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.

December 28, 2007

For the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28

Matthew 2:13-18
1 John 1:5 to 2:2

Herod “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.”
Notice the title the Church gives to them: the Holy INNOCENTS.
Not “Children,” not “Babies,” not “Infants,” not “Boys.”
Rather, the “Holy INNOCENTS.”
They were not old enough to judge right from wrong.
“The Holy Innocents.”
Innocent though they were of committing sin, they were nonetheless marked by the original sin of mankind.
However, Jesus, who was their age, did not have that mark.
Today’s first reading tells us that Christ, as God:
is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

When the light of Christ began to shine in the darkness of the world, the darkness sought to overcome it.
The darkness in Herod sought to destroy Jesus.
Without knowing it, the Holy Innocents died for the sake of Christ.
So, the Church honors them as martyrs.
Although the Holy Innocents did not make a choice, they died in the name of Christ.
They died in the place of Christ.
The Son of God had made a choice to come into the world.
He who was innocent chose to die in the name and in the place of us sinners.
The first reading today says:
He is expiation for our sins

Being adult sinners, you and I cannot begrudge the Holy Innocents the right to be honored for the sake of Christ in whose name Herod slaughtered them.
Jesus himself said:
whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine,
you did for me.

what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.

On another occasion:
Jesus called a child over,
placed it in the midst of his disciples, and said....
“whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

The deaths of the Holy Innocents pointed forward to the death of innocent Christ who was their brother by place and time of birth.
An ancient hymn for the Holy Innocents greets them as our fellow worshippers in heaven.
Hail, blossoms of the Martyrs, who
Had scarcely seen the light,
When cruel tyrant cut you off,
As storms fresh roses blight.
First victims of the newborn Christ,
Young flock, with crowns and palms,
You play before his altar throne,
And chant your joyous psalms.

As they worship Christ face to face, we ask them to pray for us who, unlike them, have achieved a long list of years and sins that separate us from holiness and innocence.
Today’s first reading tells us to celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ as source of holiness and innocence.
My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.

The Blood of [God’s] Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

That God Be Glorified in All

December 26, 2007

For the Feast of St. Stephen, First Martyr, 26 December

Matthew 10:17-22
Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59

Yesterday we marked a birth.
Today we mark a death.
Yesterday with shepherds we looked on God the Son born a flesh-and-blood man, a newborn bedded down in the fodder of ox and ass.
Today with St. Stephen we witness the Fullness of Manhood, the SON OF MAN standing at the right hand of God in glory.
The shepherds did not know the baby in the fodder was God Eternal.
St. Stephen knew the SON OF MAN he saw in the heavenly glory of God was that baby in the fodder— God born humble in the flesh and blood of man, and man glorified in the flesh and blood of God.
Some who worshipped the One True God killed St. Stephen for speaking the truth he knew and saw.
Stephen’s words were blasphemy to them.
The blasphemy was not only about God, but also about man and his hereafter.
The earliest faith of the People of God was that after death there was nothing for man, no afterlife, no rising from the dead, nothing, forever, “The End.”
God alone was in highest heaven, and it was for him alone.
That was the faith for a score of centuries.
In the days of Jesus, some still had the old faith.
Many, however, had already begun to believe that righteous men would one day receive from God the reward of rising from the dead— but only back to this world.
The faith had never included the possibility that any man could live in heaven and see God face to face.
The possibility of man’s life with God in the joyous glory of heaven was a gift that Jesus brought.
The SON OF MAN whose first bed was fodder went on to suffer execution for daring to avow his personal authority and mission to offer men the possibilities and choices for winning heaven.
Christ himself, the SON OF MAN, is the possibility, the choice, and the fulfillment of man’s glorification in heaven.
That is the Gospel and the vision for which St. Stephen was a witness and the first martyr.
The Word of the Lord keeps the Holy Gospel according to Stephen, and makes it the Holy Gospel according to the Church.
Stephen and the Church,
filled with the Holy Spirit,
look intently into heaven
and see the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen and the Church say,
we see the heavens opened
and the SON OF MAN standing at the right hand of God.”

