NOVEMBER 13, 2005- AWHUM- 33RD SUNDAY; 1COR 11:23-26; LUKE 24:35-48
JESUS OPENED THEIR MINDS TO THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE SCRIPTURES. These words of todayís Gospel have a fundamental significance for us all. Reading the scriptures and studying them so as to capture their true meaning is a practice that is basic for Christian life. It is central for monks who are dedicated to the contemplation of God. What this passage makes evident is that even those men who lived with our Lord in his life time and were taught by him had not understood the most important lessons taught by the Scriptures.
The apostles were familiar with the Jewish Bible and lived according to its prescriptions as best they could. However, they did not grasp their hidden, deeper meaning. It proved necessary for Jesus to explain to them what had escaped their understanding and so had left their faith inadequate. What they missed was the most important belief of all: the passion and death of Jesus as the one way to salvation. The real meaning of the Scriptures is the Risen Christ Jesus, glorified and living with the Father for all eternity.
At the time our Lord gave this lesson the inspired Scriptures were the writings of the Hebrew authors of the Torah, the Prophets and the Wisdom books called Ďthe Writingsí. Their true significance, our Lord explains here, is not on the surface of the letter but must be discovered by penetration of the heart and mind. This understanding requires not only human effort but even more, a special grace from God, an enlightenment of the same divine Spirit who had inspired the sacred texts in the first place. That is what todayís Gospel implies when it saysJESUS OPENED THEIR MINDS TO THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE SCRIPTURES.
The lesson for us in this event is that it is not enough to study the Bible, to read it with attention; we must also fervently pray, draw hear to Jesus, seek understanding from him for only he can open our minds to that understanding which is life-giving. Jesus is the one who, acting with the Father, sends the Spirit to those who seek him in faith. Our fathers in the faith and the early monks in particular grasped this truth with great conviction. They approached the Scriptures as a sacred message from God. They were persuaded that its message was revealed only to those who humbly desired to be pleasing to God. It is not enough to possess a high intelligence, a good education, much learning unless the heart is pure in the desire to receive the light needed to carry out Godís will.
At the same time, as our Lord tells us elsewhere, the lack of education, being limited in our intelligence is not an obstacle provided we truly long to know Godís will and to grasp what he reveals in his writings. "I praise you, Lord of heaven and earth," Jesus said, " for you have hidden these things from the learned and the clever and have revealed them to the merest children. (Mt 11: 25)" Of course, as our Lord and many of his saints show by their example, we must also do our best to arrive at understanding through our study and attentive reading, but do so with awareness that only God bestows the life-giving knowledge that we need and pray for.
The true knowledge of God imparts a light to the mind that is at the same time a strength to the heart. The light we look for is more than knowledge, more than information and mere understanding of facts and realities: this light is essential for life. In fact, it is life itself. Life elevated, purified and ennobled by the desire of love. We can understand Scripture only to the extent that we truly desire to carry out Godís will and to serve him more faithfully.
May this Eucharist that we offer here on this Sunday as we commemorate the Resurrection of our Lord, be a source of this light that purifies the heart and strengthens our love so that we might live now, day by day, walking in the way of Godís truth until it brings us together in the eternal light that is the reflection of the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus, our Lord and our Savior.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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