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.

September 02, 2006

For Saturday of the Twenty-First Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 25:14-30

Today in his Gospel, the Lord uses a threatening image.
An absent master returns to count up the various investments he has left each of his servants to manage.
One servant has done nothing at all with the master’s investment, except hide it safely away.
The master throws him out to suffer in the darkness.
Do we like this picture of God?
Today at least, it is the picture Christ wants to use.
There is no comfort in this image.
Christ is telling us that being faithful is more than playing it safe, more than toeing the line, more than keeping the rules.
God wants to see profit.
He has entrusted us with investments that he expects us to return to him with profit to show.
What are these investments?
There are two investments that God hands over to us.
The first is ourselves.
What we have and are as human beings is to be used rightly and used well.
Our bodies, our relationships with each other, our feelings, our free choices, our thinking minds— all these are gifts from God who made us.
Our bodies, our relationships, our feelings, our choices, our thinking— all these are to be used, trained and cultivated in such a way that they give honor and thanks to the One who made us.
We are to give back to God all that we have and all that we are.
We are not to honor ourselves, but we are to know, love and honor God who made us.
Living for God’s honor and satisfaction is built into us, even though sin hides and contradicts it.
In the end, we cannot and will not be satisfied and completely happy with anything less than God and the honor of God.
But how do we arrive at unlimited heavenly satisfaction for the hopes and dreams of our bodies, our feelings, our freedom and our minds?
The answer is in the second thing that God gives to each of us for investment and profit.
God has entrusted to us his very own self.
It is this— his investment of HIMSELF IN US— that we are most responsible for returning to God not only intact, but with profit to show as well.
God has made us so that he can show himself IN us and THROUGH us— to the world, to each other, to our own selves.
He does not do this for his own good.
From beginning to end, the only reason why there is a universe at all is that God is good, God is free, and God is love.
He does not need the universe.
Everything— including ourselves— everything comes out of God’s goodness, his freedom and his love.
Goodness, freedom and love.
That describes God, but it also describes our human dignity.
WE— our spirits, our minds, our wills, our feelings, our relationships, our bodies, our SELVES … WE are made to reveal God whose love does nothing but give itself away.
When we do nothing but take, take and take, we have no time for goodness, freedom or love.
When we do nothing but take, take and take, we just get emptier, emptier and emptier.
When we give ourselves away and give ourselves up— especially when we give ourselves up to God— that is when we really come to know and live goodness, freedom and love.
Goodness, freedom and love … that’s God at work in us.
That is the accountability God demands of us: to transcend, to go beyond ourselves, because we are God’s image.
Freely chosen self-sacrifice for the glory of God and the good of others … that is love.
God does not need us; but he wants us to be like him, and take part in his goodness, freedom and love.
He desires and commands the effort and cooperation of our bodies, our feelings, our free choices, and our thinking.
If God did not think that our human efforts mattered, then the human suffering of Christ was a mockery of our humanity, and not an act of love.
We know that is not true.
In the suffering of Christ, our human commitment and human suffering are invested with the love and power of God himself.
He renews his promise and investment of himself— IN US— through the Eucharist.
In his Eucharist he gives himself to us as food, drink and wealth to invest our bodies, our sentiments, our wills and our minds with his own fullness and divinity.
From this investment, the Lord demands a profit, but not a profit that he will take away for himself.
He doesn’t need it.
As his Gospel teaches us today, the Lord reckons his accounts only so that he can give them back to us with rewards.
When the Lord returns in glory at the end of time, he will give the fullness of his own Resurrection to our bodies, to our entire being forever.
We shall hunger no more, yearn no more and die no more, for we shall be like God in all his fullness, seeing him as he is face to face.

That God Be Glorified in All

September 01, 2006

For Friday of the Twenty-First Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 25:1-13

Apart from the religious festivals of Israel, weddings were their biggest celebrations— and they always lasted for several days.
Our Lord made use of that fact in his life, his teaching and his mission.
It was at a wedding feast that he gained the faith of his first disciples, worked his first public miracle and gave a sign of things already present and things to come.
Later, telling why he did not have his disciples fast, he likened the joy of his own presence to a wedding.
Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
As long as they have the bridegroom with them,
they cannot fast. [Mk. 2:19]

