulfilled by Christ in the Eucharist is written not on stone tablets, but in the Spirit, Life, Flesh, Blood, freedom and obedience of Christ.
He died offering himself for the sins of the world, but rose from the dead in undying glory as our salvation and our eternal life.
Here in the sign of self-sacrifice is God’s exceeding wealth, glory and freedom.
Here is the command, the example and the power for all our perfection, completion, holiness and salvation.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

That God Be Glorified in All

June 12, 2006

For Tuesday of the Tenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 5:13-16

Our Lord is telling us to be and to make a difference in the world— a noticeable difference.
Like salt in food, like light in a dark world, like a city on a hilltop, the difference we make should be both attractive and challenging.
How are we to salt the earth, light up the world and rise upon a hilltop?
Our Lord teaches us that the way of the blessed is mercy, purity of heart, peacefulness, holiness and justice.
The blessed so live for the sake of Christ that at times it may bring them revilement and persecution from the world.
The blessed embrace Christ so intensely, intimately and actively that he is the obvious salt, the clear flavor of their lives.
The blessed look to Christ for light.
They themselves, their lives and choices shine with the light of Christ— enough at least that others can notice it.
Christ is a light and a city on a hilltop.
He speaks and IS a sermon on a mount.
The living sermon that is Christ clearly tells us that none of the faith or morals genuinely upheld in the Law and the Prophets is abolished.
He forbids murder, adultery, divorce, retaliation and the swearing of oaths.
He urges us to love our enemies, give alms, pray and fast.
Christ did and lived all of these, and to live in him is to do the same.
Without them, we ARE like salt that has lost its taste, like a lamp that has been covered up, or like a hilltop city that has become so undeserving of attention as to be forgotten, ignored and practically invisible.
The blessed, the saints of Christ, draw the world to salvation and the worship of God.
Our mere presence here today is a sign that we believe and want to believe Christ who tells us to be his saints.
What we believe should guide what we do; and what we do should draw men to God.
He tells us, “…your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
We are blessed— we are saints if our lives simply attract others to give themselves for the glory of God.
Here now in his Eucharist, Christ approaches who offers up himself as the salt of the earth and the light of the world, here for us, for our salvation and for the glory of our heavenly Father.

That God Be Glorified in All

June 11, 2006

For Monday of the Tenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 5:1-12

Today in his Gospel, our Lord gives us a picture of persons who are blessed— holy persons who are also happy in the deepest and longest-lasting sense of the word.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Those who are poor in spirit keep in mind and take to heart that they own a real treasure in heaven.
They are grateful for that and for any real goods that life has already given them.
They avoid self-pity and complaining, even when they suffer.
They avoid envy, greed and self-enrichment by false means.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

It is a blessed thing to acknowledge our real losses, not to deny them.
The refusal to mourn our losses can be the dangerous fuel for taking revenge.
It is hard to mourn, but it is an honest thing to do.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.

Meekness is not weakness.
A meek person owns and knows himself, and does not seek to be controlling, arrogant or domineering in order to be something that he is not.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to practice zeal, devotion, piety, reverence, respect and justice.
It is to reject and refuse injustice and dishonesty—as well as cynicism.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

The merciful forgive.
They don’t necessarily win over their offenders, but let them be without wishing them harm, rather, desiring their authentic and eternal welfare.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.

To be pure in heart is to be obedient to true priorities; to keep God always in first place; to be ready to repent, always ready to admit one’s own wrongdoing.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Peacemaking children of God are first of all at peace with God.
This may bring them the enmity of others.
However, it may also win over their enemies to make their own peace with God.
Without making peace with God, no lasting peace is possible between neighbors.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness….
Blessed are you when they insult you…
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.

It is a blessed thing to speak up against wrong.
It is blessed to stand up for the authentic cause of Christ and be willing to suffer injustice with dignity.

That God Be Glorified in All