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.

February 27, 2009

For Friday after Ash Wednesday

Matthew 9:14-15

During the eight days before today, the Lord in his daily Gospel at Mass has spoken THREE times about his suffering and death, FOUR times about his resurrection, ONCE about our self-denial in following him, and TWICE about our carrying crosses to follow him.
Today in his Gospel, he speaks of the day he was to be taken away from us as the time for mourning and fasting— the day we shall recall, proclaim, and own on Good Friday of the Lord’s Suffering and Death on the Cross.
With Good Friday as the first day, and Easter Sunday as the third of the yearly Sacred Three, we shall again swear the oaths of Baptism.
Through GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT we are baptized and anointed for communion with GOD THE SON in his Passover of suffering, death, and resurrection as the new and everlasting covenant for the forgiveness of sins, so that we might live in joyful freedom as the sons and daughters of GOD THE FATHER.
In these first three days of our preparation for the Passover of Christ, he has twice spoken to us of fasting.
Today he says we are to fast as a way to mourn that he was taken away from us.
On Ash Wednesday he said we are to fast secretly for the FATHER to see and repay.
We are to pray secretly for the FATHER to see and repay.
We are to give alms secretly for the FATHER to see and repay.
The Lord’s Ash Wednesday Gospel was all about rewards in secret intimacy with the Father.
We look forward to celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and his ascension by which he lives enthroned intimately with the Father.
By the power of the Spirit, Jesus took flesh and everything that we are, and he is alive with it in intimacy with the Father.
Our being finally and fully at home with that reward is the goal of our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
That goal’s presence, promise and preview come to us in the Body and Blood of Christ.
If we imitate what they contain, we shall receive what they promise.

That God Be Glorified in All

February 23, 2009

For Monday of the Seventh Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Mark 9:14-29

“This kind can only come out through prayer.”
Some ancient manuscripts of the Gospel add “fasting”— that this kind of unclean spirit can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.
The Gospel does not show the Lord praying or fasting to throw out this unclean spirit.
Rather, the Lord spoke a command casting out the unclean spirit.
Had not the disciples themselves just been trying to drive it out?
If their failure was because of a lack of prayer, when did Jesus pray in driving out the unclean spirit?
There is one place in the Gospel where we see Jesus fasting, praying, and overcoming an unclean spirit.
It was the time of his forty days in the wilderness.
Those forty days of prayer came right after history’s first public intervention of the entire Divine Trinity in sight and sound: the Baptism of God the Son— when the voice of God the Father cracked the heavens and let out a sign of God the Holy Spirit over the head of God the Son.
Then, as the strong Greek language of this particular Gospel tells it [Mk. 1:12], the Holy Spirit ekbállei— throws, drives, shoots, casts, tosses, flings, hurls, or launches Jesus out into the wilderness where he fasts, prays, and overcomes the unclean spirit.
History’s second intervention of the entire Divine Trinity in sight and sound happened right before today’s Gospel.
On a high mountain, Peter, James, and John saw the flesh and blood Son of God and his earthly clothes give off an unworldly dazzling white light.
They saw the cloud of God the Spirit overshadow them.
They heard the voice of God the Father command: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!”
Now, today in the Gospel, his followers hear the Son of God command a devil to leave a boy; and they hear the Son of God tell them the power for this exorcism is the power of prayer.
Immediately following an intervention of the Divine Trinity in sight and sound and flesh and blood, today’s exorcism has a most dramatic, indeed, a supernatural setting.
The followers of Jesus cannot throw, drive, toss, or cast out at least this one kind of devil.
They must pray for God to intervene.
Furthermore, if other ancient manuscripts of the Gospel are correct, then the followers of Jesus must also fast when asking God to intervene.
To fast is to make oneself physically weak and vulnerable.
As a companion of prayer, fasting tells us the strength and victory we need are in God himself.
Today’s Gospel also reminds us there are unclean spirits stronger than ourselves, and against whom we have no victory without God.
Not to fast, not to pray, not to believe, and not to rely on the intervention of God’s driving Spirit— is to invite from Jesus the same scolding he gave his followers today.
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?”
Not to fast, not to pray, not to believe, and not to rely on God the Spirit— is to leave ourselves open to the victory of evil.

That God Be Glorified in All