NOVEMBER 21, 2005 - AWHUM: LUKE 21: 1-4

I TELL YOU DEFINITELY, THIS POOR WIDOW HAS GIVEN MORE THAN ALL THE REST. Jesus spoke these words to the apostles in order to teach them to form their judgment of human behavior on the basis of the dispositions of the heart. The wise men of the Old Testament sought to understand the human heart for they knew its central role in human affairs. They were careful to make observations that they expressed with well-phrased sayings so that the lessons they derived from their study might be sufficiently appreciated as to influence the thinking and behavior of those who read them. This study of human thoughts and feelings, hidden as they are and subtle in their bodily expression calls for insight and perception thatis possessed only by few. Others, however, who are docile and interested in improving themselves can learn from the observations and reflections of men of experience and intelligence. Here are a few such sayings that we do well to keep in mind in dealing with others and even with our own self.

"All the ways of a man may be pure in his own eyes, but it is the Lord who proves the spirit. (Prov 16:2) This is the principle that Jesus teaches when he points out that it is not he who gives the most money or the richest gift who acquires most credit in Godís sight but the one who sacrifices most from the heart. It is not so evident in dealing with other people to observe just what they may be experiencing "The heart knows its own bitterness and in is joy no one else shares."(Prov 14:10) The prophets too studied the depths of manís Do not judge from his appearance or from his tall stature ... Not as man sees does God see, bcause man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart." (1 Sam 16:7) None seem to have devoted themselves to this study of the heart more intensely than Jeremiah, probably .because the burdens of his mission put such a heavy strain on him he needed to analyze his deeper attitudes and feelings and those of the people to whom he was sent. He wrote: "More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? I the Lord alone probe the mind and test the reward everyone according to his wys." (Jeremiah 17:9, 10)

Although ultimately God alone can know the heart fully, yet, as the wise men have shown, we can gain important understanding that allows us to apply our efforts more effectively at curing the ills of our heart and developing the strengths latent in our depths if we examine the movements of our soul and the thoughts of our mind. St Gregory of Nazianzan, one of the most distinguished doctors of theology and a great contemplative, is a good example. He wrote: "For me then, in the storm of my whirling heart/ I held this debate in contradictory words:/ who was I, who am I and what will I be? I have no idea/ and the man whose wisdom surpasses mine knows no better than I:/ enveloped in a cloud, here and there I wander, having nothing, even in dream, of what I desire ... " Yet he was able to function effectively precisely because he was in touch with his passions and did not allow them to interfere with giving his attention to God and focusing on pleasing him with his choices and actions.

This is the challenge posed us by the lesson Jesus gives us in todayís Gospel text. However limited our means, however poor we might be in talent and resources, if we generously and trustingly give what we have to God, and give it out of our substance, as our Lord put it, he will accept our offering with the alacrity of love. May we believe this truth and live by it day by day, confident, not in our own gift but in the goodness and loving kindness of God who is our Father and who sees the depths of our heart.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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