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 26, 2008

For Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

John 15:18-21

Today Jesus speaks of four parties: God his Father, Jesus himself, his disciples, the world.
He speaks of his Father as “the one who sent me.”
Jesus speaks of the world as not knowing God who sent him, the world as having hated Jesus, as having rejected what he says, as having persecuted him, as hating his disciples, as persecuting them, as rejecting what they say.
What Jesus says today is categorical.
Until the end of the world, until the new heavens and the new earth, there will be opposition to Jesus in the world.
There may be historical fluctuation up and down in the fraction of humanity that belongs to Jesus, but there will always be opposition to Jesus.
In fact, the New Testament says opposition to Jesus will grow as the end of the world approaches.
Jesus in his Gospel today reminds us to expect to be hated and persecuted because we belong to him.
Do we really belong to Jesus?
Belonging to him is not a matter of our claiming to belong to him.
It is not a matter of saying, “I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”
Rather, belonging to Jesus is a matter of Jesus choosing us.
He says today, “I have chosen you out of the world.”
What is up to us is to accept or reject that Jesus has chosen us.
He has chosen us to join him in the Everlasting Covenant of his Body and Blood.
If we freely take, eat, and drink, we are accepting a choice Jesus has made to have us belong to him, as he says today:
you do not belong to the world ... I have chosen you out of the world

He has a claim on us, but his claim does not enslave.
His claim on us sets us free to receive from him.
Immediately before today’s Gospel he said:
a SLAVE does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you FRIENDS,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you

I have called you FRIENDS,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

Everything he has from his Father he has given to us.
The first sin of human history, the sin that enslaved us, was the sin of believing that God would NOT give us everything, the sin of believing that we would have to reach out and take it for ourselves.
Our new freedom will come from allowing God to reach out and take us for himself.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you

I have called you FRIENDS,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

We might take the Body and Blood of Christ, but we must see our taking as allowing God in Christ to take us.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you

If we allow God his choice of us, it will guarantee us hatred from the world until the end of the world, but it will take us into the Everlasting Covenant of friendship with the Son of God and a share in his Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you

I have called you FRIENDS,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

That God Be Glorified in All

April 23, 2008

For Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

John 15:1-8
Acts 15:1-6

The Word of the Lord in the first reading today recalls the question in the first days of the Church about God’s ancient law of circumcision for the men of his Chosen People.
Peter, Paul, and all the apostles met, talked about it, and decided circumcision of the male body was not part of the New and Everlasting Covenant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, the Lord’s Gospel today is about a different kind of cutting that is always necessary— and not just for males.
Today Christ says his word or teachings are his Father’s tools for cutting out of our lives whatever is unclean, weak, ungenerous, and unfruitful.
This spiritual pruning, or spiritual circumcision, is for the sake of spiritual LIFE and spiritual GROWTH.
Right after today’s words, the Lord goes on to tell the reason and goal of spiritual circumcision.
I have told you this so that MY JOY
may be IN YOU,
might be COMPLETE.

A grapevine that never receives guidance, direction, correction, and training by cutting or pruning just grows wild.
It will not be as strong and fruitful as a wisely pruned one.
The wild vine can have lots of stems and leaves, but fewer grapes and smaller ones than a vine that has been pruned to train its growth.
The Father’s tool for trimming and shaping us is the teaching of Christ.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you....

By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit
and become my disciples.

If we have never felt the Gospel cutting us, perhaps we have not been listening honestly.
The Lord accepts us as we are, but then he gets to work cutting us, pruning us, for growth, for fruitfulness, and for joy.
If we do listen honestly to the Gospel, perhaps we feel that it goes beyond our natural strengths.
The Lord knows it, so he says today:
If... my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want
and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father GLORIFIED,
that you bear much fruit
and become my disciples.

The fruit we are to bear is God’s glory and joy shining from our human weakness.
Remember: on the joyful day of his resurrection glory, the signs he gave to confirm his identity were signs of weakness and brokenness.
The Risen One in Emmaus showed who he was through BROKEN bread.
Later that day, the Glorified One proved who he was by showing the WOUNDS in his hands, feet, and side.
We, his disciples, need to let his word cut into our lives and expect fruit from us.
After all, here in the Eucharist, we expect the Lord to allow us to bite into his life and swallow it.
In his Eucharist, the Lord’s Risen Body is really present as broken for us, and his Living Blood is really present as poured out for us.
Wounded in giving glory to his Father, wounded by forgiving our sins, wounded in serving the good of mankind— wounded, yet risen, alive, victorious, full of glory and joy!
If we never let the word of Christ cut us, then in the end we shall not bear and know the fruit of everlasting joy and glory.
If we welcome the cutting, then we may also dare to ask— as Christ tells us to ask— to be marked forever by the glory and joy of God.

