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.

November 03, 2007

For Saturday of the Thirtieth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Luke 14:1,7-11
Romans 11:1-2a,11-12,25-29

For the second time this week Jesus says, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
He said it Sunday when telling of two men praying in the temple— one humbling himself, the other exalting himself.
Today Jesus warns his fellow guests not to exalt themselves by taking the places of honor at a Sabbath dinner.
“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
God’s word in today’s first reading is about the exaltation of the children of Patriarch Abraham.
God had exalted them above all other nations to be his own.
Though some of the patriarch’s children do not accept the Gospel, in the end they will all be exalted, “as it is written”:
and thus all Israel will be saved....
... they are beloved because of the patriarch.
For the gifts and call of God are irrevocable.

Following the word of the Lord [today’s first reading], the Catechism of the Catholic Church [674] says:
The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history
until his recognition by all Israel....
The full inclusion of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation,
in the wake of the full number of the Gentiles,
will enable the people of God
to achieve the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
in which God may be all in all.

The final exaltation of the Jews will complete the exaltation of the Church.
Once the children of Abraham fulfill the Church, Christ will return.
Given God’s irrevocable gifts and call, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus says those words today at a Sabbath dinner, but he says them while speaking about a WEDDING BANQUET.
Throughout his teachings, the meals he talks about are often WEDDING BANQUETS— moreover the wedding banquet of the son of a king.
In the kingdom of Christ, God has wedded himself to humanity in a covenant.
All God’s covenants are in blood.
God in Christ sacrificed himself to shed new and everlasting blood for his new and everlasting wedding covenant with humanity.
He humbled himself, took the lowest place at the banquet, and gave himself up as both communion sacrifice and sin offering.
In the first reading, “as it is written”:
The deliverer will come...
he will turn away godlessness...
and this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.

Having humbled himself to take away the sins of the world, he has received exaltation in new life from the Father.
If we humble ourselves in memory of Christ, if we DO THIS IN MEMORY of him, our humility makes us available for the Father to exalt us with Christ.
The Eucharistic Bridegroom always tells us to humble ourselves.
“Do this in memory of me.”

That God Be Glorified in All

November 02, 2007

For the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (“All Souls”), 2 November

[In the monastery on this day, the prior always presides at all the liturgies, and preaches at the Mass. I wrote the following homily for a Mass I offered at a parish last year.]
John 6:37-40
All that the Father gives me will come to me;
and him who comes to me I will not cast out.
For I have come down from heaven,
not to do my own will,
but the will of him who sent me;
and this is the will of him who sent me,
that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me,
but raise it up at the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life;
and I will raise him up at the last day.

A newborn baby is not yet able to walk or run, not yet able to chew, not yet able to speak or read, not yet able to understand a joke.
Newborn babies are alive, but not all their built-in abilities are working yet.
When we sinners die, we are like newborn babies: we are not instantly able to enjoy heaven.
Until the moment of death we remain free and able to sin— even if we might be the holiest persons alive.
Until the moment of death we continue to have sinful tendencies.
When we die, God must remove sin and its effects from us so that we are completely free and able to enjoy heaven
That process is purgatory.
As a negative process, purgatory means God is purifying us of sin and its effects so that we enter heaven free and clean.
As a positive process, purgatory means God is waking up our souls, turning on all the lights inside us, making us fully able to run in heaven, fully able to see heaven, fully able to hear heaven, fully able to enjoy and celebrate in heaven.
When we pray and sacrifice on behalf of the dead— as we do especially today— we are helping those souls who died still needing purification before they can enter heaven.
Some persons doubt that the Church has the power to do anything for persons who have died.
However, in Matthew 18:18, Christ tells his followers:
Truly, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth
shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth
shall be loosed in heaven.

Christ gave the Church— ON EARTH— authority and power IN HEAVEN.
Some might say that when persons die they go either straight to hell or straight to heaven, because there is no such thing as purgatory.
Do you remember that Jesus raised from the dead a 12-year old girl, his own friend Lazarus, and the son of a widow?
If those three persons were already in the eternal glory of heaven, why would God bring them back to earth to suffer more and die again?
On the other hand, if they were already in hell, Jesus consistently taught that being in hell is everlasting.
Those three persons whom Jesus raised from the dead were neither in eternal damnation nor in eternal glory.
The Church specially devotes the second day of November to prayer and penance on behalf of those Christians who have died serving the Lord but still needing to be purified of the effects of sin.
The Church has authority from the Son of God to set those persons free for heaven.
Since Christ gave the Church authority to bind and to release on earth and in heaven, the Church authorizes each one of us to participate in helping souls enter heaven.
One way each of us can do that is to visit a cemetery each day from today through November ninth and pray for the faithful departed.
A second way is to come to church today and pray here for the faithful departed.
What we are doing today here in church, I hope someone will do for me when I die.
I hope the same for each one of you.
The souls that we help to enter heaven will join all the angels and saints in helping us by their prayers.
May the souls of the faithful departed
through the mercy of God rest in peace.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

That God Be Glorified in All

November 01, 2007

For the Solemnity of All the Saints, 1 November

[In the monastery on the Solemnity of All the Saints, the abbot always presides at the “Liturgy of the Hours” (the Divine Office): First Vespers, Vigils, Lauds, Sext, Second Vespers, and Compline. He also presides and preaches at the Mass of this day. I wrote the following homily for a Mass I offered at a parish last year.]

