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.

July 08, 2006

For the Fourteenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 6:1-6

The Nazareth neighbors of Christ acknowledge the wisdom they hear when he teaches in their house of worship.
They also know he has the power to work wonders.
They have probably heard he even raised a dead girl back to life just the day before.
Unfortunately, it is precisely because they think of him as a mere neighbor and blue-collar worker that they refuse to give him the credit, the acceptance and the faith that his miraculous works and wisdom have earned practically everywhere else.
Where hearts are closed and faithless, no mighty wonders can happen for us, even if they happen for others.
Our Lord is unwilling to force miracles upon the people of Nazareth.
In fact, the Gospel today testifies that he was not able— he did not have power— to perform any mighty deed in Nazareth.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

They closed their hearts and minds.
So he extended his healing mercy only upon a few sick people.
The shutting of the human mind and heart— it was this shutting that the Son of God faced and took upon himself in becoming a man like us.
In Christ who grew up in Nazareth, in Christ the hearts and minds of all humanity are open again: open in the openness and obedience of Christ to his mission, obedience even unto death, death on the Cross, the Cross where even his heart of flesh is stabbed open by the blade of a spear.
The God Man with the Eternally Open Heart grew up in a town of closed hearts.
Except for the open hearts of Joseph and Mary!
The Gospel shows those two as:
either receiving an invitation from God calling for an open heart;
or answering and obeying God with an open heart.
When Joseph and Mary lost and found the ancient twelve year old, he invited them to open themselves to his mission.
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

The ancient and eternally new heart of the Son of the Most High was also open to Joseph and Mary.
The Gospel tells us:
he went down with them
and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them.

The Son of God was obedient to Joseph and Mary.
In the life, death and resurrection of Christ, true God and true man, the heart of all humanity is perfectly open for God.
In the life, death and resurrection of Christ, true God and true man, the eternally open heart of God is present FOR and IN humanity itself.
In Christ, living, dead and risen, the open heart of humanity and the eternally open heart of God are one and the same, pierced open to be the one and ultimately only doorway whereby God and humanity enter into communion with each other.
The death of Christ on the Cross is his mightiest deed— greater than any other wonder he could have worked in Nazareth or anywhere else.
In the weakness, wounding and death of Christ, God reveals his power— the power to save humanity from its own tightly shut heart.
Yet— mysteriously— despite his boundless power to save, today the Gospel tells us he was amazed at Nazareth’s lack of faith.
So he was NOT ABLE to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.

Today in his Eucharist, Christ comes to us as to Nazareth.
Let us not amaze him with our lack of faith.
Let us own up to being like the few sick people of Nazareth, for we all have the sickness called sin.
Then, even if Christ performs no other mighty deed here today, he will cure us of our sins.
That is the beginning of all that is good for us.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 07, 2006

For Saturday of the Thirteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 9:14-17

The Lord’s answer about fasting today contains a personal claim whose implications and depths his listeners were not ready to grasp.
Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.

That is a strange answer.
We can be sure the Lord’s questioners did not completely understand it.
In his answer, the Lord has implied:
I am the one in whose presence there shall be no fasting.
Since I am now here I am cause for rejoicing.
I am the Bridegroom.

As both God and man, Christ is the Bridegroom, the marriage between heaven and earth, between God and humanity.
He is the long-awaited, supreme wedding gift God makes of himself to Israel and to the whole world.
After the thousands of years of waiting that lasted right up to John the Baptist, Christ is the New Garment of New Cloth that will not serve as a mere patch for the old.
After the long centuries of Israel’s yearning for salvation, Christ arrives as the New Wine not to be poured into the old wineskin.
The old wineskin had room for ISRAEL ALONE.
The New Wine, by contrast, is for the WHOLE WORLD.
God in Christ calls the whole world to Baptism, into the Church, his Bride.
Because of Baptism, the Lord’s own Passing-Over from death to life is realized and fulfilled within his Bridal Church as a whole and in each of us its members.
Just as Eve the first bride was drawn from the side of Adam the first groom, so the Church comes from the Body and Blood of Christ as his redeemed and resurrected bride.
In Christ, God and humanity are joined in mutual knowledge with one Spirit, and one body, one flesh, one blood.
On his cross and in his Eucharist, Christ gives his flesh, blood and Spirit so completely, so unreservedly that something entirely new begins to be and begins to live: the Church as Christ’s Living Body and Blood.
Christ has given himself so completely that Christ recognizes himself in the Church, which is his own body.
When the Eucharist is offered to us, the “Amen” we proclaim is faith’s recognition of Christ’s real presence.
“Amen” is also a cry of hope that Christ may discover himself in us, both now and on that blessed day when he returns in glory.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 06, 2006

