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 24, 2006

For the Twelfth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 4:35-41
Job 38:1,8-11
2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Today, in the Gospel, we see Christ as God dominating the might of nature.
His power and authority as God still comes into our lives in many ways, some very small and ordinary, some great and mysterious.
In the end, the drama of Christ the Lord will usher in eternal glory for heaven and earth and God’s children.
Several times in the historical saga of ancient Israel, the Lord intervened in the workings of nature.
Generations before Christ, the entire race of the Chosen People twice passed alive through bodies of water with the protection of the Lord.
First, the Lord split open the Red Sea so that the whole race of Israel could pass through it to escape the slave-driving army of Egypt.
As soon as the Chosen People crossed over, the Lord closed up the waters to smother the legions of Pharaoh.
Forty years after that, the Lord God made the Jordan River run backwards so that the whole Chosen Race of Israel could cross over into the land God had promised them.
Every year, on the feast of Passover, and nearly every day in praying the Psalms, the Chosen People still relive and celebrate the power of God that split open the Red Sea, drowned the slave-driving army of Egypt, and made the Jordan River run backwards.
Today in his Gospel, Christ the Lord leads his own chosen people across another sea.
To save them from the raging, wind-driven waves, Christ the Lord stands up to the impersonal, heaving powers of nature, and commands them into silence and calm.
Seeing that, the disciples asked, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
Christ, who is the Word of God, could have answered by repeating the Word of God that the Book of Job recalled for us today.
The Lord [spoke] out of the storm and said:
Who shut within doors the sea,
when it burst forth from the womb;
when I made the clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling bands?
When I set limits for it
and fastened the bar of its door,
and said:
Thus far shall you come but no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stilled!

Christ who commands the obedience of wind and sea is the Lord God.
After Christ and his disciples, his new “chosen people”, cross the sea safely, Christ meets up with a man whom demons have enslaved.
Speaking as one, the enslaving demons say, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”
Christ the Lord, having just saved his disciples from the sea, drowns the legion of slave-driving demons in the same sea, just as God had done to the Egyptian legions to rescue his chosen people from slavery.
What we see in the Gospel today is the first of two, back-to-back water miracles.
First, Christ saved his chosen disciples from a deadly, stormy sea.
Second— afterwards— he drowns an army of enslaving demons in that same sea.
To this day, the Church, the disciples of Christ, the new chosen people, sing of Christ what the people of Israel sang on the shores of the Red Sea after God ushered them safely across the bottom of the sea and drowned their slave-drivers in it.
I will sing to the Lord,
for he has gloriously triumphed….
The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God,
and I will praise him….

The Church uses that song at Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Christ from the sea of death.
The Church prays and preaches those words at Baptism— Baptism by which God draws us through the water of Christ’s death and resurrection, entitling us to freedom from sin and death as his chosen people, his sons and daughters.
For forty years, ancient Israel ate manna from the hand of God.
Now, God in Christ gives us his own flesh and blood as food and drink.
In the Mystery of the Eucharist of Christ, we are the heirs of Israel’s song at the Red Sea.
Who is like you, O Lord?
Who is like you,
majestic in holiness,
doing wonders?
In your steadfast love,
you have led the people whom you have redeemed;
by your strength,
you have guided them to your holy dwelling.

In our own lives, we may at times wish that God Almighty would wake up inside our tiny boat, and tell our storms and high seas to shut up and lie still.
We may at times wish that God Almighty would making flooding rivers of trouble run backwards for us.
We may at times wish that God Almighty would split open for us the swamping, red-as-blood sea of tragedy, and let us walk dry-shod over the bed of the ocean.
In his sacraments and in his grace, God has already done all of that for us.
That is, he has not BANISHED reality.
Rather, he has OPENED the way through reality and to reality.
We are the ones who may hesitate to walk through the openings that God has already made.
He has already opened the way to heaven for us by splitting open the sea of sin and death through the cross and resurrection of Christ.
God has opened.
It belongs to us to travel through.
The letter of St. Paul today calls up our courage for travel.
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

In the Eucharist, we eat and drink newness in the risen body and blood of Christ.
In the new Manna that is the Real Body and Blood of Christ, we eat and drink the end of the journey where God himself is the Promise Land.
The highway of grace is already completely open.
Do we choose to take it?

That God Be Glorified in All

June 23, 2006

For the Solemnity of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist

Luke 1:57-66,80

From the time of John’s birth his father speaks to him of the tender mercy of our God.
How did John grow up into a man who punished his own body and threatened people with hellfire?
We don’t know for certain when John had his first face-to-face meeting with the Incarnate Mercy of God.
The first time we see them meet face to face, John is baptizing crowds of sinners in the Jordan River, and Jesus is among them.
John looks into the crowd, sees Jesus and says aloud:
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Right there in that cry of recognition and that choice of words is a clue for reconciling John’s prophetic penances with the tender mercy of his God.
We might like to think that God’s mercy simply consists in God saying, “Forget it ever happened— I’ve wiped it off the face of history.”
Instead, God has chosen to do infinitely much more than that.
He became a real man of real human flesh and blood.
Behold, the Lamb of God whose flesh and blood will be sacrifice to atone for sin and pay for mercy.
God’s mercy in Christ is not the mere cancellation of a debt.
God’s mercy in Christ consists in God paying the price for his own mercy— paying off the debt of sin with his own flesh and blood.
However, his flesh and blood belong to our humanity.
In Christ, our nature, bodies, flesh and blood have become the place, the event and the price of God’s mercy.
We are not spectators, but participants.
Christ’s human flesh and blood, sacrificed for sin, and present in the Eucharist— soon present on this very altar— the human body and blood of God the Son are given to us, his brothers and sisters in flesh and blood— his brothers and sisters in God the Father.
The Eucharist is the price of God’s mercy.
In the Body and Blood of Christ, we are not mere spectators of this price.
We are participants.
We are participants in Christ’s Body and Blood that prove, proclaim and pay the price of God’s mercy.
The Eucharist is the prodigy, the promise, the presence and the price God paid for mercy.
John’s penance is not an effort to buy God’s mercy.
Rather, his penance is a sign of love and thanksgiving, yearning to point forward to and echo the price of God’s mercy— a price paid in flesh and blood so as to offer more than a mere cancellation of debt.
John’s rough diet, his camel skin clothing and solitary life in the desert all point towards the price God paid for mercy.
John, then, does not contradict the song of tender mercy his father sang when John was born.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people…
to perform the mercy promised…
that we… might serve him without fear…
all the days of our life.

That God Be Glorified in All

June 22, 2006

For the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ

John 19:31-37

We have the expression “a broken heart”.
That isn’t an expression we find in the Scriptures.
Nonetheless, we find that the meaning of “a broken heart” overlaps with the meaning of the Gospel we witness today.
The night before he was to offer himself on the cross, Jesus our Lord went through agony in the garden of Gethsemane.
He fell on the ground and prayed… “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death…. Father, all things are possible to you; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what you will.” [Mk. 14]

And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. [Lk. 22]

What brought this agony to the heart of Jesus?
It was his love for us that brought on this heartbreak.
He was and is God: Love in flesh and blood choosing to offer himself on behalf of us and our sins, for us men and for salvation.
Today’s solemn feast and the traditional symbol of the Sacred Heart of Jesus enliven for us the fact that God chose to suffer for love of us.
We should know, however, that the ability of Jesus both to suffer and to rejoice go infinitely beyond our own abilities and understanding.
Every corner of Jesus’ mind and heart was wide open.
Nothing in his spirit was blind, deaf, numb, paralyzed or compromised by sin and its effects.
Every fiber of his being— heart, soul, mind and strength— was alive and exposed, free and ready to offer its entire self in greeting, come bliss or agony.
This was true of him even before his actual death and resurrection.
He had the ability and the freedom to suffer and to rejoice beyond any degree we can imagine.
His was not merely innocent suffering, but suffering without any limit or border.
He brought and made present in his human suffering all the depths of the heart and mind of God.
He handed over and poured out all and everything for us.
However, this love from God in Christ Jesus is not merely retribution for sin, not merely atonement.
It is also birth and new life.
It is creation all over again, because it rises above the history of sin, and causes human flesh and blood, all of human nature itself to be recreated beyond death in the glory of God.
In this solemn feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we worship his love for us— his love beyond our ability and understanding.
With this solemn feast we honor the suffering with which he redeems us out of our sins— his suffering beyond our ability and understanding.
This feast calls us to repent of our own forgetfulness and ingratitude for his gift.
It calls us to do penance and offer intercession for the rest of humanity out of simple love, following the example and command of our Savior.
We are to be mindful that he chose to suffer for us.
We are to avoid sin.
We are to follow him in his gift of himself for the glory of the Father.

That God Be Glorified in All

June 21, 2006

For Thursday of the Eleventh Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 6:7-15

On several occasions in the Lord’s Gospel, we witness him praying to the Father.
We have heard him say, “Father, I know that you always hear me” [Jn. 11:42].
By teaching us how to pray, Christ has us enter his own life of prayer and his spirit of prayer.
He stands with us and for us in the presence of the Father, saying now for us and with us, “Father, WE know that you always hear us.”
The Eucharist is Christ’s prayer, his intercession and his priestly mediation for us before the Father.
In the Eucharist we also have the Father’s ready ear and his willing answer to Christ’s prayer for us.
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name!

In the Eucharist, Christ hallows our Father’s name ON OUR BEHALF by offering his perfect thanksgiving sacrifice of himself to the Father ON OUR BEHALF.
Thy kingdom come!
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven!

In the Eucharist, Christ bows before his Father the King of heaven and earth—again, on our behalf, in our name.
It is the will of Christ and the will of the Father that the Father himself should find, receive and embrace us, but also judge us in the obedience of his Son.
Give us this day our daily bread!

Christ has told us, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” [Jn. 4:34].
What is the will of the Father that Christ obediently consumes on our behalf in the Eucharist?
It is twofold.
First, Christ in his Eucharist gives grateful, loving glory and worship to the Father on our behalf by the sacrificial offering of himself.
Second, Christ in his Eucharist saves us from sin, destruction and death; and he receives us into his own holiness, integrity and life in the eyes of the Father.
Again, he does this by the sacrificial offering of himself on our behalf.
He took our sin, destruction and death upon himself.
What is the Father’s work that becomes Christ’s eternal food in the Eucharist?
The Father’s work is to raise us up in the raising of his Son from the dead.
The Resurrection is the food that Christ has received from the Father in our name, on our behalf.
forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us!

Christ does not divorce himself from us as we pray for forgiveness.
Though he is sinless, he still joins his voice to ours in saying “forgive us OUR sins.”
He has taken the guilt of our sins upon himself.
This, too, he continues to ask from the Father in his Eucharist.
There also in his Eucharist, he sends the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins: both the forgiveness of our own sins, as well as the forgiveness we are to extend to those who sin against us.
lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil!

This, too, is the prayer of Christ— one that was painfully close to his heart, for he, too, suffered temptation.
What was that temptation?
It was the FUNDAMENTAL temptation, the one that afflicted Adam, Eve and all their descendants.
It was the temptation to reject the sovereignty of the Father’s will.
However, in Christ this temptation was twofold: not only to abandon the Father, but also to abandon us.
Christ persevered against this temptation, but paid an infinitely bitter price for his fidelity: on the cross he willingly suffered the absence of his Father, and willingly accepted to be abandoned by the disciples whom he loved.
Here again in his Eucharist, he takes to himself that abandonment and absence, and gives us in return gifts that we can never deserve: the glory of his own presence, his own person, his Spirit, his Father and their eternal promise of themselves.
This is his Eucharist with which he feeds us; and it is the prayer by which he gives us every reason to hope.
In his Blessed Sacrament and his Lordly Prayer, we have the precepts of our Savior and the command of our God, prompting us to dare call God, “OUR Father.”

That God Be Glorified in All

June 20, 2006

For Wednesday of the Eleventh Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

How are Christians to live?
We live, grow and are renewed, we become righteous, holy and perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect through self-denial and sacrifice, through works of generosity and charity towards others, and through worship and prayer to God our Father.
Furthermore, the Lord teaches that all of this— fasting, almsgiving, and personal prayer— all of this is to be utterly secret and invisible to those around us.
He tells us to hide these things, going into our own rooms, shutting the door, not even letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing.
We are to conceal these good works even from our own attention.
It is because only God knows how to see them, how to evaluate, judge and reward our justice, righteousness, holiness and perfection.
One of the Psalms puts it this way.
From God judgment comes forth.
His eyes discern the truth.
He searches our hearts,
he visits us by night.
He tests us to find in us wrong or right.

