One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

+ + +

The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

July 29, 2006

For the Memorial of Saint Martha


John 11:19-27

The siblings, Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus have a dear and warm friendship with Christ.
The Gospels tell us Christ has seen other persons mourning and weeping at the death of a loved one— without telling us that Christ himself shed tears.
However, in the case of the death of St. Lazarus, the Gospel seems to stop in its tracks to tell us “Jesus wept” upon seeing St. Martha and St. Mary grieving.
In celebrating Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus, we celebrate the red-blooded, warm-blooded humanity of Christ.
In celebrating these saints, we also celebrate their own red-blooded, warm-blooded, human love and friendship for God in the person of Christ.
We also celebrate their love for each other as siblings and as Christians.
We also celebrate their faith in Christ.
We celebrate their prayerful listening to Christ.
We celebrate their death-defying obedience to Christ.
Today especially the Gospel shows us the great faith of St. Martha.
Four times today St. Martha declares her faith.
First she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
St. Martha already believes that Christ has power and authority over life and death.
Then she adds:
even now,
I know that whatever you ask of God,
he will give you.

She already believes that the will of Christ coincides with the will of God.
She is not— for the moment— saying she believes Christ will raise her holy brother from the dead right now.
We know that, because she adds her third profession of faith.
I know my brother will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.

NOW Christ invites her to make a fourth, even more daring profession of faith.
Whoever believes in ME,
even if he dies,
will live;
and anyone who lives and believes in ME will never die.
Do you believe this?

St. Martha recognizes the full weight of the words of Christ.
She recognizes his claim to be the Divine Son of God, and she says so.
Yes, LORD …
… you are the CHRIST,

In celebrating St. Martha, we celebrate the same profession of faith.
Yes, LORD…
… you are the CHRIST,

St. Mary, the sister of St. Martha, speaks hardly at all in the Gospel.
Nearly the only thing we hear her say is the same thing her sister first said.
if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.

St. Mary has the same faith as her sister.
However, on another occasion, we saw St. Mary make a BETTER CHOICE than St. Martha.
Once when the Lord visited them, St. Martha anxiously drove and troubled herself to the point of distraction in her effort to serve their guest well.
Yet, the Lord himself told Martha that her sister had chosen well.
Her sister Mary sat at the Lord’s feet to listen to him teaching.
St. Mary is a model of prayer, attention and listening.
She is a model of holy or divine reading— lectio divina, as Latin calls it.
The Lord justifies Mary to her sister.
Martha, you are anxious and troubled about MANY things;
ONE thing is needful.
Mary has chosen the GOOD portion,
which shall not be taken away from her.

With St. Mary, we celebrate the fact that “one thing is needful”: the “good portion” of receiving the Lord’s teaching through our prayer and his word.
Like St. Mary, St. Lazarus was also attentive to the Lord’s word.
Like St. Martha, St. Lazarus also had faith.
Even after four days as a dead man rotting in his tomb, St. Lazarus obeyed when Christ stood his ground before the tomb and loudly shouted a command.
Lazarus, come out!

St. Lazarus— obedient from beyond the grave— rose back to life.
Because St. Lazarus was a powerful, living witness of obedience to Christ and the divine authority of Christ, the chief priests wanted to kill also Lazarus, and not only Jesus.
We don’t know if St. Lazarus died a martyr for Christ.
We know clearly he lived for Christ and because of Christ.
What we celebrate in the Gospel, what we celebrate in Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus, we also celebrate, worship and receive in the Eucharist, namely: the red-blooded, warm-blooded humanity of Christ, God himself, who is the resurrection and the life in flesh and blood.
As Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus long ago in the Gospel, so we now in the Eucharist!
As Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus already in heaven, our siblings and friends in the communion of saints— as they now, so one day we also with the help of their prayers!

That God Be Glorified in All

July 28, 2006

For Friday of the Sixteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 13:18-23

We hear this parable of seed and soil five times a year in the Church.
The various parts of this parable have many meanings and layers of meaning to consider.
However, taken as a single whole, this parable simply teaches that the Lord has expectations of us.
God has planted a seed in each of us.
The seed is his Spirit, his Word, his grace.
We receive God’s Word, his Spirit and Grace through faith, the liturgy and sacraments.
He expects us to be good soil, freely receiving the seed, and working actively so that the seed grows, flowers and bears fruit.
He expects us to yield profit many times over.
God is looking for results.
He expects our lives to be fruitful for his kingdom.
God in his grace makes himself into the possibility of our meeting his expectations.
Both the possibility and the power come from God, yet to be “good soil” is not just to be passive.
Good soil freely works with what God has given.
In the book of Genesis, we see God shape our bodies from the soil of the earth and breathe his own Spirit into us.
In creating us God wrote his Spirit, his ways and laws into the nature of our minds, hearts and bodies.
This deep mystery of God’s Spirit present in our nature, speaks silently in our consciences, and invites every human person to life with God.
That is what the Church calls “natural law”— the way of God, the Spirit of God breathing in us and making us uniquely HUMAN— we are real spirits and we have real bodies.
Moreover, in God becoming flesh and blood as a member of humanity, in his death on the cross, in his flesh and blood resurrection to glory and in his Eucharist, God breathes, plows and plants himself ever more deeply into our hearts, our minds, our consciences, our bodies and our lives.
It is God that we bear like a seed within us.
If we freely choose to work with what God has given, then it is God himself who grows, blossoms and yields a hundred-fold in us.
However, it is our own full human nature that rose and blossomed DIVINE in God in the Resurrection.
In the end, our salvation and final resurrection are the hundred-fold yield of fruit that the Lord expects from us and for us.
The Eucharist is the real presence of all this.
It is Christ himself: Son of God, Son of man, Son of Resurrection— truly in flesh and blood.
As the risen vessel of the Spirit, Christ is the seed planted in our humanity, and Christ is the beginning of the ripe harvest that is our own glorified humanity.
Today and at every Mass, we dare to receive God’s Spirit, his grace and his Word through the Gospel and the Eucharist.
Let us be grateful, but all the more mindful that with these gifts also come God’s expectations.
We are to be his coworkers.
Let nothing he gives us go to waste, for he gives us his very self.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 27, 2006

For Thursday of the Sixteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 13:10-17

When our Lord teaches, he uses parables.
He did so two-thousand years ago.
He does the same for us now, not only through the Scriptures and the Gospel, but also in the liturgy and the sacraments.
As the Word of God become man, Christ himself is a living parable.
Today our fellow disciples in the Gospel ask the Lord why he speaks to the crowds in parables; and we hear the Lord tell us why.
In answer, the Lord speaks of those who HEAR and hear again, but FAIL TO UNDERSTAND, and who SEE and see again, but FAIL TO PERCEIVE.
Though they HEAR and though they SEE, why is it they fail to PERCEIVE and fail to UNDERSTAND?
As the Lord says, they fail to perceive and fail to understand because their HEARTS have grown DULL.
They fail to perceive and understand not only the parables.
They also fail to perceive and understand the Lord himself.
They fail because, as he has told us, their HEARTS have grown DULL, “HEAVY”.
St. Benedict teaches us how HEARTS must learn to remain lightsome and keen or sharp, as opposed to growing dull and heavy.
Our HEARTS must learn to remain lightsome— graceful or grace-filled— and keen— sharp— so that we may always hear and UNDERSTAND, see and PERCEIVE, not only now but also in the life to come.
St. Benedicts teaches us that the school of the Lord’s service is a school for the HEART.
Listen carefully to the
master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your HEART.
Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your HEARTS.”

He teaches us that the road which
leads to salvation is bound to be narrow at the outset.
However, he promises that as we progress in a holy way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing— overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.
We have a living, personified parable of A HEART OVERFLOWING in the Lord himself and in his Eucharist.
For though in the parable of the altar our eyes see only bread and wine, faith lets the heart PERCEIVE and UNDERSTAND that the Lord’s body and blood are present, and broken and poured out— OVERFLOWING WITH THE INEXPRESSIBLE DELIGHT OF LOVE— for his Father and for us.
In this way he makes himself our communion, our sharing in the life to come.
How blessed are we to celebrate, offer and receive the Eucharist of the Lord.
Many prophets and holy men longed to see what we see, and did not see it, and to hear what we hear and did not hear it.
In the Lord’s Eucharist, blessed are our eyes, for they see, and our ears for they hear.
Blessed, too, are our hearts if we but understand and turn for him to heal us.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 26, 2006

For Wednesday of the Sixteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 13:1-9

