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 23, 2006

For the Twenty-Third of December

Luke 1:57-66

A week after the birth of his son, the priest Zechariah confirmed in writing that the baby would have the name “John”, which means “God has shown favor”, or “God is gracious”.
With such a name, was John himself a gracious man?
Later on, in his preaching, John comes across as less than gracious.
Threatening the people with warnings of punishment for sin, John proclaimed:
Every tree that does not bear good fruit
is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Wheat is gathered into a barn,
but the empty husks are swept up
and burned in unending fire.

John’s manner of life as a man was one of harsh penance.
There is paradox in all of this.
With a God-given name that means, “God has shown favor”, or “God is gracious”, how did John end up punishing his own body and threatening people with hellfire?
The clue to reconciling John’s harsh style with God’s gracious favor comes when for the first time we see John meet Jesus face to face.
That happens while John is baptizing crowds of sinners in the Jordan River, and Jesus is among them.
John looks into the crowd, sees Jesus and says aloud:
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Right there in that cry of recognition and that choice of words is a clue for reconciling John’s prophetic penances with the gracious favor of God.
“Behold, the Lamb of God whose flesh and blood will be sacrificed to atone for sin and pay for God’s gracious favor and mercy.”
God’s gracious favor in Christ is not the mere cancellation of a debt.
God’s in Christ paid the price for his own mercy— paying off the debt of sin with his own flesh and blood.
Christ’s human flesh and blood, sacrificed for sin, and present in the Eucharist— soon present on this very altar— the human body and blood of God the Son are given to us, his brothers and sisters in flesh and blood— his brothers and sisters in God the Father.
The Eucharist is the prodigy, the promise, the presence and the price God paid for mercy.
John’s harsh penance is not an effort to buy God’s mercy.
Rather, his penance and his preaching are a movement of love and thanksgiving, pointing forward, asking for and echoing the price of God’s mercy paid in flesh and blood— the very payment we are privileged to receive in the Eucharist.

- - - -

The Preface of the Mass for December 18-24

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets.
The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.
John the Baptist was his herald
and made him known when at last he came.
In his love Christ has filled us with joy
as we prepare to celebrate his birth,
so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer,
our hearts filled with wonder and praise.

And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:
Holy, holy, holy….

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







December 22, 2006

For the Twenty-Second of December

Luke 1:46-56

In a wondrous paradox of nature, Mary gave human birth to her own CREATOR.
Under the hovering shadow of God’s power, Mary ever virgin became the human mother of the Son of God.
Just like Mary, the Church has received the veil of the Holy Spirit.
Under the same hovering shadow of God’s holy power, the Church in Baptism gives birth to us whom God himself calls his own sons and daughters.
Baptized, we are the children whom God has fathered and chosen.
We are the redeemed image of his Son our redeemer.
We are holy in God’s eyes, because he has given us his Spirit.
Out of nothing the Father created us.
Out of sin the Son has redeemed us.
Out of all creation, the Spirit sets us apart, consecrating us as God’s own holy possession.
We were nothing and have done nothing that the Almighty should have chosen to do this immeasurably great a thing for us.
Together with Mary, then,
let our souls magnify the Lord,
and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior,
for he has set his eyes upon the lowliness of us his servants;
all generations in the world to come shall call us blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for us.
Forevermore his mercy rests upon us.
He has exalted us, the lowly.
With good things he has filled us, who were nothing.
Ever consumed by his own mercy, he has saved us, his servants.

Two thousand years ago, Mary received the Savior, the Son of God, and with every fiber of her being she sang the joyous praises of God.
Only a soul of complete or great purity could say with simple truth: MY SOUL GLORIFIES THE LORD.
No sinner could make that claim directly and with such simplicity.
God himself by an angelic word makes that claim for Mary: HAIL, FULL-OF-GRACE!
Mary echoes the God-given claim: MY SOUL GLORIFIES THE LORD.
The graced purity that allows her to say that in simple truth comes to her from God.
Mary proclaims what God has done for her.
God my Savior has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me.

In the person of Mary, God has purified and prepared earthly humanity to give birth to its own Savior.
Today in the Eucharist, the Church and we in the Church continue to receive the Savior, the Son of God.
Though we are sinners— and since we are sinners— let all that is in us strive to imitate Mary, singing the greatness of the Lord, and rejoicing in God our Savior.

- - - -

The Preface of the Mass for December 18-24

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets.
The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.
John the Baptist was his herald
and made him known when at last he came.
In his love Christ has filled us with joy
as we prepare to celebrate his birth,
so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer,
our hearts filled with wonder and praise.

And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:
Holy, holy, holy….

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







December 21, 2006

For the Twenty-First of December

Luke 1:39-45

As Mary went in haste into the hill country, her body carried the growing flesh and blood of God.
God entered the world of time and space.
He took on the nature, flesh and blood of our humanity.
Even as an embryonic baby he had the power of the Spirit to make known his secret presence and his divinity, and to cause another unborn baby to kick for joy.
Mary has been carrying a Child of flesh and blood for only a short time.
However, the Person who is that Child is God from before the creation of the universe.
That is the unbelievable scandal and glory of God’s plan for us.
He does not remain entirely beyond us.
He does not sprinkle our salvation into our souls from beyond the sky.
He has come to be our salvation IN THE FLESH.
In doing so, our Creator shows his primordial judgment that the world and ALL FLESH is good.
Our world IS deeply afflicted by sin and suffering, so it can be easy to think the flesh is only a thing of sin and suffering— only that and nothing more.
That is not the truth about us.
It is not the plan of God.
He comes to turn upside down this world of sin and suffering.
His plan, then, looks upside down to the world.
The living God shows the truth of his boundless love by extending himself in his Son really and truly into OUR nature, OUR flesh and OUR blood.
In his love he pours himself freely and completely into every abyss of sin and suffering that we must undergo.
In his freedom and the excess of his love, he personally undergoes the worst of our human lot: to die and to know the God-forsaken abandonment brought on by sin.
He has taken into his embrace and into his very self the whole bloody spectrum of human misery.
Nothing in the world is a barrier to God’s personal real presence and love.
Mary’s virginity was and is no barrier.
Your sins and mine are no barrier.
Human life is no barrier.
Death is no barrier.
God has taken all of it to himself.
He has personally taken on everything that is human, both the best and the worst.
In return, it is his plan to have us completely take on the glory of his divinity.
That is his plan.
Now in his Eucharist, he lays out his plan in the form of food and drink.
In this sacrament, bread and wine give way to the power of the Spirit and the Son of God in his real flesh and blood.
God comes to displace sin in our own flesh and blood so that we might be revealed as sons and daughters of God, bearers of his Spirit.
We watch for the day when Christ will return and bring this plan to its final fulfillment in all the sons and daughters of God.

- - - -

The Preface of the Mass for December 18-24

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets.
The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.
John the Baptist was his herald
and made him known when at last he came.
In his love Christ has filled us with joy
as we prepare to celebrate his birth,
so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer,
our hearts filled with wonder and praise.

And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:
Holy, holy, holy….

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







December 20, 2006

For the Twentieth of December

Luke 1:26-38.

On the night Christ was born, the angels sang of the two concerns that consumed the mind and heart of Christ on earth.
The first concern is the worship of the Father: "Glory to God in the highest!"
The second concern is the salvation of the human race: "on earth peace to men!"
Worship … Salvation.
Christ is perfect human worship of the Father.
Christ is God’s perfect salvation of mankind.
His perfect worship of the Father and his perfect salvation of mankind continue on earth through the power of the Spirit and the free collaboration of men and women.
By the power of the Holy Spirit and Mary’s collaborating consent, Mary provided conceived the humanity of God the Son of the Heavenly Father.
This is the pattern for the workings of grace throughout history and throughout our lives: a pattern of collaboration between the power of God and the free consent of human beings.
The power of God and the cooperation of human free will— these two always work together in all sincere worship.
These two always work together to bring us to salvation.
Christ is our salvation in flesh and blood.
By human birth and by his own intention, Christ was the salvation of our race.
He was the perfect worship of the Father.
His death was his final fulfillment of offering up the whole human race in himself for the glory of the Eternal Father, for us and for our salvation.
In Christ our nature and our bodies have risen and ascended to the Father in heaven.
In Christ the power of the Spirit overshadows us as the new sons and daughters of God.
By our consent and collaboration with the power of the Father, all of this can come to fulfillment in us according to the Word of the Lord.
Let him who is mighty do great things for us, even as he did them with the consent of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

- - - -

The Preface of the Mass for December 18-24

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets.
The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.
John the Baptist was his herald
and made him known when at last he came.
In his love Christ has filled us with joy
as we prepare to celebrate his birth,
so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer,
our hearts filled with wonder and praise.

And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:
Holy, holy, holy….

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







December 19, 2006

For the Nineteenth of December

Luke 1:5-25

The Hebrew name “John” means “God has shown favor”, or “God is gracious”.
This is the name, the life and the mission of Zechariah’s son: to proclaim that God has shown his gracious favor.
The Gospel tells us that John’s birth and life were to bring joy and gladness to many, for he would be great in the eyes of the Lord.
He would be filled with the Holy Spirit.
He would bring God’s people back to the Lord.
With the spirit and power of the greatest of prophets, John would run ahead of God to prepare the people for the Lord and his gracious favor.
It is a paradox that John would bring joy by preaching a baptism of repentance.
He would make known to the people salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.
John’s life, work and preaching are a true image of Advent in which we are to turn away from sin, look forward longingly with the joy of the Holy Spirit to the presence of the Lord.
We do so today in the company of the angel Gabriel, Zechariah, Elizabeth and John.
In these final days of Advent, the Holy Spirit works through the Gospel and the Sacraments to make us witnesses to the dawning of the Savior of the world, a dawning announced by another angelic visitation.
We witness Gabriel again, the Angel of the Good News, announcing our salvation to Joseph and Mary.
We witness Mary’s wholehearted “Yes”.
Through the testimony of the Gospel, we are witnesses of the Word being made flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit and dwelling among us.
Each day in the Eucharist, we receive the Lord who became flesh and blood by the power of the Holy Spirit.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Eucharist is Christ’s flesh and blood.
In his Eucharist he dwells among us.
In his Eucharist we have a dwelling place in him.
In him is our salvation and the forgiveness of our sins, just as John announced.

