One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

+ + +

The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

August 03, 2007

For Friday of the Seventeenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 13:54-58
Leviticus 23:1,4-11,15-16,27,34b-37

The Bible calls a man’s cousins and some other relatives his “brothers and sisters.”
James and Joseph, who appear in this Gospel as “brothers” of Jesus, are the sons of her whom this Gospel later calls “the other Mary” [27:56; 28:1], who went to the cross and then to the tomb two mornings later.
Jesus is the only one born of Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin.
She never told the Nazareth-folk that an angel visited her in their midst with news from God.
Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit right there in Nazareth, she conceived the Son of God, but kept his identity secret from her neighbors.
Only St. Joseph knew.
He and Blessed Mary raised Jesus in Nazareth.
The Gospel today calls the town “his native place.”
How long was it since he had been there before today?
He began his public life by going to receive baptism from St. John at the Jordan.
Was that when he left Nazareth?
Or had he left Nazareth long before then?
The Gospel does not say.
What is clear from the Gospel today is that the newly revealed wisdom and mighty deeds of Jesus are an offensive surprise to Nazareth.
For at least perhaps ninety percent of his earthly lifespan, Jesus kept his secret from his fellow Nazarenes.
He joined them in the synagogue on the Sabbath every week.
He celebrated the Levitical festivals and high holy days with them year after year.
He never gave them any hint of his uniqueness, his true identity, wisdom and might until now.
Now they know, and now he’s back, but they give him only dishonor and unbelief.
The Gospel tells us “he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.”
Not “many mighty deeds”— perhaps just a few— in any case, not enough to impress Nazareth.
He did not use miracles for that purpose anyway.
He accepts that he is to be without honor in Nazareth his home.
Nazareth— the town that turned its back on the wisdom and mighty deeds of the Son of God, simply because he was one of their own, too familiar and too ordinary until now.
The Church proposes to families and communities the imitation of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph— the Holy Family of Nazareth.
We do well to follow the Holy Family— but we do badly to follow the example of Nazareth itself, blind, thickheaded, and stubborn, turning away from God who is in our midst in ordinary and familiar things.
St. Benedict our father wants us to stay mindful of holiness in the most ordinary work and familiar things of daily life.
He says [31:10-11] we are to:
regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar.
Nothing is to be neglected.

God chose to be really present in the ordinariness, the familiarity, and the routine of Nazareth for perhaps ninety percent or more of his earthly lifespan.
In a similar way, here in the ordinariness of eating and drinking, God is really present.
He, his wisdom, and his mighty deeds are really present in his Eucharist, not hitting us over the head with showy miracles, but expecting our faith nonetheless.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 29, 2007

For the Seventeenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Luke 11:1-13

Today, teaching us how to pray to the Father for our needs, Christ ends by saying that the Father in heaven answers prayer by giving above all the better and greater gift that is the HOLY SPIRIT.
From time to time in the Gospels we hear Christ pray in the Spirit to the Father.
On one occasion [Jn. 11:42], Christ says:
Father, I know that you always hear me.

Today in the Gospel, Christ tells us to have the same outlook when we pray.
“Father, WE know that you always hear US.”
By teaching us to pray, giving us his own words of prayer, and including us in his own prayer and spirit of prayer, Christ stands WITH us and FOR us in the presence of the Father.
Christ joins our voices to HIS in saying, “Father, WE know that you always hear US.”
Today in his Gospel, the Son of God says the Father is always ready to give his “good gifts” and his best gift— his HOLY SPIRIT— to those who ask him” [Lk. 11:13].
However, he does not toss his precious gifts at those who don’t want them, or who ask for them in a half-hearted, lazy and careless manner.
What God gives is HIS VERY SELF in his fiery Spirit of goodness.
Yet, we are likely to pray for many other things, rather than pray to receive what is the best, the holiest, the everlasting: God, the Spirit of God.
Also, we are likely to speak of asking for and receiving grace, or graces, rather than speak of receiving the HOLY SPIRIT.
There is only one place in all four Gospels that says we receive grace from God.
Only one time— and it is not Jesus who says it!
The Gospels— and Jesus— have another way of speaking of the same reality.
In his Gospels, Jesus speaks not of receiving grace, but of receiving the SPIRIT, the giver of life.
We often speak of grace as a “something”— a “something to have.”
To speak of grace that way does not make clear that grace is first of all the openness and availability of God himself.
To “receive” grace is to gratefully and gracefully welcome God himself— to give ourselves back to God who gives himself to us in his Spirit.
You are here in church today because you have chosen to obey the Holy Spirit who is already within you, drawing you to unity with God.
That is why the Church carefully closes her classical prayers with the words “in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”
Even Christ offers up his Eucharist THROUGH THE SPIRIT— for his New Testament [Heb. 9:14] speaks of “the blood of Christ, who THROUGH THE ETERNAL SPIRIT offered himself without blemish to God.”
Every Sunday Mass, after the Gospel and before the Eucharist, we all stand to profess aloud our faith that it was by the Holy Spirit that the Son of the Father became flesh and blood.
In giving himself to us, Christ gives us the Spirit IN and FROM his own flesh and blood.
As the Gospel [Jn. 20:19-22] tells us:
On the first day of the week
Jesus came and stood among them
showed them his [body]
breathed on them,
and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

In his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood, the risen Christ still fulfills that lone place in the Gospel [Jn. 1:14,16-17] that speaks of receiving grace.
The Word became FLESH
full of grace and truth
from his fullness we all have received GRACE UPON GRACE
GRACE and truth came through Jesus Christ.

That is the only time the four Gospels speak of receiving “grace.”
Grace comes to us through Jesus Christ because God the Spirit is at work.
Grace is the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
So, Jesus himself, rather than speak of grace coming to us and at work in us, speaks instead of the Holy Spirit coming to us, being in us, working in us, working with us.
As we celebrate the Eucharist this day and all days, we ask the Father to give us his Son and Holy Spirit.
We ask because the Son of God tells us to ask.
And I tell you,
ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?

In the fullness of the Spirit, Christ offered himself up to the Father for US and to save US.
In order to receive this saving grace and saving truth in the unity of the Holy Spirit, we need to join Christ in offering ourselves up in all the details of daily living— we need to join Christ in offering ourselves up for the glory of our Father in heaven, whose name we have come to hallow on this day.
We need to do that, because the Father’s goal for us is our own eternal happiness and glory at his side.
God the Father really wants to give us eternal happiness and glory through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
We need to know that, believe that, want that, live and work for that.

That God Be Glorified in All