JANUARY 18, 2006, -MARK 3: 1- 6

THE PHARISEES WERE HOPING TO BE ABLE TO BRING AN ACCUSATION AGAINST JESUS. This event early in the public life of our Lord has a large significance for anyone who would understand his message and the significance of his whole ministry. Here two fundamental principles governing the teaching and lifestyle of our Lord are brought out distinctly: God is concerned with the well-being of individual persons; their welfare is the guide for applying the laws made for the community in specific instances. Our Lord was so committed to this basic perspective and the values it embodies that he deliberately provoked the hostility of influential men by putting it into effect in their presence.

The second fundamental truth that emerges from our Lordís encounter with the Pharisees is that Godís revelation can be recognized and accepted only by the pure of heart, that is to say, by those who are seeking to know the will of God in order to conform to it. We can become complacent so readily in the truth we already possess and live by that we enclose our mind in an impenetrable attitude of self-righteousness. Nothing, not the presence of our Lord himself, not his words, not even the striking miracle he worked as proof that he spoke for God, can penetrate the heart that is hardened and closed to further light. On the contrary, as this encounter demonstrates, such revelation of loving mercy as this miraculous healing provokes further resistance to change, precludes openness to fresh revelation and new increments of truth and of the life that flows from it. S. Mark tells us that upon seeing this miraculous cure the Pharisees began to plot with the Herodians how they might destroy Jesus, for he broke with their traditional understanding of what the Sabbath rest required.

There are degrees of spiritual sensitivity, of course; it is not a matter of all or nothing. Our capacity to respond to spiritual values wherever they are found, depends upon the various experiences, decisions and the environment in which we live and develop. It is also true that some are endowed by nature with a larger sensibility and capacity for spiritual reality than others. A further characteristic of our human personality is that one can be highly responsive to certain manifestations of higher realities and yet in some areas be quite dull, and be all the more strongly defended against change in proportion to the lack of self-knowledge that accompanies such blunted awareness. This was the kind of problem Jesus encountered in his ministry. Here we see it in an extreme shape so that on the occasion of a striking act of mercy to an unfortunate creature these men of influence managed to perceive only what their prejudices, formed by a series of distorted views and unhealthy influences prepared them for. This resulted in their feeling justified in fostering a mortal hatred. The Lord refers to this condition as hardness of heart, as spiriual blindness and deafness.

That all of us are called to eternal life in union with our Lord and so in the Presence of the Father defines our task in life as a challenge to cultivate our capacity for perceiving the God who transcends all the visible and sentient world. This requires the training of our spiritual senses through prayer and meditation on the mystery revealed in Christ. That such is the form that our life it to assume Jesus implied when he stated explicitly that "This is eternal life, to know you, the living and true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3) This knowledge is not merely intellectual; it is the fruit of experience that includes all that we are, all that we have become. Purity of heart alone can know God. We must become in some measure more spiritual in our way of being, for only like can know life. Accordingly, in order to prepare our self for life in the Kingdom we must arrive at this purity that consists in sharpening out spiritual senses through prayer and self discipline that entails a daily effort at attentiveness of the heart and the overcoming of selfishness. To this end we are given the grace of this Eucharist in which Christ offers himself and gives himself to us that we might, with him, abide in the presence of God our heaving Father.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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