That God Be Glorified in All

April 20, 2008

From Pope Benedict XVI in New York City, for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus tells his Apostles to put their faith in him, for he is “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). Christ is the way that leads to the Father, the truth which gives meaning to human existence, and the source of that life which is eternal joy with all the saints in his heavenly Kingdom. Let us take the Lord at his word! Let us renew our faith in him and put all our hope in his promises!

With this encouragement to persevere in the faith of Peter (cf. Lk 22:32; Mt 16:17), I greet all of you with great affection. I thank Cardinal Egan for his cordial words of welcome in your name. At this Mass, the Church in the United States celebrates the 200th anniversary of the creation of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville from the mother See of Baltimore. The presence around this altar of the Successor of Peter, his brother bishops and priests, and deacons, men and women religious, and lay faithful from throughout the 50 states of the Union, eloquently manifests our communion in the Catholic faith which comes to us from the Apostles.

Our celebration today is also a sign of the impressive growth which God has given to the Church in your country in the past two hundred years. From a small flock like that described in the first reading, the Church in America has been built up in fidelity to the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor. In this land of freedom and opportunity, the Church has united a widely diverse flock in the profession of the faith and, through her many educational, charitable and social works, has also contributed significantly to the growth of American society as a whole.

This great accomplishment was not without its challenges. Today’s first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks of linguistic and cultural tensions already present within the earliest Church community. At the same time, it shows the power of the word of God, authoritatively proclaimed by the Apostles and received in faith, to create a unity which transcends the divisions arising from human limitations and weakness. Here we are reminded of a fundamental truth: that the Church’s unity has no other basis than the Word of God, made flesh in Christ Jesus our Lord. All external signs of identity, all structures, associations and programs, valuable or even essential as they may be, ultimately exist only to support and foster the deeper unity which, in Christ, is God’s indefectible gift to his Church.

The first reading also makes clear, as we see from the imposition of hands on the first deacons, that the Church’s unity is “apostolic.” It is a visible unity, grounded in the Apostles whom Christ chose and appointed as witnesses to his resurrection, and it is born of what the Scriptures call “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; cf. Acts 6:7).

“Authority.” “Obedience”. To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a “stumbling stone” for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom. Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ -- “the way and the truth and the life” -- we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words. The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. “In his will is our peace”.

Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on “the mind of Christ” (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the “apostolate” of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God’s saving plan.

This magnificent vision of a world being transformed by the liberating truth of the Gospel is reflected in the description of the Church found in today’s second reading. The Apostle tells us that Christ, risen from the dead, is the keystone of a great temple which is even now rising in the Spirit. And we, the members of his body, through Baptism have become “living stones” in that temple, sharing in the life of God by grace, blessed with the freedom of the sons of God, and empowered to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to him (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). And what is this offering which we are called to make, if not to direct our every thought, word and action to the truth of the Gospel and to harness all our energies in the service of God’s Kingdom? Only in this way can we build with God, on the one foundation which is Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3:11). Only in this way can we build something that will truly endure. Only in this way can our lives find ultimate meaning and bear lasting fruit.

Today we recall the bicentennial of a watershed in the history of the Church in the United States: its first great chapter of growth. In these two hundred years, the face of the Catholic community in your country has changed greatly. We think of the successive waves of immigrants whose traditions have so enriched the Church in America. We think of the strong faith which built up the network of churches, educational, healthcare and social institutions which have long been the hallmark of the Church in this land. We think also of those countless fathers and mothers who passed on the faith to their children, the steady ministry of the many priests who devoted their lives to the care of souls, and the incalculable contribution made by so many men and women religious, who not only taught generations of children how to read and write, but also inspired in them a lifelong desire to know God, to love him and to serve him. How many “spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God” have been offered up in these two centuries! In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith, but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society. Today’s celebration is more than an occasion of gratitude for graces received. It is also a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own, to proclaim his glorious works” (1 Pet 2:9). These words of the Apostle Peter do not simply remind us of the dignity which is ours by God’s grace; they also challenge us to an ever greater fidelity to the glorious inheritance which we have received in Christ (cf. Eph 1:18). They challenge us to examine our consciences, to purify our hearts, to renew our baptismal commitment to reject Satan and all his empty promises. They challenge us to be a people of joy, heralds of the unfailing hope (cf. Rom 5:5) born of faith in God’s word, and trust in his promises.

Each day, throughout this land, you and so many of your neighbors pray to the Father in the Lord’s own words: “Thy Kingdom come.” This prayer needs to shape the mind and heart of every Christian in this nation. It needs to bear fruit in the way you lead your lives and in the way you build up your families and your communities. It needs to create new “settings of hope” (cf. Spe Salvi, 32ff.) where God’s Kingdom becomes present in all its saving power.

Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom also means being constantly alert for the signs of its presence, and working for its growth in every sector of society. It means facing the challenges of present and future with confidence in Christ’s victory and a commitment to extending his reign. It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity and scandal. It means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness. It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, “there is no human activity - even in secular affairs - which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion” (Lumen Gentium, 36). It means working to enrich American society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value to all the other hopes which inspire our lives.

And this, dear friends, is the particular challenge which the Successor of Saint Peter sets before you today. As “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” follow faithfully in the footsteps of those who have gone before you! Hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom in this land! Past generations have left you an impressive legacy. In our day too, the Catholic community in this nation has been outstanding in its prophetic witness in the defense of life, in the education of the young, in care for the poor, the sick and the stranger in your midst. On these solid foundations, the future of the Church in America must even now begin to rise!

Yesterday, not far from here, I was moved by the joy, the hope and the generous love of Christ which I saw on the faces of the many young people assembled in Dunwoodie. They are the Church’s future, and they deserve all the prayer and support that you can give them. And so I wish to close by adding a special word of encouragement to them. My dear young friends, like the seven men, “filled with the Spirit and wisdom” whom the Apostles charged with care for the young Church, may you step forward and take up the responsibility which your faith in Christ sets before you! May you find the courage to proclaim Christ, “the same, yesterday, and today and for ever” and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10; Heb 13:8). These are the truths that set us free! They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world - including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother’s womb. In a world where, as Pope John Paul II, speaking in this very place, reminded us, Lazarus continues to stand at our door (Homily at Yankee Stadium, October 2, 1979, No. 7), let your faith and love bear rich fruit in outreach to the poor, the needy and those without a voice. Young men and women of America, I urge you: open your hearts to the Lord’s call to follow him in the priesthood and the religious life. Can there be any greater mark of love than this: to follow in the footsteps of Christ, who was willing to lay down his life for his friends (cf. Jn 15:13)?

In today’s Gospel, the Lord promises his disciples that they will perform works even greater than his (cf. Jn 14:12). Dear friends, only God in his providence knows what works his grace has yet to bring forth in your lives and in the life of the Church in the United States. Yet Christ’s promise fills us with sure hope. Let us now join our prayers to his, as living stones in that spiritual temple which is his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Let us lift our eyes to him, for even now he is preparing for us a place in his Father’s house. And empowered by his Holy Spirit, let us work with renewed zeal for the spread of his Kingdom.

“Happy are you who believe!” (cf. 1 Pet 2:7). Let us turn to Jesus! He alone is the way that leads to eternal happiness, the truth who satisfies the deepest longings of every heart, and the life who brings ever new joy and hope, to us and to our world. Amen.

[In Spanish:]

Queridos hermanos y hermanas en el Señor:

Les saludo con afecto y me alegro de celebrar esta Santa Misa para dar gracias a Dios por el bicentenario del momento en que empezó a desarrollarse la Iglesia Católica en esta Nación. Al mirar el camino de fe recorrido en estos años, no exento también de dificultades, alabamos al Señor por los frutos que la Palabra de Dios ha dado en estas tierras y le manifestamos nuestro deseo de que Cristo, Camino, Verdad y Vida, sea cada vez más conocido y amado.

Aquí, en este País de libertad, quiero proclamar con fuerza que la Palabra de Cristo no elimina nuestras aspiraciones a una vida plena y libre, sino que nos descubre nuestra verdadera dignidad de hijos de Dios y nos alienta a luchar contra todo aquello que nos esclaviza, empezando por nuestro propio egoísmo y caprichos. Al mismo tiempo, nos anima a manifestar nuestra fe a través de nuestra vida de caridad y a hacer que nuestras comunidades eclesiales sean cada día más acogedoras y fraternas.

Sobre todo a los jóvenes les confío asumir el gran reto que entraña creer en Cristo y lograr que esa fe se manifieste en una cercanía efectiva hacia los pobres. También en una respuesta generosa a las llamadas que Él sigue formulando para dejarlo todo y emprender una vida de total consagración a Dios y a la Iglesia, en la vida sacerdotal o religiosa.

Queridos hermanos y hermanas, les invito a mirar el futuro con esperanza, permitiendo que Jesús entre en sus vidas. Solamente Él es el camino que conduce a la felicidad que no acaba, la verdad que satisface las más nobles expectativas humanas y la vida colmada de gozo para bien de la Iglesia y el mundo. Que Dios les bendiga.

That God Be Glorified in All