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.

August 19, 2006

For Saturday of the Nineteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 19:13-15

Today in his Gospel our Lord is at the beginning of a great turning point in his career.
He has just begun his final journey towards the city of Jerusalem.
He will be greeted in triumph at the city gates on a Sunday, only to be shoved outside the city gates and crucified on the following Friday.
As he turns now to approach his “Great Week” and his Cross in Jerusalem, he gives us four lessons.
First he teaches about husbands, wives, marriage, and also celibacy for the kingdom of heaven.
That is what we heard yesterday in his Gospel.
Immediately afterwards— as we heard today— he teaches that to such as children belongs the kingdom of heaven.
The fourth lesson as he turns towards the Cross in Jerusalem immediately follows today’s lesson.
To follow our Lord into the kingdom of heaven we must keep all the commandments and be ready to give everything we have to the poor in order to follow the Lord empty-handed.
On the Cross, just outside the walls of Jerusalem, our Lord will give flesh and blood to these four lessons.
The Death of the Cross would seem to have sundered the marriage of God and humanity in the Incarnation of Christ.
On the contrary, the Cross was the “Bridal Threshold” to the undying union of God and humanity in the glory of resurrection.
Paradoxically, his death on the Cross also consecrates Christ in celibacy, setting him apart and removing him from every earthly spouse, so that he might belong exclusively and entirely to the glory of the heavenly Father and the salvation of every human being.
The Son of God not only kept all the commandments, but he left behind all his possessions by passing through the absolute poverty of death.
In this way his renewed marriage to humanity in the resurrection is perfect, total … consummate.
Through the same absolute renunciation by death, Christ is also perfect in his celibate consecration to the Father’s glory and humanity’s salvation.
What paradox there is to hear these “Evangelical Counsels” of Christ inviting us to join him in turning toward the Cross at Jerusalem, while he also tells us to turn and become like children, for to such as children belongs the kingdom of heaven!
Like a child, horribly simple in its vulnerability, Christ suffered the abuse of the Cross.
Yet there is more than a child on the Cross.
Christ chose to suffer with all the depths of his innocent human freedom as well as the absolute freedom of God.
He suffered as no merely human child can even begin to suffer.
When we turn, as Christ says, and become like children for the sake of entering the kingdom of heaven, we are turning to expose our unprotected vulnerability and our availability for the demands of his kingdom, even if those demands should lead us to the Cross.
It is an unspeakable crime to make children suffer.
Yet the Son of God turned to the Cross with all and more than the innocence and vulnerability of a child.
He turned to the Cross with the entire freedom, availability and all-knowing wisdom of God.
He did not cry out against his suffering as any child naturally would.
Rather, he opened not his mouth— like a lamb led to slaughter— the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world.
Let us turn now to welcome the king of heaven in his Eucharist, welcoming him with all the childlike vulnerability and availability that we can muster.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 18, 2006

For Friday of the Nineteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 19:3-12

Today in his Gospel, Christ lays down what he calls the Creator’s plan for marriage “FROM THE BEGINNING”— that is, before the first time that human sin hardened the human heart.
The Creator’s original plan is that:
a man shall … be joined to his wife
what God has joined together, man must not separate.
To live marriage in Christ is to counter one’s own sinful hardness of heart and to work and stretch past sin towards the Creator’s ORIGINAL plan.
God originally gave grace-filled tenderness and unity to the human heart.
That is the original and final goal and vocation of Christian marriage.
Today in the Gospel, the disciples recognize that Christ is RAISING the bar.
Then, he raises a SECOND bar: celibacy “FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.”
Not celibacy for the sake of EARTHLY PRACTICALITY!
Not celibacy for the sake of time and energy to do “church-work”!
He calls it celibacy “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”
The Kingdom of heaven pre-dates the creation of a man and woman, even though it is always among us.
In the mind of Christ, celibacy points past, over and beyond merely practical realities.
Christ’s celibacy points to God himself.
The man and woman who marry are called to communion with each other before God.
Christ calls the celibate simply to communion before God with no human spouse.
Elsewhere in his Gospel, Christ tells us that in the end everyone in the kingdom will be in communion with God with no human spouse.
The celibate receives the call to let his heart and his life point to that kingdom for whose coming we all pray.
However, because sinful hardness of heart bogs down all men and women, the Christian celibate joins Christian husbands and wives in striving for the grace-filled tenderness that the Creator originally gave to the human heart.
Here in his Eucharist, Christ— a celibate and our Creator— brings us the communion of the Kingdom of heaven, together with the strength, tenderness and grace of the heart of God.
Here in his Eucharist, Christ gives married Christians and celibate Christians their marching orders, their vocation, their strength, their model, their fulfillment.
Once again, the Eucharistic prayer of the Church reminds us to pray “that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.”

That God Be Glorified in All

August 17, 2006

For Thursday of the Nineteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 18:21 to 19:1

In this parable today, a king forgives an official who owes him “a huge amount”— as the present English version chooses to put it.
However, the original language of the Gospel says the official owes the king “ten thousand talents.”
One talent was the salary for fifteen years.
Ten thousand talents, then, was the salary for ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND YEARS.
That’s what the official owed his king— and that’s what the king forgave his official.
That official then went and jailed a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount: MERELY ONE DAY’S SALARY.
The king finds out, and hands the hypocrite over for TORTURE.
Then Jesus adds:
[hand you over for torture]
UNLESS each of you forgives his brother from the heart.

Jesus teaches that God’s forgiveness is NOT UNconditional.
His LOVE is unconditional— but not his forgiveness.
If we clog our pipes so that forgiveness does not flow OUT of us, then forgiveness will not flow INTO us.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us!”
It means the same as, “Do NOT forgive us, for WE do not forgive!”
We owe God INFINITELY MORE than one hundred and fifty thousand years, because he made our souls to be eternal.
In his life, in his choice to suffer and die, Jesus our God handed himself over for torture in place of us.
The Most Holy in place of sinners!
The Creator in place of those who owe him their own existence, but deny his existence by their sins!
Here in his Eucharist, God trades places with us.
What shall we do with this privilege?

That God Be Glorified in All

August 16, 2006

For Wednesday of the Nineteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 18:15-20

What is it to be two or three gathered in the name of the Lord?
Today in his Gospel the Lord is speaking not to a crowd, but to his DISCIPLES only; and he uses the word “CHURCH”.
Speaking to his disciples as his “CHURCH”, he expects them to act and pray as those who are “gathered in his name.”
We begin every Mass by gathering, invoking the name of the Lord— Father, Son and Holy Spirit— while we make the SIGNUM CRUCIS— the Sign of the Cross.
At the CRUCIfixion of the Lord, at the most literally CRUCIAL moment, only Mary his mother, a few other women and John his friend and apostle dared gather in the Lord’s NAME at the event and sign of his cross.
Out of this small group, the Lord singled out just two, and put them together as if these two were the closest to him in NAME and in deed.
They were his mother and his apostle John.
From his cross the Lord said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your, son!”
Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”
It was from the cross that Lord assembled the CHURCH in his NAME.
From the cross, he spoke directly to only two other individuals besides Mary and John.
He spoke directly to the repentant thief who was also suffering crucifixion, and he spoke directly to the Father in heaven.
To be two or three gathered in the Lord’s name is not so simple or automatic, and it appears it is not entirely or always our initiative.
Even though the Lord himself promises to be in the midst of those gathered in his name, it still belongs to the Lord alone to judge who are REALLY gathered in his name.
At the most literally CRUCIAL moment— at his CRUCIfixion— the only individuals to whom the Lord spoke directly were the heavenly Father, the repentant thief, Mary his mother and John his favored disciple.
Of these four, the only one whose relationship to Jesus we could fully claim for ourselves would be that of the repentant sinner.
To gather in the Lord’s name and to receive his presence in our midst, we must repent and confess that we are sinners.
Indeed, that is how the Church begins the Mass: confessing that we are sinners.
Then, in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood Offered in Sacrifice on the Cross, the Lord himself makes good his promise to be in our midst.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 14, 2006

For Monday of the Nineteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 17:22-27

We have two incidents in the Gospel today.
First: Jesus once more foretells that he is to suffer betrayal and death at the hands of men.
The disciples feel overwhelming grief upon hearing this.
The second incident.
The collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said,
“Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?”

