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.

August 13, 2009

For Thursday of the Nineteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 18:21 to 19:1

It is another ugly page in the Gospel of the Lord.
First of all, if you are a translation snob like me, this page’s translation is very poor.
It could have easily told us the facts, but has ended up hiding them.
I’ll say more about that later.
There is also beauty in the Gospel today, but it is in an ugly setting.
Jesus likens his heavenly Father to a king who has a wicked servant tortured for his debt.
“So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
A heavenly Father who uses torture!
Where is the beauty?
The wicked servant owed his king “a huge amount.”
Those words cover up what the original language really says.
It says the wicked servant owed his king not “a huge amount,” but, “ten thousand talents,” which is the Biblical earnings for one hundred and fifty thousand years of work.
One hundred and fifty thousand years of wages!
“Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children and all his property”— so today Jesus also likens his heavenly Father to a slave trader.
Ugliness again!
This is where beauty steps in.
The servant begged for patience, and the king “let him go and forgave him the loan.”
A debt of one hundred and fifty thousand years of salary might as well be a debt of forever.
That is what we owe God for our immortal souls.
We have compounded that everlasting debt by sinning against God’s goodness to us.
The beauty is that God forgives for the asking.
However, the forgiveness is conditional: if we do not forgive, then Jesus says his heavenly Father takes away his forgiveness from us.
The servant who owed his king one hundred and fifty thousand years of wages turned to choke and jail a coworker who owed him “a much smaller amount”— as this translation has it.
The original language says “a hundred denarii,” the earnings for a hundred days of work.
The earnings of one hundred days the second man owed to the first is as nothing against the debt of one hundred and fifty thousand years of earnings the first man owed to his king.
In the eyes of Jesus, our fellow men owe us nothing compared to what we owe his heavenly Father.
If we do not forgive, Jesus says his heavenly Father will give us up for torture.
Ugly— but that’s what Jesus says.
We are preparing right now to dare to receive the gift of the flesh and blood of Christ God himself.
We are going to go into debt for it.
This gift is, as Christ said, “so that sins may be forgiven.”
In today’s Gospel, he adds words that apply also to his Body and Blood, “Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?”
The gift of the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ our God gives us the obligation to do as God does.
Otherwise Jesus leaves us with ugly words about the anger of his Father.
“Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers.... So will my heavenly Father do to you....”
There will be hell to pay.

That God Be Glorified in All

August 09, 2009

For the Nineteenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

1 Kings 19:4-8
Ephesians 4:30 to 5:2
John 6:41-51

In the Roman Mass we have three years of readings for the Sundays.
Right now we are in the middle year that uses the Gospel of Mark.
In the middle of this middle year, the Church interrupts the Gospel of Mark, and sticks in for five Sundays in a row chapter six of the Gospel of John.
So the Church has chapter six of the Gospel of John in the center of the three years of Sunday readings.
What we have in this chapter is the foundation, the center, and the summit of our faith and worship.
Out of the five Sundays for reading this chapter, today is the middle Sunday.
The chapter is heating up.
Picking up where he left off last Sunday, Christ is now pushing supernatural and divine claims about himself.
+ A claim to be the bread of life.
+ A claim to end hunger and thirst forever for those who believe in him.
+ A claim to have come down from heaven.
+ A claim to be sent by God.
+ A claim that Christ will raise his followers from the dead at the end of time.
+ A claim to be the Son of God.
+ A claim that all who listen to God the Father go to Christ.
+ A claim to have seen God the Father.
+ A claim that those who eat Christ will live forever.
+ A claim that his flesh and blood are food and drink for the life of the world.
On the next two Sundays, he will increase and intensify all these claims with uncompromising, blunt literalism.
He is a man of flesh and blood, and he claims to be as God.
For that blasphemous claim, the law would have him stoned to death.
He has tied up his claim to godhood with his claims about his flesh and blood, so that in a nutshell this chapter gives us the full Christ.
Note well in this chapter that his claim to godhood was less objectionable to his listeners than his claims about his flesh and blood.
In the New Testament language, the realism of his words about his flesh and blood as food and drink are so graphically physical that many of his own followers decided to give up on him.
His lurid words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood were worse than claiming to be God.
Even as many of his followers turned away, Christ offered no explanation or softening of his words.
The forthright, raw language of this chapter shuts out the possibility that Christ was speaking symbolically about his flesh and blood.
So, we face three possibilities.
Christ was crazy, or he was a liar, or he was telling the truth.
We are here today because we acknowledge he was telling the truth.
We are here because of what he promises to do for us if we eat his flesh and drink his blood.
+ He will raise us from the dead at the end of time.
+ He will end all manner of our hungers and thirsts forever.
+ He will make us live forever.
Christ gives his word; and to his word he binds his whole self— body, blood, soul, and godhood.
The binding is a covenant.
Take, eat, drink, my body, my blood: the new and everlasting covenant.
He binds himself to this covenant not to save our souls alone, but also our bodies.
For our souls alone, his words would be enough.
Also for our bodies, his words would be enough.
So he is doing something more by putting his promise not only in words but also in his flesh and blood that he serves up as food and drink.
Flesh for flesh, and Blood for blood!
What great dignity we have in God’s eyes since he chose to join himself to our lives by flesh and blood and soul.
In the bodily resurrection and ascension into heaven of Christ God, our full humanity in flesh and blood sits enthroned in dignity and joy at the right hand of God the Father.
That is Good News.
Because of it, everything about the body and all we do with the body is of everlasting import.
Catholic morality sincerely cherishes, bothers with, and flows from this core truth of the Gospel.
Christ chose to offer all his claims and all his self in flesh and blood in a covenant, “The New and Everlasting Covenant.”
It is not enough, however, for us to passively receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
As he gives up his body for us and sheds his blood for us, he tells us also to the same: “Do this in memory of me.”
From a selfish point of view, these last words of Christ about his body and blood are more objectionable than anything else.
Our selfishness does not mind if Christ claims to be God in flesh and blood, and gives his life up for us.
However, our selfishness finds it objectionable that he commands us to do the same as he has done.
In the second reading today, the Word of the Lord reminds us to reciprocate his covenant by burning our lives up like incense in the fire of self-sacrifice for God; it says:
be imitators of God...
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

We may step up to receive and consume the Eucharist of Christ today.
However, is the rest of our day and week going to amount to a turning away from self-sacrifice that marries our dignity to that of God the Son?
If so, then why are we here at all?

That God Be Glorified in All