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 26, 2010

For Friday of the First Week of Lent

Ezekiel 18:21-28
Psalm 130:1-8
Matthew 5:20-26

Whenever we hear the Lord Jesus say, “Amen, amen,” or, “Amen, I say to you,” we would do well to mark his words.
It appears as a historical fact that no one until the Lord Jesus used the word “Amen” in that particular way.
It would be, then, a mannerism he himself invented.
When he uses “Amen, amen, I say to you,” he goes above and beyond the ancient prophetic prologue, “Thus says the Lord.”
In other words, his “Amen” is a sign of speaking directly as God himself, not merely as a go-between prophet.
“Amen, amen,” what does God want us to hear?
Today, in the first reading, the responsorial psalm, and his Gospel, God insists there are consequences for our sins.
If a wicked man repents, turns to God, “and does what is right and just, he shall surely live,” but a virtuous man who turns to do evil shall suffer deadly consequences. [First reading]
In his Gospel today, the Lord voices a litany of consequences for sin.
... you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
... you ... will be liable to judgment....
... answerable to the Sanhedrin....
... liable to fiery Gehenna.
... thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid....

That last line about a prison from which one will be released after paying for one’s sins is a Gospel description of purgatorial payment— purgatory.
“Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid....”
The sins whose consequences today’s Gospel addresses are those against one’s brother.
In his Gospel today, the Lord Jesus makes the altar the place where we undergo judgment for sins against a neighbor.
We are to make amends with our fellow man before daring to approach the altar, or else we shall face the grim consequences.
The Word of the Lord to the Corinthians [1 Cor. 11:27-29] says that to receive the Eucharist unworthily is a profanation that brings deadly judgment upon us.
The Lord Jesus profaned himself, giving up his body for us, and shedding his blood for us, by receiving deadly judgment in place of us, so that our sins may be forgiven.
As we now dare to approach his altar, he upholds in his Gospel today that, “Amen,” we are first to make amends for our sins against others.
Otherwise, we profane the atonement for our sins, the atonement he makes in his Body and Blood.

That God Be Glorified in All

February 22, 2010

For the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Matthew 16:13-19

Yesterday in the Gospel [Sunday 1 of Lent, Lk. 4:1-13], we witnessed the devil tempt the Lord Jesus to jump from the utmost height of the Temple.
If the Lord had done so, the high priest and all the people could have seen him floating on the hands of God’s angels.
It would have been a mighty wonder of God, the sight of it hitting men hard over their heads, driving them to shout against their own disbelief, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
The Lord Jesus did not do it.
Even after he rose from the dead, passing through the solid stone of the tomb, leaving angels there to open it for his followers to see, he did not go to the Temple nor send other angels there to stare down and frighten the high priest, elders, nation and world with his glory and triumph over death.
Instead, he sent them mere human witnesses who had already believed in him before he died.
With rare exception, the salvation of men depends not on glory clobbering them, but on believing the testimony of tradition other men hand on.
Even the Word of God in the Scriptures is the testimony of tradition that inspired men have written down and handed on.
Before them, even God the Word came in mere flesh and blood as a man, asking men to accept his own testimony as handed down from God the Father.
It was asking terribly much, and men clobbered him with crucifixion for it.
He made it all depend on testimony.
In the beginning, in Paradise, God gave his life-giving face-to-face testimony to the man and woman, but they turned away, accepting the false testimony of the serpent.
It makes sense— it is right and just— that man’s return to God depends on the humility of accepting the testimony of sinful men outside of Paradise.
Today in the Gospel, we are humbled to stand before several scandals.
The Lord Jesus calls himself a man, “Son of Man.”
Yet, he also calls God, “my heavenly Father.”
He accepts for himself and blesses the title, “Son of the living God.”
He also dares to speak of the keys to heaven as his to give away.
The worst of it is that he spoke of giving heaven’s keys to a man who would be a cowardly runaway and a liar— a mere sinner like us.
A sinful weakling with the keys to bind anything in heaven and to loose anything in heaven!
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

This is a scandal from the Son of God.
Scandalous also his homeless birth in a Bethlehem stable, his body and blood as real food and real drink, and his miserable death as an outlaw!
Nonetheless, it is most fitting— it is right and just— that man and woman who turned away from the face-to-face testimony of God himself in the delight of Paradise must now be saved by the humility of faith in the testimony of their fellow sinners outside Paradise.
The Catholic Church is an earthly scandal as was the Son of God.
So we say “Yes” with humility to the Lord Jesus, and we echo his testimony.
Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For the living God has revealed to you that he is the heavenly Father
and Jesus is his own Son, the Christ.
You, Simon, are Peter.
It is the will of Christ to build his Church upon you.
The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against the Church of Christ—
for the Church is the gate of heaven
whose keys are in your hands, Peter,
to bind or loose anything in heaven as on earth.

The Son of God, asks us to believe humbly the testimony of one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church that he builds on Peter, the testimony handed down in tradition from the Son of God to our own day.
The scandal continues.
It comes from the Son of God.
Believe it or not!
Paradise is at stake.
In the beginning, and in the end, the gates of the netherworld prevail against our pride, but not against the Church.
St. Peter, please bind our pride on earth, and loosen our humility in heaven!

That God Be Glorified in All