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.

October 14, 2006

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

Luke 11:27-28

The words of the Gospel are human words serving as the instruments for God’s Word and salvation that he gives us in Christ.
What word of salvation does the holy Gospel according to Luke give us today?
Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.

There is no doubt in the mind of St. Luke that Mary the mother of Jesus was a blessed hearer and keeper of the word of God.
St. Luke tells us that Gabriel— an angel, a “word-bearer” of the Lord— was sent by God to Nazareth in Galilee to speak to Mary the words of God.
God’s angelic word-bearer Gabriel pronounces the godly blessing.
I greet you,
Favored One.
The Lord is with you.
you have found favor with God.

That is the essence of all blessings— that was the greatest of all blessings: to have favor with God.
That is a definitive word of salvation.
Mary was the first one in the Gospels and in all Christian history upon whom the word of salvation was pronounced: YOU HAVE FOUND FAVOR WITH GOD.
You have found favor with God.
You will conceive and bear a son.
The Holy Spirit will overshadow you.
Therefore the child will be the Son of God.

What was Mary’s answer to this word of God?
I am the slave of the Lord.
Let it be to me according to your word.

She is a hearer and a keeper of the word of God.
Blessed is she who heard the word of God and kept it.
The Gospel testimony to Mary does not stop there.
It tells us that the Holy Spirit whose shadow has enlightened the Mother of God now rushes upon her kinswoman Elizabeth.
Using Elizabeth’s voice, GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT calls out to Mary.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Blessed is she who believed in the fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord!

Those are the words of God the Holy Spirit, not the words of the nameless woman in the crowd of today’s Gospel.
The words of God the Holy Spirit!
Blessed is Mary who heard the word of God and kept it.
That is Gospel truth.
The Word of the Lord concerning Mary’s faithful obedience was still not over.
After the Lord ascended into heaven, his disciples obediently awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit, and with one accord devoted themselves to prayer together with Mary the Mother of Jesus—Mary the one person who had already been overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Mary, woman of the Spirit, Mary in the midst of the praying Church calls down the Spirit upon the disciples of her Son.
Mary’s history and faith are a sign of hope for us.
The Scriptural history of Mary shows what happens when a human person willingly receives God’s word and keeps it.
The Scriptural history of Mary shows that, when a human person gives her own word to God and keeps God’s Word, the Spirit comes to us, then the Son of God and his Body, the Church and the Eucharist come into the world as God’s saving work.
In the Eucharist the Son of God comes to us in person, in flesh and blood, in the power of the Spirit, offering each of US exactly what the angel said of Mary.

Through the Eucharist, the Lord bestows favor and blessing on us by nursing us with his blood and bearing us in his body.
His blessing, however, is also a command.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 13, 2006

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

Dear Visitors!
I have an ongoing dialogue with a particular person in the comments box of this homily. You may read everything, but I will not allow any comments besides my own and those of the person with whom I am conducting the dialogue.
-- Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

Luke 11:15-26

The Gospel upholds that evil spirits, demons, and Satan exist.
Furthermore, since evil spirits exist, Jesus tells us it is necessary to oppose them explicitly, and it is necessary to take the side of Jesus explicitly.
Today in his Gospel, the Lord tells us that to oppose him is to be on the side of Satan.
Furthermore, today our Lord gives us a disturbing warning.
There is no neutral ground, no “diplomatic immunity,” no “demilitarized zone” and NO AGNOSTICISM between the kingdom of God and the sway of Satan.
An agnostic or neutral zone is only an empty house, liable to invasion by an army of the devil.
God respects our freedom.
The devil does not.
However, the Good News in the midst of all this is that Jesus is God, and is stronger than all the evil in the world.
He is God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God.
Through him all things were made.
He is the judge of the living and the dead.

Though he suffered and died for the sins of the world, nonetheless he is love stronger than death.
He rose from the dead— his risen flesh and blood giving off the breath of the Holy Spirit.
Christ and the Holy Spirit have forever marked us for the Father.
They do that in baptism and all the sacraments.
God recognizes in us the eternal sacraments of his Word and his Spirit.
We ourselves must testify to this with our lives and all our choices, or else we make of ourselves mere empty houses liable to invasion.
Today and always, let the Lord in his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood be our dwelling, and let us ourselves always be dwellings for him.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 12, 2006

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

Luke 11:5-13

In the Lord’s Gospel, we have the privilege of hearing him pray to the heavenly Father.
On one occasion [John 11:42], we have heard him say:
Father, I know that you always hear me.

Today in the Gospel, the Lord is teaching us that when we pray we should have the same outlook.
“Father, WE know that you always hear US.”
By teaching us to pray, giving us his own words of prayer, and including us in his own prayer and spirit of prayer, Christ our Lord stands WITH us and FOR us in the presence of the Father.
Christ joins our voices to HIS in saying, “Father, WE know that you always hear US.”
Today in his Gospel, the Son of God tells us our heavenly Father is always ready to give his “good gifts”—his HOLY SPIRIT— to those who ask him” [Luke 11:13].
Do we remember and dare to ask the Father to give us his HOLY SPIRIT?
Do we expect— as Christ tells us today— do we expect the Father to give us his Holy Spirit?
Do we know that the Father gives us his Holy Spirit?
Or are we more likely to speak of his “good gifts” as grace?
There is only one time that the Gospels say we receive grace from God.
On the other hand, the Gospel speaks many times, much more, of receiving the Spirit, the giver of life.
We often speak of grace as a “something”— a “something to have.”
To speak of grace that way does not make clear that grace is first of all the openness and availability of God himself.
To “receive” grace is to gratefully and gracefully welcome God himself.
That is why the Church always carefully words its prayers to the Father “in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”
Even Christ offers up his Eucharist THROUGH THE SPIRIT— for his New Testament [Hebrews 9:14] speaks of “the blood of Christ, who THROUGH THE ETERNAL SPIRIT offered himself without blemish to God.”
Every Sunday Mass, after the Gospel and before the Eucharist, we all stand to profess aloud our faith that it was by the Holy Spirit that the Son of the Father became flesh and blood.
In giving himself to us, Christ gives us the Spirit IN and FROM his own flesh and blood.
As the Gospel [John 20:19-22] tells us:
On the … first day of the week…
Jesus came and stood among them….
showed them his [body]…
breathed on them,
and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

In his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood, the risen Christ still fulfills that one and only place in the Gospel [John 1:14,16-17] that speaks of receiving grace.
the Word became flesh…
full of grace and truth…
from his fullness have we all received,
grace upon grace…
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate the Eucharist this day and all days, we ask the Father to give us his Son and Holy Spirit.
And I tell you,
ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?

In the fullness of the Spirit, Christ offered himself up to the Father “for us men and for our salvation.”
To receive this grace and truth in the unity of the Holy Spirit is to offer ourselves up for the glory of God.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 11, 2006

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

Luke 11:1-4

The Lord’s Prayer, like everything else in the Gospel, addresses two great side-by-side movements.
Side-by-side, or even coinciding, the two movements are: first, giving glory to the Father; and second, bringing men to salvation.
The first movement, glory to the Father: “hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.”
The second movement— salvation— starts with the words “Give us each day our daily bread.”
It continues by asking for forgiveness.
It reaches the height of its swing by asking for final victory.
The only part of this prayer that we in English have difficulty understanding correctly is “daily bread.”
The original Greek language of the Gospel does not really use the Greek word for “daily” in speaking of this bread.
Instead, it uses a word that means “above being” or even “above life.”
The bread that is “higher than life.”
The bread that is “more than the bread of this earth.”
Notice, then, the position of this bread in the Our Father.
It comes in-between: it connects the Father’s glory with our salvation.
Here at the altar, our Father is going to give us THIS DAY our “Bread that Is Higher than Life.”
It is Christ giving glory to the Father in self-sacrifice.
It is Christ giving salvation to men in self-sacrifice.
That is what the Eucharist is: self-sacrifice for worship and salvation.
If we receive it, we must live it, or else final victory shall not be ours.
We shall not have worshiped.
We shall not be saved.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 10, 2006

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

Luke 10:38-42

There is need of only one thing, and Mary has chosen well.
She sits at the Lord’s feet to listen to his teaching.
That priority makes service authentic.
Without that priority, our activity in service is anxiety-ridden, troubling and perhaps even misdirected.
None of our activity as members of Christ’s Church is rightly ordered if we do not first and always sit at the Lord’s feet to listen to his teaching.
Right practice and true Christian service must always first learn the teaching of Christ.
To put ourselves at the Lord’s feet to listen to his teaching is the one necessary thing.
On that blessed day when our service as members of the Church is complete, we shall sit forever at the feet of the Lord.
That blessed destiny is the same necessary and good portion that has never been and never shall be taken away from Mary.
Without it, there is no authentic Christian discipleship, no authentic apostolic service and no authentic growth in the Church.
The foundations and priorities of genuine Christian discipleship are prayer and attentive listening at the feet of the Lord, the Word of God.
This Gospel of Mary, the sister of Martha, sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to his teaching— this Gospel has always been an inspiration and an encouragement for monks and nuns to spend hours daily reading the Word of God attentively and humbly.
Prayer and the word of God were also the soul and body of the ministry of the first apostles.
The apostles retained the priority of prayer and the service of the Word as their proper mission that could not be compromised, while they promoted but delegated to others the hands-on work of equitable social service within the Church.
As a result, Scripture [Acts 6:7] tells us:
the word of God increased;
and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly…
and a great many… became obedient to the faith.

Now, as we turn to the Eucharist, let us acknowledge the Lord in his Body and Blood— the “good portion”, the “one thing necessary”.
Let us learn from Christ in his Blessed Sacrament.
What he teaches and gives us as we sit at his feet in this sacrament shall never be taken from us, unless we ourselves ignore and neglect it.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 09, 2006

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

Luke 10:25-37

Today Jesus is telling us what we must do to inherit eternal life.
However, what is eternal life?
It isn’t just life that never comes to an end.
The eternal life that Jesus has in store for us also means joy that has no measure, knowledge that has no limit, and goodness that never fails.
The Lord says today that to inherit that kind of life you must love God “with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind.”
That is work.
However, once we finally inherit eternal life, all of that work turns into enjoyment with all our heart, enjoyment with all our being, enjoyment with all our strength, and enjoyment with all our mind.
God is at work to see that we inherit that joy.
He asks us to work with him for our own everlasting benefit.
Part of working with God is imitating God.
He tells us to love our neighbors as he loves us.
The question that must constantly guide us as we meet our neighbors is, “What is in my neighbor’s authentic best interest?”
We must also constantly ask the same question on our own behalf.
“What is in my authentic best interest?”
As the sign and instrument of God’s interest in our welfare, he hands himself over to us in the form of food and drink— keeping us alive and growing.
In his Eucharist, God gives us his whole heart, his whole being, his whole strength, and his whole mind.
He is literally CONSUMED with giving himself to us for the sake of our joy and eternal life.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 08, 2006

For the Twenty-Seventh Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 10:2-16

Jesus insisted on the absolute necessity of eating and drinking his flesh and blood.
That is a hard teaching.
Today in his Gospel, he puts before us another hard teaching.
The Pharisees have deliberately put Jesus on the spot by asking him a controversial question.
Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?

Jesus gave them two answers.
His first answer is from a manmade law that the prophet Moses gave.
Moses permitted divorce because we lost our original “TENDERNESS of heart” through the original sin of our race.
Sin brought “HARDNESS of heart” to the human race.
The hearts of man and woman can harden and shut out each other, the rest of the world and God.
That is the way things are, and Jesus has acknowledged that.
However, he pointed out that the way things really are now is a contradiction of God’s ORIGINAL and ONGOING plan for man and woman.
In his second answer to the Pharisees today, Jesus jumped all the way back to the beginning, long before Moses— even before the beginning of human sin.
He said:
from the beginning of creation,
“God made them male and female.”
“For this reason
a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.”
So they are no longer two
but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.

That is hard, since men and women are no longer just as they were before the first sin of our race.
They are able and even liable to treat each other with great hardness of heart.
“HARDNESS of heart.”
There is the “heart” of the problem.
Hardness of heart is a result of the first sin of our race.
The pursuit of maturity, the pursuit of holiness, the pursuit of a healthy, happy and holy marriage will require perseverance in the struggle against sin, and perseverance in the cultivation of tenderness of heart.
In order to persevere against sin and persevere in tenderness of heart, husbands and wives need to set their sights beyond each other.
They need to set their sights on God.
That is because a marriage can also end up as a closed circle: an agreed upon mutual admiration society of two who are merely joined in their shared SELF-serving.
When children— as God and nature would have it— when children are permitted, to enter the life of a married couple, their marriage opens up and goes beyond itself.
When children are intentionally excluded, a marriage may be sterile— physically sterile, socially sterile and spiritually sterile.
Given the effects of sin in human history and the effects of sin in human personal lives, it is hard to live marriage according to the original plan of God.
Our obedience to God’s original plan— because of the present reality of sin— our obedience to God’s original plan can mean hard sacrifices.
Despite that fact, Jesus still upheld God’s original plan for husband and wife.
Jesus upheld God’s ORIGINAL plan as an ONGOING plan.
However, he does not leave us alone in this plan.
Here in his Eucharist, God himself tears open his tender heart to give us the intimate depths of his own self.
Here is the greatest and most complete of sacrifices.
Here is Love himself in his flesh and blood, serving us himself as food and drink.
In his Eucharist, just as in his Gospel, he asks from us more than we know how to give, but he also gives more than we know how to ask.
He does not ask us to be what we are not.
He asks that we open our hearts to what he is, for only then do we open our hearts to become and be what he made us to be: living, personal images of himself.

That God Be Glorified in All

HONESTY IN SEX, MARRIAGE, AND CELIBACY-- without reference to God, the Bible or the Church!

The Gospel for this particular Sunday invites a consideration of sexuality.

I wrote about this some months ago.

Click HERE for it.
That God Be Glorified in All