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 23, 2007

For Friday of the Thirty-Third Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Luke 19:45-48
1 Maccabees 4:36-37,52-59

In the first reading, less than two hundred years before Christ, the people of God have taken back his Temple from the foreign thieves who had made God’s sacred temple into a den of idol worship.
Killing the enemies of God, his people celebrated the reconsecration of his Temple and the renewal of his holy worship there.
Two hundred years later, Christ Jesus, the Son of God, violently takes back his Temple again from those who have again made it a den of thieves.
However, rather than set up anew the true worship of God his Father, Jesus sets himself up in the Temple of God as a teacher of God’s people.
He did not disturb the sacrifices, because they were for his Father and were commanded by his Father.
It was not yet the day for the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Jesus to fulfill the older sacrifices.
Jesus respected the ancient sacrifices in the Temple of prayer, but he added to them now his own teaching office.
His Gospel says today that “everyday he was teaching in the temple”— and “all the people were hanging on his words.”
Meanwhile, the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the nation were seeking a means to bring about the death of Jesus.
All of this, in both readings today, is the pattern for our lives in the Church, the pattern of ourselves as Temples of God.
Sin is a foreign invader that would worship idols from within us.
As the people of God, we must work constantly with God to kill the army of sin, and to be reconsecrated constantly as God’s Temples, to renew constantly his holy worship within us.
Perhaps even with violence, we must allow the Son of God into us to drive out the selling and thieving so that prayer again claims its place within us.
As the people of God, and as Temples of God, we must hang on the words of Jesus as he comes every day to teach us both in our personal prayer and through his Gospel in the Sacrificial Liturgy of his Church.
If we do not hang on his words, both here in his Church and in the Church of our daily lives and daily choices, if we do not hang on the words of Jesus, then we let the thieves, and invaders, and all their idolatry back in.
Without hanging on the words of Jesus, we join chief priests, scribes, and governors in putting to death inside our lives both Jesus and his Eucharistic Sacrifice.
Then the Temples of our souls will be empty, torn down, with nothing left but a wailing wall forever.

That God Be Glorified in All

November 21, 2007

For the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 21 November

[It is not my turn in the monastery today to preach. So, rather than a new homily, here is the homily I posted last year.]

Luke 1:26-38

The Church, asking God’s inspiration, decided which writings were holy Gospels and which writings were true to the New Testament.
So, we have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John— and the rest of the authentic New Testament.
Among the writings the Church did not include was a story about the early life of Mary.
That story is what the Church, nonetheless, commemorates today: Mary’s parents presenting her to God in the Temple when she was three years old.
The spiritual truth in the story is that God has a plan for our salvation; and, in his plan, he set Mary apart and prepared her for a special participation.
In the True Gospel, we first see Mary receiving a title from God.
“Hail, Fully Graced One!”
It is a title that belongs by right to God alone.
The Bible gives the title to no one else.
Mary is rightly troubled to hear God’s messenger give the title to her.
“Hail, Fully Graced One!”
The heavenly Father in his grace has fully prepared Mary to be the mother of his Son.
Yet, she is a virgin.
So, she asks, “How can this be?”
The angel tells her.
“The Holy Spirit, the Power of the Most High, will come and overshadow you.”
The plan, however, waits for one thing.
The plan of God waits for Mary to say, “Yes.”
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord— may it be done to me according to your word.”
The plan of God and the power of God come and overshadow our human impossibilities.
In the case of Mary, the impossibility is that of a virgin becoming a mother.
The wondrous thing is that God does not challenge the impossibility by his power alone.
He comes with power waiting for us to say, “Yes.”
So, the impossibility is overcome by both God’s power and our willingness.
So, the virgin conceives and bears the Son of God.
In the same way, sinners become sons and daughters of God.
God comes with power to us in our sinful impossibility— but he waits for us to say, “Yes.”
Today in the Church, we celebrate the plan of God that Mary participated in.
In the presence of God’s angel, Mary stood in Nazareth as the representative of all human flesh and all human nature.
She stood in Nazareth as the representative of our whole race and our whole history.
She stood for us under the shadow and power of the Spirit of God.
By the power of the Holy Spirit and the collaboration of her own human consent, Mary conceived God the Son of the Heavenly Father.
This is the pattern for the gracious work of God throughout history and throughout our lives: a collaboration between God’s power and our free consent.
Christ is God the Eternal Son in flesh and blood by the power of the Holy Spirit.
He is also the flesh and blood of Mary’s “yes”.
He is the flesh and blood of a human “yes” to God.
The impossibility of a virgin conceiving and the impossibility of us sinners becoming sons and daughters of God— human impossibilities meet the power of God— and the power of God awaits a human “yes.”
The same plan, the same pattern, is true in the Eucharist.
It is impossible for bread and wine to become the real body and blood of Christ.
Yet, the power of God most high overshadows this impossibility, and the Church offers its human “yes” and “amen.”
As Mary was willingly present to the power of God, we accept the Church’s invitation this day to present ourselves willingly to God here in his Temple.
As Mary herself announces in the Gospel, “God who is mighty has done great things for me,” so in this church God who is mighty is doing great things for us.

That God Be Glorified in All