In another parable, different from that in his Gospel today, he compared the kingdom of heaven to a royal wedding feast of a king’s son.
Then, in the last book of the New Testament, revelation and salvation meet fulfillment as an angel proclaims, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.”
A bride in the days of Christ spent many days in preparation before the wedding festival.
On the appointed day, the bridegroom, his chosen “best men” and his family marched in pomp and splendor, with music and song, to the home of the bride to escort her with a triumphal procession back to his own house.
Then came several days of feasting.
Today the Lord tells a story about five foolish and five wise maidens waiting for a bridegroom from far off to arrive and claim his bride.
With this parable, the Lord is in the middle of a longer lesson on the end of the world and the final coming of God’s kingdom.
The kingdom comes to us in many ways.
It comes to us— it is available for us— through the presence of the Lord in his grace, the power of his Spirit in us and in the sacraments.
The kingdom also meets each of us whenever we freely offer ourselves in obedience to the promptings of the Spirit.
The kingdom also calls and waits for each us from the other side of our individual deaths.
Finally, this kingdom of the Father and of our Lord Jesus Christ will bring with it the end of time.
It will bring on the beginning of new heavens and a new earth with the unending wedding supper of the Lamb of God.
However, as the Lord tells us in his parable today, the kingdom of heaven offers us not only promises.
There is also a threat.
We could be shut out of the kingdom.
There could come a time when the kingdom of heaven would say to us, “Too late for you!”
Then the Lord would say to us what he says in his lesson today, “Truly, I do not know you.”
So, he tells us to watch out for him constantly, to be alert, prepared, because the kingdom of heaven keeps days and hours that are not for us to know.
His example today of the five wise maidens ready and waiting for the bridegroom makes it clear that Christian watchfulness is not a dreading of danger to come, but an expectation of joyous celebration.
The Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world.
That is the mere beginning of the bliss and blessing for those who are called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 31, 2006

For Thursday of the Twenty-First Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 24:42-51
1 Thessalonians 3:7-13

Today in one of his letters, we hear St. Paul pray for us.
… may the Lord … strengthen your hearts,
to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus….

Later in the same letter, St. Paul says to us, “You yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
In the book of Revelation [16:15], the Lord himself announces to us, “See, I am coming like a thief!”
Today in his Gospel, the Lord admonishes us in the same way.
Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.

He goes on to reveal that the Lord, the Son of Man, will appear suddenly and unexpectedly to JUDGE what he finds, and then either REWARD or PUNISH accordingly.
The words “to punish severely” appear in the reading today.
However, that is a translation that is too tame, and that disguises a more violent expression that the Gospel’s original language uses.
The expression is “to cut into pieces.”
Our Lord says in his Gospel today that the returning master of the house will CUT INTO PIECES the wicked servant.
Many today have a simplistic, bland and selective picture of Christ, one that leaves out any threat of hell or eternal damnation.
Our real Lord, in the rich mystery of his Gospel and New Testament, dramatically, harshly and repeatedly proposes the real possibility of being completely lost.
However, next to and at the same time as this real threat, the whole Gospel and New Testament also hold wide open the possibility of real hope for all.
Though there is a harsh threat from the Lord in his Gospel today, he invites from us not despair, but hope.
He asks, invites and commands us to expect him, to be on the lookout, to watch, to stay awake, to search and to hope for him, because he has declared both his constant presence and his eventual return.
One instance of his constant presence among us— one instance of his ever-present returning— is his Eucharist.
In his Eucharist, Christ the Lord breaks in upon us as JUDGE, judging what he finds.
When we rightly receive him in his Eucharist, we surrender ourselves to his judgment.
Paradoxically, our Divine Judge —Almighty-in-His-Love— Innocent and Pure— steals a place among the guilty who have received condemnation.
He took our guilt upon himself, and chose to be condemned in our place.
He the Lord was pierced and pinned by the nails of the cross.
He the Master was stabbed open by the blade of the lance.
He was punished in our stead.
He our God died the sinner’s death, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
This is He who comes as Judge in the Eucharist, pronouncing not merely a judgment of mercy, but one of SUBSTITUTION: he stands in our place and suffers our punishment, so that we might stand in his place and have a share in his glory.
In his Eucharist, then, we also rise with Him from the dead.
It is as the Risen One that he tells us who are already in Him:
Be watchful and ready!
I am already here.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 30, 2006

For Wednesday of the Twenty-First Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 23:27-32

