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 16, 2006

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

Luke 6:43-49

Today in his Gospel, Jesus mentions those who have faith enough to call him, “Lord, Lord.”
However, Jesus asks those who call him “Lord” why they do not do what he commands.
He says they are like a man who built a house without a foundation, a house that ends up “completely destroyed.”
If we hear the Lord’s words without responding in obedience to them, then we are effectively ignoring the truth and necessity of his words.
As a result, we empty our own words of truth, and we empty them of necessity, so that if we cry out, “Lord, Lord,” it is a useless UNtruth.
However, there is an earlier danger that our Lord also describes today.
To go about doing and acting without first giving our attention, our minds and our hearts to the Lord in listening to his words.
We need his words to form the insides of our hearts and minds BEFORE we act.
As he puts it:
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil

If we act without hearing— and without praying so as to truly hear— we are in danger of acting according to our own measure that has been distorted by sin.
When we have not given the attention and energy of our mind and heart to God’s Voice, we cannot even honestly say, “Lord, Lord”— much less do that Lord’s will.
We need to pray…
… so that we can listen…
… so that we can obey inside and
… so that we can live, grow and bear good fruit.
When we obey and do what we have heard from God in Christ, then we are building on rock— on the Rock that is Christ himself.
We become stones set in place upon Christ as our origin and foundation.
We are cemented to him and built up by the mortar of our own faith, obedience and love.
Such a house on such a foundation falls before nothing.
Christ himself has a foundation.
He has heard, listened, obeyed and acted.
He is founded and lives in the will of the Father.
He says and does nothing that he has not first heard and received from the Father.
He says and does nothing else except what he has heard and received from the Father.
He IS what he has heard and received from the Father.
Built on Christ, built in him and built for him, we have a share, then, in his Father as well.
Here in the Eucharist, the Father with the power of the Spirit prepares for us an Anointed Bedrock and Living Mortar of love and obedience in the flesh and blood of his Son.
Here we are built out of Christ, and sunk ever more deeply in him, and raised ever higher upon him.
We allow God to do it if we pray, listen, obey and act.
The foundation and the consummation of life beyond imagining, our salvation, our glory and the fulfillment of our hope are already real, and already have their real presence in the Eucharist.

That God Be Glorified in All

September 15, 2006

For the Memorial of the Sorrowing Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 September

Luke 2:33-36

God tells us through the words of the Gospel that Simeon is a righteous or just man, devout, and the Holy Spirit is upon him.
Because of the Holy Spirit, Simeon comes to the temple where he meets Joseph, Mary and the newborn Savior.
Joseph and Mary bring the infant Savior to the temple to pay what God commands for the freedom of every firstborn male of the race of Israel.
Because of the Holy Spirit, Simeon knows he is meeting salvation itself in the Son of Mary.
Because of the Holy Spirit, Simeon proceeds to utter a prophecy in which Child and Mother have parallel roles.
Because of the Holy Spirit, Simeon says both Child and Mother shall touch MANY.
The Child is destined for conflict leading to both the fall and the rising— the RESURRECTION— of many.
The Mother is destined to have a sword stab through her own soul to cause the unveiling of the thoughts of the hearts of many.
Both Child and Mother shall suffer.
The Gospel itself proclaims their suffering together for the many.
This is not Catholic Marian piety speaking.
This is the Holy Spirit speaking.
As Child and Mother suffer, the thoughts of the hearts of many shall be revealed.
As those thoughts come to light, both the fall and the rising— the RESURRECTION— of many shall come to pass.
Mary clearly is not our Savior.
However, she willingly made it possible for our Savior to receive human conception and birth.
Today in the temple, Mary obeys the commandment of God by paying the price for the human freedom of the Savior.
With Joseph, she supplies the minimal sacrifice God asks of the poor— two pigeons— to pay God for the life of her firstborn Son, the Savior of the world.
Ordinarily, this would not be a day of sorrow, but a day of rejoicing over a firstborn son of Israel.
Yet, as God would have it, this day Mary must hear of the sorrow that awaits her Son and herself.
Their suffering shall be the fall of many, and their suffering shall be the rising— the RESURRECTION— of many.
Are we merely to pity Mary?
We are to do much more than merely that.
We are to be drawn to her, as surely as the Holy Spirit drew Simeon to speak to her.
We are to know, as the Holy Spirit let Simeon know and proclaim, that Mary has a role to play in the life and mission of our Savior.
The Gospel shows us at a poor wedding feast that Mary was the first person to intercede with the Savior on behalf of human sorrow.
In the face of all human poverty and suffering, Mary intercedes with her Son as she did at the wedding feast.
Furthermore, as she suffered to accompany the suffering of her son, she accompanies also the suffering of any disciple her Son loves.
To that motherly mission he appointed her from his cross.
The suffering of her Son and the suffering of those her Son loves— that is the sword that pierces her own soul.
Suffering reveals the thoughts of our hearts.
We fall with our thoughts, or we rise with our thoughts.
If we rise, the suffering of the Savior makes it so.
If we rise, Mary has already prayed for that.
Here in the Eucharist, both the fall of the Savior into death and the resurrection of the Savior come to us as one gift.
Mary, whose soul was stabbed through in the suffering of the Savior, prays that his suffering and his Eucharist, the Eucharist of this very hour, bear fruit unto the rising, the resurrection, of the many— ourselves.

