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 15, 2006

For the Fifteenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 6:7-13

Today in his Gospel, the Lord sends out the twelve apostles on a mission through the countryside.
The Lord has a mission for each of us in his Church.
In some ways, our individual missions might be like the special mission he gave the apostles.
In other ways, our individual missions will be different from the mission of the apostles.
What was unique about the apostolic mission the Gospel shows us today?
Today in his Gospel, Christ sends out the apostles as materially well equipped as beggars.
He forbids them to take much more than the clothes they are already wearing.
No luggage, no money, no food, no supplies.
Moreover, he warns them not even to expect success, but simply to abandon any town that rejects them.
However, the Lord sends out the apostles supplied with something money cannot buy and the world cannot give.
What Christ gives them comes from himself, from the Father and from the Holy Spirit.
Christ gives these twelve overseers of the Church the power and authority to overcome demons, to heal the sick and to preach repentance.
That is all the twelve apostles are to carry with them; and that is all they are to do.
It is infinitely more than enough.
They go materially empty-handed.
Yet, the power, authority and mission Christ gives them is “good news” that touches BOTH the material world of bodily sickness and health, AS WELL AS the spiritual world of freedom and demonic affliction.
The apostolic power, authority and mission offer to humanity both bodily and spiritual freedom, because the power and authority are from God the Creator.
The apostles have nothing to carry or give except what belongs to Christ whose kingship and kingdom the apostles announce.
The apostles have handed down in the Church the same mission they received from Christ.
All else in the Church derives from that mission or serves as its vehicle.
The mission that Christ gives to each of us might not include a command to preach and work in the world begging and homeless.
Whatever the conditions and methods of our individual missions, they all share the goal of the mission the twelve apostles received from Christ.
The goal of that mission is the glory of God and the eventual full freedom of both the bodies and the spirits of the royal sons and daughters of God.
The glory of God, and the freedom of the children of God— freedom in body and spirit!
What we receive in the Church comes from Christ, belongs to Christ and IS Christ— Christ offering himself by the power of the Spirit for the glory of the Father and the good of our race.
Take and eat.
This is my body.
Take and drink.
This is my blood.
Do this in memory of me.

It is simple and clear.
If we repent of sin, if we simply do not resist God, but live, act and work as he commands, then he will make known in us, in and through our lives:
his power and authority,
his kingship,
his kingdom of freedom, salvation and holiness,
his Gospel,
his Word and his Holy Spirit.

Be it done unto us according to his Word!

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







July 14, 2006

For Saturday of the Fourteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 10:24-33

Three times today in his Gospel our Lord tells us not to fear those who might persecute us for living and proclaiming our Lord’s teachings.
Once, however, he tells us to fear God indeed.
He asserts that God Almighty has the power and the freedom not only to kill the body, but also to destroy the soul in hell.
Him we should fear indeed!
We might choose to ignore these words or deny the possibility of their being true.
Nonetheless, they come to us as the words of Christ the Lord himself.
We westerners of the late twentieth century must especially safeguard the recognition of the real authority and freedom of God to condemn us to hell if our faith in God’s saving power and love is also to be safeguarded.
Remember: in Christ’s parable of the blessed sheep and the damned goats it is Christ himself who orders the accursed to depart into the fire prepared for the devil.
The Old Testament really has no notion of an afterlife of eternal punishment in hell.
Jesus Christ was the one who brought news of hell to Judaism and to history.
Damnation and salvation are two perspectives on the mystery of one Almighty God who without need or obligation has freely chosen to bring matter into existence out of nothing, to give it form, life and a human soul, thus creating each human person— doing so without need or obligation— doing so with no explanation other than his absolute freedom, power, goodness and love.
One of the prayers for the Mass (the opening prayer during the twenty-eighth week of the Church year) asks, “Lord, make your love the foundation of our lives.”
That prayer is a paradox, for the Lord’s love is the only reason we exist and live at all.
The Lord’s love is already the cause and foundation of our existence and our lives.
That God can destroy the body and cast us into hell is not so great a cause of perplexity as the mystery that he has created us at all— a mystery of his freedom, power, goodness and love.
God’s real goodwill toward us is affirmed in his Gospel today telling us of his counting one by one the hairs of our heads as if each hair were a treasure.
We who were brought into being out of nothing are esteemed, chosen and desired as treasure by God who is power, glory and infinity itself.
Do not be afraid!
God your Father numbers even the hairs of your head.

This mystery of God’s almighty goodness and love calls out to us, summoning us to faith, drawing us out of the grasp of fear and into the embrace of gratitude and wonder.
Wonder and gratitude are the essence of worship.
They are the roots of holy lives.
Wonder and gratitude are the roots of fulfillment and happiness.
The Lord’s love is already the cause and foundation of our lives.
The difficulty for us lies in our own failure to take up and use the gifts he has already given us.
In baptism and in all the sacraments, the grace of faith is a seed already planted in us.
We have only to bring to it the exercise of our freedom and our wills.
Here now in the Eucharist, the seed of Christ himself awaits us.
In this great gift of himself in his Body and Blood, he surrenders into our lives his own wonder and gratitude for the Father’s goodness and love.
Christ pours out for us and in us his own living sacrifice of praise.
In him, with and through him, let us give thanks and praise to the Lord our God!

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







July 13, 2006

For Friday of the Fourteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 10:16-23

The universal persecution of the Christian religion by Roman imperial decree, as we know, ended one thousand six hundred ninety-three years ago. [Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan, A.D. 313]
Today in the United States, we do not have an official state policy of persecution, prosecution and execution of Christians for the explicit, black and white reason of religion.
Furthermore, none of us may presume to declare in black and white that the second coming of Christ is at hand.
So, we live in an indefinite, gray “somewhere” that lies between the blood-red age of martyrdom in the early Church at one end and the moment of the Lord’s return in vivid, royal glory at the other end.
None of us may claim to know which of those two black and white poles of Christian history is actually closer to us in time.
We who are monks need to have a special sensitivity to the fact that we live in a gray “in-between” age.
It was when the black and white and blood-red age of Roman imperial persecution began to fade that Christian monks first began to appear.
In a sense, the first Christian monks were extremists rebelling against “grayness”.
Since for the most part they no longer had the opportunity to DIE for the faith, they chose to BE ALONE, living for FAITH alone, abandoning the world to live in the remote deserts.
It is not easy and perhaps not ordinarily possible to live our Christian faith as a never-ending drama— whether in the monastery or not.
Nonetheless, we need to bear constantly and sharply in our hearts and minds the fact that Christianity’s central proclamation IS a drama.
That is, for the sake of our salvation, the Son of God became a man, died for our sins, rose bodily from the dead, went bodily into heaven, and will return at the end of time.
Here in the Eucharist, we come daily to immerse ourselves in the infinitely living mystery and presence of the drama of Christ alive, dead, risen, ascended and returning.
Monks or not, whenever we eat and drink the Eucharist, we lift up the black and white and blood-red war-banner of Christ, proclaiming his death and resurrection until he returns in glory.
Today in his gospel, the Lord has told us that if we endure until the end we will be saved.
The prayer he taught us implicitly warns us to keep before our eyes the drama of endurance.
He tells us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
He does not have in mind just those merely gray temptations of daily life, but also the black and white fundamental choice of belief or unbelief in him as Lord and God.
That is a choice not only between atheism and Christianity.
It is a black and white choice of faith in Christ against any other religious faith.
The Old Testament never arrived at any prayer like, “Lead us not into temptation.”
Everyday, when we pray these WORDS of Christ during the EUCHARIST of Christ, we go on to add other words that sound like a prayer before BATTLE— a prayer as we stand beneath the victorious, blood-red war-banner of Christ our King.
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours,
now and forever.

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







For Thursday of the Fourteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

[I am away until Thursday, and am posting these homilies ahead of time.]

Matthew 10:7-15

Today in his Gospel the Lord sends the twelve apostles on a mission through the countryside.
He sends them out as materially well-equipped as beggars.
He forbids them to take anything more than the clothes they are wearing -no money, no food, no supplies.
Moreover, he warns them not even to expect success, but simply to abandon any town that rejects them.
The material outlook of this mission is discouraging.
However, the Lord supplies the apostles with something money cannot buy and the world cannot give.
What Christ gives comes from himself, from the Father and from the Holy Spirit.
Christ gives these twelve heads of the Church the power and authority to drive out evil spirits, to heal sicknesses and to preach the kingdom of God.
That is all the apostles are to take; and that is all they are to do.
To be faithful to Christ our Lord can be as simple as that.
Take. Eat. This is my body.
Take. Drink. This is my blood.
Do this in memory of me.

That, too, is simple and clear.
If we do not put obstacles in the way, then God can make known in our lives his power and authority, his kingdom, his kingship, his healing, his Gospel and his Holy Spirit.

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







July 12, 2006

For Wednesday of the Fourteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

[I am away until Thursday, and am posting these homilies ahead of time.]

Matthew 10:1-7

The Gospel closes today with an announcement that could serve as another title for the Son of God in human flesh:
The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Christ is the flesh and blood nearness— the flesh and blood presence— of the kingdom of heaven.
In him we recognize God our King in the fullness of his power and Spirit.
Today in his Gospel, when Christ calls and commissions the twelve apostles he gives them a two-sided task.
First, he gives them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out and to heal every disease and infirmity.
Second, as the twelve go out on their mission Christ tells them to proclaim the message, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
By announcing the nearness of the kingdom, the apostles were announcing the presence of Christ Jesus himself.
The authority the apostles received to cast out unclean spirits and to heal sickness and disease was the authority of Christ himself— Christ the Incarnate Son of God.
It is a paradox that he who is God became a man also.
It is a further paradox that he who is almighty chose to have men carry out together with him the work of saving the world.
He was God from all eternity.
He was outside space and time.
However, to save us he did not “sprinkle” salvation down from above.
Instead, he himself entered space and time by becoming a man of flesh and blood like us.
He worked our salvation from WITHIN our human existence, from WITHIN our human nature and IN a human body of human flesh and blood.
In doing so, he made us all into flesh and blood associates in his own work of saving us.
He went so far as to work our salvation from “within” the reality of human death— his own death as a man.
By doing so, even death was called by Christ and turned into a “collaborator” in the work of salvation.
By dying and then rising from the dead, Christ has forced death to become the messenger, the forerunner, the emissary, the announcer, the apostle of the coming kingdom of the resurrection.
Nothing, now, nothing in human experience and human existence, nothing in human activity or human endeavor, nothing at all lies offstage in the drama of salvation.
Since in Christ, even death itself became a collaborator in salvation, then it is nothing for Christ to call twelve men to collaborate in that very same salvation.
Each of us also has a role to play in the salvation of the world.
By this Gospel and Eucharist we are now celebrating, we are doing what the first apostles were sent to do.
We are announcing publicly that the kingdom of heaven is at hand in Christ.
We are announcing that Christ is present in our midst.
We are hailing the mystery of his presence by declaring the saving death of Christ and confessing his saving resurrection.
We are commissioned to do exactly that, mindful of him until he returns in glory.
Gathered now at this altar and offering the sacramental mystery of the Lord, each one of us is collaborating with Christ in the salvation of the world.
Christ wants this.
By the power of Spirit and our free collaboration, may his holy will be done through us for the glory of the Father and the salvation of the world!

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







July 11, 2006

For Tuesday of the Fourteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

[I am away until Thursday, and am posting these homilies ahead of time.]

Matthew 9:32-38

Today in his Gospel we see how the Lord looks at mankind.
Everywhere he goes, he is moved to heartfelt pity seeing that people are “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.”
The kinds of sheep that human beings of old chose, kept, bred and raised became, long ago, unable to survive away from the care of human beings.
Our breeds of tame sheep are practically as dependent as children on us.
The Gospel today might just as well have said “children” rather than “sheep”
At the sight of the crowds,
the heart of Jesus was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like children without father and mother.

“Troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd,” or like children without father and mother.
“Troubled and abandoned.”
Jesus would speak for mankind from the cross.
My God, my God!
Why have you abandoned me?

“Troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd,” or like children without father and mother.
Once more from the cross, Jesus would take our part.
Father!
Forgive them!
They do not know not what they are doing.

“Forgive them,” for the Father has not abandoned mankind.
Rather, mankind has abandoned the Father and killed his Son.
There are so many who are troubled and abandoned, but few true shepherds, few true fathers and few true mothers of mankind.
So the Lord tells us to pray the Father to send out workers into the fields and pastures, towns and villages.
The Son of God himself came to care for the troubled and abandoned human race.
Today his Gospel also tells us how he cares for mankind.
The ability to speak sets God, angels and man apart from sheep or any beast.
So today in the Gospel we see the Good Shepherd of mankind give the dignity of speech back to a man whom a demon has silenced.
In the Gospel today, the True Shepherd of mankind goes to all the towns and villages, teaching in the houses of worship, telling the crowds the good news of their Father and King, and curing all who are not well.
He comes, he travels, he searches, he teaches, he cares.
Still, he leaves us free to abandon him.
He is coming to us now in his Eucharist.
He wants to do the best and the most for us.
We may receive him today, but we need to choose to stay close to him wherever we go, whatever we do, whatever we think and whatever we say.

- - - -

The eleventh of July is the memorial of St. Benedict in the universal calendar of the Church.

For my description of life in a Benedictine monastery click on:
monks.

For my ideas about basics of Benedictine spirituality for people who don’t live inside a monastery, click on:
oblates.

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







July 10, 2006

For Monday of the Fourteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

[I am away until Thursday, and am posting these homilies ahead of time.]

Matthew 9:18-26

Today in the Gospel we witness the faith of a father who falls down on the ground in front of Jesus and dares to ask him to use the power of his hand to raise to raise his daughter from the dead.
In the face of such faith, the Lord says nothing, but immediately stands up and goes to give the man what he asks.
Whenever our faith, our attitudes and the little and great matters of our daily lives truly surrender themselves before the Lord of Life, he rises and sets to work, extending his hands and bringing us to life.
Today in his Gospel, as he makes his way to the home of the dead girl, a woman comes up behind him, and secretly touches the hem of his clothing.
This woman has been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years.
In Israel, such a condition was considered to bring with it ritual impurity.
For twelve years this poor woman was obligated by ritual law to remain mostly indoors, out of sight and especially out of contact, so that no one else would be affected by her ritual impurity.
For twelve years, then, this woman was like the living dead, an untouchable.
Her ritual seclusion or excommunication may have been what led her to approach Jesus secretly, from behind, and to secretly touch not Jesus, but only the hem of his clothing.
However, her faith touches Jesus himself.
As surely as the father of the dead girl touched Jesus directly with his daring, fiery faith, so this poor woman from the living dead touches Jesus directly— though secretly— with her faith.
As soon as her faith makes itself known directly (though secretly) to Jesus, he responds saying, “Daughter, your faith has made you well”.
The woman is instantly healed of her hemorrhage and freed from ritual impurity.
She may now return to a full life among the living.
Her healing and restored freedom are a “resurrection” of sorts.
The Lord then proceeds to the home of the dead girl.
He, the Lord of Life, now summons the girl back to the world of the living with the mere touch of his hand, with his presence and his power that have come in answer to the faith of the girl’s father.
Our own faith continues— rightfully— to ask the Lord to heal our bodies and perhaps even to bring back our dead, to spare us from loneliness, sickness, suffering and sorrow.
We may and do find it trying not to see right now in time the immediate answer to our prayers.
Nonetheless, our faith must not only ask, but also acknowledge that Jesus has already stood up and is now on the way to us.
Until he arrive, then, it is enough, that we, like the father of the girl today, cast our daily lives down, our attitudes, our motives, our desires, our sins and our good works— cast them down as we fall in worship before the Lord of Life.
Here now in his Eucharist, we have the life-giving touch of his hand, the power of his Spirit and the reality of his presence.
These already are more than enough.

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All