BEFORE I FORMED YOU IN THE WOMB I KNEW YOU.

HOMILY: Mark 8: 1- 10

GIVEN AT AWHUM, NIGERIA 28 JANUARY, 2001


The Prophet

BEFORE I FORMED YOU IN THE WOMB I KNEW YOU. These words were originally addressed to the prophet Jeremiah. The Lord intended by them to give him confidence that comes from trusting that he was especially chosen by God who knew him personally. He would need much assurance in order to carry out his vocation to speak in the name of the Lord God to people who would not listen to him. "The will fight against you," the Lord warned him, "but they shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you." We know from his later history that Jeremiah needed all the assurance he could obtain from God, for the message he was given did in fact prove to be a scandal to the leaders of the people and they not only resisted him, they went so far as to threaten him with death.

It is not surprising then to learn that in the time of Jesus he was considered by many to be another Jeremiah, or even Jeremiah who returned to redeem the oppressed people of Israel. Jesus, as we know, denied that he was Jeremiah, but after his death and resurrection, when he appeared to his apostles he taught them to believe in the reality of his resurrection by explaining to them the proper way to understand the law and the prophets and the psalms. He announced to them that these Scriptures spoke of him and had predicted his passion and resurrection. Rightly to recognise the significance of Jesus, to perceive his true identity, we must know the proper meaning of the prophets and the law.

But Jesus himself encountered dullness of heart and resistance, just as the prophet Jeremiah had experienced, as we learn from today's Gospel where he sums up his encounter with the people in his own home town by the words: "No prophet is ever accepted in his own country." His mission was even more challenging than that of Jeremiah, for he had to proclaim the truth that he himself was God's Son, one with the Father and so equal to Him. This teaching surpasses human expectations and those he preached to were not capable of recognising in Him the Beloved Son of God sent to reconcile us to the Father. His mission was to witness to this truth even at the cost of his life. Only after he actually died and rose were even his closest followers able to grasp this mysterious reality in faith.

Each of us has been given the grace to believe in the risen Christ by the same gift of faith that the apostles received after the resurrection. Like them and like the prophet Jeremiah we too have been called by name to a particular way of witnessing to the risen Lord Jesus. We too are given a mission to accomplish that contributes to the salvation and well-being of the people of God. We cannot expect that it will always prove easy to be faithful to such a high call. Jesus has predicted that those who would follow him must take up their cross daily, for he knew that fidelity to his words and following his example entails suffering as well as the joy of union with the Father. We must arm our self with the intent to give our very self to God and to remain steady and faithful at any cost.

This is the price to be paid for salvation. We must give all we have, all we are to God day by day. Such a course is the way to life and a source of joy, for it is the engagement of all that is best in us in the work assigned us by our Creator. We are truly made for nothing less than union with the God of glory; no one but He can satisfy the aspirations of our heart. Only through dedicating our whole self in all the aspects of our life to His service can we fulfil the purpose of our existence. We need not make a great name for our self by amassing riches, knowledge or power in order to give meaning to our life; rather, it is by hearing the word of God and keeping it that we give significance to our life. Let us assist one another on our return to God by carrying out this high vocation of living for God in faith and witnessing to His truth by lives of fidelity and holiness. At this Eucharist we receive the assurance that the Lord loves us and calls us to follow him. Let us then confidently serve him with courage and constancy until we attain our goal, life everlasting in the kingdom of the Father. a

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger


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