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.

September 06, 2007

For Thursday of the Twenty-Second Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Luke 5:1-11

Despite Simon’s own experience as a fisherman, and even after an entire fruitless night of fishing, Simon still obeys the command of Jesus:
Put out into deep water
and lower your nets for a catch.

Obedient to the command of Jesus, Simon sees so many fish fill the nets that these begin to tear; and the weight of the catch is so great that it threatens two boats with sinking.
Jesus then tells Simon that instead of fish, “From now on you will be catching men.”
Catching fish KILLS the fish.
Here, in the original language of the Gospel, Jesus does not use the normal word for “catch” [agreuo].
Instead he uses a word [zogron, zogreo] that points to taking men INTO LIFE.
From now on you will be taking men INTO LIFE.

The power and the vocation in today’s Gospel event is present each time we put out into the depths of the Lord’s Work in his Eucharist.
Like Simon and his fellow fishermen, we might live and work fruitlessly in the darkness.
In his Eucharist, Christ steps aboard our boat.
First he teaches his Gospel to the crowds.
Then, despite any or all of our defeated experiences in the dark, he tells us to row out to the deepest waters and get to work.
The only difference now is that the Eucharistic Lord goes with us.
With Christ in Simon’s boat, with Christ luring the fish, Simon’s nets began to tear, and Simon needed to call for the help of his fellow fishermen and their boat.
Even then, what Christ had done was nearly too much for the two boats, and they were in danger of sinking.
Having the Eucharistic Lord with us and mightily at work, our boats can still sink, and our nets can still tear, for, as Simon says today in the Gospel, each of us is “a sinful man.”
To a certain point only, we may rely on some help from others like ourselves.
Christ who is with us in his Eucharist makes our work bear fruit whose weight is too much for each to bear alone.
Each of us needs the entire Church, needs to be in communion with the Church, in cooperation with the Church.
Though Simon has the help of James and John in handling the great catch, he recognizes the holy one whose power is at work.
Simon does not celebrate the awesome outcome of his own hard work.
Instead, he owns up to being a sinner who has merely obeyed the Lord.
... he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord,
for I am a sinful man.”

We know the same truth in the Lord’s Eucharist.
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
As to Simon in the boat, Jesus says to his Church:
Do not be afraid.
From now on you will be taking men INTO LIFE.

The Eucharistic Lord sends his Apostolic Church to pull humanity out of the deep waters of sin and death, and onto the shore of God’s kingdom of life.
With the power of the Eucharistic Lord, we are to carry out the last words of today’s Gospel.
They left everything and followed Jesus.

That God Be Glorified in All

September 02, 2007

For the Twenty-Second Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Luke 14:1,7-14
Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29
Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24a

Today in his Gospel, Jesus offers two lessons.
First he tells a story that one could see as a banal lesson on how to avoid direct humiliation if there is open seating at a wedding banquet.
However, he ends the lesson with a universal principle.
Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

Everyone— including Jesus!
From heaven, the exalted Son of God came down, that from the humility of the earth he might give glory to his Father in the highest, and bring us to peace in the goodwill of his Father.
The exalted Son of God humbled himself as the saving servant of sinners, humbling himself even unto death, a criminal’s death on a cross.
For humbling himself as a man, the Son of God received exaltation as a man: in flesh and blood he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.
Christ in his coming down from heaven, in his humble service, in his crushing death, and then in his resurrection and ascension— Christ is the fullness and fulfillment of the first lesson he gives in his Gospel today.
Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

For the second lesson in his Gospel today, he tells his host to spend hospitality on those who cannot return the favor at all.
For doing so, one will receive repayment in “the resurrection of the just.”
That is a rather simple and direct lesson: to give readily of oneself without looking for any return.
That is hard for us because we are not unlimited.
We have real needs— physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs.
Our own resources for meeting them are not inexhaustible.
Yet, the Lord tells us to give of ourselves without looking for compensation.
If we were to follow this teaching word for word in every aspect of our lives, we would most likely die.
That is what happened to our Lord on earth.
He gave without looking for repayment.
Nonetheless, his Father repaid his human service by raising him from the dead in flesh and blood, fullness and glory.
So, like the first lesson in his Gospel today, the second lesson also has its fullness and fulfillment in Christ— he was “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
As God, he had no need to be glorified.
Rather, he received risen and ascended glory as a man for us.
He gave and received everything for us who cannot fully repay him— and do not always want to.
In the beginning, God brought us into being from out of nothing.
He did not need us, but freely gave us a share in his own being.
We can do nothing really to pay him back; and he needs nothing at all from us.
The word of the Lord to the Romans [chapter 11] says:
Who has given the Lord anything that he may be repaid?
All things are from the Lord.

Our best cannot begin to equal the gift of God.
So we “borrow,” as it were, the EUCHARIST— we borrow the literal THANKSGIVING of the Son of God— not our own, never-sufficient thanksgiving, but the Thanksgiving of God the Eternal Son.
In his Sacrificial Wedding Banquet, where Christ is himself the Banquet, the Host and the Open Door, Christ receives us, and in himself he brings us to the Father as a perfect and saving act of thanksgiving and glory.
We are the ones whom Christ in his Gospel today calls the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind that he Lord has invited to his banquet.
Christ offered up his life to the Father, and the Father gave him anew the Spirit and Life in resurrection glory.
In the surpassing wonder and mystery of his charity, Christ chose to receive HIS personal reward of resurrection in OUR name, in OUR humanity, OUR flesh and blood.
In that way: he makes beggars rich with his own divinity; he gives the glorious light of his divinity to the blind; and he bestows the fullness of his divinity on the crippled and lame.
If we have imitated him for his goodness to us, if we have imitated him for the goodness he offers to us in his endless kingdom, if we have imitated him by our goodness to others, then he tells us in his Gospel today that he will repay us with “the resurrection of the righteous.”
In his word to the Hebrews, in the second reading today, God tells us about the resurrection of the righteous:
you have approached Mount Zion
and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
and countless angels in festal gathering,
and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,
and God the judge of all,
and the spirits of the just made perfect,
and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Jesus is the go-between who joins together his Father and us by the new and everlasting sacrificial bond in his Body and Blood.
We will spend the festal joy of eternity— we will need eternity— just to BEGIN giving worthy thanks.

That God Be Glorified in All