Homilies for November 2016


“As Christians, we share in Christ’s Resurrection through our baptism and life of the Trinity.”

32nd Sunday of the Year—November 6, 2016
2 MC 7:1-2, 9-14; PS 17:1, 5-6, 8, 152 THES 2:16-3:5LK 20:27-38

They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus forms the Sadducees on life in this world and the world to come. The Sadducees want to know who will be whose husband and wife in eternity. Unable to conceive of the resurrection and life eternal, they are forced to think as people of this world only. As Christians we share in Christ’s Resurrection through our baptism and life of the Trinity. By our baptism we are baptized into Christ’s passion, death, and Resurrection. This baptism espouses us to all of God’s people, and so while the purified elect in heaven are never so married as they are there, such a union is not exclusive, but ecclesial: we are “married” to the Lamb and all others in him. The Sadducees are too carnal minded to understand this, so Christ likens marriage in heaven to an angelic state, meaning not that we are without bodies or void of our humanity, but that celestial marriage is not one wherein man and wife are “given” but simply are—finally at rest in perfect peace and joy, now wholly able to love God and neighbor perfectly.

This is a gift which commences with the primal Christian vocation of baptism. “This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize means to “plunge” or “immerse”; the “plunge” into the water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as “a new creature” (CCC §1214).

Yet even now we have the joy of living the life of the Trinity. No matter how difficult our lives can become with illness, broken relationships, doubts, fears, anxieties and pressures from in this world; through our spiritual life of prayer we have the power of the Resurrection to sustain us. We must grow in this reality through our life of faith and our own private prayer. When we are in deep union with our loving Father; we find true happiness. However, this true happiness, true and everlasting life, is incompatible with sin and selfishness. Therefore, in order to begin experiencing true life now, and to enter into it in the world to come, we have to go against some strong natural tendencies. We all know this is not easy. It demands every fiber in our being, it may even demand the pouring out of our blood, as the seven brothers of the First Reading found out.

The world we live in doesn’t make it easy for our friendship with Christ. Its seductions try to weaken us to the ways of the world and we move towards selfishness and fall away from Christ. We can become so caught up in the world that it becomes even more difficult to follow Christ. Being a Christian in the modern world can cause us to be misjudged, mocked, pressured, maligned and in some areas of the world martyred and imprisoned. That is why Saint Paul also encourages us of our life in the Spirit, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in the you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his spirit who dwells in you.”

Through Christ’s Resurrection we share in the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. And the Good News is that this very same Spirit dwells in us, personally and literally. In our spiritual life we are urged to meditate on these hopeful realities. Again it’s easy to become overly focused on this life or try to put the material world into eternity. Faith can be difficult for us to understand but we don’t or can’t use the deposit of faith to contradict faith itself. We have and will have difficulties with the faith but we can’t simply reason out faith completely. Faith is ultimately above human reason and faith requires the great Benedictine virtue of humility, which is ultimately trust in the Lord Jesus.
– By Fr. John McCuskor, OSB

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—November 13, 2016
MAL 3:19-20APS 98:5-6, 7-8, 92 THES 3:7-12LK 21:5-19

At my childhood parish church of Ste. Genevieve du Bois in St. Louis, MO, there was a beautiful mosaic of Christ under the tabernacle. When I would kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer as a server, I remember the distinct feeling that Christ was gazing at me from that mosaic, no matter where I knelt. I think it was an early intimation of my vocation, but also an image of how God provides for each one of us, no matter where we are.

From all eternity before the world was made, God had an idea of each one of us, and a plan for our lives. Like an architect looking at a plot of land and seeing a finished building, or an artist studying a blank canvas and seeing the finished work, the Lord looks and sees the son or daughter he is calling us to become. And his look, His gaze, has power, and it invisibly and quietly guides us and directs us at each stage, in the peaks and valleys until, by cooperating with his grace, we gradually become who He has called us to be and step by step finish the work he has entrusted to us.

This we call God’s “Providence”: his knowing and guiding each us to our final goal, and his Providing for us along the way like a good Father. As all the saints have known, God labors in every human experience to prove his loving care for us, providing every necessary opening for us to receive him definitively. No one on this earth lives a life devoid of that opportunity—to say “yes” to his love and mercy.

This Sunday focuses our attention on Christ’s second coming, and the turmoil which precedes it. His words at first seem frightening: “You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.” There are descriptions of earthquakes, famines, war—words which were fulfilled in the 20th century, as in other times, and which we continue to see in the news today, proclaiming in ways big and small, God’s coming judgment.

But if we belong to Christ, if we live with God the Father as our Father and God the Son as our Brother, if we have allowed that Providential gaze to guide us and his mercy to cleanse us, any fear of judgment dissipates.

Surely it is necessary to repent of our sins, to follow his commandments and pray for mercy. But it is even more necessary to trust in His goodness and His Providence as loving Father and Brother, and to be grateful for that gaze from the tabernacle: He is always watching us, filling us with grace to complete the work entrusted to us, so that not a hair on our head will be destroyed, and by perseverance we will secure our lives.

