AUGUST 17, 2012 - FRIDAY OF THE 19TH WEEK

EZECHIEL 16:59-63 ; MATTHEW 19:3-12

Human love, and still more, God's love, are powerful, mysterious forces.  Much has been written on these subjects over the thousands of years since the first chapter of the Bible was inspired and recorded.  The opening page of the inspired book asserts that God made the human person in his image and likeness:  betselllem ve demuth, in the Hebrew wording.  Some highly insightful reflections on the implications and consequences of this fact have been set forth by various learned Church fathers, including such early Cistercians as Bernard and William of Saint Thierry.  They inform us in penetrating detail just what it means to be modeled on God Himself.  Obviously, if we are to grasp what it means to be an image and likeness of God we need to have a sufficiently exact concept of what God is like.  While we can know a good deal about God, yet He always remains a vast mystery.  The result is that we remain in large part mysterious even to our own self.  God's nature surpasses any specific quality we can legitimately ascribe to Him.  Pseudo-Denys makes the point that all our language about our Creator falls short of his actual nature.  Thus he affirms that it is not correct to say "God is good" for our concept of goodness falls short of his realization of goodness.  So, he goes on to state, it is more correct to affirm that God is "supergood".

Saint John, in a passage that our Cistercian Fathers rightly made much of, found a way to cut through the problem of knowing God by declaring that "God is love" and that "The one who loves is born of God and knows God." (1 John 4: 7)  Only in light of this teaching can we appreciate the significance of today's readings.  The prophet Ezechiel records the Lord's words to his sinful people who had broken the covenant the Lord had given them.  "I will re-establish my covenant with you that you may know I am the Lord. . . .  I pardon you for all you have done."  Implied in these words is a tender love supplying a kind of knowledge of God's nature that surpasses anything words can convey.

Love, too, is the implied subject of Matthew's gospel passage that we have just heard.  Jesus here lays down a law that restores the original practice intended by God in creating man in his likeness.  Marriage is a permanent state of life; one is not free to repudiate a partner.  Fidelity includes the obligation to remain committed throughout life in spite of all kinds of temptations and of personal shortcomings only if the partner first proves unfaithful by some serious act of adultery is a person freed of the engagement made by marriage.  Love as the Lord taught it, is to be marked by a constancy and a willingness to forgive.  By practicing this kind of faithful, strong love, whether in marriage or in dealings with others, we conform to God's plan for us.  In doing so we recover the lost likeness to our creator, lost through the self-indulgence that is sin.

May the love of our Risen Savior given to us in this Eucharist enable us always to live by this law of love that restores the likeness to God thus preparing us for eternal life in His loving presence.


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger