JUNE 16, 2013 - 15TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

COLOSSIANS 1:15-20

CHRIST JESUS IS THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD...IN HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER.   The conviction that Jesus is the image of the invisible God is so familiar to us who frequently are exposed to the Scriptures that we can readily accept it without much thought.  However, once we begin to reflect on the realities it refers to, we discover how replete with significance is this belief concerning the nature of Jesus as being the incarnate son of God.  For all who are acquainted with the writings of the early Fathers of the Church and, some seven centuries later, that of medieval writers including certain saintly Cistercian abbots, it is natural to realize how fundamental for the spiritual life is this teaching of the image.  Scripture in various Old and New Testament texts reveals that just as the Eternal Logos who took flesh is the uncreated Image of the Eternal Father, so also is the human person is a created image in the likeness of God.

Indeed, so fundamental is this revealed truth that it is immediately associated with the initial mention of man in the Bible.  The very first feature the Bible mentions in connection with our human race is that originally we were created in the image and likeness of God (btselem vdemuth in the Hebrew text).  A consequence of this fact is that while we still possess a potential for union with God but remain incomplete as persons until we regain the likeness lost by sin.  This recovery process has proved to be a long one as witnessed to throughout the Bible.  Only gradually, after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ was it revealed with a detailed fullness by what measures might we recover the lost likeness and so become capable of that fullness of life for which we are created.  Included in this fullness of revelation is a statement in today's second reading that discloses a transcendent truth that allows for a fresh awareness of the hidden depths of our interior life.

In the Epistle to the Colossians, we heard a few minutes ago, after asserting the astonishing fact that the man Jesus is God made visible in the flesh, Saint Paul, realizes how mysterious are the implications of this truth that far transcends human reason when taken in its fullness of meaning.  This doctrine implies a fresh view of the entire universe that is realized only upon a profound reflection inspired by the grace of God.  Accordingly, Paul goes on to elaborate in some concrete detail the nature of its significance.  "All things", he writes, "were created through him and for him; and in him all things hold together."

Only concentrated reflection enables some limited awareness as to just how radical and powerful an insight this truth represents for our concept of our relation to the entire universe and the nature of our very Self.  For such an awareness provides an altogether new experience of our life of prayer.

Recognizing the radical change consequent upon this insight given to Paul by the Spirit opens up for us new horizons in our dealings with our world, with people, as well as in our prayer.  For this statement by Paul affirms that even now, and at every moment of time, we are in immediate contact with God in the person of his beloved Son Jesus.  He remains actively present, operating in such a way as to maintain the order and processes of the entire universe.  Not only the created world outside of us, but within us as well.  For we are intimately bound up with the material universe through the matter that constitutes our bodies.  Modern physics, astronomy, and biochemistry recently have gained understanding of the matter and energy of the universe in concrete detail that has demonstrated that the atoms of our bodies are of the same material forms as that of the stars and planets thousands of light years distant from our planet earth.  The whole functioning of this marvelous creation, Paul tells us in this text operates at one level according to nature's laws.  At the same time in its deepest level, all that is, your Self included, continues on its way because the Son of God is actively holding it together.  He not only created you and me, but continues active within us, body, psyche, and personal spirit.  May we spend our brief time in this Universe of ours ever mindful of this truth accessible through faith and lived in prayerful awareness day by day.   This gift of God's grace is what we thank Him for in the Eucharist we celebrate here this morning.  May we prove worthy of the light and strength He offers us in this sacrament of His love.


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger