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.

July 06, 2007

For Friday of the Thirteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 9:9-13

The Gospel has never mentioned Matthew until now.
Suddenly: a challenge from a stranger, and the immediate response of Matthew.
Matthew worked for pagan invaders, defying God and forcing the people of God, the people of his own blood, to hand over their money for the idolatrous conquerors— and for Matthew as well.
Matthew was a public, foul, sinful traitor.
Christ now calls him to repentance.
“Follow me.”
When Matthew immediately stands up to follow Christ the Lord, we see instead that Christ follows Matthew.
The Lord goes to Matthew’s house.
Suddenly we find Christ there sitting at table with Matthew and a
large crowd of tax collectors and other sinners.
Matthew’s had been the home of sinfulness.
Now repentance lives there.
Many other tax collectors and sinners now sit with Christ and his disciples in the house of repentance.
Disciples, tax collectors, sinners— the Lord explains today that he considers all of them sick and himself a physician.
Their sickness is sin, and his medicine is mercy.
In between the sickness and the medicine, in between the sin and the table of mercy, the Lord calls for repentance.
“Follow me.”
Without repentance, Matthew would not be at table in real communion with the Lamb of God.
No one really would.

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That God Be Glorified in All

July 04, 2007

For Independence Day in the United States of America, July 4

[It is not my turn to preach at Mass today in the monastery. This is a homily I wrote for Independence Day several years ago.]

Matthew 25:31-46

What use are we to make of our freedom?
In this Gospel the Son of God tells us that the use of our freedom gives us:
either eternal life in the kingdom of Christ and his Father,

or eternal fire with the devil.

In this Gospel, both the blessed and the damned had faith enough to call Christ “Lord.”
Christ teaches that the difference between eternal blessing and eternal damnation is not faith itself, but GOOD WORKS.
Christ our Lord and King tells us today that even if we don’t recognize him, we are serving him well or we are passing him by whenever we serve or neglect anyone who is in need.
It’s up to us to use the freedom he has given us to do good.
It is not enough to have freedom, but do nothing with it.
It is not enough to have freedom, but fail to do concrete good with it.
Today in the Gospel, damnation follows not from doing evil things, but merely from neglecting to do good things.
If we don’t use our freedom to do any positive good, and if we use our freedom to do positively bad things, we lose it.
We can lose our freedom— not just in hell, but now while we are still on this side of the grave.
The history of the human race has always taught us the lesson that when we use our freedom for evil, evil enslaves us.
Freedom exists for doing good or else it disappears.
On this day in the year of our Lord seventeen hundred seventy-six, the assembled representatives of the thirteen united States of America solemnly published and declared these states to be free and independent, absolved of all allegiance to Britain and its monarch.
The first sentence of our Declaration of Independence asserts that all nations have separate and equal status from the Laws of Nature and FROM NATURE’S GOD.
National independence comes FROM GOD.
The Declaration of Independence that gave birth to our nation on the fourth of the July in the year of our Lord seventeen hundred seventy-six— the Declaration of Independence expressly founded our American nation on a natural entitlement FROM GOD.
Shall we now pronounce the Declaration of Independence to be unconstitutional because of its faith in God?
You may remember that in June in the year of our Lord two thousand and two some American idiotic judge pronounced the pledge of allegiance to be unconstitutional because it calls our nation one under God.
The very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, the very first sentence of our nation’s birth certificate appeals to God for its very existence.
Shall we now throw it out?
The SECOND sentence of the Declaration of Independence says that the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are GIFTS FROM GOD.
I’m going to read to you the first two sentences of our national Declaration of Independence.
The first sentence.
When in the course of human events,
it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands
which have connected them with another,
and to assume among the powers of the earth,
the separate and equal station
to which the laws of nature
and of nature’s GOD entitle them,
a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The second sentence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their CREATOR
with certain unalienable rights,
that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Now, here as well is the last sentence of our national Declaration of Independence.
And for the support of this Declaration,
with a firm reliance on the protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE,
we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Today is a strange day for any HONEST atheist in the United States of America.
Since September of the year of our Lord two thousand and one, we have had new and pain-filled reasons to cherish and defend the independence and rights of our nation.
Let us be honest enough to publicly acknowledge on this two hundred and twenty-sixth birthday of our nation that our cherished independence and rights were asserted and defended by our founding fathers as GIFTS FROM GOD.
Our national freedom and rights, our personal freedom and rights— all freedoms and rights come from God.
As such they need to be used in Godly ways, or else they dissolve themselves.
Even if one does not believe in God, one can honestly observe that freedom used for doing bad has always enslaved itself.
We are here in church today to use our freedom and to enhance our freedom by worshipping Christ our King and his Father.
Here we will also benefit from God’s use of his freedom.
In his Eucharistic flesh and blood, God is our food and drink, our heavenly visitor, our clothing and home, our savior and eternal life.
Let us always honor him and look for him in the least of his brothers.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 01, 2007

For the Thirteenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Luke 9:51-62

Today the Lord’s Gospel declares to us:
When the days for Jesus to be TAKEN UP were fulfilled,
he RESOLUTELY DETERMINED to journey to Jerusalem.

