THE DESIRES OF MAN’S HEART ARE EVIL FROM INFANCY.  We live in a world that, in some mysterious way, has deviated from the original plan of its nature and functioning due to the willful disobedience of the earliest of our ancestors.  This theme orients the whole of human history in such a way that relations among individuals and nations are characterized by tension, violence, and disasters. These days, for instance, the papers have been reporting the increasing violent crowds in Egypt demanding the resignation of their President until he was forced out of office. Immediately upon his resignation fears are being expressed that the instability in Egypt will give rise to wider unrest and heavier violence.  This news has meant that latest developments in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are relegated to back pages temporarily. It was not only human relations that were enfeebled and conflictual once our ancestors were forced into exile from Eden. Nature itself ceased to be as suited to peaceful and happy human life as it was in the original conditions prevailing in the beginning, before the sin that disrupted nature and society. At a given state of degeneracy, punishment came in the form of a destructive and vast flood.

God, however, tempered the harm attendant upon this self-inflicted injury, as today’s passage informs us. After the flood the Lord commits himself to sustain a world that can provide for the needs of our race adequately. “I will never again strike down all living beings, as I have done. As long as the earth lasts, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Nature's disasters continue but are limited. However, the disorder in the human psyche and society persisted. A further intervention by God marked another stage of our history when Abraham responded obediently to   a divine command to leave behind his familiar society and move forward into the unknown sustained by faith in the One who inspired him to seek a new beginning for himself and his family. His travels were not always smooth; he met with dangers and opposition but in the end his fidelity won out and his progeny became established in the Promised Land.

Soon it became necessary for the whole clan to leave their heritage for Egypt, for nature again proved unfriendly when famine threatened their very existence. After the flood God had made the promise we heard in today’s reading: “As long as the earth lasts, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” However, it would seem clear that He did not intend that it apply equally to every place and in the same measure. Nature’s cycles and laws continue to have their own scope within the limits assigned by the creator. In this case, as with other promises made to Moses and other inspired messengers of God, application to life turns out to prove less absolute than their wording in Hebrew suggests to us. Even learned Jews tended to construe the Lord’s words more absolutely than He intended them. He seems to means his words to be understood in light of other statements made at various occasions. Certain of His promises imply that the recipients live by obedient faith. Complacency is thereby excluded; at least some of His promises, and among them even most solemn ones, are to hold only when compliance with His will marks his people’s behavior and attitudes. 

As we learn from a number of the Psalms even pious Jews complained on occasion that the Lord God was inconstant. Psalm 89, is a palmary instance among others. The author first quotes the Lord’s promise to remind Him, as it were, of His commitment for He had assured his people saying “I will not break my covenant, I will not revoke my given word.” He then burst out with his accusation and complains in strong language: “And yet You have rejected, disowned and raged at your anointed. You swore your oath, do not forget.” (Ps 89:34 . . . 50)  

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives sight to the blind. Read in connection with the promise He made after the flood it would seem he intends to remind us by this liturgy that we stand in need of the healing light of his presence and word if we are rightly to guide our life by his teaching. However faithful to his promise to be with us always, we must avoid all complacency as if we have done enough when we have accepted him with faith. Only when we put into practice his commands with purity of purpose striving to follow his example of loving obedience to the Father’s plan, can we confidently hope that He will always stand by us in our need. He has given us this Eucharist as a pledge of His faithful love. May its grace enable us to prove worthy of His promise of eternal life.    

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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