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.

April 11, 2008

For Friday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:52-59
Acts 9:1-20

The night Jesus first gave us to eat and drink Holy Communion in his Body and Blood, he himself ate and drank a holy communion of agony and death.
He agonized that night in prayer over holy communion with his Father’s will.
The next day he agonized unto death in holy communion with sinners.
True prayer and communion can be an agony of sadness, fear, pain, suffering, and death, not always peace and joy.
True prayer and communion can kill, before they come to new life.
In agonized prayer in the Gethsemane garden, in communion with the Father’s will, and in communion with sinners, Jesus suffered and died.
Saul of Tarsus had known of the agony of Jesus on the cross; but Saul looked on Jesus and the followers of Jesus as blasphemous enemies of the living, true God.
Near the city of Damascus, Jesus, God the Son, fell upon Saul with light from heaven, demanding, accusing, commanding, and leaving Saul blind.
After Jesus stormed him that day, Saul agonized for three days without sight, food, or drink.
Did he fear that he would never see again?
Did he tell himself, “This is my punishment for helping at the killing of Stephen, for hunting down the followers of Jesus, my punishment for persecuting Jesus who is the Son of God, Jesus who has left me blind.”
As if such agony were not enough, one of the Damascus Christians heard Jesus say, “I will show [Saul] what he will have to suffer for my name.”
On the road to Damascus, Saul suffered in light of Jesus, and would suffer even more for the name of Jesus.
Communion, prayer, agony, suffering, conversion, more suffering, and finally death— the combination is not what we would like to have from the hands of Jesus.
Yet, Jesus himself accepted it from the hands of the Father.
Jesus willingly ate and drank it, and he dished out the same for Saul of Tarsus.
In his Gospel today, Jesus also dishes out something that can be tolerated only by conversion: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you DO NOT HAVE LIFE within you.”
Were it not for eating and drinking the Flesh and Blood of Jesus, his first followers would have just faded out, and Saul of Tarsus would not have needed to hunt them down for their blasphemy.
Without the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Jesus, all of Christianity would just have died out at the beginning.
Because of the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Jesus, Christianity is possible.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you DO NOT HAVE LIFE within you.”
We know this Gospel, and we know that many of the disciples who heard it chose to give up on Jesus.
About two thousand years later, you and I are here, struggling to follow Jesus.
Not all who call themselves disciples of Jesus believe as we do that we really eat the real Flesh of Jesus, and that we really drink the real Blood of Jesus.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you DO NOT HAVE LIFE within you.”
The Church has said the same in our time, at Vatican Council II [Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10]:
the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed;
it is also the fount from which all her power flows.
From the liturgy, therefore,
and especially from the Eucharist,
grace is poured forth upon us as from a fountain,
and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God... are achieved....

Because we eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of the Son of God, we have life within us, but we have it not merely for ourselves.
We have the life within us for the sake of God’s glory and the good of others.
That is why the Church is still here two thousand years later.
That is why the Church continues to be able to win converts for Jesus.
It is because Jesus lives in those who eat and drink his Flesh and Blood.
In spite of sickness, stupidity, and sin in the Church, the Flesh and Blood life of Jesus is in the Church.
Jesus blasted Saul with that truth on the road to Damascus.
“Saul, why are you persecuting ME?”
Saul was persecuting men and women whom Jesus counted as his own personal Flesh and Blood.
“Saul, why are you persecuting ME?”
We are sinners, and many see us as liars and fools.
Yet we are the Flesh and Blood of Jesus.
We eat and drink what look like wine and a thin wafer, yet we acknowledge them to be truly the Flesh and Blood of Jesus.
Things are not as they appear.
Agony, suffering, more suffering, death— they can all be the stuff of real conversion, real prayer, real communion with God.
Ask Saul at Damascus.
Ask Jesus and listen to him pray in the Gethsemane garden.
The agonies of Gethsemane and Golgotha opened the way for the ecstasies of rising from the dead.
“Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

That God Be Glorified in All

April 06, 2008

For the Third Sunday of Easter

Luke 24:13-35
Acts 2:14,22-33
1 Peter 1:17-21

Emmaus, a village some miles from Jerusalem, shows up only twice in the Word of God.
Both times Emmaus is where the shadow of crushing defeat menaces the People of God, and both times God gives them victory.
The first time was in the days of the Maccabees [1 Mac. 4], when an overwhelming pagan army came to Emmaus, and prepared to attack the People of God.
The Maccabee leading the People of God bolstered their hearts, saying:
Do not fear their numbers or be afraid when they charge.
Remember how our fathers were saved at the Red Sea,
when Pharaoh with his forces pursued them.
And now let us cry to Heaven,
to see whether he will favor us and remember his covenant with our fathers and crush this army before us today.
Then all the pagans will know that there is ONE WHO REDEEMS AND SAVES ISRAEL

In the days of the Maccabees, ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS, the People of God and their pagan enemies saw indeed ”that there is ONE WHO REDEEMS AND SAVES ISRAEL.”
In the days of Jesus, ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS, Cleopas and the other disciple of Jesus said they had been “hoping that [Jesus] would be THE ONE TO REDEEM ISRAEL.”
As they spoke those words, their hopes had seemed dashed— but they soon got what they were hoping for.
Earlier in the day, some women told them they had seen angels who said Jesus was alive.
The two men didn’t believe.
After seeing more than a lifetime’s worth in the last eight days, perhaps they just didn’t know what to believe.
A week before, the festival pilgrims thronging to Jerusalem had given Jesus a loud welcome befitting a triumphal king.
Then on the sixth day of the week, the nation’s highest religious and civil authorities killed him.
If the Messianic “Hosanna” could turn into the criminal “Crucify him!” then perhaps Cleopas and his fellow disciple thought that alleged angelic heralds of a resurrection could also turn out to be demons of deception and dismay.
Whatever the case might have been, Cleopas and the other were now going as in defeat on the road to Emmaus.
Jesus, the ONE WHO REDEEMS AND SAVES ISRAEL, went after them.
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”

Jesus already knew what the two men were discussing.
As St. Peter put it in the first reading today, all the things that had occurred did so “by the set plan and foreknowledge of God.”
Cleopas answered the question of Jesus.
Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?

Jesus was “the only visitor to Jerusalem who” REALLY knew what happened there.”
However, Jesus doesn’t tell them he knows, but instead knowingly sets them up by asking them to tell him the things that happened in Jerusalem.
As they tell him the story about himself, he lets them go on, and does not tell them they are talking about him.
He does unfold for them the fact that the Word of God had foretold that the anointed redeemer of Israel would suffer and so enter into his glory.
As Cleopas and the other disciple listened to Jesus, his words warmed up their thoughts and decisions, but they still did not see who he really was.
Then, as their road ended at Emmaus, they urged Jesus to stay the night with them.
And it happened that,
while he was with them at table,
he took bread,
said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that
their eyes were opened
and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.

Now they knew he was Jesus the ONE WHO REDEEMS AND SAVES ISRAEL.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus had been setting them up.
He had broken open for them the meaning of the Scriptures, with his final breaking open of the Scriptures being his blessing and breaking of bread.
Now they believe, and now they know.
What is the first thing they want to do after coming to know they have seen the living Jesus?
Their first decision is to share the truth with the Church.
“So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together” the apostles and other disciples.
However, before Cleopas and the other disciple even got a chance to tell of the victory at Emmaus, the Church in Jerusalem told them:
The Lord has truly been raised
and has appeared to Simon!

The believers in Jerusalem did not say, “The Lord to US.”
Instead, they said the Lord appeared to SIMON— SIMON PETER.
The risen Lord blessed Simon Peter with a one-on-one private reunion, and the testimony of Simon Peter was enough for the rest of the Church to believe:
The Lord has truly been raised
and has appeared to Simon!

They had not all seen Jesus alive with their own eyes, but they believed because Simon Peter testified.
Jesus does not show himself so that each of us sees him with our bodily eyes.
Rather, just as Jesus is the only eyewitness of his Father, and came to speak of his Father, so Jesus made his apostles his own eyewitnesses, and sent them to speak on his behalf.
Everything in today’s Gospel testimony happened on the first day of the week.
Ever since then, we have run back to the Church on the first day of the week to break open the Scriptures as Jesus did on this day when he rose from the dead.
We come to the Church to let Jesus make himself known to us in the breaking of the bread.
Every first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection, we come to join the successors of the apostles in testifying,
The Lord has truly been raised
and has appeared to Simon!

We are to carry that testimony to Emmaus and all places without faith, even all the faithless places inside our own lives, and let it be known, borrowing the words of the Maccabee at Emmaus of old, that Jesus remembers his covenant with our fathers the apostles, Jesus the ONE WHO REDEEMS AND SAVES.

That God Be Glorified in All