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 21, 2015

For the First Sunday of Lent (22 February 2015)

Mark 1:12-15

Our Lord’s forty days in the desert came immediately after his Baptism at the river Jordan.
This two-sided event of his Baptism and his forty days in the desert was the beginning of his public mission.
This back-to-back event reveals our salvation because it reveals the One True God:  Father, Son and Spirit.
At the Jordan River and in the Desert we have first and foremost a proclamation and a presence of God.
If we look closely as Christ emerges from the flowing river and is driven by the Spirit into the parched desert, we find a key or a lens for reading the whole Gospel, the whole of Christ’s work two thousand years ago, and the whole of God’s continued work in grace, the liturgy and the Church.
At the Jordan River we witness that heaven is open and has a voice.
This is a mysterious image of God.
We are able to name this heavenly voice “The Father” only because this voice reveals a SON.
As Christ emerges from the water, the voice of the Father emerges from heaven.

You are my Son.
You are my Beloved.
You are the One Who Pleases Me Greatly.

Then two more signs from God appear on this day that begins by the Jordan and ends in the desert.
First we see that the Father’s Spirit (in the sign of a dove) rests upon the Son.
Then, driven by the power of the Spirit, Christ departs into the desert.
There in the desert, by the power of the Eternal Spirit, Christ offers himself to the Father in hunger, thirst, exposure, vulnerability and solitude.
Here already we see self-sacrifice.
Here already Christ of both the Cross and the Eucharist is present.
Here we recognize fully present the grateful obedience and the sacrificial gratitude of the Son in his love for his Father.
After his baptism in the Jordan and his penance in the desert, nothing substantially different really happens in Christ’s life and public ministry.
Grateful obedience and sacrificial gratitude!
In Christ’s life and preaching, in his good works, in his miracles, in his healing the sick and raising the dead, in his forgiving sinners, in his own suffering, death and resurrection, in his sacraments now in the Church— in all of these we witness and have the same realities that were present and revealed at the Jordan and in the desert.

The love of the Father is revealed.
The power of the Spirit is revealed.
The obedient gratitude of the Son is revealed.

In all these revelations we worship the One True God in whom we find our salvation.
The penance of Christ in the desert points to the naked truth of humanity’s original relationship with God.
It reveals the naked truth of the divine Son’s relationship with the heavenly Father.
The penance of Christ in the desert reveals the deep meaning and power of penance.
Sin hides.
Penance exposes.
Penance leaves us naked, hungry and vulnerable.
Penance is our first deliberate step in loving God, because love cannot grow in those who forever protect themselves.
Sin hides.
Penance deliberately exposes.
Christ began his public ministry of love by doing penance.
Then he began his public preaching by preaching penance.

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  [Mt. 1:17]

This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
and believe in the Gospel.   [Mk. 1:15]

The love of God and the power of his Spirit do not grow in us without the willing vulnerability that penance can bring about in our lives.
After the first sin, Adam hid the nakedness of his body from God.
In the Eucharist, Christ exposes to us and to the Father the vulnerability of his Body and Blood.
That is a paradox, for in the VULNERABILITY and SACRIFICE of his Body and Blood he reveals and gives to us the POWER of the Spirit and the LOVE of the Father.
Christ’s baptism at the Jordan, his penance in the desert, his preaching, his ministry and his whole Gospel all coincide with his Eucharist and his Cross.
In the Eucharist and on the Cross, the vulnerability of Christ is a willing vulnerability unto death.
Greater love than this, there cannot be.
Sin obliges us to do penance, for in sin we refuse to love.
Through penance we can begin to learn our freedom to love as Christ loved on his cross and to love as Christ loves in his Eucharist
For this reason, we always take up the tiniest cross of a one-hour fast before we receive the Eucharist.
We do that penance and all penance for the sake of love, for in the Eucharist we receive the challenge, the example and the event of love exposing its naked self.

That God Be Glorified in All

February 19, 2015

For Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Luke 9:22-25

Yesterday in his Gospel, Christ told us each to share secrets one on one with our heavenly Father.
Our Father rewards the prayer, fasting and almsgiving we offer secretly to him.
He himself is the greatest reward.
Believing and hoping for deep closeness with God is the inspiration for our prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
St. Benedict tells us to offer these Lenten sacrifices with the joy of the Holy Spirit... while we look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.
Easter begins with the vigil we keep after nightfall on Holy Saturday.
On that night, Church believers stand together before the altar, and with one voice renew the oaths of baptism.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ....  he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.  [Nicene Creed]
In today’s Gospel Christ spoke of his resurrection.
He said anyone wishing to come after him into the resurrection must deny himself and take up his cross DAILY.
So, the life of EVERY Christian is to be a CONTINUOUS Lent, just as St. Benedict said for monks.
However, who is strong enough for that, and why do it?
The reasons for lifelong daily penitential sacrifices are JOY and LIFE.
Today’s first reading from the Word of the Lord said:  Choose life... by loving the Lord... and HOLDING FAST to him.
Penitential sacrifices can train us to stop grabbing at and HOLDING FAST to life and joy as objects to imprison in our hands.
Sacrifices can train us for HOLDING FAST to God himself.
Adam and Eve instead let go of God, and tried to grab life and joy for themselves.
Until then, God himself was their life and joy.
Once they chose to grab for themselves, they condemned their own grabbing hands to keep on working just to stay alive on the earth— though only for a while.
They condemned their own grabbing hands to work just to have anything earthly to enjoy— though only for a while.
With their grabbing, death entered their world.
Life and joy that are free, open-ended and everlasting can come only from the Creator.
If we would have them, we must stop grabbing.
Because of sin’s hold on us, we need deliberate effort to stop grabbing.
Deliberate penitential sacrifices train us to stop grabbing.
Christ did not grab at all.
He let go.
He let men TAKE, eat, and drink his body and his blood.
He let men GRAB his earthly life and joy.
He suffered and died.
In baptism we have chosen, entered and embraced his suffering, death and resurrection.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  [Nicene Creed]
Baptism is a washing, a drowning, a birthing and a rising from the dead.
By baptism we as sinners are drowned into the death of Christ.
Then, the water breaks, and we are washed and born into his resurrection as children of God.
God has again freely put life and joy into our hands by putting us— baptizing us— into his life and joy.
Whoever stops grabbing, whoever lets go, or— as Christ says in today’s Gospel— Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Our secret penitential sacrifices are acts of love that call forth and strengthen our intention to stop grabbing, to let go, to lose our lives for the sake of Christ, so that by Christ we save our lives.

Since we believe him, we have hope:  I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  [Nicene Creed]

That God Be Glorified in All

February 15, 2015

For the Sixth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46
1 Corinthians 10:31 to 11:1
Mark 1:40-45

A life-and-death Gospel reading!
Leprosy threatened life in two ways:  first, Biblical lepers had to live in quarantine outside the camp of the living; second, true leprosy kills.
Christ told a leper, Be made clean, saving him in the twinkling of an eye.
Then, warning him sternly, Christ gave the newly healthy man three commands.
First:  to tell no one anything.
Second:  to show a priest that he was free of leprosy— because priests were the officials who lifted quarantines.
Third:  to take to the priest the sacrifices that Moses said God required from those cleansed of leprosy.
Christ worked a wonder for a leper today, and would do other wonders for other persons, but he did not want tales of his wondrous might to spread.
That is a buried clue that Christ would not fulfill his earthly mission by working wonders.
Rather, he would go on to say and say again that he must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed.
The reason is in another buried clue in today’s Gospel.
Christ told the man to offer up what Moses said God required from those cleansed of leprosy.
Someone recovered from leprosy was to offer sacrifices of two kinds.
One was thankful worship, and the other was atonement for sins.
Those two kinds of sacrifice are the same that Christ offered in his own death, resurrection, and ascension to the throne of God:  worship and atonement.
There is a third buried clue in Christ’s commands to the man cleansed of leprosy.
When a man newly free of leprosy sacrificed an animal in atonement for his sins, the priest would mark the man’s body with blood from the animal, thus sealing together atonement for sin and health for the body.
The sacrifices of someone recovered from leprosy point to the sacrificial death and Eucharist of Christ.
Sin brings about the leprosy of souls.
To receive the forgiveness of sins, we must turn to the priestly ministry of Christ in his Church, and let the Body and Blood of Christ touch our bodies and our souls.
Christ gave up his Body and poured out his Blood for the forgiveness of sins, as he told us at his Last Supper.
We let his Body and Blood touch our souls only when our repentance is a sincere commitment to obey God.
We are to repent of all sins— sins against God and his commands, sins against our parents, sins against life, sins against marriage, sins against truth, sins against neighbors, and even sins that hide inside us, such as coveting or greed.
Perhaps the sins that hide within us are the most harmful kind.
They rot us from within.
Sooner or later, they push us to sin against GOD MOST HIGH and against NEIGHBOR— that is, against the GREATEST, the LEAST and any between.
In the teaching of Christ, our sins against the LEAST are the same as sins against GOD.
He said whatever we do or fail to do to the LEAST of his brethren we do or fail to do to him who is LORD.  [Mt. 25:40]
The least of his brethren:  the smallest, weakest, and youngest of them are children in the womb.
If the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness does not belong to the smallest, weakest, and youngest from the first moment of life, then all rights at any stage of life— and all sense of right and wrong— shake and crumble on the shifting sands of each day’s prevailing opinion.
Abortion is a deadly leprosy that men and women perpetrate within INDIVIDUAL bodies, but the defense of abortion rots our WHOLE BODY POLITIC from the White House to houses on any street.
Abortion is NOT the ONLY sin in the world.
However, abortion IS the sin that the MIGHTIEST in the laws of our land uphold tyrannically as a RIGHT against the smallest, weakest and youngest.
God the Son said:  as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.  [Mt. 25:40]
Abortion as a legal right is a leprosy that quarantines our nation OUTSIDE the Kingdom of Heaven.
However, ANY grave sin of ANY individual quarantines that soul outside the Kingdom of Heaven.
Some grave sins threaten EARTHLY lives, but all grave sins threaten ETERNAL lives.
What can we do about it?
Mark well that leprosy threatened a man’s life in today’s Gospel, and Christ saved him, but then commanded him to offer up WORSHIP and ATONEMENT.
That’s a description of the Mass, which we are celebrating at this moment in this place.
Sin threatens our eternal lives, but Christ is here to save us in WORSHIP and ATONEMENT.
We join him here in offering to his Father the Great High Sacrifice of WORSHIP AND ATONEMENT— the Body and Blood of Christ— just as he commands:  Do this in memory of me.
In what he calls this new and eternal COVENANT... for the forgiveness of sins, God binds himself to us, BUT— since he calls it a COVENANT— he expects us to bind ourselves to him.
If we hold fast to this covenant we shall rise, body and soul, to invincible life, liberty, and happiness in the glory of God.
Take to heart and keep in mind:  we celebrate the Mass as a matter of life and death.

That God Be Glorified in All