For Friday of the Thirteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 9:9-13

Today in the Gospel, Matthew the tax collector receives a daring challenge from a stranger: FOLLOW ME!
Hearing the stranger speak directly to him for the very first time, Matthew mysteriously stands up, immediately leaves everything behind, and goes to follow the stranger, Jesus, who has not yet so much as introduced himself.
We do not see Matthew bother to ask anyone who this stranger might be who has just said to him, “Follow me!”
Matthew does not take time to consider what is at stake.
He also does not ask for time to put his affairs in order first.
The only thing we have seen or heard in the Gospel is a challenge from a stranger, and the immediate response of Matthew.
We may see Matthew’s response as an example of pure, unhesitant faith
Christ came offering mercy.
Matthew was in need of it, and he knows it.
He was a publicly known sinner.
He knew he was a sinner.
On the other hand, as the Lord tells us in his Gospel, those who believe themselves healthy feel no need for a physician; but then in this way they lose, they miss the words of healing.
In contrast, Matthew, the publicly known “low-life”, a profiteering tax-collector, who was publicly recognized as a sinner, a public “sick man”, COULD and DID receive mercy in the invitation of Jesus.
When Matthew immediately stands up to follow Jesus, we see Jesus instead follow Matthew.
Jesus goes to Matthew’s house.
Suddenly we find Jesus there seated at table not only with Matthew, but also with a large crowd of tax collectors and other sinners.
Jesus had called only one sinner, Matthew.
Nonetheless, he accepts all those others whom Matthew himself has in turn invited.
All of these, Matthew and the large crowd of tax collectors and other sinners, sit down at the festive banquet together WITH and AS the disciples of Jesus.
This Jesus, with whom all of them eat, is a healer, a physician.
As we witness THOSE sinners sitting at table with Jesus, WE sinners should be grateful to recognize in their banquet of mercy a sign of the Eucharist— the banquet of salvation at which WE SIT HERE AND NOW— the banquet in which the Divine Healer sacrifices and gives himself to us as the one great and living medicine.
Today in the Gospel, Matthew and a crowd of sinners are celebrating the mercy of Jesus.
You and I at this Mass are also a crowd of sinners, sinners celebrating the mercy of Jesus.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 05, 2006

For Thursday of the Thirteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 9:1-8

When a few persons carried their paralyzed friend up to Christ, it was obvious they expected Christ to heal the man.
What a surprise for them to hear the Lord say, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
These unasked and unexpected words of forgiveness seemed to have no effect on the man’s paralytic condition.
He remained lying on his bed.
None of the friends of the paralyzed man had spoken.
No one had said to Christ, “Sir, we brought our friend hoping you would heal him of his paralysis.”
No one but Christ actually spoke out in the Gospel here— not the paralyzed man’s friends, not the paralyzed man himself, not the scribes or lawyers.
Christ alone spoke here.
However the Lord did more than speak.
He also read the actions, the hearts and the minds of all who were present.
When he saw the people carrying their paralyzed friend to him, the Lord read their hearts, and, as the Gospel tells us, he saw THEIR faith.
He also looked into the soul of the friend they were carrying, and saw in him the spiritual paralysis of sin.
Then, because he saw the FAITH of that man’s FRIENDS, he said to the paralyzed man, “Take heart, my son; YOUR SINS are forgiven.”
Then Christ read the hearts of the scribes who were thinking to themselves, “God alone can forgive sins— this man is blaspheming.”
The Lord read those silent thoughts as well, and immediately spoke out to answer them.
Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier
to say,
“Your sins are forgiven,”
or to say,
“Rise and walk”?

For man, NEITHER of these is easy to say.
For God BOTH of these are entirely possible.
Your sins are forgiven.
rise and walk!

The Lord had already said to the paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven.”
He forgave him because of the FAITH of that man’s FRIENDS.
Then, because of the UNBELIEF of the SCRIBES, the Lord said to the paralyzed man, “Rise— get on your feet— pick up your bed and go home.”
The man then rose, no longer paralyzed, and went home.
The whole event is a paradox.
The simple faith of the paralyzed man’s friends achieved something they were not expecting.
The unbelief of the scribes also occasioned something they were not expecting.
And the paralyzed man who could not do or say anything was the beneficiary of both the FAITH of others as well as the UNBELIEF of others.
And all of this took place while no one said a word, except Christ who read the hearts of all of them.
His first concern was not for the man’s bodily health, but for the forgiveness of his sins.
Do we keep in mind that— no matter what else you and I may need— Christ’s first concern is our sins?
The greatest paradox in the Gospel today is Christ himself: a seemingly mere man who has authority and power of God both to heal bodies and forgive sins on earth.
When the crowds today see all this, they are startled, and they give glory to God, whose authority and power they see in Christ.
WE ALSO should be “startled”, for we stand before the same Christ in his Liturgy, in his Gospel and in his Eucharist.
Here he is— NOW— with authority and power to heal the body, raise the dead, forgive sins and bring salvation.
We, too, with the crowd in the Gospel, should glorify the Father whose authority and power we meet in Christ.
If we approach him now with faith— as did the friends of the paralytic today— if we approach Christ with faith today in this Eucharist, who knows but that our faith may win from Christ today the forgiveness of sins for our friends, for the world and for ourselves?
Who knows but that the sick and the suffering will benefit TODAY because we are approaching Christ with faith TODAY?
Who among us has authority to measure or limit what Christ can do in answer to our own faith— if indeed we approach him with faith today?
As we approach Christ in his Eucharist today, it is enough for us to have faith, for he has authority and power to go beyond all our expectations.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 04, 2006

For Wednesday of the Thirteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 8:28-34

Today in his gospel we witness the Lord at work in pagan territory.
The population of the nearby pagan town goes out to see what has happened.
When they meet the person responsible for the whole turn of events they are so terrified they beg him to leave their country.
These frightened people do not know who Jesus is.
Paradoxically, the demons immediately recognized the full identity of Jesus, and shrieked at him: “What have you to do with us, SON OF GOD?”
These demons that Jesus drives off are among the very first individuals in the Gospel to proclaim the divinity of Jesus.
“Jesus is the Son of God.”
Christian believers have carried this truth throughout the world and down through the centuries.
Here in this church at this very hour we are celebrating the same mystery of salvation and worship that Christians now celebrate throughout the whole world and have been celebrating for nearly two thousand years.
Whether here and now, or two thousand years ago in Palestine, Jesus is the Son of God yesterday, today and forever, present and bringing salvation and true worship in his words and his actions.
We recognize him when his Gospel is proclaimed in our churches.
We recognize him and acknowledge him to be our Lord in his Body and Blood offered upon our altars in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
He is God.
We are his, and he possesses us more completely than any legion of demons ever could.
Yet, unlike the demons in today’s gospel, he leaves our minds and bodies free.
He goes even further.
He invites us body and mind to have a share in the freedom of God.
Daily, then, and in every moment of our lives, each of us must freely choose again and again to belong to the Son of God and to do what he commands.
For that reason we daily avail ourselves of his saving will, his saving presence and his saving power in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.
Little by little we leave our “pagan” lives, and we come here, as we have come today, to meet him, not in terror, not begging him to go away, but rather bowing down in worship, welcoming him and crying out:
Come, Lord Jesus!
Stay with us, Son of God!

That God Be Glorified in All

July 03, 2006

For the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America

Matthew 25:14-30

It is not enough to have freedom, but do nothing with it.
If we don’t use our freedom to do any positive good— and if we use our freedom to do positively bad things— we lose it.
The history of the human race has always shown that when we use our freedom for evil, evil enslaves us.
Freedom exists for doing good or else it disappears.
On this day in the year of our Lord seventeen hundred seventy-six, the assembled representatives of the thirteen united States of America solemnly published and declared these states to be free and independent, absolved of all allegiance to Britain and its monarch.
The first sentence of our Declaration of Independence asserts that all nations have separate and equal status from the Laws of Nature and FROM NATURE’S GOD.
Our nation’s Declaration of Independence declares that national independence comes FROM GOD.
The Declaration of Independence expressly founded our American nation on a natural entitlement FROM GOD.
The very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, the very first sentence of our nation’s birth certificate appeals to God for its very existence.
The SECOND sentence of the Declaration of Independence says that the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are GIFTS FROM GOD— and that “these truths” of divine providence are “self-evident”.
Finally, the LAST sentence of our national Declaration of Independence invokes “reliance on the protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE”.
The founding fathers of our nation did not think that any freedom could be had outside of God and God’s moral laws.
In 1999, Pope John Paul II was in St. Louis, where he spoke the following words.
God has given us a moral law to guide us and protect us from falling back into the slavery of sin and falsehood.
We are not alone with our responsibility for the great gift of freedom.