This Second Coming of Christ also means victory for the lowly People of God. It means that by divine intervention, darkness and terrorism and death do not have the final word. For the Children of God, it is not slavery and suffering, but community and faith and family which are lasting, infinitely perfected in eternal life. The last word for God’s creation is less like Auschwitz and more like that local parish community of Ste. Genevieve.

In this season of Advent which is approaching, a new beginning, let us look forward with trust and hope, despite the unknown, despite the news headlines, to that ultimate triumph of God over chaos, sin, and death; that triumph which he promises us through his Son, Jesus Christ.
– By Fr. John McCuskor, OSB


34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feast of Christ the King—November 20, 2016
2 SM 5:1-3PS 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5COL 1:12-20LK 23:35-43

Today we celebrate the great feast of Christ the King. But the Gospel of the day depicts the crucifixion—a most shameful death reserved for a criminal. In one of those great Christian apparent contradictions, Christ reigns triumphantly as King from the throne of the cross. His kingdom comes to be through the cross.

And if we wish to reign with him as king, we must join him on the cross. It is the only way to be a member of his kingdom.

Why? Why is difficulty, suffering, bearing the cross not an option for a Christian? Is it just a test? Well on the one hand, it is just human reality. A life dedicated to avoiding pain and difficulty wouldn’t amount to much. But for the Christian, the cross has deep meaning. And it brings many benefits.

First, the cross forms us in virtue. God assigns us with a particular cross because he wants us to develop in a certain direction, a bit like a personal trainer. Maybe he wants us to grow in patience, in faith, in trust, in humility. So he gives us some trial: a problem that won’t go away, difficulty believing, some humiliation, which develops that virtue almost by pressure. It’s like a weight lifter who isolates one particular muscle.

Second, the cross wins grace for us and for others. When we undergo hardships with Christ, we are deserving of a reward before the Father, just as He was, “making peace by the blood of his cross.” God’s grace acting within us merits a reward, because we are freely cooperating, freely saying yes to God’s will. As a senior monk told me: be generous with God, and he’ll be generous with you. Carrying the cross releases God’s gifts in our life.

More importantly, we can win graces for others. This is the noble tradition of “offering up” our difficulties to God. All it takes is a quick prayer—for instance: “Lord, I’ll be patient here for your sake.” It could be that through our burdens, Christ will offer the grace of faith and conversion to a family member, or a co-worker. Our cross could be saving someone we love from eternal loss, from hell.

Third, most importantly, the cross conforms us to Christ. St. Benedict tells his monks, “Through patience we share in the sufferings of Christ, so that we may be worthy to share in his Kingdom.” The same path that Jesus walked in his human body, He walks in his Mystical Body, the Church, in each member of his Kingdom.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] teaches in a section tellingly entitled, “Moral Life and Missionary Witness,” that we baptized members of Christ must always be mindful of our vocation to evangelize and invite others into this Kingdom:

CCC §2044 The fidelity of the baptized is a primordial condition for the proclamation of the Gospel and for the Church’s mission in the world. In order that the message of salvation can show the power of its truth and radiance before men, it must be authenticated by the witness of the life of Christians. “The witness of a Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have great power to draw men to the faith and to God.”

CCC §2045 Because they are members of the Body whose Head is Christ, Christians contribute to building up the Church by the constancy of their convictions and their moral lives. The Church increases, grows, and develops through the holiness of her faithful, until “we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

CCC §2046 By living with the mind of Christ, Christians hasten the coming of the Reign of God, “a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.” They do not, for all that, abandon their earthly tasks; faithful to their master, they fulfill them with uprightness, patience, and love.

Through our bearing of the cross, out of love and obedience to the Father, we refuse to abandon our earthly tasks, ever faithful to our Master who bears our cross for us. Here, then, Christ becomes more and more alive in us. The goal is one day to say with St. Paul “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me… I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.” This is the miracle of grace. Christ is released in us, then our cross leads to the victory of the Resurrection, just as it did for him.

And then, a seeming contradiction arises, the mark of a Christian: the cross, when embraced with Jesus in faith, leads inevitably to a most profound joy, an indescribable happiness and peace. It is exemplified in stories of the martyrs, who are almost always described walking to their death radiant with joy… the joy of faithfulness to God, no matter the cost.

Because he who shares the cross also shares the certainty of ultimate victory. He will also rule as king with Christ. Then nothing in the newspaper, nothing in our family, nothing in our world shakes our deepest conviction of receiving our share in eternal life. This is freedom, a liberty life without God cannot ever know, because it is a joy which goes beyond time. We know, like the Apostles, that our names are written in Heaven.

We know that Good Friday always leads to Easter Sunday, it’s always darkest just before dawn. And that we are never alone: the Lord who has gone before is with us, carrying our burdens in us, until he leads us finally through the gates of Paradise, to join him in the final inheritance of his kingdom.
– By Fr. John McCuskor, OSB


First Sunday of Advent (Year A)—November 27, 2016
IS 2:1-5PS 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9ROM 13:11-14MT 24:37-44

Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.

