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.

March 28, 2007

For a Lenten Celebration of the Sacrament of the Forgiveness of Sins

Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

The Church gave us this Gospel on Ash Wednesday.
In this Gospel Jesus tells us to do things secretly for the heavenly Father to see in secret, and then our heavenly Father will repay us for them.
Jesus gives us that pattern three times in this Gospel: if you act secretly, your Father will see secretly, and he will repay you.
Quietly give alms to the poor.
Pray intimately to your Father.
Secretly deprive your appetite.
Let your Father see these three things in secret, and your Father will repay you.
Jesus will go on to say that the payback is a treasure.  [Mt. 6:19-21]
The treasure is heaven— God’s home.
Have you— have I— have we each come any closer to God, to being at home with God, at peace with God?
Or have we not?
And is that the story of our lives?
The three secrets Jesus gives us in this Gospel are three ways for living as children of the Father.
God’s children help the poor.
God’s children spend time alone with him in prayer.
God’s children deprive themselves in fasting as a reminder that God is their real food, their real treasure, their real home, and their real Father.
Have we each lived as God’s children?
Have we neglected to live as God’s children?
Have we refused to live as God’s children?
Not long from today, the children of God will celebrate the Solemn Festival of the Resurrection— the homecoming of the sons and daughters of God in Christ!
By confessing our sins and asking forgiveness, we make a fresh start on the road home.
And God sees.
And God repays.
He wants his children home.

That God Be Glorified in All

March 25, 2007

For the Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 8:1-11
Isaiah 43:16-21
Philipppians 3:8-14

Today in the Gospel, Christ is teaching in the compound of God’s Holy Temple.
The holy house of God— God eternal, almighty and most holy— that is where a mob of lawyers and Pharisees drags in a woman they have caught in adultery.
By the laws that God gave, all persons guilty of adultery were to be killed by stoning.
However, the laws of Roman occupation forbade the Jews to execute their own criminals.
All executions were reserved to the Roman government.
Today, however, the mob attempts to manipulate Christ into breaking Roman law.
The mob drags into the house of God a woman caught in adultery.
They put her before Christ, and there in the HOUSE of God they cite the LAW of God regarding those who commit adultery.
If Christ tells them simply to leave her alone, then he will have publicly discredited himself inside the house of God by appearing to contradict the law of God and to defend sin.
If instead Christ should dare to play God by pronouncing forgiveness for the woman, then the mob can stone Christ to death for speaking blasphemy against God inside the house of God with God as witness.
If however Christ says that the woman should be put to death according to God’s law, then the mob could inform the Romans that Christ incited others to break Roman law.
So, having dragged in a woman guilty of adultery, the mob of scribes and Pharisees has Christ pinned on three possible points.
In the house of God, with heaven itself as witness, Christ has to defend, or attack, or forgive the adulteress.
On any one of these points, the mob would be able to defeat or destroy him.
How does Christ answer?
In silence, he bends down, and begins to write in the dust with his finger.
The noisy mob continues to press its case.
After a bit, Christ stands up straight, and— with one sentence— tosses their case over on top of their own heads.
Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.

If we look at the original language of the Gospel, Christ is saying something more like this.
Let THE SINLESS ONE among you
be the first to throw a stone at her.

There inside the HOUSE OF GOD, the SINLESS ONE among them is GOD HIMSELF.
The mob of scribes and Pharisees knows well that Christ is telling them to let GOD be the first to throw a stone at her.
Now, if any man in the mob would dare to act against this woman— or against Christ— that man would himself be guilty of playing GOD THE SINLESS ONE inside the house of GOD THE SINLESS ONE.
That man himself would then be guilty of grievous blasphemy and deserve to be stoned to death.
Furthermore, the Scriptures of God— in the books of Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Malachi and Daniel— declare that a blasphemer will have his name written INTO THE DIRT— into the dirt instead of written in heaven. [Cf.: Jer. 12:13; Ex. 32:32; Is. 4:3; Mal. 3:16; Dan. 12:1]
As if illustrating this, Christ bends down a second time to write a second time in the dirt.
What can the mob do now?
They can only slink away defeated— slink away not as a mob, but only ONE BY ONE.
As the Gospel tells us, one by one, beginning with the elders who know the Scriptures the best, they slink out of the house of God as Christ continues to write in the dirt.
After they are all gone, Christ finally stands up again, and begins to speak to the guilty woman.
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said,
“Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

There is something wonderful here.
We know and profess that Jesus Christ IS THE SINLESS ONE.
In the house of God, Christ has full right as God to be the first to throw a stone at this woman.
Instead, he is the last to remain and stand with her in the house of God.
He— God the Son the sinless— he casts no stone, but speaks to the sinner two things.
Neither do I condemn you.

From now on, DO NOT SIN ANY MORE.

He does not condemn her, but he condemns sin of which she is guilty.
From now on, DO NOT SIN ANY MORE.

We have here an image of the Cross that we shall celebrate next week.
With the Cross and with his own Precious Blood, our Sinless Lord will sign his own sinless, innocent name into the dirt of death, so that our names— the names of sinners— can be written in heaven, written into the home of God himself.
From the humility of the Cross, Christ will look up to the Father, and say on behalf of us sinners:
Father, forgive them,
for they know not what they do.

Here in the house of God, here at this altar, this very hour: the Flesh and the Blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!
May he have mercy on us!
May he grant us peace!
Let us repent—SIN NO MORE—and believe ever more fully in the Gospel by which God shows us the open door of heaven!

That God Be Glorified in All