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.

July 12, 2008

For the Fourteenth Ordinary Saturday of the Church Year

Matthew 10:24-33

The complexities of our big and small choices and reasons throughout our lives boil down to two results.
Either we have freely chosen to go to our heavenly Father, or we have freely chosen to go elsewhere.
And there is only one elsewhere.
Today in his Gospel, Jesus calls it by the Hebrew name of “Gehenna.”
To the south and west of ancient Jerusalem, the valley of Gehenna was where men used to sacrifice and burn their sons and daughters to gain some selfish favor from the idol Moloch.
Later, in the time of Jesus, Gehenna was a place to dump and burn trash.
In the teaching of Jesus, God lets us choose Gehenna for ourselves.
Choices always have consequences: either unto life with God, or unto Gehenna.
Depending on our choices, Jesus says today he will deny us before his Father if we deny him before men.
He tells us today to “be afraid” of being destroyed body and soul in Gehenna.
Yet, he also says three times today, “do not be afraid.”
Our reason to stand against fear is that God in Christ has given us both the gift of a new beginning and the gift of a final success story.
Christ is the new beginning of the human race, and Christ is the final success story of the human race.
Christ the Son of God chose to remain faithful to the Father, but he chose to do so as a human being— as one of us, as the head of our race.
He chose to take upon himself the consequences of our sinful choices.
By embracing, entering and swallowing OUR deadly, hell-bound POVERTY, Christ gave us the WEALTH of HIS freedom and faithfulness as Son of God.
God has handed over to us his own freedom in his Son, to save our souls and bodies, even counting the hairs of our heads.
The Moloch worshipers sacrificed their children in Gehenna for selfish gain.
God in Christ has sacrificed his Son on Golgotha not for selfish gain but for us.
Let us not deny him by wasting his Body and Blood through our choices to do anything that is not open to God.
The choices that authentically free us always acknowledge and reveal the Father from whom we came and the Father to whom we are returning.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 06, 2008

For the Fourteenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Matthew 11:25-30
Romans 8:9,11-13
Zechariah 9:9-10

Today in the Gospel we hear that the Father and the Son choose to reveal themselves to the little, but choose to hide themselves from those who are great merely in worldly wisdom and learning.
Then we hear Jesus offer rest and ease to all who labor and are burdened.
However, the Gospel opened today with the words, “AT THAT TIME Jesus exclaimed....”
“At that time”— at the time he had just finished bewailing and boding unbearable, deadly woe on those who saw his mighty miracles but chose not to turn to God.
So, today’s Gospel of rest and ease is half of a picture.
In the end the whole picture is that Jesus sorely wants and warns us to make a free choice between the black and white either of living or of dying.
For two hundred, thirty-two years and two days, our nation has chosen to be free.
Freedom and its choices have consequences, and the consequences are everlasting.
In the second reading today God tells us the everlasting end of all freedoms and choices.
If you live according to the flesh, you will DIE, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will LIVE.

The one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.

By the power of the Spirit dwelling in us, we have a choice to make either to be raised body and soul from the dead or to be lost forever because of sin.
The Spirit is the Lord and Giver of Life.
For the Spirit to dwell in us, we must turn away from sin and its deadliness, and we must open up to God.
That is what Jesus commands three times and three ways in his Gospel today:
COME to me

TAKE my yoke upon you

LEARN from me

COME, TAKE, LEARN— three times and three ways he commands us to turn and open up with the same willing Spirit of meekness and humility that he, Jesus, has towards the Father.
If we freely choose to do and be as Jesus, then gradually— but one day fully and forever— we will share the inheritance of Jesus, and we will be able to say of ourselves what Jesus says of himself today in his Gospel.

The promise of our inheritance— with its down payment and foretaste— gives itself up for us and pours itself out for us in Christ, in the meekness and humility of his Eucharistic Body and Blood.
The New, Everlasting Covenant in the Blood of Christ promises, gives and is our ransom from sin.
We must COME, TAKE, and LEARN to receive the Eucharist with the Spirit of Christ’s own meekness and humility.
learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest

Honesty about ourselves as we stand before the Spirit of God will open our hearts to meekness and humility.
As the word of God puts it today in the second reading:
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Before turning to the Eucharist we must turn away from sin and open ourselves in the Spirit, as Christ is open in the Spirit.
COME to me

TAKE my yoke upon you

LEARN from me

COME, TAKE, and LEARN that, in the power of the Spirit, Christ freely chose to open, to give up himself bodily, and to shed his lifeblood both to atone for sinners and to glorify the Father.
The many sinners who repent and believe are rejoined to the Father in the death and resurrection of Christ.
By the cost and glory of his death and resurrection, Christ makes E PLURIBUS UNUM— “one out of the many” who were estranged in sin.
Jesus is service in person— service of the Father, service of humanity— service in person.
As service in person, in his Eucharist, he tells us to do and be the same in memory of him.
If we FREELY CHOOSE to come to the Eucharist, if we FREELY CHOOSE to take its yoke upon us, if we FREELY CHOOSE to learn from its meekness and humility, then by God’s FREE CHOICE we will rest, by God’s FREE CHOICE we will rise, and by God’s FREE CHOICE even our bodies shall rejoice forever.
When a priest is about to show and consume the Eucharist, he first quietly says this prayer.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,
by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit,
your death brought life to the world.
By your Holy Body and Blood,
free me from all my sins and from every evil,
keep me faithful to your teaching,
and never let me be parted from you.

To stay “faithful to your teaching,” to stay “always faithful”— SEMPER FIDELIS!
With our free choice to turn away from sin, with our free choice to open up to God in meekness and humility, with our free choice to remain always faithful, God chooses to take us into the joy of the new heavens and the new earth, the true land of the free, the true home of the brave.

That God Be Glorified in All

Posting nearly a week later: the homily I preached last Monday.

For Monday of the Thirteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 8:18-22

Today in his Gospel Jesus is still near the start of his missionary journey.
Several times on the way he will say he is to undergo betrayal and execution in Jerusalem.
When he finally turns to his journey’s last leg, his Gospel says:
When the days drew near for him to be received up,
he SET HIS FACE to go to Jerusalem. [See Luke 9:51-62]

Today in his Gospel, we see him already SET on his intensive and intentional mission.
He speaks to two men about following him to Jerusalem.
The first hears there shall be no place to call home.
the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head

Foxes have dens
birds have nests

Monks have cells.
the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head

Jesus has not asked his followers to repeat the physical, historical details of his missionary journey.
Nonetheless, our Benedictine vow of stability in one monastery for life can have the downside of our becoming spiritually stagnant packrats, instead of true followers of Jesus.
The second man in the Gospel today hears that to be alive in following Jesus to Jerusalem he must forego his beloved without so much as a farewell either for the living or the dead.
To leave house and family would leave a man vulnerable.
The intensity and intention of Jesus himself was to be vulnerable— vulnerable in having his closest, handpicked companions betray and abandon him— and vulnerable unto death at the hands of men.
In the monastery we do not have the vulnerability of being homeless missionaries.
A son of Benedict has a place to rest his head all the days of his life.
Monks are a brotherly household, and we bury our own dead.
Jesus has not called us to be homeless, betrayed, wanderers in the Holy Land or anywhere else.
Nonetheless, he has called us all to intensity and vulnerability, to take up some kind of cross as his disciple.
To choose to be vulnerable is a dangerous and strong thing to do.
Without vulnerability no intimacy is possible.
God’s intimacy, God’s deep and high Holy Communion with humanity has its deepest and highest in his taking a personal share in human suffering and death: God-with-us-even-unto-death.
He chose to open himself to all of it— open physically, emotionally, intellectually, and willingly.
He even opened heaven itself to the deadly wounds of the cross, wounds he still bears, though he rose in triumph from three days of death.
“He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.”
Now, in the intimate depths of heaven, even the throne of God bears human mortal wounds and vulnerability.
Because of that, we dare with St. Benedict to set our faces on staking out a dangerous and strong claim on God’s intimacy:
Receive me, Lord, according to your word,
and I shall live;
and do not disappoint me in my hope.

That God Be Glorified in All