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.

August 24, 2007

For the Feast of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle, August 24

[It is not my turn to preside at the Mass today in the monastery. Here is a homily I wrote for this feast last year.]

John 1:45-51
Revelation 21:9-14

Today in the Gospel, a man named Nathanael meets Christ for the first time, only to discover that Christ already knows him in a deep and mysterious way.
Astonished, Nathanael pays the highest of tributes to Christ by saying, “You are the Son of God.”
It is the mission of every apostle and every Christian to announce that Jesus is the Son of God who took flesh and was born a man.
There is more.
Today in the Gospel, the Lord goes on to tell Philip and Nathanael:
Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven OPENED
and the ANGELS of God ASCENDING and DESCENDING on the Son of Man.

It is the mission of apostles and all Christians to announce that heaven is now open, and that Christ is the ladder or bridge that links heaven and earth.
Today we also see another bridge between heaven and earth.
In the Book of Revelation, an angel announces to us a vision of “the Woman who is the Bride of the Lamb.”
However, the woman we see is a strange one, for she is also the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
This holy city is built on top of the apostles as foundation stones.
This Jerusalem, this Holy City coming out of heaven from God, this Woman, this Bride of Christ the Lamb, this Mysterious Woman is the Church.
These Scriptural visions and our Christian faith declare that the Church stands at the side of Christ, as a bride at the side of her groom.
The Church together with Christ spans heaven and earth.
The Church is a bridge, an avenue of travel to heaven.
The Church is also a holy city, a place to dwell where heaven and earth are in communion— a communion having the twelve apostles as its foundation.
Every Sunday in the Creed we profess our faith that the Church is apostolic.
Upon the twelve apostles of Christ the Lamb we have been set down and cemented.
In the Church together with the apostles we are a bridge, an avenue of travel to heaven for ourselves and for others, but for our sins that block the way.
We are not perfect, and neither were the apostles in their own day.
Nonetheless, together with the apostles we have a mission from God to make up the Church that God wants as the bridge, the communion, the marriage between heaven and earth.
Together with the apostles, we know that heaven has opened in the person of Christ.
Together with the apostles, we know that Christ the Son of God, side by side with his Bride the Church, offers himself in sacrifice as the Lamb of God... for the glory of the heavenly Father, for our sake and our salvation.
Christ calls us to stand at his side, together with the apostles.
Christ has called us to join him in offering him and ourselves up for the glory of God and the good of the human race.
The glory of God and the good of the human race are the two mysterious treasures and the mission that Christ gave the apostles.
The glory of God and the good of the human race are the mysterious treasures and the mission that the apostles have handed down to us— to you and to me— in the sacraments.
That is what we celebrate and receive here and now in the Eucharist, the flesh and blood of Christ in whom heaven is open and married to the earth— for the glory of the Father and the good of the human race.
We have a treasure.
We have a mission.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 19, 2007

For the Twentieth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Luke 12:49-53

Today in his Gospel, our Lord speaks like an overly eager, fiery rabble-rouser.
I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division

He is a zealous man, with a blazing sense of mission, eager to bathe the world in fire and to be baptized in blood himself.
His suffering and death on the cross bring to the world division, not peace.
Devoted faith in Christ crucified can divide the most intimate relationships, putting family members on opposite sides.
Too many of us Christians fit right in with the sensitivities, preferences and agendas of today’s godless culture.
Too many of us want what our godless culture falsely proposes as “rights”.
We end up on fire with IDEOLOGIES, rather than on fire with THEOLOGY— the sacrificial theology of the Cross.
The scandal of Christ crucified and risen is that he has not yet ended our suffering.
The scandal is that God who is love became a man of flesh and blood, and did not erase suffering and injustice from our world, but threw himself into them and burned himself up.
Only by his own full share in the fiery baptism of suffering and death has God shown that love has no conditions or limits neither in the spirit nor in the flesh.
That scandalizes us.
Do we believe in God and follow him even if it means fire and a bloodbath?
Our shame is that we let lesser things than martyrdom scare us away from imitating the extravagantly generous love of Christ our King.
Because of that, we blend right in with the rest of our godless culture.
Thankfully, there are extravagant Christ-lovers to be found and seen.
We can see them praying outside abortion centers.
We can see Christ-loving zealots among the married who refuse to use artificial contraception, and instead exercise their freedom in respect of the body’s natural cycles of ovulation.
The former hit-and-miss “rhythm method” of guessing by the calendar where a wife might be in her cycle of ovulation has been surpassed.
Now, we know how to observe and follow several of the wife’s daily bodily symptoms, and so we are able to pinpoint the days of actual ovulation and fertility.
One of the facts that the secular media never tell us is that, even when taking into account real-life human error, the natural method of pinpointing ovulation and fertility is more successful in spacing births than “the pill”.
Furthermore, the natural method requires the active responsibility of both husband and wife; whereas with the use of the pill the husband can forget about it, and the wife alone remains accountable for “sticking to it.”
Among couples who use only natural methods that require attention, communication, shared responsibility and respect, the divorce rate is less than five percent, whereas in the general population the divorce rate is close to fifty percent.
The worst, well-kept secret about the pill is that conception can still take place, but the pill alters the lining of the uterus so that the child cannot implant and is flushed out— aborted— without anyone realizing it but God.
Those who are extravagant in their zeal for Christ put no limit on the self-discipline of love— no limit in spirit or in truth, including the truth of the body.
There are extravagant disciples of Christ as priests, nuns and lay religion teachers who persist in always and only teaching the authentic fullness of Christian faith and morals, even though it may not be popular.
We also all see and know stubborn die-hards who honor the resurrection of the Lord in his Body and Blood every Sunday at Mass, and do not think twice about sacrificing every other activity on that day, to remain free to worship publicly and testify publicly to the Lord in the midst of his Church.
Hopefully each of us here today is a stubborn die-hard like that.
We also all know certain extremists, though usually not recognized as extremists, who humble us with their clear, simple, faithful, daily charity and justice.
Our risen Lord is no disembodied spirit and neither are we.
Our SPIRITUAL faith in him must make us VISIBLY different, or else we won’t really be ALIVE in the real world, but just GOING ALONG with the statistical majority.
Our faith must divide or distinguish us both spiritually and bodily from whatever might be godless in our culture.
Christ speaks of such division in his Gospel today.
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you,
but rather division

The hardest part, however, is that the division must take place inside us as well.
Each of us is born with a tendency to sin.
Though our Lord had no tendency to sin, he nonetheless suffered temptation as we do.
However, he was also driven by the Holy Spirit, and has poured out the same Spirit into us.
We, too, have already been baptized in fire and in the blood of the Lord.
The fiery Spirit and the Lord’s Precious Body and Blood will bear their fruit in us if we freely and actively cooperate.
Our Christian zeal must be known by the virtues, gifts, and fruits of the Spirit:
prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance...
wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord...
charity, generosity, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.

Our Lord faithfully practiced all these virtues in all their fullness.
They burned in him and brought him a baptism in blood.
Here at the altar today, in the eager BODY of Christ— and also in daily life— let us commit to burn with inspired zeal.
Here at the altar today, in the eager BLOOD of Christ— as well as in daily life— let us also be baptized with inspired zeal.
Our Lord is a radical extremist in his love for us— so much so that he gives us his flesh and blood to eat and drink.

That God Be Glorified in All