Matthew 5:1-12
Revelation 7:2-4,9-14
1 John 3:1-3

Not all of us have biological siblings.
Not all of us have biological children.
However, every single one of us has a biological father and a biological mother.
Through them, each of us has a physical connection to the entire past history of the human race.
The Word of the Lord names Adam and Eve as the father and mother of the whole human race.
However, God who created us has come in the person of Christ to enter and join the human race.
Because he is God who made each of us, Christ who has personally entered the human race takes over the place of Adam and Eve as the beginning of the human race.
Christ is the New Beginning of the human race.
He is our new beginning spiritually.
He is also our new beginning physically.
When he lived and died entirely for the glory of the Father, Christ gave a new beginning of spiritual glory to the human race.
When Christ rose physically from the dead, he became a new beginning for our human bodies and spirits.
In his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood, Christ feeds us our own new beginning.
In his Eucharist, Christ is the new beginning of our bodies, our minds and our spirits.
We are baptized into God through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
We are anointed with the Father’s same Holy Spirit that he shares with Christ his Son.
Together with the saints, you and I are children of God and children of Mother Church.
We have one faith, one Lord, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all.
As God sees it, the angels in heaven and the holy men and women who have gone to him before us— they are truly our siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, parents and ancestors.
We have the saints as our family in heaven, and we are their family on earth.
One family of God— the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, the Church in Glory!
In Christ, the saints have the same new beginning that you and I have.
They live with the Lord in glory.
They are concerned to help and save us.
In the lives they lived on earth, the saints were mirrors of the glory of God— as you and I are also called to be.
The saints each had different gifts and missions on earth, as you and I do— but together with the saints we all have one reward in heaven.
Now in heaven, they already live with the Lord in glory— a glory that they pray we will see and enjoy for ourselves together with them.
We trust and celebrate that the saints are concerned for our salvation.
They pray for us to receive the forgiveness and love of God.
They pray that we might live the glory of God even now on earth.
The glory of God— we eat and drink it in the Body and Blood of Christ.

That God Be Glorified in All

October 28, 2007

For the Thirtieth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Luke 18:9-14

The Romans invaded Israel about sixty years before Christ was born.
The tax collection system of the Roman invaders was abusive and corrupt.
The local men of Israel who worked as tax collectors for the Roman invaders were also abusive and corrupt.
A tax collector did to his fellow citizens what Judas Iscariot did to Jesus: betraying their own for money.
It is safe to say that practically everyone hated the tax collectors.
A Pharisee, on the other hand, was essentially— originally— the opposite of a tax collector.
The Pharisees had come into being about one hundred and fifty years before Christ—when the Greeks had invaded Israel.
With the idol-worshipping Greeks occupying the nation, the Pharisee movement started up to preserve Jews from the contamination of the Greek idol worship.
So, whereas the tax collectors worked for the idol-worshipping Romans, the original Pharisees had been fiercely loyal to God and country.
Unfortunately, by the time of Christ, most of the Pharisee movement had stiffened into hollow observance.
Today in the Gospel, Christ tells a story about a tax collector— as bad, as UNRIGHTEOUS as ever— and also a Pharisee— as SELF-RIGHTEOUS as any.
These two men have come to the holy temple to pray.
You and I, like the tax collector and the Pharisee, have likewise come to the holy church to pray.
After the tax collector and the Pharisee prayed, only one of them went home “justified” in the eyes of Christ.
He went home “justified”.
Another way, a good way, to say it is that he went home “right with God.”
It was the tax collector.
It is not enough to ask or notice what he did in order to go home “right with God.”
We need to notice what the tax collector also did NOT do.
The tax collector knew he had done wicked things to God and country and neighbor.
So, in his prayer, the tax collector thumped himself— beat his breast— and he accused himself rightly and truthfully.
O God, be merciful to me a sinner.

That’s what the tax collector did, and so he was able—perhaps without even knowing it— to go home right with God.
What was it the tax collector did NOT do?
He did not point at or mention the Pharisee and his hypocrisy.
The tax-man went home right with God because he confessed his own self a sinner.
In the sight of God, who sees all and knows all, all of us are in some way both Pharisees and tax collectors.
Only one thing matters in being made right with God: to confess one’s own self a sinner.
That’s why we always begin the Mass with a public confession of our sinfulness and ask God for mercy.
That’s why we offer up the Body and Blood of Christ.
He tells us:
Take this, all of you
this is my body
given up for you
this is my blood
shed for you
that sins may be forgiven

“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
In the teaching of Christ, that is as powerful and pure a prayer as that of the criminal who said— as Christ was offering himself up on the cross, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
We are all sinners needing to ask for mercy that we may one day be in Paradise with Christ the King.

That God Be Glorified in All