The Ten Commandments are the charter of true freedom, for individuals as well as for society as a whole.

America first proclaimed its independence on the basis of self-evident moral truths.

America will remain a beacon of freedom for the world
as long as it stands by those moral truths which are the very heart of its historical experience.
And so America:
if you want peace,
work for justice;
if you want justice,
defend life;
if you want life,
embrace the truth—
the truth revealed by God.

In this way the praise of God,
the language of Heaven,
will be ever on this people’s lips:
“The Lord is God, the mighty….
Come then,
let us bow down and worship.”

Today is the two hundred and thirtieth birthday of our nation.
Our national freedom and rights, our personal freedom and rights— all freedoms and rights— come from God.
We are Americans, and the Catholic Church shows us how to use and to enhance our freedom by worshiping Christ our King and his Father.
We also benefit from God’s use of his freedom.
Here in his Eucharistic flesh and blood, God freely chooses to be our food and drink, our heavenly visitor, our clothing and home, our savior and eternal life.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 02, 2006

For the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, 3 July A.D. 2006

John 20:24-29

All four Gospels— Matthew, Mark, Luke and John— testify to the resurrection of Jesus.
However, the first direct quotation of any particular, named apostle after the resurrection comes not as words of FAITH, but the words of St. Thomas refusing to believe.
Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks,
and put my hand into his side,

The second direct quotation of any particular, named apostle after the resurrection comes a week after the resurrection and also belongs to St. Thomas.
My Lord and MY GOD!

Out of the mouth of Thomas comes the climax of the whole Gospel.
At the very beginning of the Holy Gospel according to John we find the following testimony:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the WORD WAS GOD.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
full of grace and truth.

Throughout the Gospel we hear persons call Jesus “sir” or “Lord”.
We hear them call him “the Christ”, “the Messiah”, “the Anointed One”.
We hear persons call Jesus, “Son of God”; but that was also a symbolic title given to the kings of Israel.
We hear Jesus call God his Father, and even refer to himself as “the Son of God”, even doing so with language that implied equality with God.
There were those who attempted to stone Jesus to death for making claims to divinity.
Indeed, they eventually crucified him for it.
No one had ever yet made the explicit profession of full faith, “I believe you are God”.
Today, Thomas is the first person in the Gospel to do exactly that.
Today, upon seeing the proof of the deadly wounds in the body of the living, risen Jesus, Thomas does not limit himself to saying, “Now I believe you are Jesus, and that you have risen from the dead”.
Rather, Thomas goes beyond anyone else in the Gospel by saying, “My Lord and MY GOD!”
Thomas is the last apostle to see the risen Lord Jesus— the last of them to believe the resurrection— which they all doubted at first.
However, Thomas is the FIRST person in the Gospels to dare call Jesus “GOD” plainly and simply.
My Lord and MY GOD!

It is an irony that the wounds of DEATH have proven the identity of the LIVING GOD for Thomas.
That is an irony and also a scandal.
That true God was born a true man is a scandal that many in the past and today have refused to believe.
That God died a human death as a criminal is an even worse scandal rejected by perhaps even more.
And that Jesus was true God and died on the cross and truly rose bodily from the dead is a further scandal rejected by at least just as many if not more again.
Here at the altar of the Eucharist is another scandal identical with the three just mentioned.
By the will of the Father and the Son, by the words of the Son and by the power of the Spirit, bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ:
the Body and Blood born at Bethlehem;
the Body and Blood offered on the Cross for us as the new and everlasting covenant so that sins may be forgiven;
the Body and Blood risen from the dead and shown to the apostles;
the risen Body and Blood which Thomas probed with his own hands.

Through the apostles the Lord our God has given these scandals to his Church, and we continue to proclaim them through the Gospel and the Eucharist, preaching Christ crucified and risen, demanding of ourselves and summoning the world to confess, “You are the Lord! You are God!”
Together with the apostles Thomas, Peter, John and the rest, it is ours to proclaim of Jesus [1 Jn. 1:1-4]:
That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,
which we have LOOKED upon and TOUCHED WITH OUR HANDS,
concerning the word of life—
the life was made manifest,
and we saw it,
and testify to it,
and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—
that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you,
so that you may have communion with us;
and our communion is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

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On my other blog I have posted a detail of Caravaggio's painting of St. Thomas sticking his finger into the wound in the side of the risen Christ.

Click HERE for it.
That God Be Glorified in All