Jewish men over the age of nineteen had the duty of paying three days wages once a year for the upkeep of the Temple of God.
Simon Peter immediately tells the collectors that his teacher, Jesus, does pay the tax.
Perhaps still grieving over the news that his teacher would suffer death at the hands of man, Simon perhaps wishes to protect Jesus from public attention.
He just tells the collectors, “Yes.”
Even before Simon has a chance to go tell his teacher about the collectors, Jesus already knows what has happened.
When Simon came into the house,
before he had time to speak,
Jesus asked him,
“What is your opinion, Simon?
From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax?
From their subjects or from foreigners?”

The actual word in the original language of the Gospel is “sons,” rather than “subjects.”
From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax—
from their SONS or from foreigners?

Jesus goes on to explain, “the SONS are exempt.”
Jesus is exempt from paying for the upkeep of the Temple of God, for he is the SON of God.
However, precisely as the SON OF GOD he directs Simon Peter in a miracle of catching a fish whose mouth holds a coin worth the annual Temple tax from both Jesus and Simon.
Jesus sees to it that his Father’s Temple is kept up as it deserves.
On his own behalf and that of Simon, Jesus provides payment of the Temple tax.
Since Jesus had again foretold that men would collect him and kill him, the Temple tax he now provides by having Simon collect a miraculous, coin-holding fish— the Temple tax that Jesus pays for the glory of his Father also becomes a sign of his approaching death.
For the glory of the Father, and for the good of Simon Peter and all humanity, Jesus will pay the “Death Tax” for sin.
Because of the Eucharist today, you and I shall be like that fish Jesus sent Simon to catch.
By virtue of the Eucharist, you and I shall have in our mouths the Tax in Person, the Exempt Son of God, serving the glory of his Father and our eternal welfare.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 13, 2006

For the Nineteenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

John 6:41-51

Today in his Gospel, Jesus tells us: where he came from, who he is, what he does and how we can share in all of it.
The people who hear him today know that he is a man of flesh and blood.
They know his parents, Joseph and Mary.
However, Jesus upsets his listeners by saying he has come down from heaven.
He has seen God, and God is his own father.
So, even though Jesus is a man of flesh and blood, he has come from heaven, and is the Son of God whom he knows and has seen face to face.
Today Jesus does not explain that.
He just says it.
He doesn’t make it any easier for his listeners to understand or accept.
Even though they know he is a real man of real flesh and blood, he simply tells them, “I came down from heaven; I have seen God face to face; God is my Father.”
If he is who he says he is, then why did he come down from heaven?
Today he says he has come to give his flesh and blood for the life of the world.
No explanation.
Jesus says at the end of time he himself will raise up to eternal life whoever believes him and eats his flesh and drinks his blood.
No explanation.
Next Sunday we will hear Jesus continue on the same topic.
He will make it worse, harder to accept.
It is clear that Jesus is packing everything about himself into his flesh and blood.
that he has personally come down from heaven;

that he personally knows and sees God face to face;

that he is the Son of God in person;

that he is eternal life in person.

He is all of that IN FLESH AND BLOOD.
God made us flesh and blood.
At the end of time, he plans to raise us up in flesh and blood.
So, then, it is a wonderful honor, it is a wondrous gift of love that we who are creatures of spirit, flesh and blood can receive the Spirit of salvation by really eating and drinking the real flesh and real blood of Christ.
Today, Jesus does not explain this.
He simply says it is so.
Some may find it difficult to believe this to be literally true.
How can we take Jesus simply at his word today?
Today Jesus tells us how.
No one can come to me
unless the Father who sent me draw him….

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.

That’s the only explanation Jesus gives today.
If we listen to the Father, the Father will teach us, and that is how we come to believe the teaching of Jesus.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

Next Sunday, we will hear Jesus continue this teaching, making it even harder to accept, and even making it the final condition for staying with Jesus or leaving.
The Eucharist, the real flesh and blood of Christ, is the “be all and end all” of complete faith in Jesus the Son of God.
Today and always, let us listen to the Father in prayer, ask him to teach us, increase our faith and bring us to eternal life through the flesh and blood of his Son.


"How John 6 Is the Center of the Entire Bible"

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That God Be Glorified in All