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 26, 2006

For Saturday of the Twentieth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 23:1-12

The kind of faithfulness and integrity that Jesus lays upon all of us today in his Gospel allows no room for squirming out of the way of tough Church teachings.
We hear Jesus say today:
The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you.

That is a scandalous Gospel.
Do and observe all things whatsoever they—
tell you.

The Lord in his Gospel today tells us to be faithful and obedient to the teaching of hypocrites, Pharisees and scribes of the law.
Every Sunday at Mass, we all announce our commitment to the teaching Church when we stand up and say we “believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
If we don’t want to the Church to hold us accountable, then let us honestly repudiate the baptism the Church gave us.
Do and observe all things whatsoever they—
tell you.

If we would refuse, then let us be honest enough to throw away today’s Gospel, and write something else that we could accept.
In his Gospel, Jesus our God commands us to give him everything that is in us— without condition, hesitation or limit— even when some of those who remind us to love God may be hypocrites, Pharisees and hollow, barely legal functionaries.
When scribes and Pharisees authentically teach what God teaches through Moses— the scribes and Pharisees teach us how to deal with sin, how to avoid it, how to remain free to love God.
So Jesus tells us today.
The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.

Let us follow instead the example of Christ.
Today in his Eucharist he will hand over his body and blood to our bodies and blood, to our hearts, to our souls, to our minds.
Today in his Eucharist, the Lord our God will love us with all his entire heart, soul and mind.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 25, 2006

For Friday of the Twentieth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 22:34-40

Today in the Gospel, we hear an expert in Jewish religious laws ask the Lord a simple question.
“Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
There were several hundred obligatory Jewish commandments.
These were generally divided up between the greater commandments and the lesser commandments.
Perhaps anyone could have answered the expert that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with your whole being.
In comparison with that particular commandment, all the rest are relatively lesser commandments.
The Lord himself says about as much.
“This is the greatest and the first commandment.”
However, rather than leave the lawyer and us to understand that all the rest of the commandments are merely secondary, the Lord adds two other details.
First he says there is a second commandment that is like the first.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Finally he states, “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments”.
Elsewhere in the Gospels [Mark 12:28-34], we hear that the lawyer today expressed admiration for the Lord’s answers, and exclaimed that to obey these two commands is worth much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
In agreement and admiration, the Lord tells the lawyer, “You are not far from the kingdom of God”.
Love of God and love of neighbor are above any merely external worship of God.
Indeed the liturgical sacrifices and burnt offerings of the ancient Jewish religion fell by the wayside soon after the historical, personal coming of Christ our Lord.
From the standpoint of our faith in him, this end of Jewish liturgical sacrifices took place precisely because of Christ in whom all sacrifices and all commandments have their fulfillment.
Christ fulfilled the commands to love God and neighbor by means of his own sacrificial and redemptive death on the cross.
His death of sacrificial worship and redemption continues to be present in his Eucharist.
In his death on the cross and in his Eucharist, Christ’s undying love and his sacrificial worship absolutely coincide.
With this extreme of loving self-sacrifice, Jesus’ love for the Father and for us takes on an actual intensity that was unthinkable and impossible in the sacrifices and burnt offerings of Israel’s ancient covenant.
In the Eucharist, Christ himself in his sacrificial death is present— a sacrificial death in which he gave loving worship to the Father and by which he brought loving salvation to us.
In the sacrament of the Eucharist, we have the absolute beginning, foundation and fulfillment of love for God and neighbor.
Between the beginning and the fulfilling of love, there are many steps and points to work out in our daily living.
But we can never do better than to begin and to end here with the Eucharist, the source and summit of love and worship, the sacrament of Christ’s absolute love, the sacrament of his absolute worship.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 24, 2006

For the Feast of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle, August 24

John 1:45-51
Revelation 21:9-14

In the Gospel today, we meet a man named Nathanael.
Later in the Gospel we again meet Nathanael in person with six of the apostles on a fishing boat when they see the Risen Lord on the shore.
“Nathanael”— or “Bartholomew”?
“Bartholomew” is not really a name.
It is the Hebrew title, bar Talmai, meaning “son of Talmai.”
Hebrew uses such a title as a kind of last name.
Comparing the given names of the disciples, we identify Nathanael as Nathanael Bartholomew, meaning Nathanael son of Talmai.
Today in the Gospel, St. Nathanael Bartholomew meets Christ for the first time, only to discover that Christ already knows him in a deep and mysterious way.
Astonished, Nathanael pays the highest of tributes to Christ by saying, “You are the Son of God.”
It is the mission of every apostle and every Christian to announce that Jesus is the Son of God who took flesh and was born a man.
There is more.
Today in the Gospel, the Lord goes on to tell Philip and Nathanael:
Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven OPENED
and the ANGELS of God ASCENDING and DESCENDING on the Son of Man.