That God Be Glorified in All

September 14, 2006

For the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 14 September

John 3:13-17

Throughout the world, we venerate the Lord’s cross.
We display it as a treasure.
It is a paradox to celebrate the Cross— an instrument of humiliation, torture and execution.
Today in his Scriptures the Lord teaches us through paradox.
Just as Moses lifted up the image of a deadly serpent on a pole to heal the people of deadly snakebite that came as a punishment for their sin, so must God’s beloved Son be lifted up in death on a cross, that whoever believes in him may be healed of sin and death, and so gain eternal life.
He says that birth by water and Spirit gives us entry into eternal life in the kingdom of God.
He speaks also of coming down from heaven and going up to heaven, and then of “going up” or being “lifted up” on the Cross so that believers might have eternal life.
Finally he says:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.…

… that the world might be saved through him.

We recognize that the death of Christ on the Cross is his payment of the penalty for our sins.
He did it for us.
However, our benefit is less than half of what took place on the Cross— less than half of what the Gospel reveals.
The Lord speaks of the Spirit who is birth and life.
Today the Lord also speaks of himself, the Son who has come down from the Father, receiving himself from the Father, and going up back to the Father with obedience and gratitude.
Finally the Gospel tells us of the Father who in love gives his Word, overflowing himself in his Son.
All of this— the mystery of Father, Son and Spirit— is present and real in the historical event of Good Friday’s Crucifixion.
This is why we always name the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as we make the sign of the Cross.
It is God who is Love lifted up on the Cross drawing all men to himself, drawing all men to his consummation of love.
That is what transfigures the Cross, making it attractive, a thing of beauty.
Not that a mere man suffered humiliation, torture and death on it— but that God in his love is infinitely free, willing and available to personally undergo, undertake and underlie all that is human even unto death.
This truth, this historical event has the power to draw all men, and to draw all that is in the hearts of men.
Our hearts, our minds and our bodies need to see, know, have, embrace and return this love emptying itself on the Cross— love absolutely present and absolutely consummated in history, in flesh and blood on the Cross.
The deepest event of God’s love in human history took place on the Cross.
On the Cross: all that is human was offered up in love; and all that is divine was offered up in our humanity by Christ.
This is the triumph of the Cross— a triumph that has embraced the deepest human poverty— death— and has transfigured it into the act of God’s love.
In the sign and instrument of the Eucharist, we have the real presence of Christ in his flesh and blood offered up in the triumph of love on the Cross.
On the Cross and in the Lord’s Body and Blood:
the power of the Spirit gives us birth and life in God;
the Father reveals and gives his love;
and the Son offers himself and our own humanity,
through the power of the Spirit,
to the Father with obedience and gratitude.
On his Cross, in his Resurrection, Ascension and Eucharist, Christ is our God, our transfiguration and our salvation.

That God Be Glorified in All

September 13, 2006

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

Luke 6:20-26

Our Lord is giving us a picture of disciples who are BLESSèd: holy persons who are also happy in the deepest and longest-lasting sense of the word.
The blessed keep in mind and take to heart that they own a real treasure in heaven.
They are grateful for that and for any real goods that life has already given them.
The blessed avoid self-pity and complaining, even when they suffer.
They avoid envy, greed and false means of self-enrichment.
Our Lord Jesus blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to practice zeal, devotion, piety, reverence, respect and justice.
It is to reject and refuse injustice and dishonesty— as well as cynicism.
Christ says those who weep shall be comforted.
It is a blessed thing to acknowledge real losses, not to deny them.
The refusal to mourn our losses can become the dangerous fuel for taking revenge.
It is hard to mourn, but it is an honest thing to do.
The blessed take to heart that God has made us for joy, and we shall have it to a degree and with a fullness that we cannot presently begin to imagine.
We can hope for it, and we can prepare for it.
At times, we might even catch a foretaste or glimpse of it.
For that, we need to remain patient and open; we need to live blessed lives.
It is a blessed thing to stand up and live for the authentic cause of Christ, and be willing to suffer injustice on his account.
Christ himself, the Son of God— ON OUR ACCOUNT— willingly chose to be hated, excluded, insulted and denounced as evil— ON OUR ACCOUNT— for us, for our salvation, for our happiness.
He comes to us here and now— the Lamb of God— to load our sins, the sins of the world, onto his own back, to take away the sins of the world, giving us in return his everlasting blessing.

