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 21, 2006

For the Twenty-Ninth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 10:35-45

This is the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to Mark.
Earlier in this chapter, our Lord teaches things that challenge our own culture’s way of life today, namely:
that authentic marriage is for life;
that children are a blessing in the kingdom of God;
that wealth is a great obstacle to following Christ and entering his kingdom;
that poverty and celibacy for the sake of Christ and his Gospel bring rewards now and in the life to come.
The Gospel tells us that after the Lord’s followers heard those teachings they were filled with wonderment and fear.
His teachings are demanding.
However, he does not spare himself.
In this chapter of his Gospel he says he himself is to undergo torture and execution, but that he will rise from the dead.
Today we hear him call his coming violent death “the cup that I drink.”
Finally, he says he has come “to give his life as a ransom.”
Having heard both the harsh demands of following Christ and the harsh destiny awaiting Christ himself, the apostles clearly seem to change the subject.
Two of them ask the Lord for first-place thrones of glory, and the other ten jump in for the competition.
All twelve are looking greedily past the finish line, but none of them wants to look at where the race begins or what course it takes.
Christ the Lord has already put in their faces the fact of his full sharing in our human reality of suffering and death.
He himself is a sign that suffering and death have a new meaning and a new possibility.
In him, the pit of human suffering and death has become the fountain of deepest union and intimacy between God and humanity, between spirit and flesh.
Human life is both physical and spiritual.
Suffering and death are the occasions that most deeply confront human life with its own true reality.
In response to suffering, death and the true nature of human life, our shattered culture today offers us escape by way of shallow diversions, anesthetic drugs, recreational relationships, contraception, abortion and euthanasia— not even thrones of glory for which to compete.
Suffering and death have never gone away.
They shall end only with the coming of the new heavens and the new earth.
We are formed of the material dust of the ancient earth, and God breathes his eternal Spirit within us.
Though we do suffer and die, we shall rise— body and spirit— we shall rise from death, truly free in real body and spirit forever.
Today in his Gospel, the Lord tells us: YOU WILL DRINK MY CUP.
We do not ever escape from reality, both material and spiritual.
Suffering, death, the bloody cross and the glorious resurrection are bridged and reconciled in the person of Christ, bridged and reconciled by God and man.
Christ who is God and man used his freedom to serve the Father and the world at the cost of his own life.
Because of that, his human freedom rose from the dead never to be lost or diminished again.
By believing and following Christ, we face and serve reality and truth in the deepest and highest way possible.
We may suffer for doing so.
However, unless we do so, we allow our freedom to collapse down to what is merely pleasurable, merely convenient, and merely comfortable.
There we shall stay.
We shall lose our freedom and we shall not rise from the dead.
If you were to go lie in bed, and move yourself only for what is pleasurable, convenient, or comfortable, your muscles would soon shrivel, and you would become a prisoner in your own body.
Even the freedom of our bodies requires that we push our bodies beyond what is merely pleasurable, convenient or comfortable.
Jesus took his human freedom— our human freedom— to the limit.
He took our human freedom to the cross, through the cross and up into the resurrection.
This is my body … given up for you.
This is … my blood … shed for you.

The cross of Christ— and our willing share in it— opens up to us our salvation, our meaning, our destiny, our reality, our vocation, our obligations, our consummation and our fulfillment.
There is no real other way.
To receive the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ is to say “Amen” to a share in the cross for our own freedom.

That God Be Glorified in All

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

Luke 12:8-12

Does my life acknowledge Christ or deny him?
That question comes up when I hear Christ in his Gospel today.
I tell you,
everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before the angels of God.
But whoever denies me before others
I will deny before the angels of God.

We can PUBLICLY deny or conceal that we are followers of Christ.
However, we can also SECRETLY deny Christ.
We can do things that no one else knows, but that still turn us away from Christ.
There are both public and secret ways to deny Christ.
There are also big and small WAYS to deny Christ.
There are big and small REASONS to deny Christ.
The hardest ones to avoid are the SMALL ways and the SMALL reasons.
Most things can be forgiven— even a thing as grave as speaking “against the Son of Man will be forgiven.”
Though he is God, Jesus knows he is a man on earth.
He knows it is hard for people to accept the natural contradiction of a man being God.
He says today:
Everyone who speaks a word against the SON OF MAN will be forgiven.

Then he adds that at least one thing WILL NOT BE FORGIVEN.

The one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit

What is this unforgivable sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit?
It is clear in the teaching of Jesus that sincere repentance always meets the embracing forgiveness of God.
It is also clear that God does not force his own goodness upon us.
If we do not want forgiveness even though we have sinned, if we think we do not need forgiveness even though we have sinned, if we hold that we have not sinned when we actually have, then, as Christ puts it today, we are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit— for which we cannot receive forgiveness because we don’t want it.
The traditional Catholic name for this refusal is “final impenitence”: the refusal to acknowledge our sins, turn away from them, and turn to God.
After Christ rose from the dead, his first gift of “Peace” to his apostolic Church was the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.
Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive
they are forgiven.

The Church’s absolution for sinners says:
God the Father of Mercies,
through the death and resurrection of his Son,
has reconciled the world to himself,
and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.

To reject the need for forgiveness is to reject God himself.
That is final— “final impenitence.”
Christ was literally dying to see us accept forgiveness … dying and rising to see us accept forgiveness.
my body
given up for you
my blood
shed for you
that sins may be forgiven

Do this in memory of me.

I send you.
Receive the Holy Spirit.
… sins you forgive
they are forgiven

That is the living memory he wants us always to have of him: dying to see us accept forgiveness, and rising as an undying offer of forgiveness.
Either we accept the eternal gift, or we blaspheme forever.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 20, 2006

I have received a good question.

"Have you ever posted reflections on the readings and not made a reference to the Eucharist?"

Towards the end of all my homilies at Mass, I always try to refer to the Eucharist. I think the homily, coming between the Gospel and the Eucharist-- or coming near the end of the Liturgy of the Word and near the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist-- ought to honor both the Gospel and the Eucharist. The homily, like the entire Liturgy, ought to be an offering of worship and a seeking of salvation.

Furthermore, just before the priest is about to say "Behold the Lamb of God..." and then consume the Eucharist, he says a prayer of preparation that implicitly wraps the Gospel and the Eucharist together:
Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of the Living God,
by the will of the Father
and the work of the Holy Spirit,
your death brought life to the world.
By your holy BODY AND BLOOD
free me from my sins and from every evil,
keep me faithful to your TEACHING
and never let me be parted from you.

The subtitle of this blog is posted at the top of this website.
The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other-- the homily worships both.

That God Be Glorified in All

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

Luke 12:1-7

Five times today in his Gospel, our Lord has spoken about “fear” or being “afraid.”
Twice he told us not to fear.
However, three times he told us to be afraid indeed.
In the middle of this lesson about fear, Jesus speaks of the one who has the power not only to kill, but also to cast into Gehenna, into the place of never-ending fire.
Jesus says, “yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.”
Almighty God has freely chosen to bring matter into existence out of nothing, to give it form, life, a human soul, and thus create each human person.
He does it all without need or obligation.
There is no explanation for it other than God’s absolute freedom, power, goodness and love.
The opening prayer of the Mass today asks, “Lord … make your love the foundation of our lives.”
That is a paradox, for the Lord’s love is the only reason we exist and live at all.
The Lord’s love is already the cause and foundation of our existence and our lives.
That we can be killed and cast into hell is not so great a cause of perplexity as is the mystery that God has created us at all— a mystery of his freedom, power, goodness and love.
Today in his Gospel, Jesus describes God as so caring that he counts one by one the hairs of our heads as if each were a treasure.
God is power, glory and infinity itself; and yet he brought us into being out of nothing, he esteems, chooses and desires us as treasure.
Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
Do not be afraid!

This mystery of God’s almighty goodness and love calls us, invites us to faith, attracts us out of the grasp of fear and into the embrace of gratitude and wonder.
Wonder and gratitude are the essence of worship.
Wonder and gratitude are the essence of holy lives.
Wonder and gratitude are aspects of fulfillment and happiness.
Wonder and gratitude are the deep thoughts and deep feelings the prayers of the Mass constantly voice.
The wonder and gratitude that Jesus himself lovingly offers to his Father, these are the food and drink he gives us by his Body and Blood.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 19, 2006

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

Luke 11:47-54)

Today the Gospel is ugly.
Jesus speaks angry words.
He began against the Pharisees.
He continues against the scribes— the lawyers of religion.
Jesus is pointing, accusing, blaming, condemning.
In response, the scribal lawyers of religion and the Pharisees plot to catch him.
Sifting through the Lord’s harsh words of bad news today, we can find two details of positive profit for ourselves.
Jesus says today that the Wisdom of God sent prophets and apostles that the forebears of the scribes killed.
From that affirmation, we can recall that God’s prophets and apostles have given us the Scriptures, the Wisdom of God.
The second affirmation we may sift out of the Gospel today is similar.
Jesus told the scribes:
you have taken away the key of knowledge;
you did not enter yourselves,
and you hindered those who were entering.

So, the Scriptures are a key, an opening, an entrance to the Wisdom of God.
The scribes would not use the key to free either themselves or the people.
Since that key to freedom comes from the Wisdom of God, using the key means hearing, following and obeying the Wisdom of God.
In a mysterious way, the Gospel today confirms or illustrates the lesson, by telling us that the scribes and Pharisees now began to press Jesus, to provoke him, to lie in wait for him, to catch him.
Jesus is the Eternal Wisdom, the Key of Freedom, the Eternal Father’s Prophet and Apostle.
The scribes and Pharisees don’t want to obey Jesus.
They want to take him away from the people.
They want to prevent the people from following him.
There have always been political scribes and political Pharisees who don’t want us to hear and follow the prophets and apostles that God sends us.
In the end, politicians— no matter what party they belong to— politicians cannot give us the freedom only God can give.
As we follow Jesus throughout our lives, we need to be responsible in the present world.
However, we need even more to be responsible and obedient to the freedom God offers us in eternal glory— because we can lose it forever.
That’s why Jesus is ugly today, accusing, blaming and condemning the scribes and Pharisees.
Jesus willingly died for the higher freedom that others feared.
But then … the resurrection of Jesus in which his human soul AND HIS HUMAN BODY have an invincible freedom from sin, suffering and death— THAT is the freedom that God plans all of us to have.
THAT is the freedom he feeds to us in the Body and Blood of Christ.
That is the freedom that we need to obey no matter what it may cost us at the hands of others.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 18, 2006

For the Feast of St. Luke, October 18

Luke 10:1-9

Today in his Gospel, the Lord sends seventy-two missionaries ahead of HIMSELF to the places HE HIMSELF intends to visit.
When they reach their destinations they are to begin with the proclamation: THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND.
When they leave each place they are to proclaim again: KNOW THAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NEAR.
Announcing the nearness of the kingdom of God, the missionaries were announcing the coming of Jesus himself.
That is the essence of the Gospel: Christ has come.
The Gospels are the voice and the presence of Christ who is God’s kingdom in flesh and blood.
When the seventy-two missionaries return rejoicing after successes in their mission, Jesus will tell them to rejoice that their names are written in heaven.
Through Christ, our names are written in heaven, and heaven is written into us.
The Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, has written Christ into our flesh, our blood and our nature.
That is good news indeed.
The good news we hear from the Gospel of Christ is the same that we eat and drink in the Eucharistic Flesh and Blood of Christ.
Here at Mass: the Holy Gospel and the Blessed Eucharist— neither one ever without the other!
In both of them, we have the promise and the presence of God’s love that transcends all the limits and possibilities of mere affection.
In the Holy Gospel and the Blessed Eucharist, we enjoy God’s ennobling and saving esteem for us.
Glory to God in the highest!

That God Be Glorified in All

October 17, 2006

For the Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, October 17

John 12:24-26

Today our Lord speaks strong, strange and violent words.
Like grains of wheat,
we bring forth much fruit by falling and dying

If we love our life in this world,
we lose it.

If we hate our life in this world,
we PRESERVE IT for eternal life.

He does not tell us to DESTROY our life in this world.
Rather, folded into his words today is the truth that we may preserve our life in this world if we love ETERNAL life more than our life in this world only.
The truth is that our life in this world is folded into eternal life, and that our eternal life is folded into our life in this world.
He says today, “Whoever hates his life in this world will preserve IT for eternal life.”
We are to hate not life itself.
Rather, we are to hate a life that ignores eternity.
At present, in this world, our lives are in disorder.
Our human nature is in disorder, out of harmony with itself.
We each have a body, a reasoning mind, free will and feelings.
These— body, mind, will, feeling—don’t always line up with each other, and never perfectly nor permanently.
That failure— that lack of order, harmony, peace— that lack is something we naturally and rightfully HATE.
God did not make us that way, and he too hates it.
Human sin made it that way.
In Christ— Truly God and Truly Man— in Christ we are justified, rectified, straightened out, put in order and harmony— body, mind, will, emotion.
Yet the order and harmony will not fully wake up until our own resurrection— if— in this world— if we have hated sin and the disordered results of sin.
Christ by word and by lifelong example shows us how to hate sin and the results of sin— how to live and die in this world so that we gain and fulfill eternal life.
St. Ignatius of Antioch gave up his life for Christ less than a century after Christ gave up his life for Ignatius and all humanity.
While in chains as pagan Rome prepared to throw him into the teeth of wild beasts, St. Ignatius enthusiastically wrote to the local Christians with the same strong, strange and violent language of today’s Gospel.
Do not stand in my way.

Let me be food for the wild beasts.

I am God’s wheat
and shall be ground by the teeth of wild beasts
so that I may become Christ’s pure bread.

He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.
The time for my birth is close at hand.

Let me attain pure light.
Only on my arrival there can I be FULLY a human being.

Do not stand in my way.

If I am condemned to suffer,
I will take it that you wish me well.
If my case is postponed,
I can only think that you wish me harm.

St. Ignatius, like Christ himself, handed himself over for the glory of the Father and for the true, eternal good of humanity.
Glory to the Father and Goodness for Humanity!
Christ the Wheat of the Father, laid down his life and gave his blood that we— in body, mind, will and feeling— that we might have life in fullness and for ever.
Now in his Eucharist, he hands over to us his body and blood to be the food and drink that are the beginning of our eternal life.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 16, 2006

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

Luke 11:29-32

Christ is infinitely greater than Solomon or Jonah, and he made himself into a sign for the world by his suffering, death and resurrection.
Christ who suffered, died and rose is the sign to be announced to the world.
On the day of Pentecost, in his first public sermon, Saint Peter ended by proclaiming the sign of Christ.
This Jesus whom you crucified, God has made him both Lord and Christ.

When they heard this, the crowd asked Peter what they should do.
Peter answered.
and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We may seek signs, but in his Gospel today Christ says, “an evil generation … seeks a sign”.
In the end, he offers no other and no higher sign than himself in his suffering, death and resurrection.
Saint Paul said simply, “We preach Christ— Christ crucified.”
What response to the sign does Christ expect?
Like the queen of the South, we are to listen.
Like the men of Nineveh, we are to repent— to turn our hearts and minds to God.
We must take to heart the words of St. Peter himself.
Repent … for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you shall receive … the Holy Spirit.

Likewise in the Eucharist, Christ gives us the sign of his suffering, death and resurrection.
Here in this sign, bread and wine pass away.
There rises from the altar none but Christ himself.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 15, 2006

For the Twenty-Eighth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 10:17-30

Jesus traveled practically non-stop during his public ministry in the final months or years before he died and rose in glory.
The Gospels name some of the persons Jesus dealt with during those months of travel and preaching.
We know the names of 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 may have been one of the women whom the Gospel again mentions as the Lord’s benefactors who watched him die on the cross, and provided supplies for his burial.
In fact, Joanna is openly named 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 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 Jesus meets a man who possessed great wealth, but whose name no one in the Gospel seems to have bothered to find out, much less remember, unlike the name of Joanna.
The rich man wants to know what he must do to have eternal life.
Jesus begins to give what at first seems an easy answer.
If you want eternal life,
keep the commandments!

Then Jesus begins to recite the commandments for the man who is kneeling in front of him.
A strange thing, however!
The Lord skips the first THREE commandments.
There are TEN commandments.
The first THREE commandments are vertical, referring us to God himself.
First. I am the Lord, your God. You shall not have other gods besides me.

Second. You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God in vain.

Third. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day.

Our Lords skips over these first three commandments.
That is strange, because the man wants to know what he must do to inherit eternal life.
Those are the three commandments that deal vertically with God.
Instead, Jesus tells the man to keep the other seven commandments— the horizontal ones that tell how to deal with human society.
The rich young man now tells Jesus that he has always obeyed those seven last commandments.
Jesus answers him, “You are lacking in one thing.”
You would think that now the Lord is going to tell him he has to obey also the three vertical commandments, the ones that deal face to face with God.
Instead, the Lord now gives him a commandment that is both horizontal and vertical.
If you would be perfect,
go, sell what you possess
and give to the poor…
and come, follow ME!

Jesus does not tell him to obey the first three commandments.
The first commandment is:
The Lord is your God. You shall not have strange gods before him.

Instead, Jesus tells the rich man:
Come, follow ME!
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, wealthy benefactress and disciple of the Lord.
Joanna abandoned the palace and a society-page reputation to follow a homeless preacher, spending her wealth to support him in life and death.
Joanna risked everything to go follow Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and God.
If you and I are to have eternal life, we must keep the commandments because Jesus says so.
Then, we must also value Christ more than anything else— more than houses, siblings, parents, children, or country.
Everything must take second place to Christ.
He called himself “The Truth and the Way and the Life.”
He repeats the commandment to follow him as Lord and God by giving us his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood.
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.

To agree to receive him in his Eucharist is to commit to following him and leaving everything else in second place at best.

That God Be Glorified in All