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.

July 17, 2010

For Saturday of the Fifteenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 12:14-21

The first reading and the responsorial psalm today cry out for the afflicted, innocent, unfortunate, fatherless, the poor.
It was because the Lord Jesus defended the hungry who harvested food on the Sabbath, and because he healed the afflicted on the Sabbath, that on this day in the Gospel the Pharisees began to plot to put him to death.
It was not yet time for his messianic victory, so the Lord withdrew from that place.
Likewise, since it was not yet time for his victory, he warned all the many who followed him and whom he cured not to make him known.
The time for his victory would begin on Palm Sunday, but would quickly turn into his death and seeming defeat five days later.
The plotting Pharisees as well as all the many who eagerly followed him in the Gospel today had no idea or the wrong ideas about what and for whom the messianic victory would really be.
The Pharisees, of course, were of the people of Israel, and so were many or even most of those who eagerly followed the Lord Jesus.
It was Israel that had hope for a messiah.
However, there were also many Gentiles in the crowds that followed the Lord Jesus, and received healing from him.
The surprise for Israel would be that the messianic victory would be for the Gentiles as well, not for Israel alone.
The idea of a messiah for Israel alone had to die with the Lord Jesus.
Only then would his messianic victory rise from the dead for all peoples of the world— for both the Israel of God and the pagans or Gentiles.
The Gospel today voices one of the mysterious, misunderstood, messianic prophecies to the people of Israel more than seven hundred years before the birth of the Lord Jesus.
... he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
... he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope.

According to this prophetic word from the Lord, the true messianic victory is a victory of justice.
Justice is first of all the holiness of faithful obedience to God.
Justice towards God the Father is a defining quality of God the Son, the Lord Jesus.
The Pharisees failed to recognize true justice, and could not recognize it in the Lord Jesus.
However, the eager crowds who followed him were also in danger of ignoring his God-seeking justice, wanting him instead for handouts and healings.
The Gospel touches on that ignorance today: “Many people followed him, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known.”
They wanted a messiah who would be a “do-gooder” and satisfy all their “gimme this” and “gimme that”.
Instead, they got the Son obedient to his Father first and above all.
So on Palm Sunday they shouted “Hosanna” because they thought they were getting a do-gooder for Israel.
Then on Good Friday they shouted “Crucify him” when he didn’t work the messianic victory their way.
You and I are here in a crowd to follow the Lord Jesus.
Are we here before his altar hoping he will meet our “gimme this” and our “gimme that”?
We have no control over whether or not he will meet any of our wishes for a do-gooder messiah.
What we eat and drink, however, is the justice of the Lord Jesus, his holy and faithful obedience to his Father even unto the giving up of his body and the shedding of his blood.
Even in his Eucharist, the old prophecy in the Gospel holds true: “he will proclaim justice” and “he brings justice to victory.”
Since this is what and this is whom we eat and drink, we too must be willing to proclaim justice and bring it to victory even unto the giving up of our bodies and the shedding of our blood.
Short of that, we are merely shouting, “Crucify him!” with the crowd and plotting his death like the Pharisees.

That God Be Glorified in All

July 11, 2010

For the Fifteenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

[I was out of town, and preached this homily in a parish church.]

Luke 10:25-37

We give the title “Good Samaritan” to someone who helps out in a kind and generous way.
It comes from this story the Lord Jesus told about what it is to love your neighbor as yourself.
The Lord had answered the question, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
There is a “must” in the question— an obligation, a duty, a requirement, a condition.
You are to love the Lord with all that you are, and you are to love your neighbor as yourself— “do this and you will live” is what the Lord Jesus says.
You must meet the requirement— be a Good Samaritan— if you are “to inherit eternal life”.
This is not “news” for you and me.
However, what the Lord Jesus taught about eternal life was new to the men and women of his time.
In the Old Testament, the earliest or oldest beliefs about the afterlife were that there is no resurrection, but that all the dead, both the good and the bad, stayed in everlasting silence and darkness.
That’s all: no punishment or “hell,” and no reward in heaven.
Those oldest beliefs were still around in the days of the Lord Jesus, and the Gospels speak of the Sadducees who held on to those oldest beliefs.
However, by the time of the Lord Jesus, some, like the Pharisees, had come to believe that the wicked would stay dead, while good Jews would rise on the last day.
They would come back to a good life on earth, with Israel as God’s kingdom in triumph over the whole world.
Still: no punishment such as hell; but also no going to heaven, which was the home of God alone.
The Lord Jesus brought news for everyone.
He taught that on the last day everyone, both the good and the bad, would rise from the dead.
Then the final judgment would happen.
Heaven would come about on earth, and the good would rejoice to live forever at home with God.
Although the Pharisees believed in a worldly resurrection, for them the notion of heaven on earth, of men dwelling with God, was one of the blasphemous things for which they hated the Lord Jesus.
However, just as new was the teaching of the Lord Jesus about the resurrection of the wicked and their everlasting punishment in hell.
The clarity and facts about hell made for news that came from the Lord Jesus, not from the Old Testament.
The question he answers in his Gospel today— “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”— is also about how to avoid going to hell.
Without fail, you and I must love God with all that we have and are, and love our neighbors as ourselves if we want to inherit eternal life.
Eternal life is not merely life that never comes to an end.
The eternal life that God has in store for us also means joy that has no measure, knowledge without error, and goodness that never fails.
To inherit that kind of life you must love God “with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind.”
That is hard work.
However, once we finally inherit eternal life, all that work shall turn into enjoyment with all our heart, enjoyment with all our being, enjoyment with all our strength, and enjoyment with all our mind.
God is hard at work to see that we inherit the joy of eternal life.
He asks us to work with him for our own everlasting benefit.
Part of working with God is imitating him.
He tells us to love our neighbors as he loves us.
The question that must constantly guide us as we meet our neighbors is, “What is in my neighbor’s authentic best interest?”
We must also constantly ask the same question on our own behalf.
“What is in my authentic best interest?”
As the sign and instrument of God’s interest in our welfare, he hands himself over to us as food and drink.
In his Eucharist, God gives and commits to us his whole heart, his whole being, his whole strength, and his whole mind.
In his Blood of the new and everlasting covenant, and in the communion sacrifice of his Body, he is committed and literally CONSUMED with giving himself to us for the sake of our joy and eternal life.
For our part, we must be committed and consumed with giving ourselves to him in return.
He commands us, “Do this in memory of me.”
We must do so to inherit eternal life.

That God Be Glorified in All