That God Be Glorified in All

September 12, 2006

For Tuesday of the Twenty-Third Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Luke 6:12-19

Christ, truly a man and truly God— God the Son— stays up a whole night on a mountain, immersed in the praying Spirit of communion with God the Father.
The next day, from among his Jewish followers, he chooses twelve men and names them “Apostles.”
Together with his twelve Christian Apostles, he stands in the middle of a larger crowd of his Christian followers who are also Jews, members of the only race that worshiped the True God.
Other Jews, not yet followers of Christ, also have gathered, having come from the Jewish city of Jerusalem and the Jewish land of Judea.
Finally, crowds of pagans have also gathered, coming in from the pagan coastal lands of Tyre and Sidon.
Pagans, Jews, Christians— they have all gathered at the feet of Christ.
Whether they know it or not, he is God the Son of God the Father, and he is the Bearer of God the Spirit.
The crowds today embody all humanity: pagan living at one extreme, and the communion of God at the other.
The whole human crowd wants to touch Christ, because power comes out of him and heals them all of sicknesses or unclean spirits.
Whether they know it or not, when they touch Christ they touch the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Word of the Lord [Col. 2] says:
in him dwells the WHOLE fullness of the deity BODILY,
and you share in this fullness in him.

We touch the FULLNESS of God BODILY in Christ, and so we share in that FULLNESS.
In the Gospel today, all those who want to touch Christ have had to leave behind the rest of the world and everything in it to come to the mountain.
Everyone— pagan, Jew, Christian, layman, apostle— everyone in the Gospel today needs the touch of the Son of God from whom saving power comes out to all.
Some may fall back into pagan ways through simple weakness, through mere mistake or, worst of all, even by deliberate choice.
Christ always waits and he is always ready.
From the mountain of the stone altar, Christ the man of prayer, Christ the true God of prayer, Christ the Son of God, Christ the bearer of the Spirit— from the stone summit of the altar Christ comes to touch us with his Body and Blood, having power to purify, justify and sanctify.
He calls us to leave sin behind not only for the moment, not only here but always and in all places.

That God Be Glorified in All

September 10, 2006

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

Mark 3:1-6

The religious lawyers and the Pharisees are scandalized that Christ “works” on that day when the Law of God forbade work.
The Sabbath is made for man, and man is made for God.
The Sabbath is the day for man to give special honor to his maker.
It is also the day that reminds man to honor and obey God’s commandment of love.
So today in the Gospel, a Sabbath day, in a house of worship, we see Christ the Lord honoring God and his commandment by healing the man with the crippled hand.
On that particular Sabbath day, in a house of worship, Christ the Son of God was at work for that poor man.
Whenever we celebrate the Liturgy, God is at work, present for us in his Risen Son and in the sending of the Holy Spirit.
In the Liturgy, God is present and hard at work for us in the words of his Gospel and in the mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood.
In these, God enters this our Christian synagogue, and is present now at this our Christian Sabbath.
In his Holy Gospel and in his Blessed Sacrament, he calls out to us, “Come.”
As we stand before him, he then commands us to stretch out our whole being to him, so that here in the worship of God, our human nature is restored and made whole.
We are saved here in the worship of God.
Here God’s heart is open to save us.
He is looking to see if our hearts are open like his.
In fact, in the Gospel today, we see Christ our God looking into the hearts and minds of men and seeing HARDNESS OF HEART
Hard-heartedness towards the merciful goodness of the Lord, and hard-heartedness towards the misery of a neighbor.
As we receive God today in his Gospel and his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood, let us pray and work for the softening of our hearts, and for the ongoing conversion of our minds, choices and actions.

