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.

May 04, 2008

For the Seventh Sunday of Easter

John 17:1-11
Acts 1:12-14
1 Peter 4:13-16

In the first reading today, “After Jesus had been taken up to heaven,” we hear that the church of apostles went to the Jerusalem “upper room where they were staying.”
They all “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with ... Mary the mother of Jesus.”
The “upper room”— the place that hosted the birth of the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ— a room large enough for the church of the first apostles, and being upstairs— a space rented or borrowed— it was no ordinary dwelling or living room, but in that culture and time, a costly place.
In that birth-chamber of the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ the apostles devoted themselves with one accord to prayer together with Mary who gave birth to the infant Body and Blood of Christ.
For ten days of prayer with Mother Mary in the Eucharistic Delivery Room, the apostolic Church would gestate, to be born of the Eucharist in the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
The Gospel today is also set in the Upper Room on the very night of the Birth of the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ.
Jesus is praying aloud to his Father.
First of all, he has RAISED his eyes to heaven.
Jesus looks upon his Father as ABOVE or GREATER than himself.
In the Eucharistic Liturgy, we must do as Jesus, and look beyond ourselves, above ourselves, to one who is transcendent.
To make the Eucharistic Liturgy merely folksy would risk being out of touch with the way in which Jesus prayed and Jesus worshiped.
In this Gospel today from the Last Supper, in the costly Upper Room, it is the time of Passover, when the People of God used their finest plates, finest vessels, finest clothing— not what was common, but what was often reserved or bought just for this special occasion.
Even the bread was entirely different from the bread of everyday.
Even the meat was special and expensive: the meat of a male lamb as perfect as possible, a lamb with no deformity, with no spots on its skin or wool.
The worship of God at Passover was formal, not folksy.
However, it is not a matter of aiming at stuffy and stiff.
Neither is it a matter of ostentatious groveling before a potentate.
Rather it is a sincere show of recognition that almighty and ever-living God has come close to us with his saving power.
His closeness is wondrous because of his transcendent, majestic dignity.
Putting Jesus, True God and True Man, on a high pillar, and acclaiming him holy and sinless, seems to some persons to make Jesus distant and separate from us.
What really makes for distance and separation between men?
Sin is the cause of all distance and separation between men.
Since Jesus is transcendentally sinless and holy, he— AS A MAN— brings no distance and no separation to his relationship with us.
Precisely because he is transcendent, sinless, and holy, Jesus can draw closer to us than we can.
He can be closer to me than I to myself.
The same is true of his Mother Mary, with whom his Apostolic Church prayed for ten days.
The Blessed Mother Mary, sinless and holy, precisely because sinless and holy, brings no distance and no separation to her relationship with us.
We, sinners, we bring distance and separation.
To acknowledge the holiness and transcendence of God is to honor his powerful freedom to be infinitely close to us.
So Jesus, though God, but as a man, today in his Gospel, “raised his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father.’”
Eyes lifted up to holy heaven above, but with a word of intimacy, “Father.”
Then Jesus prayed aloud.
His prayer is full of awareness of majesty and glory greater than the created universe.
“Father....” you gave me “authority over ALL people.”
“Now GLORIFY me ... with you, with the GLORY that I had with you BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN.”
The prayer of Jesus is also full of transcendent reverence for US.
I pray
for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours,
and everything of mine is yours
and everything of yours is mine,
and I have been glorified in them.

Formality and reverence in the Eucharistic Liturgy is not just for God.
Formality and reverence in the Eucharistic Liturgy embraces the reverence that Jesus has for us as gifts that he has received from his Father.
“Father.... I pray for the ones you have given me, because they are yours.”
The reverence of Jesus for us goes farther still.
I revealed your name to those whom you gave me
the words you gave to me I have given to them
And now I will no longer be in the world,
but they are in the world,
while I am coming to you.

The reverence of Jesus for us includes his making us his partners and successors revealing his Father to the world.
Yet, if we are sinners, how could we so much as begin to make known the sinless Christ, Son of God, together with his Almighty, Ever-Living Father?
Saint Peter, in the second reading today, speaks the Word of the Lord: “blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Though we are sinners, if we cooperate with the Spirit of glory and of God resting upon us, we can make God known, and win other men to him.
For the sake of the Spirit of glory and of God resting upon us, the Apostolic Church spent ten days in the Eucharistic Upper Room devoted to prayer with one accord together with Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the midwife of Holy Mother Church.
On the tenth day— fifty days after the resurrection of the Body and Blood of Christ by the Spirit— the apostles were born out of the Eucharist, and made known the saving name of God in Jesus to more than three thousand men who asked for baptism that very same day.
We need to spend days of prayer in accord with the Apostolic Church and Mary, so that we can be sheltered by the Eucharist wherein even Jesus prays for us, so that “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon” us.
That is why we are in this place at this very minute.
Though we are distant and separate from each other and from God by our sinfulness, God is infallibly and immeasurably close to us because he is sinless, holy, transcendent and almighty.
He gives us his closeness and his holiness in the Body and Blood of Christ his Son, and “blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Jesus, who has been taken up to heaven, prays even there for us.

That God Be Glorified in All


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