Saturday, 5 July 2008

Abbot's homily (14th Sunday ordinary time)

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Today this Gospel, from Saint Matthew, seems so unlike the normal style of the Gospel according to Matthew that commentators often talk about it as more like something from the Gospel of Saint John. For us, we can note the difference and yet focus on the teaching that it brings to us. At the heart of the Gospel and at the heart of the first reading, we see God humbling Himself so that He can show His love for us. Just as the Prophet Zechariah shows us a king who is willing to be humble in order to serve his people, so also from this Prophet we come to understand that it is our God who comes to us as a humble human being in Jesus Christ.

Certainly one of the most striking elements in both the Hebrew Scriptures and in our Christian Scriptures is this understanding that God actually loves us and will find ways to reach out to us and to draw us into divine life. The Scriptures themselves we hold to be divinely inspired—and not just merely human words. Our God reaches out to us, His people, generation after generation. You and I need to recognize that this same God is reaching out to us today in these readings and in the celebration of the Eucharist. All of us have doubts at times, but if we continue to seek the Lord over many years, the doubts are even turned to wonderful belief. The first act of a believer is to invite God to deepen faith. Today we can ask our God to deepen our faith, to help us understand the ways of the Lord, to help us see with eyes of faith and hear with ears of faith.

The second reading, from the Letter to the Romans, invites us to meditate on spirit and flesh. We have to be careful to understand what Saint Paul means and not read into this way of speaking something that is not there. For our Hebrew ancestors, we are a unity—not a duality. So to speak of spirit and flesh is not to divide us, but to understand that some aspects of our life are as yet unredeemed and other aspects are already living at peace with the Lord. For instance, if I have not yet learned how to maintain peace in an angry situation, then my own reaction of anger can be seen as the flesh. If I have not yet learned how to maintain silence and control my tongue when others gossip, then my gossiping can be seen as of the flesh.

If I have not yet learned to respect the property or goods of others in my life, then my taking the property or goods of others can be called flesh. To live in the spirit means to live in Christ and to respond to each situation with grace and virtue. We can see clearly why our God must humble Himself to come among us! We all have aspects of our lives that can be called flesh and we are not yet completely living in the mystery of God. May our humble God come to us today and show us His way of peace and virtue. May His Holy Spirit transform us. May we give praise to our loving God by the way we live.

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