Homilies: May 2008 Archives

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Seventh Monday of the Year II

James 3:13-18
Mark 9:14-29

I am a little late in posting this meditation on today's readings at Holy Mass. Here it is, all the same.

Holy Wisdom

How does one discern a wisdom that is holy? How does one discern a holiness that is wise? Saint James tells us that “the wisdom which does from above is marked chiefly indeed by its purity, but also by its peacefulness; it is courteous and ready to be convinced, always taking the better part; it carries mercy with it, and a harvest of all that is good; it is uncensorious, and without affectation” (Jas 3:17). These are the qualities of a mature holiness, of what I would call a seasoned sanctity.

A Dog is Better Than I Am

Saint James speaks of “the meekness of wisdom” (Jas 3:13). One does not come to gentleness, and to “the meekness of wisdom” overnight. The precocious saint — his is an unwise holiness — is often censorious, harsh, and quick to judge. The seasoned saint —marked by a wisdom that is holy— is meek, kindly, and ever ready cover his brother’s failings with a cloak of mercy. One of the Desert Fathers, Abba Xoius, said, “A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge.”

Help My Unbelief

In today’s Gospel, the disciples fail in their attempts to deliver a possessed boy. The father of the tormented child utters one of the most powerful prayers recorded in the New Testament. “I do believe, help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24). Jesus responds to the humility and sincerity of his prayer, takes the boy by the hand, and lifts him up. We see the same thing in the wonderful icons of the Harrowing of Hell where, strong and radiant, the Risen Christ, takes Adam and Eve by the hand, and lifts them out of their tombs. Saint Mark adds, “and he arose”(Mk 9:27). The Greek verb used by Saint Mark here is the same one used in speaking of the resurrection of Christ. The sense here is one of full restoration to life.

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Cascades of Jubilation

The Office of Lauds this morning was a torrent of undiluted praise. The Church gives us doxology upon doxology. She expresses her adoration in great cascades of jubilation. In some way, today’s Divine Office is a preview and foretaste of heaven. How is heaven described in the book of the Apocalypse? It is an immense and ceaseless liturgy of adoration. Angels and men together doxologize ceaselessly. In the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all created things become an utterance of glory. Eternity’s ceaseless doxology begins here on earth. If this is apparent anywhere, it should be so in a monastery.

The Doxological Life

In today’s First Reading Moses exemplifies the doxological life. He rises “early in the morning” (Ex 34:5). You recall what God had said to him: “Be ready to come up to Mount Sinai in the morning, and there thou shalt stand before me on the mountain top” (Ex 34:2). God asks for readiness in the morning. He bids us come up in the morning to Mount Sinai. He asks that we present ourselves to Him on the mountain top. How are we to understand God’s commands to Moses?

Christ himself is our morning. You know Saint Ambrose’ marvelous hymn for the office of Lauds, Splendor Paternae Gloriae:

Thou Brightness of Thy Father’s Worth!
Who dost the light from Light bring forth;
Light of the light! light’s lustrous Spring!
Thou Day the day illumining.

If Christ Be Your Morning

For the soul who lives facing Christ it is always morning. For the soul who lives in the brightness of His Face it is always a new day. If Christ be your morning it is never too late to start afresh.

Christ the Mountain

God summons us to the mountain top. Christ Himself is our mountain. Christ is the high place from which earth touches heaven; Christ is the summit marked on earth by the imprint of heaven’s kiss. If your feet are set high on the rock that is Christ you are held very close to the Father’s heart, for Christ is the Son “who abides in the bosom of the Father” (Jn 1:18). “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn 14:11).

“Stand before me on the mountain top” (Ex 34:5), says God. What is God saying if not, “Offer yourself to Me there through Christ, in Christ, and with Christ.” God’s three commands to Moses are fulfilled for us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Christ the Sun of Justice

The Eucharist is the light of the Church’s day. Mother Marie-Adèle Garnier, the foundress of the Tyburn Benedictines in London, called the Mass “the Sun of her life.” Without the Eucharist we have neither warmth nor light. Without the Eucharist there is no new day, no morning, no possibility of starting afresh. That is why the Christian martyrs of Carthage when interrogated by Diocletian’s proconsul could only answer, Sine dominico non possumus, “Without Sunday,” that is without the day of the Eucharist, “we cannot go on.” So long as we have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we have a new day. So long as we remain faithful to the Eucharist we will have before our eyes Christ, “the Sun of justice who rises with healing in His wings” (Mal 4:2).

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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