November 6, 2014 - THURSDAY 31ST WEEK:

PHILLIPIANS 3:3-8 ; LUKE 15:1-10

Both readings today speak to us this evening of the nature of love.  The more specific contribution each of these passages makes to us living in the society of recent Western culture increasingly influenced by enhanced technological developments is that there is a love that transcends this material universe. The kind of love depicted in the Gospel and referred to in Saint Paul's letter, displays quite different values than that which is increasingly dominating our modern society.  Both pericopies instantiate examples of a form of love motivated by that existence which is enlivened by the eternal God.  They envisage a kind of love that is not dependent on the material goods of this world.

Saint Paul begins his remarks to the Philippians with describing his earlier way of loving God, prior to his personal encounter with the Lord Jesus.  He did nothing by halves; as a Pharisee he was blameless, aggressively assertive of his convictions, unquestioningly sure of his cause, and merciless in pursuing it.  Only when the Lord Jesus took the initiative and confronted him with the overpowering force of the light of truth was Paul able to recognize how he had been dominated by an angry pride in his behavior to the Christianized Jews.  After living for a time from the strength of the grace and assimilating its light Paul was inwardly transformed, as he tells us in this text: "Whatever gains I had, I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.  More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."   This Christ on whom Paul's whole desire and motivation is focused lives no longer according to the forms and laws of this world, but in the power and love of the transcendent God.  Through the desire of his new love Paul already belongs in the spirit to the eternal society whose power, order, and beauty are expressions of a love that bestows a fullness of life.  Already within the limits of time and creation this love so enhances life that it anticipates the fullness to come, taking the form of union with the Father in the mystical body of his Divine Son.

Jesus, instructing the querulous, rigid-minded Pharisees and Scribes in the way of a loving and merciful God exhibits in his own person the dispositions of the Creator and Ruler of the Universe whom he represents.  Rather than display annoyance with the sheep that wandered off and became separated from the flock, the shepherd he depicts goes in search of the wayward and finding his quarry weak from meanderings carries it back to the flock. His message is all the clearer for being conveyed in so touching and familiar an image to the men of his time and place.

God is not only the fulfillment of all we require for the completion of our most intimate desires, as Paul declares; he is the active shepherd in search of our safety, the One who cares so warmly for our true good that he pursues us even in our wanderings.  In this Eucharistic sacrifice we thank Him in appreciation for his loving concern for our eternal welfare as we offer him the one gift worthy of his merciful care, the body and blood of His Risen Son.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger