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.

June 17, 2009

For Wednesday of the Eleventh Ordinary Week of the Church Year

2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

In today’s first reading, the Word of the Lord tells us to plant heavily if we want to have a big harvest.
If we do so, God will “increase the harvest of your righteousness.”
Righteousness is justice in giving God and our neighbors what they have a right to receive from us.
That is not a one-way street.
As our willing practice of justice and righteousness stretches our freedom to give, it also stretches our freedom to receive from God.
Today’s Gospel says our Father will recompense, reward, or repay us when we offer the secret, righteous deeds of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting for our Father alone.
Prayer deals with our Father.
Almsgiving deals with my neighbor.
Fasting deals with my self.
Our Father, my neighbor, my self— the three kinds of personal relationship I can have.
Although fasting, almsgiving, and prayer turn in three different directions— myself, my neighbor, my God— the Lord Jesus says our Father will repay them only if my goal in all three directions is our Father alone.
Our Father does not repay when I show off my fasting, my alms, or my prayer so that others will pat me on the back.
Even letting “your left hand know what your right is doing” is another way of saying, “patting your own self on the back.”
The Lord Jesus underscores secrecy in our seeking the Father.
Today’s Gospel is a three-part litany of secrecy with the Father in almsgiving, secrecy with the Father in prayer, secrecy with the Father in fasting.
It has all the makings of intimacy.
When I secretly give alms, I make myself materially vulnerable and avoid having others support my vulnerability by patting me on the back.
The Lord tells me to offer my material vulnerability secretly to the Father for his support alone.
When I pray all by myself, I avoid the social support of neighbors, so I am socially vulnerable.
The Lord tells me to offer my social vulnerability secretly to the Father for his support alone.
When I fast, I make myself physically vulnerable.
The Lord tells me to offer my physical vulnerability secretly to the Father for his support alone.
Secret almsgiving, prayer, and fasting— material, social, and physical vulnerability in secret with the Father— these are the all-embracing, natural and supernatural makings for real and deep intimacy with God.
In his own Body and Blood, Christ makes himself vulnerable materially, socially, and physically.
In the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, Christ makes himself into a saving alms for our poverty, into a prayer interceding for us to the Father, and even into a fast-unto-death-on-the-cross that he offers on our behalf to the Father.
By raising him from the dead, and exalting him to his side in heaven, our Father has repaid Christ for his vulnerability.
If we follow Christ in his intimate pursuit of our Father, we shall receive the same as Christ.

That God Be Glorified in All

June 14, 2009

For the Eleventh Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Ezekiel 17:22-24
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
Mark 4:26-34

When God freed the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, he told them [Ex.19:5,6]: “all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
In the days of the Lord Jesus on earth, God’s people had been hoping for a messiah to come with earthly might to uphold them as a kingdom over all others.
Jesus teaches something like that will happen at the end of time.
For now, God is King on earth more in mystery rather than earthly might.
Today in his Gospel, he tells two parables about “how it is with the Kingdom of God.”
The Kingdom of God draws near, it happens, it toils, it unfolds, it grows with man’s help— but man “knows not how.”
The mystery of the Kingdom is that “the smallest of all ... becomes the largest.”
For now, the Kingdom of God goes in ways more mysterious and small, than mighty and great.
It could have been otherwise.
Jesus told Pontius Pilate:
My kingship is not of this world;
if my kingship were of this world,
my servants would fight,
that I might not be handed over [Jn.18:36]

You would have no power over me
unless it had been given you from above [Jn.19:11]

God’s angel Gabriel in Nazareth [Lk.1:32,33] said Jesus is Son of the Most High, and of his kingdom there will be no end.
Christ the King went about on earth by the wisdom and might from above, and his servants— not of this world— could have smashed imperial Rome or any superpower.
They still can, and one day they will.
Christ does teach that at the end of time he will come in glory to be enthroned on earth, and the army of all his angelic servants will haul before him every living soul for judgment and for everlasting blessing or damnation. [Mt.25:31ff.]
When heaven at last comes to marry earth, all the blessed faithful, alive beyond death, will be joined forever to God in the blessings of perfect happiness and fulfillment.
The highest peak and deepest well of joy will be to see, know, and love God.
Sin shall no longer pull at souls, for God himself will fill up every one.
That can seem like “pie in the sky”— nice to think about, but not likely to come about.
Perhaps the crowds in the Gospel today were disappointed to hear these parables in which Jesus calls us to work at holding fast, and to work at remaining open to God’s promises, even if things do look too small and hidden.
Aren’t we tired of waiting?
Couldn’t God just step in, push away the bad, fix the broken, and bring on the best?
We might imagine we’d like it just fine if God would do all of that for us.
However, he has something bigger in mind.
He wants us to be able to look him in the eye, and to hear him say:
You are like me.
I make choices.
So can you.
You are like me.

So he has given us a world and a life of choices to make on our own.
Yes, we have broken it, starting with the original sin.
After that, and ever since: other sins, plus some forgivable stupidity and also sickness whether of mind or body.
Sooner or later, we each sinfully break something in the world, something in our own lives and something in the lives of others.
Still, we are left with what we had in Paradise: a world of choices.
In the end, Christ the King wants each of us to see him face to face, and to hear him say:
You are like me.
I made choices.
So did you.
You are like me.
Good work!

Then the King will say, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” [Mt.25:34]
Yes, Lord, thy kingdom come, thy will be done!

That God Be Glorified in All