- - - -

The Preface of the Mass for December 18-24

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets.
The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.
John the Baptist was his herald
and made him known when at last he came.
In his love Christ has filled us with joy
as we prepare to celebrate his birth,
so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer,
our hearts filled with wonder and praise.

And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:
Holy, holy, holy….

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







December 18, 2006

For the Eighteenth of December

Matthew 1:18-25

The angel of the Lord commanded Joseph to fulfill the role of a father to the one who is “God-with-us” on earth.
You are to name him JESUS
[which means “God is salvation”],
because he will save his people from their sins.

As the husband of Mary, Joseph had the public, legal role of giving Mary’s child a name.
You are to name him JESUS [meaning, “God is salvation”].

The Gospel does not tell us of any other words Joseph ever spoke.
We may be sure nonetheless that he once said, “His name will be JESUS.”
With that one short phrase, Joseph is the first human being to sum up the Gospel.
His name will be JESUS-- “God is salvation”.

Joseph is the first man to announce the as yet unrecognized good news to Israel: THIS CHILD IS OUR SAVING GOD.
We worship the Divine Man-Child in his flesh and blood.
The Divine Man-Child is our saving God in his Eucharistic flesh and blood, swelling the world with salvation even now, as once he did the womb of the Virgin Mary.


- - - -


The Preface of the Mass for December 18-24


The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets.
The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.
John the Baptist was his herald
and made him known when at last he came.
In his love Christ has filled us with joy
as we prepare to celebrate his birth,
so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer,
our hearts filled with wonder and praise.

And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:
Holy, holy, holy….

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







December 17, 2006

For the Third Sunday of Advent

Luke 3:10-18
Zephaniah 3:14-18
Philippians 4:4-7

The prophet Zephaniah, whom we heard in the first reading, Zephaniah foretold the same event whose arrival John the Baptist later announced and witnessed in person.
Zephaniah prophesied:
The Lord has removed the judgment against you.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst.
Fear not,
be not discouraged!
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will renew you in his love.

In the second reading today, we have also heard the apostle Saint Paul speak in a similar way of the second coming of the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord always!
I shall say it again.
Rejoice!
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all!
The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds.

Paul the apostle and Zephaniah the prophet announce that God’s presence, his saving might, his renovating love and his peace are standing guard over us.
This is true both as we prepare to commemorate his birthday at Christmas and as we strive to be ready for his second coming.
The Lord, your God, is near.

Rejoice in the Lord always!
I shall say it again: rejoice!

However, as we turn to hear what John the Baptist might say in the Gospel today about rejoicing in the nearness of God, we abruptly find ourselves confronted with accountability for the practice of ordinary charity and ordinary justice.
Saint John the Baptist has a message today that amounts to the following.
If you’ve got clothes and food,
then share some with those who don’t!
And, whatever your job is,
always do the right thing!

Then, John begins to unfold why we need to do good to the poor and do good at work.
Unfortunately, John starts to remind me of a seasonal song I hate.
“You better watch out! You-Know-Who is coming to town.”
John puts it somewhat this way.
If you’ve been good to the poor and good at work,
Christ who is coming will cover you with the Holy Spirit.
He will gather you like precious food into his heavenly treasury.
However,
if you have ignored the poor and have done wrong at work,
Christ who is coming will baptize you with fire,
burning you up like empty husks.

“You better watch out! CHRIST THE LORD is coming to town.”
The paradox is that the Gospel says this message of John the Baptist was “GOOD NEWS to the people.”
Good news!
John’s puritan message brought joy to others and to himself.
Elsewhere in the Gospel [Jn. 3:28-30] John himself sums up what he is all about in this way.
I have been sent before the Christ.
He is the bridegroom.
I am his friend,
standing and hearing him,
rejoicing greatly at his voice.
My joy is now full.
He must stand out evermore,
and I must fade away.
My joy is now full.

John tells the people they better watch out and do good because John wants them ready and able to rejoice in Christ.
Joy— or happiness— follows upon charity and justice: integrity towards the poor and integrity on the job.
Christ is the great gift of happiness— the boundless and everlasting gift that brings fullness, fulfillment and peace to us.
We, like John the Baptist, need to prepare the way for the everlasting joy that Christ gives.
How?
Here in the Eucharist, Christ himself fulfills the preparations that John taught the people.
Here in the Eucharist, Christ is the food of heaven shared in integrity with us who are poor because we are not yet in heaven.
Here in the Eucharist, Christ is at work for his Father, fulfilling his mission in integrity.
We make ourselves ready for Christmas, for the Eucharist and for the Second Coming simply by doing what is good and right.

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All