Elsewhere in his Gospel our Lord explains this parable.
He calls the seed the Word, the Word of the Kingdom, the Word of God.
He explains that we are the exposed earthen pathway, or the sterile rock, the choking thorn-patch or the good soil.
If we are good soil, then when the Lord’s gracious word comes to us, he says we hear it, understand it, accept it, hold it firm in honesty, goodness and patience, and we bear fruit thirty-fold, sixty-fold or even a hundredfold.
We might not be good soil right now, but that does not mean we won’t ever be good soil.
So today the Lord warns us of some dangers to outgrow or avoid.
The first danger is the exposed pathway.
The Lord says here we fail to understand the Word, and the devil immediately snatches it away from our hearts so that we won’t believe and be saved.
Against this danger, we must beseech the Spirit of Wisdom and Holiness to enlighten our hearts and protect us from the evil one.
We must be attentive and we must study.
The second danger is the sterile rock.
In this case we hear and receive the
Word with joy.
However, we are too shallow and hard, and we give no place for the Word to sink its roots into us.
So, as the Lord tells us, we fall away from his Word as soon as we have any tribulation, persecution or temptation.
Against this danger, recourse to prayer must also sustain us.
Prayer needs the help of fasting, penance and almsgiving.
The third danger is the choking thorn-patch.
Its effect is the same as the sterile rock.
However, whereas the sterile rock fails because of suffering and trial, the thorn-patch fails because of pleasure.
The Lord tells us that here we let the cares, riches and pleasures of life in the world choke off the growth of his Word in us.
Against this danger also we must pray, fast, do penance and give alms.
By charitable, sacrificial generosity, penance, fasting and prayer, we plow and soften the fields of our lives for the saving Word and Mystery of Christ.
In this way, together with him who is Divine Grace Incarnate and Risen, the Flesh and Blood Bearer of the Holy Spirit, we can bear fruit thirty-fold, sixty-fold or a hundredfold for the glory and honor of our almighty Father and for the good of the whole world.
May it be so forever and ever.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 25, 2006

For the Feast of Saint James the Apostle, July 25

Matthew 20:20-28
2 Corinthians 4:7-15

St. Paul, an apostle like St. James, tells us today in his letter that an apostle is our “father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
Christ told his apostles they would inherit eternal life and be judges over the people of God in the world to come.
St. James and all the other apostles serve as our fathers “in Christ Jesus through the gospel”.
As fathers already, as heirs of eternal life, and as judges in the world to come, St. James and all the other apostles followed the steps of the One who says today in his Gospel that he “came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The second apostolic letter to the Corinthians said to us today:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.

We are … always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

… the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.

… may … thanksgiving … overflow for the glory of God.

Though we shall not see any of this with naked eyes until the world to come, Christ who is already enthroned in glory in the midst of the apostles— Christ even now makes all of this real and present for us in mysterious signs.
In the Body and Blood of Christ, we recognize the truth of St. Paul’s words.
The one who raised the Lord Jesus will … place us … in his presence.

May THANKSGIVING overflow for the glory of God.

St. Paul’s word is actually, “May EUCHARIST overflow for the glory of God.”
Helped by the prayers and example of St. James, may we, too, labor freely in the footsteps of Christ, that our choices and actions may be an overflow of the Eucharist— thanksgiving for the glory of God.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 24, 2006

For Monday of the Sixteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 12:38-42

Just a few days ago our Lord said the day of judgment would go better for repentant pagans than for impenitent believers.
Today he goes a step further.
He says that the pagan city Niniveh and the pagan queen of Sheba will rise from the dead on the day of judgment and pass condemnation on believers, because these pagans repented at a mere word, but believers ask for miraculous signs.
Once again, our Lord equates faith with repentance from sin.
How many of us modern, Western Christians could characterize our personal faith as penitential?
Not only today and a few days ago, but from the very beginning of his preaching career, our Lord tied together repentance and faith.
He began his public career by simply preaching, “Repent and believe in the Gospel!”
Repentance is the “Fountain of Youth” for faith.
Repentance is the daily resurrection of faith.
Today our Lord points to his resurrection as the only real sign that he will give to those who want signs but fail to repent.
An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign;
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.

