SEPTEMBER 4, 2006, LABOR-DAY: MATTHEW 13:54-58
WERE DID THIS MAN GET SUCH WISDOM AND MIRACULOUS POWERS? R
Repeatedly in his lifetime Jesus created situations where he caused the persons he dealt with to ask themselves just who he is. One of the constant issues involved in such encounters is faith. In order correctly to answer the question arising from contact with the Lord Jesus faith in him is absolutely essential. Today’s text is a palmary instance of such an occasion. His fellow townsmen, as often is the case, felt they knew him and his parents too well to acknowledge the distinctiveness of his person. This need to level another out of a false sense of self-worth blinded them. Even though they recognized and marveled at his knowledge, wisdom and extraordinary powers they were unwilling to admit the obvious conclusion that his person was of a superior order than they and their like. Rather than rejoice in his gifts and powers they felt them as a threat, an implicit witness to their own inferior dignity. Such unconscious self-doubt closed their minds and hearts to the one who was offering, by his teaching and demeanor to enrich their lives and to show the way to develop a higher worth that would confer a surpassing dignity upon them. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ interaction with the people from his home town of Nazareth, the episode, which begins with admiration at his wisdom and powers ends with murderous hostility. It is after this encounter that Jesus moves to Capharnaum. He will not stay where he is not wanted.
Various are the kinds of situations in which the manner of perceiving the Lord depends upon the presence or absence of faith in his person. This is evident in all four Gospel accounts. Even though the Lord is physically present, visible, palpable yet he cannot be known except by an act of faith in his person. Such an act is, in fact, a free choice; it is the fruit of a good heart and an open spirit just as refusal of such faith is an indication of a hard heart and of blind eyes, closed to the appearance of the true and morally beautiful embodied in the Lord.
These considerations remain highly pertinent for all of us today, and always will remain significant throughout life and for all time. The faith that Jesus speaks of is clearly more than an act of the intellect giving assent to some revealed doctrine. Of course, it includes such a willingness to accept his teaching based on the authority acknowledged as his. However, this faith is at the same time an act of the will; it includes a surrender of one’s very self based on trust. What we trust in giving our self over to the Lord is that he will welcome us, however unworthy of such a friendly even tender acceptance we know our self to be. To make such an act of faith we must be willing to live according to the values and teachings of our Lord. This entails our seeking fulfillment through conformity to God’s will and union with him, not in worldly success or even approval. It commonly happens that we learn this lesson, so hard on the flesh, only after discovering by painful experience how deceptive are the world’s satisfactions, whether in the way of pleasure or acknowledged achievement. Approval and recognition depend on others and are not subject to our control. This is a hard lesson to learn but is central to Christ’s example and teaching. Inner freedom from the felt need of acceptance by others is a life-long struggle. We can overcome this strong tendency only by placing our trust and hope in our Savior, as he in turn placed his trust in the love of the Father.
May this Eucharist be for each of us a renewal of dedication to this way of faith that is based on the sure foundation of the loving mercy of our Lord and his heavenly Father. In you lone, Lord is the fountain of true life; in you alone is our peace, our hope, and our trusting faith.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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