OCTOBER 25, 2006- HOMILY: LUKE 11:27-28

BLESSED ARE THEY WHO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD AND KEEP IT.  It surely required special graces for Mary to fulfill her role as mother of the Messiah who was the Son of God. Even though he had become incarnate through her willing cooperation with the Divine Spirit and by means of her own body, still she felt all the natural instincts and affection of a loving, affectionate mother. At the same time, from early years, indeed from the first moments of her conception, she was ever aware that her child belonged to Another. He was entrusted to her care and, like all other infants, was emotionally as well as physically dependent upon her. Her manner of serving his needs and of responding to his behavior as he passed through the various stages of infancy and early childhood, she realized, contributed to the formation of his character. Early on he began to manifest a keen awareness of his personal relation to the Father that was accompanied by a sense of dignity that she responded to with a sensitive reverence. Simeonís prophecy was never far from her mind that he was destined for great matters that entailed suffering and sorrow that she would experience because of her love for him.

Clearly this awareness resulted in a particular intensity of attachment to their mutual relations that united them in unbreakable bonds of love. Still, always present was the sense that he belonged in the depths of his person to the Father. As he grew in age his personal involvement with the invisible world of the divine Presence bestowed a precocious independence of manner, a sense of freedom from any radical need of human approval such as children feel as they approach the teens. Mary would have had to control sharply the natural maternal tendency to be over-protective, to keep her son for herself. Luke tells us that by the time he began adolescence, aged twelve, the Lord spontaneously acted with precocious independence of spirit. Such freedom as he then revealed did not arise overnight, but must have been long in developing. He certainly showed no trace of childish dependence on that occasion. The obedience he rendered to his parents, Luke implies, was given freely, in response to the Fatherís will, not from emotional need. On no occasion in his life does our Lord manifest the slightest tendency to be sentimental. In todayís Gospel we are presented with a striking instance of how he down-graded the physical aspect of the mother-child relation for the sake of emphasizing obedience to the will of the heavenly Father. Mary was surely exposed to this attitude of our Lord, as Luke implies, in daily life with her son at Nazareth. By the time he left her side in order to fulfill the mission for which he was sent by the Father, she had, by years of experience of living with her son, been trained in the ways of a transcendent love to accompany him in faith, though separated in body.

Such is the implicit message of todayís Gospel. To learn to love, to be united in the closest and durable bonds of a personal, intimate union, is the great task of life. Such attachments are not subject to the vicissitudes of time and circumstance for they do not depend on changing feelings and passing interests or advantage; love that endures is rooted in living knowledge of God as Father. The union of true friendship, of brotherhood, of dedicated love is established in faith by the gift of the Holy Spirit. From the beginning Maryís formation was a training in this way of a love that is divine and eternal, and which is not learned and assimilated without the sword of sorrow ad suffering that pierced the heart of the mother of our Savior. In this way of divine love, under the hidden influence of the Spirit, human emotion is strengthened and purified and renders us capable of union with him who gave himself for us on the cross in obedience to the will of his heavenly Father.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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