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 30, 2006

For the Sixth Day of Christmas

Luke 2:36-40

“Anna” is the Hebrew word for “grace” or “favor.”
This is the only time we meet the prophetess Anna in the entire Gospel.
Nonetheless, the Gospel bothers to tell us more about the personal history of Anna than about the personal histories of the apostles.
The Gospel tells us the names of her father and her tribe.
It tells us Anna married at what the Biblical language calls “the beginning of her virginity,” what we today would call the onset of puberty.
After seven years, her husband died.
She never remarried, and is now eighty-four years old.
Night and day she has always been at the Temple, praying, worshipping and fasting.
Perhaps the most important detail the Gospel gives is that Anna is a prophetess.
Who she is, what she does and says are all a message from God.
Anna shows up at the very hour when Joseph and Mary insert Jesus into the freedom of Israel by buying his life from God at the price of two birds.
Anna is there to welcome the Son of God into the human race and into the history of Israel.
So, the Gospel says, “coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God.”
Then, fulfilling her calling as a prophetess, Anna begins to speak for God.
She tells everyone who is looking for redemption and freedom to look to this holy Child.
This wondrous Child, who is the eternal Son of the Most High, now receives human freedom as well.
What does Christ do with his human freedom?
What are we to do with our human freedom?
Today the Gospel answers both questions.
The child grew and became strong,
filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

That is why Anna gave thanks to God today.
That is why Anna spent nearly all of her eighty-four years in the Temple, day and night, worshipping, praying, fasting.
Anna, too, was a free child of God’s holy people.
In her freedom, her worship, her prayer and self-sacrifice, Anna also grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon her.
Remember that “Anna” means “grace” or “favor.”
In baptism, in all the sacraments, in the Eucharist, God makes us his free sons and daughters by taking us into the freedom— both human and divine— of his eternal Son.
We— if we use this freedom— we shall grow and become strong, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God shall be upon us.
At this very hour, together with Anna, we contemplate the Child presented by Mary and Joseph.
Let us join Anna in giving thanks to God.
Let us join Anna in speaking of Christ to all who look for redemption and freedom.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 29, 2006

For December 29, the Fifth Day of Christmas

Luke 2:22-35

This is the fifth day in the Octave or “eight-day” celebration of Christmas Day.
Today, the Gospel invites us to look into the future of the newborn child.
Today in the Gospel, St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary fulfill the law of God on behalf of Jesus, and pay for his freedom as a son of Israel.
They offer up the sacrifice God required.
This law served as a reminder that God freed the people of Israel from slavery by killing every firstborn male of Egypt.
That law and its required sacrifice that Joseph and Mary offer on behalf of Jesus point our faith forward to the freedom God would give us to be his children by the sacrifice and the RESURRECTION of his Firstborn Son on the.
Today in the Gospel, the Holy Spirit of God speaks through St. Simeon, and associates the Blessed Virgin Mary with the saving work of her son.
Mary’s heart shall suffer when her Son is contradicted.
The Gospel of God simply says the Blessed Virgin Mary also shall suffer “so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Her Son “is destined for the fall and rise”— the RESURRECTION— “of many in Israel.”
Later, in the Holy Gospel according to John, we see the role Mary has in the death and resurrection of her Son.
She is to mother her Son’s disciple as a witness of the cross.
Christ tells his disciple to be mothered by Blessed Mary and her “way”.
The Gospel testifies that the disciple whom Jesus loves is a witness of the cross who takes Mary— and Mary’s mission— into his own home.
At home with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of the cross, the disciple shall receive the news of the empty tomb, the mother of the resurrection.
The glory of Christmas is fulfilled through Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
As Mary was faithful to Christ, and obediently accompanied his saving mission, let us pray for the grace to serve Christ as she did, so that we may come to the resurrection through the work of her Son.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 28, 2006

For the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28

Matthew 2:13-18

Herod’s motive was to eliminate all competition for his throne.
His victims— boys two years of age or younger— did not know what was happening.
The Church celebrates them as martyrs, not because they made a choice for Christ.
Rather, Herod made the choice to slaughter them because of Christ.
Although they themselves did not make the choice, they died in the name of Christ.
They died in the place of Christ.
Christ made a choice.
He who was innocent chose to die in the name and in the place of sinners— us.
You and I are no longer innocent two year olds.
We cannot begrudge the babies of Bethlehem the right to be honored for the sake of Christ in whose name Herod slaughtered them.
Jesus himself said:
whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine,
you did for me.

… what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.

On another occasion:
Jesus called a child over,
placed it in the midst of his disciples, and said,
“Amen, I say to you….
… whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

In her official prayers for today’s feast, the Church has a chant that celebrates the heavenly lot of the babies whose deaths pointed forward to the death of Christ who was their brother by place and time of birth.
The chant for the Holy Innocents sings to them as fellow worshippers in heaven.
Hail, blossoms of the Martyrs, who
Had scarcely seen the light,
When cruel tyrant cut you off,
As storms fresh roses blight.

First victims of the newborn Christ,
Young flock, with crowns and palms,
You play before his altar throne,
And chant your joyous psalms.

As the Holy Innocents in heaven celebrate Christ their King and ours, may they pray for us who— unlike them— have achieved a long list of years and of sins!

That God Be Glorified in All

December 27, 2006

For the Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, December 27

John 20:1a,2-8
1 John 1:1-4

The Holy Gospel according to John hands on to us an experience of Jesus as a man who puts himself right “in your face,” as the saying goes.
In this Gospel and in those New Testament letters that bear the name of St. John, Jesus is a strong personality, knowing exactly who he is and what he wants from you, and sticking it to you without hesitation or explanation.
This Gospel preserves, proclaims and hands on a living awareness that this one who “got in our faces” is the Son of God in person, born a man of real flesh and blood.
Our first reading today, the beginning of the first Letter of St. John, insists and repeats its insistence about “live contact” with Jesus.
The passage practically nags.
“I heard, saw and touched him… and I want YOU to have COMMUNION with me in that experience.”
St. John wants literally to hand on or hand over to us the real experience of hearing, seeing and touching Jesus Christ.
In the Scriptures, the liturgy and the sacraments, the Church maintains and hands on this same living awareness, this same living presence, this same communion and real experience of seeing, hearing and touching God in Christ.
We enter and receive the communion of Christ through baptism, sacred anointing and the Eucharist.
In the TRADITION, the HANDING-ON and HANDING-OVER of the sacraments, we are given to see, to hear and to touch the very same one on whose breast the beloved disciple himself laid his head at the first Eucharist.
This communion, testimony and tradition have come down to us in the sacraments of the Lord from the apostles through their successors in the Church.
Through the sacraments and the laying on of hands, going back generation to generation for two-thousand years, WE have seen, WE have heard, WE have touched, WE have received communion in the Son of God who was born a real man of real flesh and real blood.
And in the Blessed Eucharist, we bodily consume this same communion in the Son of God.
Because of the Eucharist, you and I must say: WE have seen him; WE have heard him; WE have touched him.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 26, 2006

For the Feast of Saint Stephen the First Martyr, December 26

Matthew 10:17-22
Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59

Yesterday in commemorating the birth of the Lord, we knelt upon the ground while proclaiming that he became flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Everything that our Lord did in the flesh was by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel according to St. John tells us that when the Lord died he gave up the Spirit.
The letter to the Hebrews [9:14] confirms that Christ through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to the Father.
For every believing follower of Christ it is the same.
When we live or surrender our lives for the sake of Christ, it is the power of the Father’s Holy Spirit that makes our lives, our actions, our thoughts, words, deeds and our deaths into genuine testimony on behalf of Christ.
It is the power of the Father’s Holy Spirit that makes us into authentic witnesses for Christ.
A Moslem can recite his entire creed in one breath.
“There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”
A Jew could also recite his creed in one breath.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God. The Lord alone!”
A Christian, however, would need at least two breaths.
In the first breath, he would proclaim that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit–– three persons, one God.
In the second breath, the Christian would declare that God the Son, in order to save us from sin, was born a man, died and rose from the dead.
These are the two flags of the Christian faith: the Trinity and the Incarnation.
St. Stephen was put to death because he waved these two flags.
In the very hour he was executed, he gave the longest single speech recorded in the whole Bible.
At the conclusion of this spoken testimony, the Holy Spirit gave Stephen a vision, an epiphany, a manifestation of the Trinity and the Incarnation, so that he cried out, “Look! I see the heavens opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”
For this, Stephen was put to death.
The very same epiphany is given to us here in the Eucharist by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Stephen was killed for what we believe and daily receive in the Eucharist.
Here within the hour heaven will open, and the Father will send his Sanctifying Spirit upon the bread and wine we shall offer so that they will become the body and blood of his Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
With the Eucharist, we raise the same two flags of the Trinity and the Incarnation for which St. Stephen died.
In the Eucharist we receive what St. Stephen received: the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 25, 2006

For the Mass at Dawn on Christmas Day

Luke 2:15-10

Christ is the Saving Mystery in Person.
The mother of Christ, the mother of the Saving Mystery, “kept all these things … in her heart.”
Shepherds have rushed in and told Mary and Joseph what they just heard from an angel.
Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.