It is the mission of apostles and all Christians to announce that heaven is now open, and that Christ is the ladder or bridge that links heaven and earth.
Today we also see another bridge between heaven and earth.
In the Book of Revelation, an angel announces to us a vision of “the Woman who is the Bride of the Lamb.”
However, the woman we see is a strange one, for she is also the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
This holy city is built on top of the apostles as foundation stones.
This Jerusalem, this Holy City coming out of heaven from God, this Woman, this Bride of Christ the Lamb, this Mysterious Woman is the Church.
These Scriptural visions and our Christian faith declare that the Church stands at the side of Christ, as a bride at the side of her groom.
The Church together with Christ spans heaven and earth.
The Church is a bridge, an avenue of travel to heaven.
The Church is also a holy city, a place to dwell where heaven and earth are in communion— a communion having the twelve apostles as its foundation.
Every Sunday in the Creed we profess our faith that the Church is apostolic.
Upon the twelve apostles of Christ the Lamb we have been set down and cemented.
In the Church together with the apostles we are a bridge, an avenue of travel to heaven for ourselves and for others, but for our sins that block the way.
We are not perfect, and neither were the apostles in their own day.
Nonetheless, together with the apostles we have a mission from God to make up the Church that God wants as the bridge, the communion, the marriage between heaven and earth.
Together with the apostles, we know that heaven has opened in the person of Christ.
Together with the apostles, we know that Christ the Son of God, side by side with his Bride the Church, offers himself in sacrifice as the Lamb of God … for the glory of the heavenly Father, for our sake and our salvation.
Christ calls us to stand at his side, together with the apostles.
Christ has called us to join him in offering him and ourselves up for the glory of God and the good of the human race.
The glory of God and the good of the human race are the two mysterious treasures and the mission that Christ gave the apostles.
The glory of God and the good of the human race are the mysterious treasures and the mission that the apostles have handed down to us— to you and to me— in the sacraments.
That is what we celebrate and receive here and now in the Eucharist, the flesh and blood of Christ in whom heaven is open and married to the earth— for the glory of the Father and the good of the human race.
We have a treasure.
We have a mission.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 23, 2006

For Wednesday of the Twentieth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 20:1-16

At the end of the parable today, the Lord points out his intended message concerning God’s sovereign freedom and his generosity.
God acts with complete freedom; and God is generous to the point of seeming irrationality.
The first point, however— that God is free to do what he chooses— contradicts the presuppositions we make in listening to the parable.
Whereas the vineyard owner owes payment to his workers, God OWES us NOTHING.
Since he owes us nothing, what he gives to any of us is an act of pure grace and mysterious generosity.
To both the first and the last he owes nothing.
To both the rich and the poor he owes nothing.
To both the elderly and the newborn he owes nothing.
To both the industrious and the lazy he owes nothing.
To both the wise and the foolish he owes nothing.
Owing nothing— and needing nothing— God is mysterious in the freedom with which he gives all that he is to those whom he has created out of nothing.
It is an act of love.
The most and the best we can do is to fall down in grateful wonder and worship.
We forever owe God infinitely more than we even begin to be worth.
How can we repay the Lord for all that he has done for us?
The repayment we make to the Lord— even that comes from God.
In his Son Jesus Christ, God himself becomes the payment of our debt.
Wise or foolish, young and old, rich and poor alike, we have no more perfect option— indeed we have no other option than to throw ourselves completely into Christ’s act of personal sacrifice.
In receiving the Eucharist with freedom and the right intention, it is we who are consumed, taken up together with Christ in his sacrifice of perfect gratitude and worship— we are consumed, taken up together with Christ into the presence of the Father.
In the kingdom of the Father, the first are no longer first, and the last are no longer last.
All have a debt to pay to God, but none are able to pay, except Christ alone.
All have a debt to pay, and Christ alone has paid for all.
What we have left is the mission of spending our lives to worship and imitate God’s goodness to us.
Our lives need to flow out of the Eucharistic worship we offer to God.
Our lives need to point to the Eucharistic worship we offer to God.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 22, 2006

For the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Queen, August 22

Luke 1:39-47 (one of the options for Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Who am I that the MOTHER of my Lord should come to me?

