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 23, 2010

For Monday of the Twenty-First Ordinary Week of the Church Year

2 Thessalonians 1:1-5,11-12
Matthew 23:13-22

In the first reading from the Word of the Lord, St. Paul says he boasts of the Thessalonians to the churches in other places.
He boasts of their flourishing faith, their great love, and their endurance in all persecutions.
Despite their heroism, St. Paul still prays that they may be made worthy of God’s call, and that they may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God.
Despite even heroic faith and love, one may never presume on already being worthy— on already having merited— God’s call or his Kingdom.
In his Gospel today, the Lord accuses the scribes and Pharisees not only of being outside the Kingdom of heaven, but also of leading others away from it.
For the scribes and Pharisees, the gold offered in the sacred Temple was something they could swear upon— like swearing on the Bible— the gold, and not the Temple.
Likewise, they would swear upon gifts to be burned on the altar, but not upon the altar that consecrated the gifts.
Gold, food, and animals for sacrifice were things men could trade, buy, or sell, and thus make a profit.
These were more sacred to the scribes and Pharisees than the Temple of God and the Altar of God.
So the scribes, Pharisees, and those they misled kept themselves out of the Kingdom and made themselves unworthy of it.
The Lord— with a hard edge and a sharp tongue— calls them today sons of hell, children of Gehenna.
He closes today’s Gospel passage by swearing that God dwells in his Temple but also is seated as king on his throne in the Kingdom of heaven.
Christ consistently speaks of God as a king and of the Kingdom of heaven.
To say that another way: Christian talk is “kingdom talk.”
The Church crowns the end of her calendar year of Sunday worship with the solemn feast of the Kingdom or Kingship of Christ the King.
Everything the Church does in history is faithful to Christ only if it does not stray from the procession towards Christ the King.
Everything— all service of neighbors and those in need, all teaching, all prayer, worship, and virtue— everything must march on the way to the Kingdom and to worthiness for the Kingdom.
Taking a cue from Christ whose consistent theme is the Kingdom, St. Benedict focuses on Christ precisely as a King leading an army of monks in a spiritual battle for his kingdom.
St. Benedict’s language about Christ the King is “kingdom talk”— the masculine, hard, and military language of merit in war.
In closing his invitation to monastic life, his Prologue, St. Benedict says:
So let us never let go of God’s instructions,
but rather hold fast to his teaching in the monastery until death
and share in patience in Christ’s sufferings
so that we may also merit to have a share in his kingdom.

That God Be Glorified in All