Homilies: October 2008 Archives

A Drop of Water in the Wine

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Twenty-Ninth Saturday II
Mass de Beata in Sabbato

Ephesians 4:7-16
Psalm 121: 1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5
Luke 13:1-9

In the Light of the Ascension

Today's Epistle and the Gradual Psalm (121) that follows it recall the mystery of Our Lord's glorious Ascension. The King of Glory, ascended into heaven and, having "set foot within the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem" (cf. Ps 121:2), sent forth the Holy Spirit and, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, bestowed upon us every gift necessary for the life of the Church and for our sanctification.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

The One Gift of the Holy Spirit shines in seven soul-penetrating rays -- wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord -- and then in a variety of other subsidiary gifts. Every member of the Church, from the smallest to the greatest, from the most obscure to the most in view, has a part to play in her upbuilding. Our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended on high in triumph, distributes His gifts to all.

Grace Builds on Nature

In dispensing His gifts, Our Lord assorts them to each one of us: to our heredity, to our place in history, and to our mental, emotional, and physical capabilities, for grace builds on nature. These gifts of grace, accepted humbly, recognized lucidly, and developed responsibly, perfect the soul in the particular form of holiness intended for her by God.


The fruits of the Holy Spirit -- charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity -- flourish in the soil of a human nature enriched by Christ's gifts of grace. Holiness, then, has to do with becoming, by grace, one's true self, one's best self, "unto Him who died for us and rose again" (2 Cor 5:15).

Imitation of Our Lady's Fiat

The true self, the best self, is not the product of human effort and striving. God, the Creator of our human nature, acting through the sacraments, perfects His human creature by means of the grace of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. To do this He needs our trusting assent, He waits for our humble cooperation, modeled after the Fiat of the Blessed Virgin Mary; but even these are His gift to us.

The Arms of the Father

Human effort alone has never produced a saint. Human effort is a mere token of our willingness to be transformed by grace. "So you also, when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do" (Lk 17:10).

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face speaks of the small child at the foot of the staircase, lifting her little leg in a pathetic attempt to reach the first step. For God, she says, that is enough. He descends to that small child, lifts her into His mighty, merciful arms and, delighted with her humble, persistent effort, carries her all the way to the top. Only in this way do we attain the "unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ" (Ep 4:13).

Into Heaven Itself

The liturgy places today's Gradual Psalm in the mouth of the risen and ascended Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ who addresses us, saying, "Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord" (Ps 121:1). It is Christ, our Eternal High Priest, who, having gone before us into the heavenly Jerusalem, calls us to follow after Him. "For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf" (Heb 9:24).

Peace and Good Things

The "tribes that go up, the tribes of the Lord" (Ps 121:4) represent the diversity of the Church: a Body of many members called into unity by Christ. In the same psalm, Our Lord Himself reveals the mystery of His intercession for us: "For the sake of my brethren, and of my neighbours, I spoke peace of thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee" (Ps 121:8). It pleases Our Lord to distribute the peace and good things won for us by His passion and death, through the pure hands of His most holy Mother, the Queen assumed into heaven, who stands at His right hand, arrayed in gold (cf. Ps 44:10).

A Fruitful, Holy People

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass gives us the ceaseless prayer of our Eternal High Priest, risen and ascended into heaven. The Mass gives us, not only the grace of Christ, but Christ himself, the Giver of every grace. Participation in the adorables Mysteries of Christ's Body and Blood is, then, the way to become the fruitful, holy people - the saints - that the Father wants us to be.

Wilingness to Be Changed

We have only to bring to the Holy Sacrifice each day the humble tokens of our willingness to be changed, the persevering effort, the little leg raised in an attempt to reach the first step. That is the drop of water added to the chalice of wine by the hand of Christ the Priest. The final effect is divinely disproportionate to our effort, and that is reason enough for ceaseless thanksgiving.

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory