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.

October 18, 2009

For the Twenty-Ninth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

[Though back from Europe since the fourteenth, I'm not all caught up yet with a backlog of meetings and work. Here's a reworking of a homily from the past.]

Mark 10:35-45

This is the tenth chapter of the holy Gospel according to Mark.
Earlier in this chapter, our Lord teaches things that challenge our own culture today, namely:
that in marriage “God made them male and female”;

that authentic marriage is for life;

that children are a blessing in the kingdom of God;

that wealth is a big stumbling block in following Christ and entering his kingdom;

that poverty and celibacy for the sake of Christ and his Gospel bring rewards now and in the life to come.

This chapter tells us that after the Lord’s followers heard those teachings they were amazed and afraid [10:32].
His teachings are demanding.
However, he does not spare himself.
In this chapter he said he himself would undergo torture and execution, but that he would rise from the dead.
Today he called his coming violent death “the cup that I drink,” and said he came “to give his life as a ransom.”
Having heard both the harsh demands of following Christ and the harsh destiny awaiting Christ himself, the apostles clearly seem to have tried to change the subject.
Two of them today asked the Lord for first-place thrones of glory, and the other ten jumped in for the competition.
Each of the twelve is looking greedily and past the finish line, but none wants to look at where the marathon starts or what way it takes.
Christ has already put in their faces the fact of his full sharing in our human reality of suffering and death.
Being God and also human, Christ gives suffering and death a new meaning and a new possibility.
In Christ, the pit of human suffering and death has become the home and the fountain of deepest union and intimacy between God and humanity, between spirit and flesh.
Natural human life is already both physical and spiritual.
Suffering and death are when we come face to face with the reality of being both physical and spiritual.
Suffering and death put in our faces the fact that the physical and the spiritual are sometimes in conflict, but are always together.
In response to suffering and death, our shattered culture today offers us false, temporary escapes.
Mindless partying, empty talk shows, drugs, recreational sex and relationships, contraception, abortion, and euthanasia!
At least the apostles wanted to compete for thrones of glory as their mistaken escape from the suffering and death Jesus was talking about.
Suffering and death have never gone away.
They shall end only when the return of Christ brings on the new heavens and the new earth.
Long ago God shaped the human body from the dust of the universe, and then breathed his eternal Spirit within us.
Not long afterwards, we chose to sin, and so began suffering and death.
Though we do suffer and die, we shall rise body AND spirit.
We shall rise from death, truly free in real body and spirit forever.
Today in his Gospel, the Lord tells us: YOU WILL DRINK MY CUP.
We do not ever escape from reality, both material and spiritual.
Suffering, death, the cross and the glory of the resurrection are bridged and reconciled in the person of Christ, bridged and reconciled by God AND man, because Christ is God AND man.
At the cost of his own life, Christ who is God and man used his freedom to serve the Father and the world.
Because of that, his human freedom rose from the dead never to be lost or diminished again.
By believing and following Christ, we face and serve reality and truth in the deepest and highest way possible.
We may suffer for doing so.
However, unless we do so willingly, we allow our freedom to collapse down to what is merely pleasurable, merely convenient, and merely comfortable.
There we shall stay.
We shall lose our freedom and we shall not rise from death into glory.
If you were to go lie in bed, and move yourself only for what is pleasurable, convenient, or comfortable, your muscles would shrivel, and you would become a prisoner in your own body.
Even the freedom of our bodies requires that we push our bodies beyond what is merely pleasurable, convenient or comfortable.
It is the same with our spiritual freedom of spirit: we lose our spiritual freedom unless we push beyond pleasure, comfort and convenience.
Christ took his human freedom— our human freedom— to the limit.
He took our human freedom to the cross, through the cross and up into the resurrection.
“This is my body … GIVEN UP for you.”
“This is … my blood … SHED for you.”
The cross of Christ— and our willing share in it— opens up to us our salvation, our meaning, our destiny, our reality, our vocation, our obligations, our joyful consummation and fulfillment in glory.
There is no real other way.
To receive the Eucharist is to say “Amen” to a share in the cross for our own freedom, glory, and joy.

That God Be Glorified in All