That God Be Glorified in All

For the Twenty-Third Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 7:31-37

Christ worked some miracles just by speaking.
For instance, one time he simply told a dead girl, “Get up”, and she got up.
On another occasion, he healed someone from a distance just by speaking.
For instance, at the request of a Roman officer, Christ simply said, in effect, “It’s done”, and the officer’s servant at home was healed.
Today, the miracle in the Gospel is complex, intricate … methodical … and a little strange.
The miracle shows Christ to be heavenly and mystical, but at the very same to be quite earthy and physical.
People bring him a deaf man who also cannot speak.
They beg Christ to lay his hand on him.
First, Christ takes him away from the crowd.
Second step, he puts his finger into the man’s ears.
Third, Christ spits.
Fourth step, he touches the man’s tongue.
Fifth, Christ looks up to heaven.
Sixth step, he groans.
Seventh, Christ says, “Open up!”
SEVEN steps!
The Gospel tells us Christ is looking up to heaven when he groans and then says, “Open up!”
The original language of the Gospel does not make it clear whether Christ is saying “Open up!” to heaven or to the deaf man— or to both heaven and the deaf man.
Christ stuck his finger into the man’s ears, then he spat and touched the man’s tongue, but he did NOT immediately speak any words of healing.
After sticking his fingers into the man’s ears and mouth, Christ looked up to heaven and GROANED.
Christ GROANED to heaven on behalf of the deaf man.
As Christ is touching the deaf man but LOOKING UP into heaven and groaning, we can see that Christ is an earthy, physical mediator, a bridge, a “go-between.”
He touches the deaf man with his fingers, and he touches heaven with his eyes and his groaning.
When Christ looks up to heaven, he is turning to the Father.
Then, when Christ groans, it is the Spirit of communion between the Father and Son— the Spirit of communion who is praying in Christ and with Christ to the Father in heaven.
As the Testament of Christ puts it, “the Spirit himself intercedes … with groans too deep for words” [Rm. 8:26].
Then— in the Spirit of communion, in the unity of the Holy Spirit— then and only then does Christ the Bridge speak the Hebrew word Éphphatha— ”Be opened!” or, “Open up!”
This utterance— “Open up,” or, “Be opened”— is both the PRAYER of Christ to the Father on behalf of the deaf man, as well as the COMMAND of Christ to the deaf man on behalf of the Father.
By the touch of his hands and the sound of his voice, Christ bridges heaven and earth; Christ mediates between heaven and earth.
Christ connects heaven and earth … with his VOICE … and his BARE HANDS.
He is God’s Word in person— God’s Word who— by the power of the Holy Spirit— has become a flesh and blood man who touches and spits, touches and groans.
By the power, then, of the same Holy Spirit, the groaning voice of Christ on earth echoes in heaven.
By the power of the same Holy Spirit, the touch of Christ’s hands and the sound of his voice reach into heaven, and, at the same time, give integrity to the hearing and speech of a deaf man.
The Gospel tells us the amazement of the crowd at this miracle, went beyond all bounds.
The crowd says of Christ:
He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.

WE know, however, that in Christ— even as a man of flesh and blood— in Christ HEAVEN ITSELF also hears and HEAVEN ITSELF also speaks.
In Christ, heaven is open.
That is an essential detail of the Good News— the Gospel: that heaven, God himself, God’s heart, is entirely open for US.
That is the message that the Spirit groans out to US through Christ, through the Gospel, the Scriptures, the Church, the Liturgy and the Sacraments.
However, this NEWS that GOD’S heart is entirely open is at the same time a COMMAND that OUR hearts be opened.
The obedient opening of our hearts is the only way to receive the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.
The Holy Spirit of unity opens our hearts if we freely choose to cooperate.
We cooperate and we prepare our hearts by laying aside all other assurances, all other sources of security, all other sources of comfort and confidence— and that is a lifetime’s work.
Since the Spirit of unity and power is already at hand, we can and must labor to put in order and purify our hearts for the sake of the only real and lasting source of security and confidence;
That source is faith in the mystery of God whose love for us does not depend on us.
God’s love is the same as his freedom, his good will and his fidelity.
God’s love cannot end or diminish or be taken away.
That is the Good News for which the deaf ears of our hearts need to OPEN UP.
The silent LIPS of our impeded hearts need to OPEN UP to gratefully proclaim God’s goodness— especially as we offer and celebrate the Eucharist in which GOD’S OPEN HEART comes to us.
In his Eucharist, Christ both touches us in his real Body and Blood just as he touched the man who was deaf and mute.
In his Eucharist, Christ groans in the Spirit to the Father on our behalf.
In his Eucharist, by the power of the Holy Spirit:
… Christ is the means— the WAY— of Communion between the Father and us;
… Christ is the LIFE— the LIVING Communion between the Father and us;
… Christ is the TRUTH— the REAL Communion between the Father and us.
In his Eucharist, Christ still stands mediating between heaven and earth.
In his Eucharist, God’s ears are open to us.
In his Eucharist, he heals us and saves us with his bare hands.

That God Be Glorified in All