Only God knows.
Not one of us may presume to know how to evaluate his own or anyone else’s justice or righteousness, holiness or perfection.
That is why the Lord insists we not even let our own left hands know what our own right hands are doing.
Through real acts of self-denial and sacrifice, real acts of charity and giving to our neighbors, real acts of worship and prayer, we become and renew what we were created, invited, enabled and commanded to be: sons and daughters of God.
God created us and everything out of NOTHING.
It is a mystery that God the Almighty and Absolute now freely offers to adopt us as his very own children.
It is exactly this utterly undeserved mystery before which we worship right now.
It is exactly this utterly undeserved mystery around which we are to build lives of gratitude and grace.
As always in his liturgy, the Lord himself provides both the meaning and the substance of his own Gospel.
Here in his Eucharist, the Lord himself denies and sacrifices himself.
Here in his Eucharist, the Lord himself offers us an infinitely charitable almsgiving whose worth we cannot even begin to measure.
Here in the Eucharist, Christ offers himself to the Father in a sacrifice of intercessory prayer and grateful worship whose purity, truth and totality we are likewise unable to measure.
The Father alone is capable of measuring, fully evaluating, fully appreciating and judging the justice, perfection and holiness that lie beneath this food and drink.
This is the immeasurable reward that our all-seeing Father gives to our penances, our charities, our prayer and worship.

That God Be Glorified in All

June 19, 2006

For Tuesday of the Eleventh Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 5:43-48

Today we begin the Gospel right where we left it yesterday.
Yesterday Christ told us:
offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.

Christ is telling us to allow ourselves repeatedly to be abused.
From a merely human perspective, such an idea is unhealthy, unreasonable, unintelligent, irresponsible and even criminal.
However, it is God’s description of God’s love for us sinners.
The Gospel yesterday and today defies and rises above our normal way of seeing things.
It defies and rises above our normal way of seeing our selves.
Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It is God who never turns his face away from the rebellious sinner.
It is God who walks mile after unreasonable mile with the presumptuous sinner.
It is God who strips himself naked to clothe the abusive sinner with mercy.
It is God who never refuses forgiveness no matter how often the sinner begs for it.
Here in the Eucharist, it is God himself who sacrifices and gives himself in flesh and blood as the living food and drink of sinners.
This is the sign, the instrument, the promise, the proclamation and the real presence of God’s perfect and undefeatable goodness to us.

That God Be Glorified in All

June 18, 2006

For Monday of the Eleventh Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 5:38-42

Today, Christ has told us to practice a generosity that knows no bounds— a mysterious generosity that seems unreasonable and careless.
Christ is teaching us much more than just how to live and behave.
He is revealing what God our Father in heaven is like.
The unreasonable and careless generosity Christ expects us to live is an imitation of God who has created, loved and saved us with a seemingly unreasonable and careless generosity.
Our faith calls us to love as GOD has loved US.
God has created us and loved us; but God did not NEED to— did not HAVE to.
God loves us out of his own goodness and freedom.
We do not give God a reason, an attraction, a motive or an obligation to love us.
A love that is DESERVED or EARNED does not come from God, for God’s love is totally free.
God’s love has no needs.
God’s love is not limited by emotional likes or dislikes.
For this reason, God’s love is absolutely able and free to be faithful forever, no matter how detestable the circumstances— even when we reject and deny him, even when we are unfaithful and sinful— and ONLY GOD can love in this way.
God loves us for reasons that we do not provide him.
God does not love us because of what we have, what we do or what we are.
We cannot attract God’s love.
We cannot DESERVE God’s love.
Nonetheless— and here is the mystery— God HAS chosen us, and God DOES love us.
He calls us to empty our hearts of all other assurances, empty them of all other sources of security, all other sources of comfort, confidence and self-esteem.
He calls us to let our hearts be filled with the only real and lasting source of security, confidence and self-esteem: faith in the mystery of God who loves for reasons to be found in himself not in us.
When we learn to have THIS kind esteem for ourselves, we also learn to have the same kind of esteem for others— loving them NOT because of what they have, do or are.
We love and esteem them because God does.
Once we see with what love God loves us, we are moved to worship, thank and praise.
Our hearts are freed to imitate gratefully the careless free and goodness of God’s generosity.
God’s love moves us to CHOOSE to love our enemies, to CHOOSE to do good to those who hate or harm us.
In this way we make it known that we are children of God.
We are to be compassionate, as our Father in heaven has been compassionate with us.

That God Be Glorified in All