JULY 11, 2007, FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT: EPH 4:1-6; LUKE 22:24-27
THERE IS ONE GOD WHO IS FATHER OF ALL, OVER ALL, THROUGH ALL, AND WITHIN ALL. That the living, infinite, all-knowing God is our Father is a truth so familiar to us that we tend to take for granted that he is interested in us and attends to our prayer. We simply assume he cares for us in his Providence. However, when we turn our attention to the fact that we have God himself as our true Father, and consider some of the implications contained in this relationship, we soon sense that we are dealing with a marvelous mystery every time we turn to God as to our Father in Heaven. It was just such an awareness that led Saint Paul to exclaim, in the course of writing to the Ephesians, that THERE IS ONE GOD WHO IS FATHER OF ALL, OVER ALL, THROUGH ALL, AND WITHIN ALL. He realized a deeper significance of the Fatherhood of God: He not only cares for us, he is continuously with us, he even abides within us.
Paul goes on to point out that, while each has God within yet every one has a distinct, personal kind way of experiencing this divine presence. And so he writes that AEach one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ has allotted it.@It is our task in life to recognize what that grace enables us to do in response to this presence of the Father within us. If we study the history of religion we come to appreciate all the more how remarkable and full of wondrous mystery is this familiar relationship to God. A thinker like Aristotle who was convinced of the existence of God arrived at that knowledge through reflection on the experience that everything that is has a proportionate cause for its existence. Ultimately then there must exist, as the origin of all that exists an uncaused Cause, without beginning. However, so exalted a being, he reasoned, existing as He does complete within Himself, abides in isolation, having no care about such mortal creatures as humans. Other thinkers, such as the pillars of the Hindu and Buddhist faiths, consider the Ultimate to be impersonal, not the object of anything describable in terms of a Father who has concern for his children.
Although in the Old Testament times God is approached as Father, who guides and instructs his chosen people, yet the relation between the individual and the almighty is not consistently filial and intimate. The Father himself took the initiative that changed this state of affairs when he sent his own Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary. One of the most consistent and striking features of the Lord Jesus is the intimacy he enjoyed with God whom he knew as Father. He had a unique presence to the Father, as he repeatedly made clear in his ministry. Already as a child he asserted to his mother when she found him after an anxious search in the temple with the doctors of the law that the Father=s concerns were his chief occupation. He was impelled to carry out in his life what pleased the Father. He made a further claim that would be outrageous on the lips of any one else. AI and the Father are one.@(John 10:30)
This devotion to God as a loving and all powerful Father became fundamental in the spiritual lives of the faithful. Jesus was known as exemplifying this attachment in a unique degree. His followers understood that such confident trust in God as a child shows the Father is the very basis of our hope, and that it is the fruit of the death and resurrection of the Lord that effected a restoration of this filial attachment. We are reconciled to the Father through the self-sacrifice of his Son on our behalf.
This conviction and the devotedness arising from it permeates the life and Rule of Saint Benedict whose feast we celebrate at this Eucharist. Benedict refers to himself in the Prologue of his Rule as a loving Father who admonishes his children with authority on how to live the virtuous life. AListen, my son, to the precepts of the master, and incline the ear of your heart to receive the admonishments of a tender father.@ The authority that the monk submits to is that which Jesus himself always obeyed, even when it seemed to demand more than he could carry out. In the end, after a life of obedience given with love unto death on the cross, our Lord commended his spirit into the hands of his Father in a final act of trust. It is this mystery of trusting faith that carried him throughout his life and sustained him in death that we commemorate and renew at this Eucharist as we honor our father, St Benedict, who lived this truth and bequeathed it to us, his children. Z
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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