MAY 18, 2005 - HOMILY: ACTS 11: 19-26; JOHN 10: 22-30

IF YOU REALLY ARE THE MESSIAH, TELL US SO IN PLAIN WORDS. ‘ I DID TELL YOU BUT YOU DO NOT BELIEVE.’ These words of our Lord raise the issue of faith that remains of major. , even determinative, significance for everyone: ‘What do you think of Christ? Whose Son is he?", Jesus asks. Deliverance from oppression, freedom, fulfillment, happiness, a meaningful existence, indeed, life or death- all depend on faith in Christ or its lack and knowing who he truly is. This is as true today as ever it was. And Jesus here, as he did on other occasions, makes it evident that such is in all truth the critical issue that separates or unites people with God and so determines their destiny.

The heavenly Father, on two occasions, made it evident how essential he considers it that Jesus be recognized for who he is and listened to with obedient faith. and at the Baptism in the Jordan, a heavenly voice announced ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’.  At the Transfiguration the very same words came from heaven with the addition, implied already in the earlier announcement, ‘listen to him.’ Once we know who this Jesus of Nazareth truly is, that he not only comes from God but is of the same substance as the Father and so is himself God, it follows inevitably that we are to listen to his words and obey his teaching. These passages and others that give direct witness to Jesus as the beloved son of God, entrusted with a special mission by his heavenly Father are found in all three Synoptic Gospels; John’s version is even more explicit, more insistent on the identity of Jesus as coming from the bosom of the Father, and being divine.

Jesus answered those who asked for a plain statement as to his identity that he had already told them, and refused to repeat what he had already made clear enough for those with good will. Curiously, however, it seems that the only time he had declared in so many words, his identity as the one sent by God as Messiah was in private, to the Samaritan woman. He does nonetheless go on to explain that the works he performs are a distinct message in the form of behavior that speaks louder than words. If they were rightly disposed they would recognize their meaning, and understand that he comes from God. The problem is situated in the dispositions of their hearts; this is what must change if they would know him. Only the pure in heart, the well-disposed who desire to do God’s will in all truth can come to know the Christ, his anointed.

This is the message of today’s Gospel that is addressed to us. Our monastic Fathers understood this fundamental principle that governs our relation to the Lord, and consistently taught that the knowledge of God could be acquired only by working steadily to overcome selfish passions and desires, by living humbly and opening our heart to the needs of others and the common good. These strivings must persist all along the way that leads to the kingdom. No matter how far one has progressed in the knowledge of God and of his Son, the one who seeks God must ever guard the heart from all forms of self-centered desire. At the same time, there is no more effective aid to persisting in this labor of the heart than the loving knowledge of the Lord. Once we believe in him as our Savior we already know him as offering himself to us in friendship. The more convinced we are of this offer made in love, the more readily we accept the struggle to prove worthy of the trust he places in us by making himself accessible.

The knowledge of God that is saving and sanctifying is the fruit of an experience of the persons

of God which is given to those who desire to know him in order to serve his glory. In the Eucharist we are given a pledge of this self-offering, made to us in view of a life of intimacy with the Lord of glory. May we prove faithful and steadfast in the service of our gracious Savior who loves us and gives himself for us now as he once gave himself on the cross.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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