The shepherds also tell Mary and Joseph that a great army from heaven joined the angel and proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The Gospel today tells us that after hearing all this from the shepherds “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
When the Saving Mystery, Christ, is twelve years old, the Gospel again tells us that Mary “his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
Mary’s heart, her interior life, is all wrapped up in her Son, Christ the Saving Mystery.
As the Gospel tells us that Mary kept and pondered the Mysteries of Christ IN HER HEART, we recognize Mary to be a woman of contemplation and prayer.
We come here everyday to the Mass, to worship God our Savior, to pray, to hear the saving mysteries of Christ, to eat and drink the saving mysteries of Christ.
Inspired by the Gospel’s testimony about Mary, we, like her, strive to keep and ponder in our own hearts the mysteries of Christ who is Eternal God but has also become a man of flesh and blood born of Mary.
On this day and at this hour, we approach the Lord in the same Body and Blood that Mary conceived in mystery and joy…
… the same Body and Blood that Mary saw changing water into wine, bringing the mystery and light of faith to his disciples at a wedding…
… the same Body and Blood that Mary saw pierced and draining in the sorrowful mystery of the cross…
… the same Body and Blood that Mary saw in the mystery of new life risen from the dead and glorified.
As we receive the Body and Blood of our Savior, let us follow the example of Mary, keeping and pondering all these things in our hearts.
When the Lord finally returns to renew and glorify our human flesh in heaven and earth, may he find his mysteries alive in our hearts, and so may we ourselves have life forever in the heart of God.

That God Be Glorified in All

For the Mass at Night on the Nativity of the Lord

Luke 2:1-14
Isaiah 9:106
Titus 2:11-14

The Gospel tonight describes Christ’s birth with four phrases.
she gave birth to her firstborn son

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes

laid him in a manger

there was no room for them in the inn

This tight report tells us nothing about the feelings of Joseph and Mary.
We don’t hear if they were sad, angry, afraid, or joyful.
However, what we hear tonight about the shepherds is that they were sorely terrified.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.

Sometimes angels brought angry or frightening messages from God.
God sometimes sent angels to kill people.
The shepherds had strong, Biblical reasons to be afraid, to be very afraid.
Tonight was to be different.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid”

During the events that led up to and surrounded the birth of Christ, this was the fourth time that an angel found it necessary to say, “Do not be afraid!”
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, met an angel who told him of the things to come.
“Do not be afraid!”
The Blessed Virgin Mary met an angel who greatly disturbed her with the greeting, “Hail, all-filled with grace!”
“Do not be afraid!”
Joseph, who would be the husband of Mary, met an angel who told him what was happening with his bride-to-be.
“Do not be afraid!”
Now Christ is born, and it is the turn of the shepherds to meet with an angel.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold,
I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Great joy is to take the place of great fear.
Zechariah, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and the shepherds— they all heard an angel of the Lord say, “Do not be afraid!”
Then the angel gave them God’s plan of goodness and great joy.
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord

Three titles: Savior, Christ, Lord.
In the usual thinking of God’s ancient people, those titles meant that God chose, anointed and sent the newborn to lead Israel in victory over the entire world.
If he were to lead Israel to triumph, then he would need an army.
The shepherds saw the army.
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Battle Cry and Victory Song of Heaven’s Army!
Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

That is the battle cry of Christ the Lord and Savior himself.
However, he did not come to take up sword and spear to lead Israel in war against Caesar Augustus.
The battle of Christ was to give highest glory to the Father, and to do so in such a way that men and women would come to peace with God.
The mortal enemy of God’s glory and mortal enemy of our being at peace with God— the mortal enemy is sin.
The battleground is my heart and your hearts, our thoughts, our choices, and our actions.
Are we ready for war?
The shepherds were afraid.
Zechariah was afraid.
St. Joseph was afraid.
Even the Blessed Virgin Mary was afraid.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid.”

I am afraid.
I could die defeated and conquered by my own sins.
Jesus never sinned, and still he died.
That, however, is precisely how he won the victory.
The Word of the Lord in the second reading tonight said that:
our great God and savior Jesus Christ…
gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.

He was born to give himself in flesh and blood as a new and everlasting covenant so that sins may be forgiven.
Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

The night they heard the angelic battle cry of Christ, the shepherds had been keeping the night watch.
They were standing guard against wild beasts and robbers.
If we would receive joy and victory from the Savior, Christ the Lord, then we too must keep the watch, standing guard against sin.
When we receive word that Christ is to be found no longer in a manger, but in a moment of prayer, in a celebration of worship, in service and charity, in the practice of justice, in turning away from sin— wherever and whenever we know that Christ is to be found, then we must go to him as the shepherds did.
As the second reading tells us:
The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age

The grace of God once appeared as a child of flesh and blood in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
He still comes in flesh and blood under the appearances of food and drink, inviting us to join him in a new and everlasting covenant, an exchange of promises.
We have come to find him here in his flesh and blood, and to promise to carry his victory into our lives.
Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 24, 2006

For the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:39-45
Micah 5:1-4a
Hebrews 10:5-10.

The Holy Spirit fills the voice of St. Elizabeth, and shouts.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

This is the first testimony in the Gospel to the bodily presence of Jesus on earth.
He is the fruit of Mary’s womb.
He is the eternal Lord, and Mary is now his mother in flesh and blood.
The arrival of the pregnant Blessed Virgin Mary becomes the moment for St. Elizabeth’s own unborn son, John the Baptist, to leap for joy within her.
The divine pregnancy of the Blessed Virgin Mary fills St. Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit.
All of that happens because Mary believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.
The angel of the Lord told Mary that her child would save the world from sin.
Because salvation from sin has now begun, the Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth.
Because salvation from sin has now begun on earth, John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother’s womb.
Joy … we all really want it— and we want it never to end.
God wants us to have joy that never ends.
Where can we find it?
How can we have it?
The bigger question is, “Why don’t we have it, why don’t we have joy that never ends?”
The deepest and oldest answer is that sin derailed the universe.
Original sin: the first man and woman straying from God.
Ongoing sin: every man and woman straying from God.
The test of our faith now is that even if we obey God we have no guarantee that our life on earth is going to be pleasant.
Even though the Son of God remained perfectly faithful, his own earthly life ended on a cross.
In the Letter to the Hebrews today, we heard of the death of Jesus.
When Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me….
… behold, I come to do your will….”
By this will we have been consecrated
through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Mysteriously, the sadness and the death of Jesus open the way for us to have everlasting joy and life.
Like a groom to his bride, God the Son has consecrated himself to our humanity:
I promise to be true to you
in good times and in bad,
in sickness and in health.
I will love you and honor you
all the days of my life.

God in Christ united himself to our human realities, even united himself to a human death.
But God and death are irreconcilable, so there was an explosion: the resurrection.
God’s resurrection!
God’s HUMAN resurrection!
The resurrection of Christ is the renewal and everlasting triumph of God’s wedding vows to humanity!
I am true to you
in goodness and salvation.
I love you
and I honor you with the resurrection.

He did not rise from the dead for himself.
Rather, in rising from the dead he took our humanity into undefeatable, everlasting joy and life.
Even though we still die, we acknowledge that God in Christ has opened the way for us to live and rejoice without end.
We can begin to taste the everlasting joy that God has opened for us.
We can begin to taste it if we begin to open ourselves to God.
We open to God by time spent in prayer and worship.
We open to him by serving the welfare of others.
We open to God by wise and balanced use of earthly goods— and by remaining awake to the danger of attaching our hearts to things as if they were gods.
Through all of that work we can begin to taste the everlasting joy that God has already opened for us.
Then, one day St. Elizabeth can say to us what she said to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

On that day it will be our inheritance to echo the other words of St. Elizabeth.
And how does this happen to me,
that through the Body and Blood of my Lord
his joy and life should come to me?

Then, with St. John the Baptist, we also shall leap for joy.

- - - -

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….

That God Be Glorified in All