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.

December 16, 2006

For Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

Matthew 17:9a,10-13

The Lord Jesus and his disciples, Peter, James and John, are coming down from the Transfiguration of the Lord.
Elijah and Moses had both appeared in glory next to Jesus.
Jesus explains now that the mission of Elijah is the mission of John the Baptist, the new Elijah.
The mission is to restore the tribes of Israel in preparation for the day of the Lord.
John prepared the tribes of Israel by calling them to conversion from sin.
That conversion had already begun to take root.
However, as Jesus recalls today, not all chose to recognize John; and John suffered and died at the hands of men.
Nonetheless, the mission of conversion that John carried out had already taken root.
The preparations for the day of the Lord were fulfilled.
So now the mission of Christ the Lord shines forth— shining even bodily with the glory of heaven in the Transfiguration.
Just as in Christ personally, so also for us: God would have his own glory shine from our hearts and minds and bodies.
It will be so in the day of our resurrection if we have prepared for that final day of the Lord.
The preparation remains the same as in the work of John the Baptist: preparation by conversion from sin.
In the Eucharistic flesh and blood of Christ, the glory of God comes into our flesh and blood.
Through ongoing conversion we embrace that glory.
Without our conversion, the Eucharist is as fruitless in our lives as the mission of John the Baptist was fruitless in the life of King Herod.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 15, 2006

For Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Matthew 11:16-19

John the Baptist lived a thoroughly penitential life.
He lived alone in the desert.
He wore animal skins.
He ate coarse, wild food.
He preached repentance, scolded sinners, and he marked their conversion with a public ritual washing in the Jordan River.
Our Lord, on the other hand, was not known for practicing a life of extraordinary penance.
Some people complained that Jesus associated with publicly known sinners.
Nonetheless, Christ was as concerned as John the Baptist about sin.
If someone approached the Lord to seek a healing of the BODY, the Lord often answered by saying, “Your SINS are forgiven” [Mt. 9:2; Mk. 2:5; Lk. 5:20].
Those uninvited words of forgiveness are also an implicit accusation of sin.
The Lord went about accusing people of being sinners.
Even when he would not publicly condemn to death the woman caught in adultery, he told her to her face, “Go, and DO NOT SIN AGAIN!” [Jn. 8:11]
John the Baptist’s way of life was penance twenty-four hours a day.
Christ’s mission in life was a search for sinners, a search in which he explicitly or implicitly accused men of sin and forgave them as well.
John the Baptist died for denouncing the sins of a king.
Going farther than John the Baptist ever could, Christ offered up his own sinless self for the sins of the whole world and all history.
Together with John the Baptist, Christ fulfills the meaning of the words he spoke today: “wisdom is vindicated by her works.”
Like John and Christ, we are to be wise in denouncing sin.
We are to be wise in doing penance— both for our own sins and for the sins of the world.
In giving us his Eucharist, our Lord commands us to be mindful of his own concern for sin.
This is my body … given up for you.
This is … my blood … shed … that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me!

Both John the Baptist and the incarnate Son of God teach us the wisdom of the children of God.
As we await the return in glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are wise to be ready for him by seeking always the forgiveness of sins.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 14, 2006

For Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

Matthew 11:11-15

The words of Jesus in his Gospel today fall in the middle of a chapter in which he himself presumes the authority to upbraid cities and citizens for their lack of faith in his own mighty works.
At the end of this chapter he even dares to address the “Lord of heaven and earth” as his “Father”, and dares to tell his listeners:
All things have been delivered to me by my Father;
and no one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

In the words of the Lord’s Gospel today, we have heard him effectively “canonize” St. John the Baptist, because John also testified to the authority and the identity of Christ.
The Lord has told us of John that he is:
more than a prophet.
This is he of whom it is written,
“Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,
who shall prepare thy way before thee.”
Truly, I say to you,
among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.

John seems to have been expecting a “Mighty One” who would sweep the world with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Instead, Jesus appears to be more the meek and humble.
Now, however, John in prison has begun to hear about the wondrous works of Jesus.
So John sent a question to Jesus, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
Jesus answers that he himself performs the works of the Anointed One whom God promised to send: that the blind would receive their sight, the lame would walk, lepers would be cleansed, the deaf would hear, the dead would be raised up, and the poor would have the good news preached to them.
Then Jesus includes as the final words of his answer to John an admonition and a blessing: “Blessed is he who takes no offense at me”.
Now Jesus proclaims John’s blessed greatness to the gathered crowd.
John truly was the messenger God sent to prepare the way for Jesus.
John announced the presence and the mission of Jesus.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Years before John began to speak, Mary also prepared the way for Jesus and the kingdom of God.
Mary announced:
Behold the servant of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word.

The roles of the Virgin Mother and John the Baptist still prepare us here in the Gospel and the Eucharist, where we hear and receive Christ and his wondrous work of Christ.
Here in the Liturgy, in the presence of Christ, we can and do echo the words of John the Baptist and the Virgin Mother that prepare us to echo the prayer of Jesus himself.
Behold us, O Lamb of God!
Take away our sins!

Behold your servants!
Let it be done with us according to your word!

Thy will be done!
Thy kingdom come!

That God Be Glorified in All

December 13, 2006

For Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent

Matthew 11:28-30
Isaiah 40:25-31

In the first reading, we hear God tell us:
They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
they will soar as with… wings.
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.

Then, in the Gospel, the Lord invites us to receive from him a yoke that gives rest and ease.
That is a paradox, because a yoke is for pulling a load, a burden.
However, just before speaking today’s Gospel, Christ unfolded the meaning of the yoke of rest and ease he offers us.
My Father has handed all things over to me.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

The restful, easy and light “yoke” that Christ invites us to come and receive from him is Christ’s own intimate knowledge of the Father, Christ’s own intimate communion with the Father.
Come to me,
all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.