St. Elizabeth does not ask, “Who am I that my LORD should come to me?”
For St. Elizabeth, herself a woman of the Gospel, it is already too much that the Lord’s MOTHER should come to her.
The “Mother of My Lord God,” truly the “Queen Mother.”
As Mary went in haste into the hill country, her body carried the growing flesh and blood of God.
God entered the world of time and space.
He took on the nature, flesh and blood of our humanity.
Even as an embryonic baby he had the power of the Spirit to make known his secret presence and his divinity, and to cause another unborn baby to kick for joy.
Mary, newly pregnant, hurries into the hill country to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth hears the greeting of Mary, the babe in her own womb shakes for joy.
The Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth, and she shouts to Mary.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
And why is this granted me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

The Holy Spirit acknowledges through Elizabeth that Mary is the mother of the Lord God.
Mary has been carrying a Child of flesh and blood for only a short time.
However, the Person who is that Child is God from before the creation of the universe.
That is the unbelievable scandal and glory of God’s plan for us.
He does not remain entirely beyond us.
He does not sprinkle our salvation into our souls from beyond the sky.
He has come to be our salvation IN THE FLESH.
In doing so, our Creator shows his primordial judgment that the world and ALL FLESH is good.
Our world IS deeply afflicted by sin and suffering, so it can be easy to think the flesh is only a thing of sin and suffering— only that and nothing more.
That is not the truth about us.
It is not the plan of God.
He comes to turn upside down this world of sin and suffering.
His plan, then, looks upside down to the world.
The living God shows the truth of his boundless love by extending himself in his Son really and truly into OUR nature, OUR flesh and OUR blood.
In his love he pours himself freely and completely into every abyss of sin and suffering that we must undergo.
In his freedom and the excess of his love, he personally undergoes the worst of our human lot: to die and to know the God-forsaken abandonment brought on by sin.
He has taken into his embrace and into his very self the whole bloody spectrum of human misery.
Nothing in the world is a barrier to God’s personal real presence and love.
Mary’s perpetual virginity was and is no barrier.
Your sins and mine are no barrier.
Human life is no barrier.
Death is no barrier.
God has taken all of it to himself.
He has personally taken on everything that is human, both the best and the worst.
In return, it is his plan to have us completely take on the glory of his divinity.
That is his plan.
Now in his Eucharist, he lays out his plan in the form of food and drink.
In this sacrament, bread and wine give way to the power of the Spirit and the Son of God in his real flesh and blood.
God comes to displace sin in our own flesh and blood so that we might be revealed as sons and daughters of God, bearers of his Spirit.
We watch for the day when Christ will return and bring this plan to its final fulfillment in all the sons and daughters of God.
Until Christ come to final and full birth through all who are to be the sons and daughters of God, let us pray our Queen, his Mother, to hurry into the hill country of our lives, and make known to us the power of the Spirit and the presence of Christ her Son.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 21, 2006

For Monday of the Twentieth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 19:16-22

Our Lord traveled non-stop in the final months or years before he died and rose in glory.
We know, even by name, several women who, out of their own wealth, provided for the Lord and his twelve apostles.
One of these women, Joanna, was the wife of the administrator of the royal palace.
Joanna was also probably one of the women who are again mentioned as benefactors of the Lord who watched him die on the cross and provided supplies for his burial.
In fact, Joanna is again mentioned by name as one of the women who saw the angels at the tomb on Easter morning and went to tell the apostles.
After the Lord’s resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, Joanna definitely remained one of the famous figures in the first days of the Church.
So, her name is preserved more than once in the Gospel.
Today our Lord meets an unnamed man, not famous, like Joanna, but possessing great wealth.
The rich man wants to know what he must do to have eternal life.
Our Lord’s first answer is generic.
“Keep the commandments!”
The young man then asks, “Which ones?”
Now the Lord begins to get quite specific.
There are ten commandments.
The first three commandments are vertical, referring us to God himself.
Our Lords skips over these first three commandments, and tells the rich young man that he must keep the horizontal ones that tell us how to live in human society.
The young man now tells the Lord that he has obeyed all those.
“What else must I do?”
You would think that now the Lord would tell him he has to obey also the three VERTICAL commandments, the ones that keep us face to face with God.
Instead, the Lord now gives him a commandment that is both horizontal and vertical.
If you wish to be perfect,
sell what you have
and give to the poor….

Then come,
follow me.