In the person of Jesus, the SON OF MAN, mankind already has the gift of standing at the right hand of God in glory.
He offers us the possibilities and the choices for claiming the everlasting gift that triumphs over the deathbed.
His first earthly bed was fodder for ox and ass.
Now his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood are fodder for sinners.
The possibilities and powers he hands to us in his Body and Blood will take us to glory at the right hand of God, if only the sum of our living choices echoes the dying words of St. Stephen.
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!

That God Be Glorified in All

December 23, 2007

For the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Matthew 1:18-24

Today is the last Sunday before Christmas— Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead in flesh and blood.
Quite fittingly, today the Word of the Lord to the Romans recalls the splendor of Jesus, that:
he is the Son of God;
he is established in power and holiness;
he is the resurrection from the dead.

Both born as a man and risen from the dead in flesh and blood, Jesus is EMMANUEL, “God-with-Us” in a fourfold way.
First of all, God came down from heaven to personally join us as a fellow human being of flesh and blood.
Secondly, he is “God-with-Us” by personally taking a share in our lot of sorrow and suffering.
Thirdly, he is “God-with-Us” even unto personal death.
Finally, Jesus, by rising from the dead in flesh and blood, turns his title around and gives it to us.
That is: in the resurrection of Jesus— resurrection as one who is STILL a flesh and blood member of the human race— Jesus Emmanuel makes it possible for US to receive the title “We-with-God.”
This is so because Jesus— God— is still a member of our race, risen from the dead, and seated in flesh and blood at the right hand of the Father.
God invites us to receive the throne of Jesus as our HOME OF JOY.
So, the Word of the Lord to the Romans today tells us we are “called to be holy” and “to belong to Jesus Christ” through “the obedience of faith.”
We become holy and belong to Jesus by obeying what faith tells us.
The Gospel today shows Joseph and Mary as holy and belonging to Jesus.
St. Joseph and Blessed Virgin Mary believed and obeyed God.
Their obedience went to amazing depths.
In the Gospel Mary has already received the plan of God from an angel.
God the Son, with the power of God the Holy Spirit, already has personally begun to live a flesh-and-blood human life in the womb of Mary.
Mary seems to have said nothing to Joseph about the angel, the Holy Spirit, or the Son of the Most High whose body and blood she now carries within her virgin body and nourishes with her virgin blood.
It seems Mary, faithful and obedient, to God, says nothing in her own defense.
It is enough for her silently to believe and obey the plan of God.
Joseph silently decides to end his marriage to Mary.
After that decision, Joseph receives a bit of explanation— but not from Mary.
An angel visits his dreaming, speaks to him, and commands him.
The angel says the Son of Mary will “save his people from their sins.”
What does that mean to Joseph?
No man— only God— can save others from their sins.
Saving others from their sins is a notion that could get a man killed for blasphemy.
Part of Joseph’s dream later became a living nightmare on the cross, but one that awoke in the glory of resurrection.
For now, without question or protest, Joseph joins Mary in obedience to God.
The Son of God is already in their midst— a flesh and blood baby in the womb of Mary.
Joseph and Mary fulfilled the Word of the Lord to the Romans that we are:
called to be holy
and to belong to Jesus Christ
through the obedience of faith.

We share the mission of Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.
With them we share the mission of the Son of God who saves his people from their sins.
In a few moments we shall have Emmanuel, God-with-Us, in flesh and blood upon the silent stone of the altar.
His Eucharist is GOD-WITH-US— really, truly, personally, in flesh and blood.
He hands himself over— as he tells it— so that sins may be forgiven.
By calling his Eucharist a Covenant, he expects us to hand our lives over to him in return.
In his Body and Blood, he calls us to be holy and belong to him through the obedience of faith.
Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph lived for Jesus during their earthly lives, and they are with him still.
Together with them, we have the opportunity to be free from sin, to be alive with God, to rise from the dead in flesh and blood, to have dreams come true, to be at home in the everlasting kingdom of joy, goodness, and beauty that have no measure.
We-with-God, God-with-Us!

That God Be Glorified in All