There is an important detail of the Lord’s personality, of his thinking and of his teaching that we Christians in the modern Western world do not like to call attention to or to pay attention to.
The Lord Jesus got angry, he spoke angry words, and he vehemently condemned hypocrisy and evildoing— as we hear in his Gospel today.
What we see today in his Gospel is only a small part of a longer harangue the Lord aims against the sins of the scribes and Pharisees.
In his harangue the Lord goes so far as to threaten them with eternal punishment for their sins.
Eternal punishment in hell is not an Old Testament idea.
Rather, it was the Lord Jesus who broke into history with the news that there is eternal punishment.
Hell is part of the NEWNESS of the “gospel”— the “good news”— from Jesus Christ.
However, hell is not “good news”.
The Good News is mercy, forgiveness AND ESPECIALLY EXPIATION.
Our sins have NOT been ERASED.
Our sins have been REWRITTEN with the Lord’s own Blood and onto the Lord’s own Body.
The price for sin— hell— has been expiated— paid for— atoned by the Lord himself.
That mystery of the Lord’s goodness and beauty is something real to be loved.
We worship and receive the Lord’s Goodness and Beauty in his Eucharistic Body and Blood.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 29, 2006

For the Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist, August 29

[The official Latin originals of the current liturgical books of the Church still call this the memorial of the saint’s passio, his “suffering”.]

Mark 6:17-29

It would appear that John’s mission ended in gruesome failure.
On the contrary, our faith and tradition regard the Baptist’s death as his supreme act of testimony to the truth and as his supreme act of discipleship as the prophet who announced the presence of the Lord.
In his own day, John’s own prophetic holiness was considered so great that when the reputation of Jesus as a prophet and miracle-worker began to spread, people thought John must have risen from the dead.
John preached repentance.
So now do Jesus and the disciples of Jesus.
John’s voice opened the ears and hearts of the people through contrition, and so now they are hungry to hear the voice of the Lamb of God.
The Gospel itself tells us that great numbers of people flocked to Jesus like sheep to their shepherd.
John prepared the way for the Lord.
He did this above all by preaching repentance and testifying on behalf of the truth.
The contemporaries of John recognized in his preaching the promotion and defense of fidelity to God and his laws.
Our faith recognizes something deeper: Jesus was and is the living and incarnate truth in person— the very Truth itself that John’s preaching proclaimed.
John’s death for preaching the truth about God and about sin was essentially death for the sake of Christ, the Way, the Life and the Truth in Person, True God and Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
John’s death for the sake of truth was therefore also a privileged foreshadowing of the death of Christ the Lord, the Living Truth.
We may ask, “About WHAT is Christ the truth?”
We already have the answer to this question; but it is an answer whose meaning we can never exhaust.
Christ’s words and deeds, his teaching and way of living all tell us the truth about GOD and the truth about HUMANITY.
Both the true nature of God and the true nature of humanity are revealed, reconciled and united in the one person of Christ.
To look upon Christ is the essential vocation that every human person receives when he is called into being.
You have heard it before: to exist AT ALL is already to have heard and obeyed the voice of the Creator who has commanded us into being.
Christ, the WORD of God, IS that voice of the Creator.
To look upon the face of Christ and to listen to his voice is the vocation of EVERY human being.
John the Baptist exhorted his hearers to look upon Jesus.
John’s voice still echoes the same exhortation to us in every offering of the Eucharist:
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world

That God Be Glorified in All

August 28, 2006

For Monday of the Twenty-First Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 23:13-22

Today is the second of four weekdays in which we hear Jesus in his Gospel uttering a chain of miseries (“woes”) onto the scribes and Pharisees.
He calls them hypocrites who neither enter the Kingdom of heaven, nor allow others to enter.
For the scribes and Pharisees, the gold in the temple is better than the temple, and the sacrifices burned on the altar are better than the altar.
As Jesus speaks of this, he affirms that the temple consecrates and sanctifies what is offered in it, and that the altar consecrates and sanctifies what is offered upon it.
Jesus sees the temple and the altar as places and instruments for handing things over to God his Father.
To join Jesus inside the temple, and to join him at the altar, is to join him in handing ourselves over to the heavenly Father.
To do otherwise is to invite Jesus to include us among those he violently ejected from the Temple.
He wants us to be consecrated and sanctified by coming to his Father’s house and to his altar.
That will happen only if we sincerely join the Eucharistic Christ who gives up his body and his blood to purify his people, and to bind them and his Father to each other in a new and everlasting covenant.
If we are not here to join Christ in offering ourselves up in sacrifice, then we are like the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel today to whom he says:
Woe to you
You lock the Kingdom of heaven
You do not enter

That God Be Glorified in All

August 27, 2006

For the Twenty-First Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

John 6:60-69

What IS the Eucharist?
The answer to that question also unfolds why sharing the Eucharist with those who do not share our Eucharistic faith would be an act of dishonesty, a glossing over of reality and truth.
We cannot really be sincere in our respect for those different from us if we merely pretend they are the same as us.
Today on the twenty-first ordinary Sunday of the Church year, we reach the end our celebration of the sixth chapter of the Holy Gospel according to John.
Today is the fifth Sunday since we began celebrating this chapter here at Mass.
We Catholics do not merely acknowledge that this chapter is to be understood in a literal sense.
We see that Christ himself in this chapter is INSISTING to be understood in a literal sense— and not just in regards to his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood.
In this chapter, Christ also demands to be taken literally regarding:
his Flesh-and-Blood INCARNATION,
his Flesh-and-Blood DEATH,
his Flesh-and-Blood RESURRECTION,
his Flesh-and-Blood ASCENSION,
and his Flesh-and-Blood RETURN to raise BELIEVERS up in Flesh-and-Blood.

For those without Christian faith, it is an offense against God, a mere fairy tale, or just a pious symbol to say that true God was born a true man of flesh and blood.
Then, for non-Christians, this symbol, fable or blasphemy intensifies with God dying a human death as a criminal.
Finally, to proclaim that Jesus was true God, died on the cross and rose glorified forever in flesh and blood— to proclaim that is to increase again the blasphemy or myth for non-Christians and atheists.
Today in his Gospel, Christ sums up the whole symbolic, fabulous abomination of his Incarnation, Death and Glorified Bodily Resurrection with one question.
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

Christ is God— true and eternal.
He came down from heaven as a true man of flesh and blood.
He suffered and died.
He rose from death— in flesh and blood— and ascended to heaven— in flesh and blood.
That is what he sums up today in his Gospel with this single question:
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

However, he asks that question only because some of his listeners reject another summation he is making.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you EAT the FLESH of the Son of Man
and DRINK his BLOOD,
you do NOT have LIFE within you.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood

He proclaims that ETERNAL LIFE is SUMMED UP and RECEIVED in EATING and DRINKING his real FLESH and BLOOD.
The EATING and DRINKING of his FLESH and BLOOD are the absolutely necessary, life-giving summary, consummation and consumption of eternal salvation by his Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, Ascension and his Return at the end of time.

Today in his Gospel, Christ makes his Flesh and Blood the simple, absolute measure of faith in himself— the simple, absolute measure of Christian faith.
As some of his listeners begin to grumble at the offensiveness of this absolute measure, he tells them that some of them do NOT have faith.
He does NOT say they have WEAK faith.
He does NOT say they have LITTLE faith.
He does NOT say they have PARTIAL faith.
Today he simply says, “There are some of you who DO NOT BELIEVE”— who have NO faith.
Then his Gospel immediately testifies that he “knew from the beginning the ones who would NOT believe”— NOT have faith.
Living off the real Flesh of Christ as real Food, and living off the real Blood of Christ as real Drink— that is the absolute MEASURE of full Christian faith; and it is the absolute PROCLAMATION of full Christian faith.
Of this faith-measuring proclamation, the Lord in his Gospel today says, in effect, “Take it just as it is, or else just leave me!”
As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer walked with him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve,
“Do you also want TO LEAVE?”
Simon Peter answered him,
“Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced,
that you are the Holy One of God.”

Christ proclaims the Eucharist as the summing up of himself, his Gospel and the New Covenant.
His Eucharist is the consummation of absolute faith in Christ.
His Eucharist is the single instance when he gives the stark choice EITHER simply to believe OR simply to go away.
He offers no compromise or gradual measure.
Faith in him is Eucharistic faith, or else, as he says, “Do you also want TO LEAVE?”
Yet, lest we Catholics presume to look down on those who do not have our Eucharistic faith, let us keep in mind that today Christ also says, “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Unconditional, uncompromising, saving EUCHARISTIC faith in Christ is a gift from the Father.
For those who do not have this faith, let us pray they receive it.
If we have it, let us give thanks to the Lord our God— but also pray never to sin against it in any way.

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That God Be Glorified in All