We can find rest and ease in intimate knowledge of the Father and intimate communion with him.
Our temptations, our sins and our sinfulness make for labor and a heavy burden.
Temptation and our sins make war against our knowledge of the Father and against our union with the Father.
Temptation and our sins also make war against our knowledge of our authentic selves as we came from the hand of God.
Temptation and sin wage war against our own personal spiritual freedom.
The load of sin, the entire history of sin, all the effects of sin, the complete burden of penalty for all sin— Christ shouldered and carried off that entire load— the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world did so by shouldering the yoke of the cross unto death.
Only after having labored under that burden did he arrive at the lightsome glory of the resurrection.
Newly risen from the dead, he again spoke of intimacy, knowledge and communion with the Father.
I am ascending to my Father and your Father.

In the end the yoke of Christ gives ease, rest and light.
Learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart.

Take my yoke upon you….

my yoke
my body
my blood
given up for you
shed for you
that sins may be forgiven

In his Eucharist, he still takes our burden onto his own shoulders.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 11, 2006

For Monday of the Second Week of Advent

Luke 5:17-26
Isaiah 35:1-10

The paralyzed man, his helpful friends, and the whole jam-packed crowd got more from Jesus than they expected or even believed.
No one asked for forgiveness of sins.
Yet the first thing the Lord did was to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Then, in order to demonstrate that he indeed had divine power and authority to forgive sins, he spoke once more, healing the man of his paralysis, by saying simply, “Rise, take up your bed and go home.”
Christ Jesus our Lord, True God and True Man— purely spiritual since he is God, and truly a man of flesh and blood born two thousand years ago— he was, is and always will be savior of both soul and body.
He has demonstrated this fact today in both forgiving the sins and healing the body of the paralyzed man.
We are neither soul alone nor body alone, but both together.
When Christ returns as judge at the end of the world, it will be not only to judge souls for their sins and lead holy ones into heaven.
He will come also to restore the bodies of his faithful ones in a life that language barely begins to describe by calling it “a new heaven AND A NEW EARTH.”
Whenever we profess our faith by acknowledging baptism for the forgiveness of sins, we also declare that “we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”.
Today in the Gospel we saw our Lord God and Savior forgive sins and restore a man’s body from the death of paralysis.
We look forward to his return when he will do the same: forgive sins and restore bodies.
Later in the Mass today, in what is called “the preface” [Preface of Advent I]we will speak to the Father about the day of his Son’s return to us.
Now we watch for the day,
hoping that the salvation promised will be ours
when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory.

That prayer, by the way, is one thousand four hundred years old, and was originally used on the feast of Christ’s Ascension, his passing from sight into heaven from whence he will return.
When he does return at the end of the present world, it will be to fulfill what he began long ago as told in the Gospel today, and that he continues to do and promise in the sacraments and the Eucharist: save us from our sins, and restore to our bodies health and life.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 10, 2006

For the Second Sunday of Advent

Luke 3:1-6
Baruch 5:1-9
Philippians 1:4-6,8-11

In fifteen days we will observe the fulfillment of more than two thousand years of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To commemorate his human birth is one way that we keep in mind his presence in our lives.
We are also waiting for his return in glory as king and judge to usher in the new heavens and the new earth.
Today the Lord’s Gospel teaches us how to live in the Lord’s presence NOW— as well as how to be ready for his final return at any moment.
Our preparation is always the same— whether for his first coming in the flesh centuries ago, or for his spiritual presence and power now, or for his return at the end of time.
John the Baptist proclaims “a baptism of REPENTANCE for the forgiveness of sins.”
Prepare the way of the Lord.
All flesh shall see the salvation of God.

The way we use the word “repentance” in English does not completely match the meaning of the Gospel’s original Greek word.
The original Greek word of the Gospel is metánoia, whose literal meaning is “change of mind.”
The Gospel today tells us that change of mind is our role in receiving the forgiveness of sin.
A change of mind prepares the way of the Lord in our lives.
A change of mind makes us ready for salvation.
It makes us ready to see God.
A change of mind is no small thing.
This is how the Gospel today describes the landscape of a changed mind.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth.

Get the explosives, and flatten the mountains.
Get the bulldozers, and fill in the valleys.
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
All flesh shall see the salvation of God.

To change our minds about sin, to be ready for God, to cooperate with him in our own lives is work that sometimes needs to be violent.
Today in his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul puts it this way.
that your love may increase…
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value
so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness

“That your love may increase in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value.”
“To discern what is of value”— there is the repentance or CHANGE OF MIND: “to discern what is of value.”
If we count the Lord himself to be our most valuable treasure, and if we are willing to use explosives and earthmoving equipment on ourselves in order to be ready and available for him, then we can trust that he has already arrived in our lives.
The paradox is that God counts us as valuable treasure.
He came looking for us in person— in flesh and blood— more than two thousand years ago.
By the violence of a cross and nails, the Lord beat a path across his own body in order to be with us even unto death, that we might be with him even unto eternal resurrection.
Today we heard the prophet Baruch gush on about God’s plan for us.
Take off your robe of mourning and misery;
put on the splendor of glory from God forever:
wrapped in the cloak of justice from God,
bear on your head … the glory of the eternal name.
For God will show all the earth your splendor.
For God has commanded
that every lofty mountain be made low,
and that the age-old depths and gorges
be filled to level ground,
that his people may advance secure in the glory of God.

The last words of the Gospel today underline this ancient prophecy: “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
In the flesh and blood of Christ, in the Eucharist, the Scriptures are fulfilled.
God is on the way right now.
Are we?

That God Be Glorified in All