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 29, 2007

For the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, June 29

[In the monastery, this is always one of the solemnities when the abbot presides over the Divine Office and the Holy Mass. Here is a reworking of a homily I preached in a parish last year for this occasion.]

Matthew 16:13-19
Acts 12:1-11
2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18

As soon as Christ ascended into heaven, St. Peter took it upon himself to tell the Church to replace Judas.
In the language of the New Testament, St. Peter said, “Let someone else take his episkopèn,” meaning the role or office of “overseer,” epískopos, from which the English language gets the word “bishop”.
St. Peter led the Church to discern that St. Matthias was God’s choice as a replacement for Judas in apostolic service as a bishop.
Later, Christ, by his direct personal intervention from heaven, chose St. Paul to be an apostle.
The Church in the New Testament also names Saints Barnabas, Timothy and Titus as apostolic bishops.
The succession of apostolic bishops continues to our day in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
By celebrating the apostles Peter and Paul, we also celebrate everything the apostolic bishops HAND DOWN to us from the Lord.
St. Peter mentions one of these traditions in the Acts of the Apostles.
One of the men who have accompanied us
during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
beginning from the baptism of John
until the day when he was taken up from us—
one of these men must become with us

The apostles have HANDED DOWN to us their eyewitness testimony of Christ’s public service and his resurrection.
The tradition— the HANDING ON of the testimony of the first apostles eventually took the shape of the Gospels and the New Testament.
The Christian Bible is dependent on apostolic tradition— and not the other way round.
Another reality, another tradition, that the apostolic succession of bishops keeps and HANDS ON to us is the sacraments, especially the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
St. Paul wrote of this in his first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth.
I received from the Lord what I also HANDED ON to you,
that the Lord Jesus,
on the night he was HANDED OVER,
took bread,
and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said,
“This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup,
after supper,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

The succession of bishops going back to the apostles HANDS ON to us what the apostles themselves received from the hands of the Lord.
For his part, Christ HANDS OVER to us what he himself receives from his Father.
In his Gospel, Christ tells his first apostles:
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me,
but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give to you.

As the Father sent me,
so I send you.
Receive the Holy Spirit.

You and I have come here to be sent by God, and to receive in the Word of God and the Eucharist of God what Christ wants to HAND OVER to us from his Father.
We benefit from what Christ HANDED to his apostles first, and what the apostles as bishops have HANDED ON to us down through the centuries and across the oceans and continents.
St. Peter began it.
St. Paul also received and HANDED ON.
Both of them died as martyrs in Rome, HANDING ON the Gospel and the Sacraments, together with the HANDING OVER of their lives and their deaths in the service of Christ and his Church, in the unifying power and holiness of the Spirit, to the glory of the Father and the salvation of the world.

That God Be Glorified in All

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.

That God Be Glorified in All