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 12, 2007

For Thursday of the Fourteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 10:7-15

After giving his Apostles the tidings that the “Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” the Lord also tells them what happens when heaven holds sway on earth.
Sickness quits.
Demons quit.
Death quits.
In the Kingdom of heaven, men have everything they need, without turning to stores of money or supplies.
Peace comes.
Finally, the Lord says today that judgment day will not tolerate those who close their lives to the Kingdom of heaven.
“The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
We Christians have become overly familiar with the thought of our someday living in “heaven-on-earth”.
We have come to think of heaven as easily populated.
Christ himself, however, said:
Enter by the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction,
and those who enter by it are many.
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard,
that leads to life, and those who find it are few. [Mt. 7:13-14]

For the ancient people of God, there was nothing and no one in heaven but God.
Nothing and no one was holy enough to be in heaven, except the pure spirit messengers, the angels.
Some of the people of Jesus day had begun to think that if there were to be a resurrection from the dead, it would be only for the just, and it would be a resurrection back to this merely earthly life.
They did not imagine that anyone could live where God himself lives.
For them, Heaven meant God alone.
For the ancient people of God, both “Treasure in heaven” and the Kingdom of heaven” stood for God himself.
That is why the Gospels say either the “Kingdom of heaven” or the “Kingdom of God”.
The news that Christ brought was that the resurrection is for both the just and the unjust.
The life of the resurrection never ends.
For the just, the resurrection is to be heaven on earth, seeing God face to face, and dwelling with him.
For the unjust, Christ brought news of something unknown in the Old Testament: hell.
Until Christ came, the people of God thought that the unjust would simply stay dead in darkness and silence.
Christ brought news that the even the unjust would rise from the dead forever, but they would spend forever in what Christ himself described as never-ending fire.
Hell is not Old Testament.
Hell is New Testament and Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In his Gospel today, he tells what awaits a house or town than turns away from God.
I say to you,
it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment
than for that town.

Judgment day!
That is the Gospel of the Lord to which, a few moments ago, we all said, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!”
Christ says judgment day will give both hell and heaven-on-earth their own populations.
What hope have we of heaven?
The Eucharist shows us the way there.
The Eucharist is not heaven full of people.
The Eucharist is heaven’s God who empties himself.
If we would be judged worthy of heaven and God, it shall be because we shall have imitated him in his Eucharist.
We shall have emptied ourselves for the Kingdom of heaven, emptied ourselves to have God as our King.
No gold, silver, or copper; no journey sack, second tunic, footwear, or walking stick; no other support or supply preferred to God.
That is the narrow and hard way Christ the King enjoins on us for finding life in his heavenly kingdom on earth.
Heaven on earth— where sickness quits, demons quit, death quits, and peace lives forever.
If that’s what we really want, then the Gospel of the Lord today— and his Eucharist— both tell us to open our lives in readiness for judgment day.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 08, 2007

For the Fourteenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

[Today my abbot (superior) is taking a turn at presiding over the Mass. It’s also his seventy-second birthday. The following is a homily I wrote for this Sunday Gospel a few years ago. Towards the end of this homily, I give one short indication of why I always mention the Eucharist in my homilies.]

Luke 10:1-12,17-20

Having sent seventy-two missionaries to prepare the way for himself, what did Christ have to say when he himself went to those places?
His Gospel tells us he began his own public preaching with this message.
The time is fulfilled.
The kingdom of heaven—
the kingdom of God—
is near.
It is at hand.
Repent and believe in the Gospel!

These few words contain the essential themes of the invitation Christ gives all of us:
the fulfillment of time;
the insistent presence of God’s kingdom;
repentance and faith in the Gospel.

In his public life and service, the Lord made known this message by more than his words.
He did mysterious, astounding things that demonstrated the arrival and the power of God’s kingdom.
He had spiritual authority to cast out demons.
He had power to cure physical diseases with a word.
He was able to give the same authority and power to his seventy-two missionaries.
He made five loaves of bread and two fish increase into enough to feed more than five thousand persons.
Christ announced the kingdom and made it present with his own power and in his own person.
What Christ was and did called out to the world, called out with promises, signs and acts of power and authority, changing the world by driving out demons, curing diseases, creating food for hungry thousands, taming angry skies and seas, even raising several persons from the dead.
However, the Lord has more in mind than changing the world by himself, with his own power and authority.
He wants us to participate and cooperate in being changed ourselves.
So, he tells us,
Repent and believe in the Gospel!

The word that we translate as “repentance” is metanoia, or, to be precise, metánoia, in the original language of the Gospels.
We usually think of repentance as turning away from sin.
However, metanoia literally means the turning, the changing, the conversion of the mind or understanding.
That involves turning away, from sin.
However, towards what does our Lord want our minds, our understanding, to turn?
He tells us.

Faith in the Gospel is the object of metanoia, repentance, conversion.
Faith in the Gospel!
In spite of his earnest message, his demonstrated spiritual authority, and his signs of power, Christ’s call to turn away from sin and to turn towards faith was not and is not universally accepted.
There is no faith, no hope, and no love for Christ and his Gospel where there is no repentance from sin, even among us Christians.
If we do not turn away from sin, then we turn away from the kingdom of God, away from faith, away from the Gospel.
To turn away from the kingdom of God is to face eternal death.
What proof did the Lord offer that this shall indeed happen?
Not much!
He himself suffered the punishment and death of a criminal.
However, what of his resurrection from the dead?
Is it a proof that the kingdom of God awaits those who believe?
It is a proof only if it is met by our faith.
Faith is the proof itself.
Repent and believe in the Gospel!

If we simply do not believe the testimony of the Gospel, then we will not really believe even if Christ risen from the dead should appear before us.
Here the circle is complete.
If we reject the simple testimony of the apostles present in the Church’s Gospels, then we reject the testimony of Christ himself.
If we reject the testimony of Christ, we reject God and his kingship.
If we do go about announcing Christ and his kingdom to our world, we might meet with acceptance and success.
We might meet with open rejection and persecution.
We might just as well meet with apathy and be ignored.
However, success in the world is not our goal.
When the seventy-two missionaries returned to the Lord after completing their assignments, they rejoiced to tell him of their success.
Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.

The Lord answered.
Do not rejoice in this...
but that your names are written in heaven.

My Father has handed all things over to me.

The Father has put into the hands of Christ the work of writing our names in heaven.
Christ is the voice of the Father.
He is the Word that the Holy Spirit carves into our flesh and our nature.
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit he became flesh from the Virgin Mary.
In the incarnation of Christ, the Father’s Word and Spirit are written into our flesh and our nature.
In Christ, God has engraved himself into our nature and our flesh.
In the person of Christ who rose from the dead, our names are written in heaven.
This is GOSPEL— good news indeed.
Here in Church, when Christ comes to us in his Gospel, we stand at reverent attention knowing that the same good news we hear from the lips of Christ we shall soon also taste in the flesh and blood of Christ in his Eucharist.
The Holy Gospel and the Blessed Eucharist— neither one ever without the other!
In both of them, we have the promise and the presence of God’s love that transcends all the limits and possibilities of mere affection.
In each of them— the Holy Gospel and the Blessed Eucharist— we meet God’s ennobling and saving esteem for us.
With the Flesh and Blood of Christ, God has written our names in heaven.
Glory to God in the highest!

That God Be Glorified in All