His being “TAKEN UP” can mean his Cross, his Resurrection, his Ascension, or all three.
The words, “he RESOLUTELY DETERMINED” to go to Jerusalem, appear in the original language of the Gospel as “he SET HIS FACE”— he SET HIS FACE to go to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the territory that saw Christ GO UP on the Cross, GO UP into the Resurrection, and GO UP or ASCEND into heaven.
Even now, as the “Risen One seated at the right hand of the Father,” the Lord’s human body is still SET with the marks he received at Jerusalem.
The hands and feet of the Risen One are still SET in the declaration that he is also the Crucified One.
He is risen and glorified, but he HAS SET HIS FACE on remaining the WOUNDED One.
In his wounds— the marks of DEATH— we can recognize that, except for sin, he was and remains mysteriously like us even in our human suffering and death.
The MARKS OF HUMAN DEATH that he received at Jerusalem also say that Christ is GOD.
That is because God is LOVE; and Love in the ABSOLUTE is always SET on GIVING ITSELF UP and GIVING ITSLEF AWAY.
Christ is God, God is Love, and Love used it freedom to become and remain the man who gives up and gives away everything that he is as a man— right down to the giving up and giving away of his own human life at Jerusalem.
The wounds of God— who is Man in Christ Jesus Risen from the dead— the wounds of God are the badges of his love for us.
In his love and in his freedom he has set his face on showing his love for us.
Today in his Gospel, on his road to Jerusalem, mindful of everything he has freely determined to do there, Christ answers three volunteers who come to him.
The first volunteer hears that in following Christ in the kingdom of God he will have no place to call home.
The other two volunteers hear that to follow Christ in the service of the kingdom of God they must abandon without so much as a goodbye both the living and the dead among their loved ones.
The Lord has set his plan, and he will not bend it for those who would follow him.
He compares the work of the kingdom of God to plowing a field.
If a man is guiding a plow, but turns around to look back, his work will be crooked.
The plow will wander, not going where it’s supposed to go, nor doing what it’s supposed to do.
No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind
is fit for the kingdom of God.

Christ himself had set his hand to the plow, and set his face toward his goal: his work that lay ahead at Jerusalem.
His work, in Flesh and Blood, is to give glory to the Father and bring salvation to the world— love for the Father and love for the world.
He approaches us now in the Flesh and Blood of the Eucharist, still set on love for us and for the Father.
Here in his Flesh and Blood, he never turns to look back or look away.
He first gave us his Eucharist in Jerusalem.
So, as the Gospel tells us his face is set toward Jerusalem, we can understand that it is thereby set on his Eucharist in which he gives us a full share in his own immeasurable FITNESS for the kingdom of God.
As we approach him in his Flesh and Blood, our freely spoken “Amen” is honest and true only if we use our freedom to follow Christ on our own Jerusalem road— our freedom to serve the glory of the Father and the good of the world.
Our use of freedom safeguards and boosts itself by doing real good.
However, our use of freedom jeopardizes, lessens, and enslaves itself by turning in on itself and by doing evil.
The reading from St. Paul today tells us:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm
and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

Christ has set his face on achieving our everlasting freedom from the enslaving limits of sin and death.
Today is Sunday, the day on which Christ carried the human race in himself into the freedom of the Resurrection.
This week, we shall celebrate the freedom of our nation and the birthday of its independence.
Eight years ago, Pope John Paul II was in St. Louis, Missouri, where he preached a THANKFUL, a EUCHARISTIC freedom.
He said:
God has given us a moral law to guide us and protect us from falling back into the slavery of sin and falsehood.
We are not alone with our responsibility for the great gift of freedom.
The Ten Commandments are the charter of true freedom, for individuals as well as for society as a whole.
America first proclaimed its independence on the basis of self-evident moral truths.
America will remain a beacon of freedom for the world as long as it stands by those moral truths which are the very heart of its historical experience.
And so America:
if you want peace,
work for justice;
if you want justice,
defend life;
if you want life,
embrace the truth—
the truth revealed by God.
In this way the praise of God, the language of Heaven, will be ever on this people’s lips:
“The Lord is God, the mighty....
Come then, let us bow down and worship.”

That God Be Glorified in All