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.

January 21, 2010

For the Feast of Saint Meinrad, Benedictine Martyr

Matthew 10:28-33
James 1:2-4,12

St. Meinrad was a monk of the Benedictine monastery of Reichenau Island on Lake Constance.
Later in life, with the permission of his monastery superior, he went to live as a hermit in a valley in the mountains above Lake Zurich.
He died there at the hands of robbers in the year 863.
Exactly eight hundred years later, in 1663, St. Joseph of Cupertino passed away.
Historically documented crowds numbering hundreds of person had witnessed St. Joseph levitate and even fly about indoors and outdoors.
In 1917, just ninety-three years ago, thousands of persons, including members of the media, witnessed the sun dancing in the sky over Fátima, Portugal, where three children said the Blessed Virgin Mary was visiting them.
By contrast with the hundreds of eyewitness of St. Joseph Cupertino, and the thousands of witnesses at Fátima, when we read about the life of St. Meinrad, we may wonder who reported all the strange things that happened to him as a hermit.
In 1981, government workers digging in the area of St. Meinrad’s hermitage found the remains of wooden shacks in which other hermits lived around the time of St. Meinrad.
It may have been those other hermits who witnessed the strange things that happened when St. Meinrad was at prayer.
Reports remain that when St. Meinrad prayed visible demons attacked him, as if to break his fidelity to prayer.
Even his murder, his martyrdom, was connected with his fidelity to prayer.
While at prayer during Mass, it was shown to him that robbers were coming to kill him and take what little he had, perhaps the chalice and paten for celebrating the Eucharist.
After Mass, instead of running away, St. Meinrad remained at prayer, so that we may say he was “killed in the line of duty”— duty to God in prayer, making St. Meinrad a martyr of prayer.
When the robbers finally arrived, he received them as guests, and told them he knew their plan.
St. Meinrad had committed himself to stay with God by praying and living as a hermit.
Demons, robbers, and murderers failed to stop St. Meinrad’s simple faithfulness to his duty of prayer.
He suffered death in the line of duty.
Ordinary duties in daily life, daily work, and daily relationships are the absolute first step in loving God and surrendering to him.
It is by ordinary things that we begin the intimate and full change and renewal of our whole being— all our opinions, judgments and choices.
We let ourselves be moved and committed to undertake such work because we believe in God’s holiness and loving goodness that he showed and gave us fully in his Son.
Simple faith in God’s surpassing gift to us makes prayer one of our ordinary duties.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2725, tells us:
Prayer is both a gift of grace
and a determined response on our part.
It always presupposes effort.
. . . prayer is a battle.
Against whom?
Against ourselves
and against the wiles of the tempter
who does all he can to turn man away from prayer,
away from union with God.
We pray as we live,
because we live as we pray.
If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ,
neither can we pray habitually in his name.
The “spiritual battle” of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.
The “spiritual battle” and the “battle of prayer” sound like high drama.
There is enough drama in prayer that is ordinary and faithful— as simple as monks and hermits voicing the Psalms in the Divine Office, as simple as going off by ourselves to pray and reflect as we read the Bible, or, even more, as simple as a child sincerely mouthing the words of the Lord’s Prayer.
The Catechism, 2797, says, “Simple and faithful trust, humble and joyous assurance are the proper dispositions for one who prays the Our Father.”
St. Meinrad went to heaven because he was faithful to God in prayer, and his faithfulness carried over into the ordinary things of daily life.
It could be the same for any of us.

That God Be Glorified in All

January 17, 2010

For the Second Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Isaiah 62:1-5
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
John 2:1-11

In less than one hundred eighty years after the resurrection of Christ, there was already a yearly festival on January 6 to commemorate his Baptism at the Jordan River.
Within her first five hundred years, the Church had developed the chain of celebrations of the birth of Christ, the visit of the magi to the newborn in Bethlehem, his Baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the Cana wedding.
All of those festivals, at one time or another were called Epiphany.
On Christmas Day, we celebrated his epiphany in the manger to the shepherds.
Sunday before last, we celebrated his epiphany to the Eastern magi, who were the first pagans to pay him homage.
Last Sunday, we celebrated his Baptism, which was the first epiphany of the Trinity in history: heaven opening over the Son of God on earth, the Father’s voice acclaiming the Son, and the testimony of the Spirit overshadowing him with the sign of a dove.
Today, the Gospel celebrates an epiphany to the disciples of Christ, an epiphany of his glory through the first of his miraculous signs, the changing of water into superabundant, superior wine.
The Gospel says, “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee, and so REVEALED”— literally EPIPHANIED— “his glory, and his disciples BEGAN to believe in him.”
Throughout the rest of the Church year, we follow:
+ the epiphany of his preaching the Kingdom and calling men to repentance,
+ the epiphany of his forgiving sinners,
+ the epiphany of his Body and Blood as food and drink,
+ the epiphany of his suffering and death,
+ the epiphany of his rising from the dead and ascending into heaven,
+ and the Pentecost epiphany of the Spirit in the Church.
Finally, late in the year, the Church even celebrates the epiphany of the Second Coming (or Advent) of Christ the King.
We are at the beginning of a new year of epiphanies of Christ.
Today’s Gospel miracle takes us to the beginning of faith among his disciples.
“Jesus did this as the BEGINNING of his signs at Cana in Galilee, and so revealed his glory, and his disciples BEGAN to believe in him.”
It is a BEGINNING in so many ways.
First, this reading is from John’s Gospel that starts with the same words as the book of Genesis, “In the beginning.”
The Gospel is a new Genesis.
In the old book of Genesis, at the first known meal in history, the first groom and bride impoverished and saddened themselves by disobeying God to eat what he had forbidden.
Today in the Gospel, a new husband and wife are at their first married meal but fall into unexpected poverty: “the wine ran short.”
At that point the mother of the Lord steps forward.
She appears in this Gospel only twice: here at Cana and again at Calvary.
In both places, the Lord calls her, “Woman.”
Here at Cana, she is already the first believing disciple of Christ— before the faith of other disciples has even begun.
She does three things for the newly impoverished newlyweds.
First: she notices they are in need.
Second: she prays to her Son, telling him the plight of the poor.
Third: with faith, knowledge, and obedience, she tells those serving her Son to “Do whatever he tells you.”
In the Garden of Eden, the first woman gave the first man what God had forbidden, thereby telling the man not to serve God, but to “Do what ever the snake tells you.”
In the Gospel today, the mother of the Lord overturns the words of the first woman by telling those serving her Son to do whatever her Son says.
In Eden a banquet of sin; in Cana a banquet of obedience!
Following his mother’s concern, the Lord tells the servants what to do.
However, before his mother spoke to the servants, he said to her: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
Later in this Gospel, when his “hour” came at Calvary, he called his mother “Woman” for the second time, and he united her concern with his own.
In the hour of his cross, looking upon his mother and his disciple, he said, “Woman, there is your son.”
To his disciple, “There is your mother.”
From his cross, he renewed his poor mother as a mother by giving her a new son; and he renewed his poor disciple as a son by giving him a new mother.
More beginnings, more epiphanies!
At the cross, they had no wine, just like at Cana.
Rather, at the cross they had vinegar, which is wine gone bad.
At Calvary, the Lord’s mother could have said what she said at Cana: “They have no wine.”
However, she is silent.
Her Son’s concern is to drink all the ruined wine of humanity.
With an immeasurable thirst and poverty that swallowed all human poverty, the Lord Jesus drank the vinegar of Calvary.
With that, he summed everything up, saying, “It is finished.”
Calvary and Cana echo each other.
The beginnings that are in today’s Gospel of Cana tell us something about what the Lord fulfilled at Calvary.
At Cana, the stone jars altogether held roughly one hundred twenty and one hundred eighty gallons of water for religious purification rites.
The Lord turned all of it into superior wine.
Poverty into overflowing abundance!
Marital sorrow into a honeymoon with one hundred fifty gallons of excellence and joy!
And from Calvary: the bereavement of a mother and a disciple turned into their new life as mother and son; death turned into resurrection; suffering into glory.
Like his mother and the servants at Cana, we all have roles to play in the epiphanies of the Lord.
If we take notice of need as his mother did, if we intercede as his mother did, if we exhort to service as his mother did, if we do whatever he tells us as they did at Cana, and if we go to the Calvary as did his mother and one disciple, then the Lord will work joyful signs and abundant superior beginnings.
“Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee, and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”
Everyday let us choose to begin to believe and serve.

That God Be Glorified in All