JULY 2, 2009; GENESIS 22:1-19; MATTHEW 9:1-8

 

AT THE SIGHT, A FEELING OF AWE CAME OVER THE CROWD AND THEY PRAISED GOD. Often in encountering the text of Scripture, careful attention to the wording is rewarded with significant insight into a meaning that is latent in the text. Todayís Gospel provides just such an instance. Matthew points out by way of comment on the astonishing miraculous healing of the paralyzed man that the crowd, upon experiencing the awe attending the dramatic praised God. What he does not say is that they praised the man at whose word the healing was produced. Implied here is that God acts in this person. The divine so dominates in the presence and speech of Jesus that the merely human takes on a transcendent life that communicates some sense of a higher, personal, active power. In Jesusí words God himself is known by experience to be actively operative and present to those who witness the striking cure.

 

Not all present, however, appear to be susceptible to this evidence of the divine intervention. Or did those scholarly men whom Matthew designates as scribes allow themselves to open their hearts upon witnessing the healing power of Jesusí words that claimed the right to forgive sins? The impression given by other passages of the same Gospel is that their minds were so fixed in their own way of understanding Godís laws that they were unresponsive even to such evident manifestations of power in the service of mercy. Ezechiel and other prophets before Jesus had encountered similar resistance due to stony hearts that only grace could change into receptive hearts of flesh, as he puts it. Our Lord himself, we are informed, was saddened upon encountering unbelief that hardened into hostility that proceeded from deep-seated attitudes fed by self-interest and values that misinterpreted the meaning hidden in the world and its history.

 

The sense of awe is one of the manifestations of the powers of the human spirit that can be activated by certain experiences and which open out consciousness to a higher form of existence. Beauty, goodness, innocence, gratuitous kindness, natural forces such as great stormsóamong others instill a sense of awe that contains some hint of a higher world in which the human spirit is more alive. That world is felt to evoke a pervasive reverence that readily results in praise and thanksgiving. There are varying degrees of this awe, depending on its forms of manifestation and upon our own receptivity. All love of persons is accompanied by a sense of respect that, at its fullest development, flowers into a more profound regard and even into awe that amounts to an intense appreciation and affirmation of the worth of the other. We can cultivate our capacity for recognizing and appreciating the potential for these stages of reverential awe that dignify and elevate our person by the labor or purifying the heart and exercising the spirit in faith-filled prayer.

 

Only those who in faith approach Jesus with attitudes of trust and desire can attain to the fuller measure of such reverential awe as culminate in the pure joy of the higher life for which, in the deepest recesses of our heart, we long. To celebrate this gift of the true life that alone satisfies our spirit and fulfills our destiny in Godís plan, we offer this Eucharist with thanksgiving, and petition our Lord for the continuing grace of his Holy Spirit that by lives of faith and holiness we might grow into the fullness of the life He lives with the Father in the Holy Spirit.&††††††††††††


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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