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.

June 24, 2007

For the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, June 24

[It is not my turn to preach in the monastery today. Here is a homily I have preached before for this solemnity.]


Luke 1:57-66,80

From the time of John’s birth his father speaks to him of the tender mercy of our God.
How did John grow up into a man who punished his own body and threatened people with hellfire?
We don’t know for certain when John had his first face-to-face meeting with the Incarnate Mercy of God.
The first time we see them meet face to face, 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 tender mercy of his God.
We might like to think that God’s mercy simply consists in God saying, “Forget it ever happened— I’ve wiped it off the face of history.”
Instead, God has chosen to do infinitely much more than that.
He became a real man of real human flesh and blood.
Behold, the Lamb of God whose flesh and blood will be sacrifice to atone for sin and pay for mercy.
God’s mercy in Christ is not the mere cancellation of a debt.
God’s mercy in Christ consists in God paying the price for his own mercy— paying off the debt of sin with his own flesh and blood.
However, his flesh and blood belong to our humanity.
In Christ, our nature, bodies, flesh and blood have become the place, the event and the price of God’s mercy.
We are not spectators, but participants.
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 price of God’s mercy.
In the Body and Blood of Christ, we are not mere spectators of this price.
We are participants.
We are participants in Christ’s Body and Blood that prove, proclaim and pay the price of God’s mercy.
The Eucharist is the prodigy, the promise, the presence and the price God paid for mercy.
John’s penance is not an effort to buy God’s mercy.
Rather, his penance is a sign of love and thanksgiving, yearning to point forward to and echo the price of God’s mercy— a price paid in flesh and blood so as to offer more than a mere cancellation of debt.
John’s rough diet, his camel skin clothing and solitary life in the desert all point towards the price God paid for mercy.
John, then, does not contradict the song of tender mercy his father sang when John was born.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people...
to perform the mercy promised...
that we... might serve him without fear...
all the days of our life.
AND YOU, CHILD... WILL GO BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS,
TO GIVE KNOWLEDGE OF SALVATION TO HIS PEOPLE IN THE FORGIVENESS OF THEIR SINS,
THROUGH THE TENDER MERCY OF OUR GOD

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







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