One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

+ + +

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

September 18, 2007

For Tuesday of the Twenty-Fourth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Luke 7:11-17

In the holy Gospel according to Luke, today is the first time Jesus raises anyone from the dead.
The witnesses have two things to say.
A great prophet has arisen among us.

God has visited his people.

John the Baptist soon hears of it.
He sends two of his disciples to ask that Jesus either identify himself as the “One Who Is to Come” or tell them to look for someone else.
Instead of giving them an immediate reply, Jesus sets about curing more of the sick, the possessed and the blind.
Then he tells the disciples of John to report to John what they have seen and heard; and he lists for them what they have seen and heard.
First, he lists healings of the body.
Then he names the miracle in today’s Gospel: the raising up of the dead.
It appears to be a logical progression: first, the healings of the body; then, the raising up of the dead.
However, the raising of the dead is not the “grand finale” of the list of “Messianic accomplishments” that Jesus recites for the disciples of John the Baptist.
Here’s the complete list as Jesus puts it.
Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
the blind receive their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
and the deaf hear,
[and, finally]

The original language actually says, “The poor are evangelized.”
The progression of Messianic wonders: first, healings; then, raising the dead; finally, evangelization.
As Jesus lists his Messianic accomplishments, he gives the priority to evangelization, rather than to raising the dead.
Not only that, he specifies evangelization of the POOR.
After the crowds in today’s Gospel saw Jesus raise a man from the dead, they carried the essence of evangelization throughout the countryside, saying, “God has visited his people.”
Today, we who are poor in virtue will receive good news in the Body and Blood of the Messiah: “God has visited his people.”
Through the Eucharist, the wealth that is God himself enriches forever those who remain faithful in his service.
God in Christ will raise them from the poverty of death.

That God Be Glorified in All

September 16, 2007

For the Twenty-Fourth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

[It is not my turn to preside or preach at the monastery Mass today. Here is the homily I wrote earlier this year for the fourth Sunday of Lent, which had the same Gospel as today.]

Luke 15:1-32

Today in his Gospel, Jesus tells a parable confirming the Pharisees were quite right to point at him and say, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
However, the parable asserts that God looks out for repentant sinners, welcomes them, and eats with them.
God and the angels throw a great celebration in heaven whenever even one sinner repents; and there is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
However, since Jesus is pointing his finger at God in answer to the fingers the Pharisees have pointed at Jesus, the parable today claims that Jesus stands in the place of God, looking out for repentant sinners, welcoming and eating with them.
The parable today shows us a father who squanders extravagantly his reckless mercy on an entirely undeserving son.
God rejoices that the sinner who was lost and as good as dead through sin is now found alive through repentance.
Jesus has taken the finger-pointing of the self-righteous, and directed it towards heaven and back to himself.
In the name of the Father, Christ searches for repentant sinners, receives them with mercy in the name of the Father, and gladly eats with them in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
God welcomes sinners and eats with them.
With respect for this central assertion of the Parable of the Prodigal Father, we can go back through this parable and begin to recognize in some of its details some hints of the entire Gospel and life of the Lord, and even of the very Banquet of Mercy and Joy that we now celebrate at this altar.
To some extent, we can recognize Christ himself in the younger son who has come from his Father’s house to dwell here on earth among men, to squander himself here among us sinners.
While the younger son soon makes himself the slave of one of the local citizens, Christ has also come among us as a servant.
Whereas the younger son finds himself worse off than the pigs he is assigned to feed, Christ suffers the torture and death of a criminal, offering himself, though innocent, for the life and salvation of sinners.
The younger son of the parable, concerned that he might die of starvation, appears to rehearse a line that he’ll use on his father:
How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father,
and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”

In contrast, when faced with the prospect of death, Christ turned to his Father in true agony, but with sincerity and a pure heart full of obedient love:
Father, if you can,
take this cup of suffering away from me.
Nonetheless, not my will,
but yours be done!

In the Gospel, in the life of Christ, here in the Eucharist, and in our own lives, the Father in heaven, even when we are still at a distance, runs out to meet his children, embraces us in his Son, kisses us in his Spirit of unity.
He clothes us with his own royal Son, marks us with the signet ring of his Spirit, and has us walk in the shoes of his own Godhead.
In his mercy and joy, when we return to him through repentance, God prepares a feast for us— not a fatted calf, but his very self in the flesh and blood of his Son.
Christ— standing beside his Father and ours— Christ the Only-Begotten and Firstborn of the Father, says of us, “My brothers were dead and are alive again; they were lost, and now are found.”
The Father, too, speaks, saying to us, even here in the Eucharist, “Children, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”
This God of ours indeed welcomes sinners and eats with them.

That God Be Glorified in All