The young man’s possessions are more important to him than his neighbor and more important than God.
So, the Lord tells him to give them away horizontally, to his poor neighbors.
However, as for the vertical, as for how to give GOD his due, our Lord tells the young man something whose implications are astounding.
Instead of the first commandment, that is, “The Lord is your God: you shall not have strange gods before him,” Christ now tells the rich man:
Come, follow me!
For in effect and in truth,
I am the Lord your God.
You shall not have strange gods before me.
Come, follow me!

That is too much to ask.
So, the man goes away in sorrow, forgotten and unnamed, unlike Joanna the famous and wealthy benefactress and disciple of the Lord.
She abandoned the palace and a society-page reputation to follow a homeless preacher, spending her wealth to support him in life and death.
In the name of Christ, we are sent to tell the world that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and God.
If we are to have eternal life, we must keep the commandments and hold Christ dearer than everything else— as Christ himself will tell us tomorrow— more dear than our houses, siblings, parents, children or country.
Everything must take second place to Christ.
There is unavoidable exclusivity in the teaching of Christ.
However, that exclusivity comes from Christ’s desire to include everyone in the full embrace of true salvation.
It may be difficult to explain the exclusive demands and prerogatives of faith in Christ.
However, to do less than that is to offer less than the truth.
Christ never offered less than the whole truth.
In fact, he called himself Truth itself: the Way, the Truth and the Life.
In like manner, he gives us the all-consuming demands and all-giving gift of his Eucharist.
What must we do to have eternal life?
He tells us:
Unless you eat my flesh
and drink my blood,
you have no life in you.
He who eats me
will live because of me,
for I am the Lord your God.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 20, 2006

For the Twentieth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

John 6:51-58

We could approach the entire Mass from beginning to end as one whole experience of the Gospel, the “good news” from Christ.
Nonetheless, there are four moments in the Mass that stand out as “Gospel moments”.
We just began one Gospel moment by standing and listening to “The Holy Gospel.”
This moment isn’t over yet, because we have yet to stand up and announce our Gospel faith by speaking the words of the Creed.
I’m referring to the Reading of the Holy Gospel and our speaking of the Creed as one, two-sided “Gospel moment.”
First Christ comes and speaks his Gospel, and then we stand and say, “We believe.”
The other three Gospel moments in the Mass also repeat or ask for the dialogue between God and us.
After the Gospel and the Creed, the second “Gospel moment” begins with the words we hear Christ speak in every Eucharist.
Take this, all of you, and eat it.
This is my body which will be given up for you.

Take this, all of you, and drink from it.
This is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all,
so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.

These words of Christ, just like his Gospel, ask us to answer him.
He is offering his “new and everlasting covenant.”
A covenant!
A life-and-death, mutually binding agreement between two parties!
So, since Christ calls his Eucharist a “covenant,” we are not to merely “receive” it.
No, we are to enter it, agree to it, obey it.
Since Christ gives up his body and blood for us as a covenant, he expects us to risk our body and blood for him.
If we do not, then we are telling a lie by agreeing to eat his body and drink his blood.
The third “Gospel moment” in the Mass is the “Our Father.”
Christ taught it to us as part of his Gospel.
Even in the “Our Father,” the two-way dialogue continues.
We begin by committing to hallow or honor the holy Name of God, to acknowledge him and invite him to come as King, and to do his will on earth as it is done in heaven.
Having offered all that to God, the prayer then turns to ask him to do good for us: to feed us, to forgive us, to protect and preserve us.
The fourth and final Gospel moment— everything before prepares us for it.
Christ is ready for us, and really present in person, in his body and blood— though just looking like mere food and drink.
The Body of Christ … the Blood of Christ!
He expects us to say, “Amen!”
He calls it a COVENANT— a mutually binding, two-way agreement.
What’s in it for us?
The forgiveness of sins, the opening up of eternal life!
“Eternal life” is not merely a “never-ending story.”
Eternal life is a fullness and a fulfillment going beyond what we can imagine.
Our creaturely, human minds cannot begin to imagine what is contained in God giving himself to us to eat and drink.
Likewise, we cannot imagine the fullness and fulfillment of eternal life.
We can believe that God mysteriously gives it to us.
However, receiving that gift as a covenant means opening ourselves up to it and throwing ourselves into it.
God in Christ has opened himself up for us in suffering, death and resurrection.
He gives himself to us in his Body and Blood.
If we receive, we are to return the favor, for he commands it.
Do this in memory of me!

That God Be Glorified in All