Faith in the risen Lord is faith in the forgiveness of sins, but such faith requires repentance.
On the day he rose from the dead, his first words to his followers were about the forgiveness of sins.
Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me,
even so I send you.
Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any,
they are forgiven;
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

So, not only at the beginning and throughout his preaching career and public ministry, but also at their consummation in his resurrection from the dead, our Lord equates faith in his “Good News” with repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
We modern Westerners have lost a sense of sin.
This is the same as having lost true faith.
We can say this the other way round.
We modern Westerners have lost true faith.
This is the same as having lost a sense of sin.
Without repentance, we have no faith.
Then we are not at peace with the risen Christ … and not at peace with the Father who sent him … and not at peace with the Holy Spirit that comes from the breath of the risen Christ.
Our Lord taught us in a parable [Lk. 18:9-14] that the secret of holiness could be found in a short prayer of repentance.
Two men went up into the temple to pray,
one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,
“God, I thank thee that I am not like the other men,
extortioners, unjust adulterers,
or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
I give tithes of all that I get.”
But the tax collector,
standing far off,
would not even lift up his eyes to heaven,
but beat his breast,
saying [seven words],
I tell you,
this man went down to his house justified
rather than the other.

The Lord is risen from the dead.
That is good news.
In his Eucharist, he gives us his own flesh and blood— his whole self, human and divine.
That, too, is good news.
However, on the day of his resurrection and on the night of his first Eucharist, he told us to remember all of it as the forgiveness of sins.
Take this
my body
given up
Take this
my blood
so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.

“That sins may be forgiven.”
“Behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”

That God Be Glorified in All

July 23, 2006

For the Sixteenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 6:30-34

In one of the Lord’s parables, he tells us of a good shepherd who leaves behind his whole flock in order to go out searching for one lost sheep.
Today in the Gospel, the situation is the reverse.
A great throng of people, like a flock of sheep without a shepherd, goes out to search for Jesus.
They have begun to understand that he is the Good Shepherd sent from God.
Now they flock to him, wanting the good things that he does for them— not only the good of bodily healing, but also the good of his teaching.
As the Gospel tells us today, when Jesus saw this great crowd:
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

Jesus had led his apostles out to a deserted place in order to rest a while from their work among the people.
The Gospel tells us the crowds were coming and going in such demanding numbers that Jesus and his apostles did not even have time to eat.
Hungry and tired, the Lord and his apostles had boarded a boat at the lakeshore, and departed to be by themselves for food and rest.
As Jesus and the apostles crossed the lake by boat, the Gospel tells us that the people of all the surrounding towns HASTENED— they HURRIED ON FOOT around the edge of the lake to where Jesus was going.
They went so FAST they got there AHEAD of Jesus.
We may imagine that the crowd pushed and shoved and cheered as Jesus stepped off the boat.
Perhaps they even shouted “Hosanna”.
We may imagine that the crowd would have nearly DEVOURED the Lord with their enthusiasm.
After all, they did EAT UP his time.
They wore him out, not even leaving him time to feed himself.
And how did the Lord greet this crowd eager and starving to have him?
His Gospel tells us:
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

Ultimately the Lord would go so far as to offer his very self as real food to feed these and many more hungry people.
I give my life for my sheep.

You and I are also his sheep.
We, too, are part of a vast crowd that seeks and follows Jesus.
We may not have run around a lake to be here to meet the Lord in his liturgy.
Yet we should have such eagerness for the Lord as to run were it necessary.
Which of us would not run were we told a beloved one was dying?
Well … here in the liturgy, in the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood, the Beloved One is “dying”— giving his life for us his sheep.
At the same time, he is also the Risen One, giving his life, his resurrection, his very self for us his sheep.
These are the mysteries of our faith.
This is what we believe; and it should drive us to run after the Lord.
And why?
Because faith also reveals to us that without the Lord, we are sheep without a shepherd, a body without a head, a bride without a groom, a temple empty without God.
Ours would be life and death without meaning or hope.
Here in the liturgy is our shepherd and our teacher.
Here now is our God.
Here is our truest food and drink.
Here is Life.
It is here that we can find the meaning of life and the reason for all hope.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

- - - -

An invitation from the Pope for this Sunday, July 23: DAY OF PRAYER AND PENANCE FOR PEACE IN MIDDLE EAST

Click HERE for it.
That God Be Glorified in All