MAY 4, 2011- WEDNESDAY 2ND WEEK OF EASTER :  JOHN 3: 16-21

 

MEDITATION AND STUDY of Scripture have been integral features of the worship of God from ancient times very aptly the Jews were designated as “a people of the book.” Devotion to God, in addition to acts of worship and to prayer was came to be accompanied by careful preservation in writing of the events and revelations that were understood to embody the active communications initiated by God Himself to persons of His choice. Appropriating such texts was viewed as a response that honored the God who revealed the way to happiness of life. The inspired author states this view clearly: “Give ear to my words and apply your heart to knowing them, for it will be a delight to keep them within you, to have them ready on your lips.” (Prov. 22:27) Not all of the sacred text was a record of human activity and history; large portions of the bible are records of prayerful reflection and analysis of behavior and relationships. Still others are derived from a studious reflection on nature and an assiduous study of its various intricate elements. The opening pages of the Bible record the insights derived from such prayerful study and meditation of the visible world. The first and fundamental truth the inspired author puts at the head of his account concerns God’s initiative, not human acts. “In the beginning”, he writes, “God created heaven and earth.” God acts creatively. He is the sole source of all that exists. Rightly evaluated this initial insight resonates throughout every page of the Inspired Writings, to the final lines of the Apocalypse. This belief is the first truth affirmed to God in the Bible, that opens with the statement that “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” The Hebrew text here employs the verb “bar’a” meaning “created” that is used elsewhere in the Sacred text and only with God as its subject. Creation is the work uniquely effected by God. The same conviction, based on revelation and given added support by reflection, is proclaimed with praise in the Psalms: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their whole array by the breath of His mouth.” (Ps 33.6) The prophets also spoke of the Lord God as the source of all. “The Lord is an everlasting God; he created the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 40:28)

 

This truth has as much significance for us today as ever it exercised in the course of the centuries. In the early Church, at the period when committed Catholics formulated the content of faith in a creed, the first activity of God they affirmed, after asserting He is One, is precisely that same fundamental truth that all things that exist are created by Him.: “I believe in One God, Creator of heaven and earth, of all that is visible and invisible.” This inclusion of the invisible things of creation has become more important than ever in our day when the evidence of astronomical physics indicate that only 4.7% of the Universe is directly subject to our sight and other senses; 22.7 % is known only indirectly as dark matter, while 72.8% is dark energy. God created the invisible as well as the visible.

One of the reasons the words I have just cited from the Credo are of continuing significance in our current times is that science has recently formulated theories about the origin and nature of the Universe that replace the Creator with self replicating processes that are said simply to self existing, to require no creator. This view that is a modern, modified version of the pantheism already held by Xenophanes centuries before Christ, is being widely propagated in our Universities today and undermining the Christian faith of the youth. Such an opinion is a belief, an act of faith rather than scientific demonstration, though many persons do not make that distinction. As our Lord made evident in the course of his teaching, the knowledge of God is an act of faith that depends on the dispositions of the heart. “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God” he proclaimed in his first major sermon.

 

These reflections lead us to the discourse with Nicodemus that is the setting for today’s Gospel that we have just heard. Nicodemus was an wealthy and educated member of the Jewish leadership who felt the appeal of our Lord’s person and doctrine. Jesus at first sought to enlighten him further by sharing reflections he himself had made on the nature of God as reflected in creation. He explained the new birth that he called people to in terms of nature: “The wind blows wherever it wills, you hear its sound but you know not whence it comes or wither it goes.. That is how it is with those who are born of the Spirit.” The Lord chides the learned Jew for his lack of insight into the more spiritual meaning of the revelation he brings; he demands that his hearers learn to penetrate beneath the surface of life and creation and thus cultivate their spiritual senses so that we perceive the hidden meaning revealed dimly in nature and contained by implication in his words. Nicodemus was not alone in being dull of spiritual understanding. Even the chosen apostles were repeatedly corrected by the Master for their failure to grasp the more subtle and essential truths of our Lord’s teaching.

 

The Gospel today focuses on this hidden, more profound message implied in our Lord’s discourse with the uncomprehending Jewish Master in Israel. This message is that God so loves us that he has sent his only Son to give eternal life to those who put their faith in him. This love of the Father and his Son’s obedient response is the heart of our Eucharistic celebration this day of the Easter season as we continue to recall with grateful hearts the suffering, death, and glorious resurrection of our Savior. May we show by our lives that we love Him in return by living the message revealed to us in his inspired words and by this Holy Eucharist. &

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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