NOVEMBER 7, 2013

ROMANS 14:7-12 ; LUKE 15:1-10

Scattered throughout the writings of the New Testament are a considerable number of inspired truths that possess so radical implications as to be potentially life-changing.  Whether this potential is activated so as to achieve its intended purpose depends on our response to the message it conveys and its implications.  Such truths open vast horizons of meaning provided they are explored in depth and progressively assimilated by the inner self.  Both of the readings we have just heard this evening are palmary instances of this feature of revelation.  Their surface sense is readily understood; what we can all too readily overlook, however, in each passage is the implications that yield the significance they potentially hold for each one of us personally.

In words of readily understood meaning Saint Paul, writing to the Roman community of believers whom he had not as yet met in person, stresses the basic teaching that "None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.  For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord."  What could be clearer at a first reading, or stated in simpler terms? Only if we take time to reflect on the implications of various kinds of such a truth do we begin to see that this statement is an invitation to give a fresh meaning to the whole of our life.  More, it points beyond this life to another world, a new kind of existence.  As we come to realize the fuller meaning hidden in Paul's words, we begin to view our way of viewing the people we live with and encounter daily in a new light.  We get a glimpse of a fuller reality than we had previously conceived as engaging our energies, influencing our decisions, and more fundamentally, altering our perceptions not only of the persons we encounter, but of our very selves.  Paul actually goes on to name a further implication of the fact that we live and die for the Lord.

when he adds that "whether we live or die, we are the Lord's."   This statement invites us to explore, each for oneself, the unstated consequences of this profound insight that, is life-changing in proportion as we grasp what it means for oneself. As for this story of the Good Shepherd.  This shepherd not only searches out the lost sheep but even carries it back on his shoulders to the safety of the flock when found.  It is as if Luke tells us what it means when Paul says "we are the Lord's."   Its meaning, he seems to say, is knowing the security of a love that is reliably steadfast, stronger than death itself, giving assurance through belonging to one who carries us to the fullness of the unending life with all those who belong to the Lord.  This is the hope we express as we give thanks to God our Father in this Eucharistic celebration.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger