One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

+ + +

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

December 14, 2007

For Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Isaiah 48:17-19
Matthew 11:16-19

In his ancient prophecy today, the Lord tells us his commandments are for our good, and they open the way for us to live forever in his presence.
He lived for a time among us on earth.
To some of his day he seemed “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”
Many did not believe his to be the way of the commandments, nor of wisdom.
The same persons smeared John the Baptist, though they thought him the opposite of Jesus.
John did not eat or drink much.
He did not befriend tax collectors and sinners.
He lived alone in the wilderness.
Some said John was demon-possessed.
John, the “party pooper,” and Jesus the “party boy.”
That seems to be how some people saw the two men.
How did Jesus and John see each other?
In the Gospel at Mass yesterday, today, and tomorrow, Jesus speaks of John.
Though it is greater to be born least in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus said John is the greatest man born of woman.
Today Jesus vindicates John’s wisdom and works.
Tomorrow Jesus will say John was the prophet who was to come and restore all things.
Restoring all things— that was to be John’s surpassing greatness in the human race.
John opened the restoration of all things by telling Israel to open itself for repentance, turn away from sin, and be ready to face the Lord who was coming.
When the Lord Jesus arrived, John told those who were ready, those who had turned away from their sins, “See the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and go follow him!”
Between John and Jesus, the wisdom of the kingdom of heaven waged a two-pronged attack.
John led people away from evil.
Jesus brought his godhead and his goodness into their midst.
John shunned the food and drink of this world.
Jesus invaded the world of food and drink, charging into the midst of tax collectors, sinners, gluttons, and drunkards.
Here at the Eucharist, John and his words are still present and alive in the Church, to call us away from sin.
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Here at the Eucharist, Jesus still conquers the food and drink of this world, overcoming bread and wine with his godhead and his goodness.
Here he is still among the gluttons and drunkards, and still the friend of tax collectors and sinners.
If we want to live in the real presence of God forever, we must heed John the Baptist, turning from our sins, confessing them to God, and asking his forgiveness.
Jesus, God, both showed the fullness of his manhood and began the work of his manhood for the first time among those who went to John the Baptist at the River Jordan.
When men turn from sin, face up to God, and ask for forgiveness, Jesus begins to make known the fullness of his presence and his work.
Jesus, Son of Man, we are gluttons, we are drunkards, we are tax collectors, and we are sinners.
Since you are the Lamb of God, take away our sins, have mercy on us, come to us, be our friend, and let us eat and drink in your real presence!

That God Be Glorified in All

December 12, 2007

For the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12 December

Luke 1:39-47

The Gospel today says when Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth, and Elizabeth confessed the presence of God.
Why is this granted me, that the mother of my LORD should come to me?
Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice.
The Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth.
Elizabeth shouted out her faith in God.
There is a second place in the New Testament where Mary’s voice is instrumental in the Holy Spirit’s filling someone and bringing him to faith.
After the ascension of Christ, the apostles waited for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem.
With one accord they devoted themselves to prayer together with Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary who already received the Holy Spirit in Nazareth years before.
The prayer of Mary called down the Holy Spirit to fill the Church of the Apostles.
Because of prayer with Mary, the apostles received the Holy Spirit of the Father, the Holy Spirit coming through the Son to the children of the Father.
Immediately, that same day, the Spirit-filled preaching of the apostles won over three thousand souls to the baptism of Jesus.
In the Word of God [Rev. 22:17] the last revelation of the Holy Spirit is also the last revelation of Mary and of the Church, and the last invocation of Jesus before his return.
The Spirit and the Bride say [to Jesus], “Come.
In today’s Gospel, the body of Mary bears the Son of God in flesh and blood, and the voice of Mary ushers in the Holy Spirit who fills Elizabeth.
There is a pattern in all these Spirit events.
Mary is the flesh and blood of Jesus, and she lifts up her voice for others.
The Spirit fills them.
They confess the faith.
That pattern is the heart of the Church’s devotion to Mary.
The Word of the Lord says the prayer of the saints rises like incense in the presence of God.
We pray for each other.
We trust that the saints who have gone before us also pray for us.
We pray with Mary, the apostles, and all the saints that the Holy Spirit may fill us, so that we may serve God in Christ and bring others to faith and baptism.
Today in the Gospel, Mary visits the hill-country home of Elizabeth.
Mary lifts up her voice.
The Holy Spirit rushes upon Elizabeth.
Elizabeth confesses her faith in the Lord God whom Mary is already carrying in her body.
We celebrate today the four hundred and seventy-sixth anniversary of similar mysterious events that took place [A.D. 1531] in the hills of Mexico City.
By the year 1531, the Gospel had been in Mexico only about ten years.
The Spanish conquistadores, “conquerors,” had brought the Gospel, but they also brought the conquering sword.
It may have seemed the end of the world for the Indians.
There were very few Christian conversions among the Indians in those first years.
Then in 1531, a Christian Indian named Juan Diego met Mary on Tepeyac Hill at the edge of Mexico City.
She spoke of her motherly love for Juan Diego and her sincere respect for his dignity in the sight of God.
She spoke to him of Christ her son.
She lifted up her voice on behalf of the Gospel.
Then the work of the Holy Spirit in Mexico really began to blossom like roses after a ten-year “winter” of nearly fruitless Spanish missionary work.
Within forty years after Juan Diego heard and saw Mary, practically all of Mexico’s Indians had freely accepted baptism.
Mary had sent Juan Diego, an Indian, to ask the Spaniards for the building of a church, and thereby to ask for the growth of the Church that preaches the Gospel, baptizes souls, and worships God.
In those early years of Spanish conquest, the Indians could not help but identify the Church with Spanish might.
By contrast, Mary came to the Indian Juan Diego with tender love for him and great respect for his human dignity.
She did speak one and only one stern word to him.
In the language of the Aztec Indians, she called herself COATLAXOPEUH [pronounced like: “kwatlasúpe”], which means “Serpent-Crusher.”
Giving herself this violent name, Mary trampled the bloody Aztec religion with a prophecy from the Book of Genesis.
The highest idol of the Aztecs was Quetzalcóatl, “Feather Serpent,” to which they offered up often non-stop human sacrifice.
Calling herself Coatlaxopeuh, “Serpent-Crusher,” Mary echoed the words God spoke to the serpent in the book of Genesis [3:15].
I will put enmity between you and the woman whose seed shall crush your head.
The Spanish thought Coatlaxopeuh sounded like Guadalupe, the name of a river and a city with a shrine of Mary in Spain.
Maria Coatlaxopeuh, “Mary the Serpent-Crusher.”
She named herself the destroyer of Aztec idolatry and human sacrifice.
By contrast, her gentleness and open respect for Juan Diego were authentic signs of God’s esteem for the Indians and their dignity.
Mary brought the Gospel in her unique and most convincing way.
At the sound of Mary’s voice, the Holy Spirit quickly filled Mexico with the baptism of Jesus through the building of the Church.
May the prayers of Mary Serpent-Crusher, Saint Juan Diego, the apostles, and all the saints call down the Spirit upon us, that we may be free of evil to live ever more faithfully in the Church of Jesus as sons and daughters of God our Father.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 09, 2007

For the Second Sunday of Advent

[It is not my turn to preside and preach at Mass in the monastery today. Here is a homily I wrote for a parish three years ago.]

Isaiah 11:1-10
Romans 15:4-9
Matthew 3:1-12

In twenty-one days, we shall observe the fulfillment of two thousand and seven years since the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To commemorate his human birth is one way that we keep in mind his presence in our lives.
However, in this holy season, we are also waiting for Christ to return in final glory as king and judge to usher in the new heavens and the new earth.
Today the Lord’s Gospel teaches us how to live in the Lord’s presence NOW— as well as how to be ready for his final return at any moment.
Our preparation is always the same— whether for his first coming in the flesh centuries ago, or for his spiritual presence and power now, or for his return at the end of time.
St. John the Baptist in the Gospel today teaches us that preparation for Christ the King requires REPENTANCE.
Repent, for the KINGDOM of heaven is at hand!

Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.

I am baptizing you with water, for REPENTANCE....

The Gospel-meaning for the word “repentance” is literally “change of mind.”
In the Gospel today, St. John the Baptist tells us that BOTH change of mind AND change of behavior are necessary to prepare the way for the Lord to come as a king straight into our lives.
... the KINGDOM of heaven is at hand!

Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.

A change of mind and behavior prepares the way for the Lord to exercise kingship in our lives.
Such change is no small thing.
Here is how the Gospel today describes the change of mind and behavior that the Lord himself plans to oversee.
... the ax lies at the root of the trees.
... every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

He will baptize you with... fire.

He will clear his... floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but... he will burn with unquenchable fire
the dry, empty husks.

Chopping down bad trees, sweeping up the precious wheat, burning away the empty husks— the Gospel today is telling us that Christ works in our lives with an AX, with a BROOM and with FIRE.
An AX, a BROOM and FIRE!
Sweet Jesus, stay away from me!
On the other hand, when I am really honest with myself, I realize that in some ways God does well to use an ax, a broom and fire in my life.
I really do have some dry, empty husks littering my life.
I really do have some trees inside my life that bear no fruit, and some that bear bad fruit.
Sometimes I really do need an ax, a broom and fire, but I am too lazy and too comfortable to do the work.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!

Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.

At the very least, the Gospel today invites us to take SERIOUSLY our need to prepare SERIOUSLY for the gifts that God offers, promises and gives.
In the end, the ax, the broom and the fire enable me to be at peace, to be made whole, and to have joy beyond my natural experience.
With enchanting poetry, the prophet Isaiah today describes the wonderful destiny that God really wants to give me.
... the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord....

There is work to be done in my life; and some of it calls for an ax, a broom and fire.
God wants to clear the way to work wonders in me beyond all imagining.
He wants to do the same for all of you.
All the minor and major concerns in our lives on earth will give way to Christ the King sooner or later.
That will happen either by the second coming of Christ or by our death.
We do not know when either of those shall happen.
However, we already know that in a few moments Christ will arrive here at the altar in his Body and Blood.
Though not by an ax, a broom or fire— rather— by scourges, thorns, nails and a cross, Christ did suffer, and he died.
He volunteered to represent all of us— with all our sins, failures, mistakes and weaknesses.
So his death killed the final power of sin, and gave us a new beginning that rose eternally triumphant over sin and death.
In the Body and Blood of Christ, we eat and drink our victory and our peace— OUR victory that Christ labored to win FOR US.
The work of preparing for that victory to fill the nooks and crannies of our lives might require an ax, a broom and fire.
Nonetheless, as we labor on, let us fix well in our minds that the coming victory has already been won for us by Christ.
The kingdom of heaven is ALREADY at hand.
Prepare the way!

That God Be Glorified in All