At this time of year time seems to have a different perspective. Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas seem to come a long a lot faster. As a child it seemed as if Christmas would never come. Advent of course was a good start at moving closer to Christmas. However, those four weeks seemed like an eternity. In an attempt to move things along we thought lighting all the Advent candles at ounce would make it go faster. We thought opening all those little doors on the Advent calendar would push Christmas that much closer. Who would do such silly things…

On this first Sunday of Advent, the Church invites us to reflect on the mystery of time, eternity, and the end of time. We are told to be watchful. About being ready for Christ’s triumphant coming out of eternity into the world of time. His coming in the light of glory will come when we least expect it. He refers to Noah, they did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. The colorful language and imagery of His coming in glory seem frightful to us. But Jesus also warns us to be prepared for the Son of Man to come. We prepare ourselves first through prayer and the sacraments. We enter eternity through the doors of our everyday parish. This is what Christmas is about: God draws near, God becomes one of us and we are invited to meet the Mighty in the mundane.

This is why Advent is the time to be with Mary, the Church, our new Mother who grants us a new life in her Son Jesus:

CCC §411: The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who, because he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”, makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam. Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve”. Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.

In her perfect humanity, Mary is able to offer the Son of God the prefallen condition in which the human family was created and which is again ours in Christ. So, in one way the First Sunday of Advent is a time which bridges the awesomeness of the return of the Great King and the maternal and intimate nature of the weeks before Christmas.

So, even though the coming of Christ seems fearful at first with these images of celestial changes and utter confusion. These apocalyptic prophecies of great terror and destruction, of cosmic events in nature also inspire us to greater faithfulness. Our faith tells us that Christ has triumphed over all darkness, sin, and evil that we see in our world today. He has already won the battle. But we called to prepare our hearts by striving to be holy. In our preparing for Christ we begin to have a share in His great light of glory already here on earth. We prepare by stockpiling not things of this world but God’s grace in our hearts. We prepare by growing in union with Christ Jesus. We prepare by forming our hearts in devotion in private prayer, devotion to Our Blessed Mother, by taking time to be alone with Our Lord in Blessed Sacrament, and most of all by participating in the Holy Eucharist.

Our renewed preparation to follow Christ might start with a sense of obligation or fear. But as we grow closer to him we begin to follow him out of love. Our fear is purified by love. We are faithful to the gospel out of a real desire to be closer to him. We prepare ourselves in time for the coming of Christ.

In Advent we are called to have a broadened perspective. This broadened perspective is not of a political or ideological sense. It’s one of looking past the anxieties and troubles of this world and focusing on the world to come. When we focus on Christ we begin to live in love of the gospel. We are transformed. Our new way of living becomes contagious. In the way we live by God’s grace we have an effect on the world around us. Others begin to know Christ by the way we live and move and have our being. We prepare for Christ coming in our hearts in our spiritual life and we also then moved by the Spirit prepare also through acts of charity. We are called to in this time to practice works of charity in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and loving our neighbor in doing so we share the love of Christ. Love in the real sense, of desiring what is best for the other. The love Christ showed by dying on the Cross-and the love he shows by coming to us in the Sacrament of the Altar. When we live in his grace we become sharers in the reconstruction of creation as a whole. By our spiritual preparation, our broadened perspective has an effect on the whole world.

In this holy season we wait for Jesus to come into our hearts spiritually at Christmas. We also prepare our hearts to meet Him in His glory and in eternity. Christ calls us to be vigilant because, we do not know the day or hour when the Son of Man will come in glory. Let us take advantage of our time in this Advent. We most likely will not become saints over these quick four weeks. But we can renew our holy intentions of moving closer to Christ. In this time of watchfulness may we lose all fear and deepen our union with him­— he who came into the world as a little child to bring salvation. Let us pray in the holy Eucharist to grow closer to him, to know him, to serve him in love, and to wait for him in hopeful expectation. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus!
-Fr. Aidan McDermott, OSB


About the Authors

Avatar Father John McCusker, O.S.B., is a Benedictine monk of Saint Louis Abbey in Missouri. He studied for the priesthood at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. and did his undergraduate work at the University of Notre Dame. He currently teaches Theology at Saint Louis Priory School.

Fr. Aidan McDermott, OSB Father Aidan McDermott, O.S.B., has been a Benedictine monk of Saint Louis Abbey since 1999. He was ordained a priest in 2015. He earned a Masters of Divinity from Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, MA. He teaches Theology and Medieval Arts at Saint Louis Priory School, the school his Benedictine Community operates. He also works in the vocations office for the abbey.

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Fr. Aidan McDermott, OSB About Fr. Aidan McDermott, OSB

Father Aidan McDermott, O.S.B., has been a Benedictine monk of Saint Louis Abbey since 1999. He was ordained a priest in 2015. He earned a Masters of Divinity from Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, MA. He teaches Theology and Medieval Arts at Saint Louis Priory School, the school his Benedictine Community operates. He also works in the vocations office for the abbey.