FEBRUARY 13, 2014 - THURSDAY OF THE 5th WEEK

1 K 11:4-13 ; MARK 7:24-30

Just before hearing today's Gospel read, we sang an admonitory introductory verse whose intent is to render us more alert to the lessons of both of today's readings.  The words, even at a first hearing, suggest much more than they explicitly state.

First Saint James admonishes us earnestly: "Humbly welcome the implanted word."   We are urged not only to listen to the words of the Gospel, but quite deliberately to make the effort required to give it warm reception.  The Greek terms here, emphutun logon, could more tellingly be translated "the word rooted within."  For, having living roots within you by the Spirit of God, it gives rise to fresh life.  The implanted word is a promise of growth into eternal life, referred to here as "the salvation of your souls." The word of the Gospel, if carefully attended to, does not disappear with the sound that carries it to our hearing; rather, it is intended to be implanted within us so as to take on a life of its own within us.  For this word is a seed of eternal life, implanted by its Creator.

James introduces this text by urging us to cultivate our powers of listening.  Listening is not only hearing sounds by giving deliberate attention to their meaning.  That meaning is conveyed not only by the limits of the word in its narrows confines but by the whole context and circumstances in which it is both produced and heard.  For words convey more than they state.   God, Scripture tells us, hears the human heart that, in giving rise to words, colors them with its dispositions and unexpressed motives.   Our way of reading and hearing words carries along with the ideas expressed something of our attentive self.  What we hear, what meaning it has for us is dyed by the color of our inner attitudes, our aspirations, and desires.

When Jesus responded so generously to the words of the pagan woman, pleading for her possessed daughter, he not merely heard her request but perceived as well the color of her inner thoughts and the shinning purity of her faith in his divine person.  At this holy Eucharist may we too welcome his healing power with that same humble faith that he inspires in us.  For we like this trustful foreign woman approach him with hopeful hearts convinced he is himself the healing Word of eternal life.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger