SEPTEMBER 15, 2008- OUR LADY OF SORROWS: HEB 5:7-9; LUKE 2:33-35


SON THOUGH HE WAS HE LEARNED OBEDIENCE FROM WHAT HE SUFFERED. On this feast of the Sorrows of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the first reading of today’s mass speaks, the more tellingly of Mary’s suffering in that it puts us in mind of her son’s passion and death. For her heart was so united with his, that she experienced by sympathy within her deepest self the joys and sorrows that he knew. The first words spoken by Mary are an act of obedience in response to the message of the angel: “Be it done to me according to your word.” She obeyed the Word who became flesh in her for the rest of her life. Her son was to learn the rudiments of obedience from his earliest infancy by listening to his mother’s words and taking them in. His character was fashioned in response to her voice that was so attuned to the will of the Father that what he learned from her formed within him the human basis for his perfect obedience to his heavenly Father. If our Lord’s human nature was so attuned to the will of the Father it was the fruit in large measure of the words and behavior of his earthly mother. She had been from birth under the influence of the Spirit of God, and at the moment of the Incarnation of her son, that same Holy Spirit acted ineffably within her with a fresh increment of grace. Accordingly, from his first origins, Jesus came under the influence of the Spirit through Mary in his humanity.


As he grew in age and wisdom, Jesus gave a new dimension of significance to obedience by the manner he practiced it throughout his life. He revealed that submission, appropriately chosen and enacted, is the highest expression of love, given in freedom. One of Mary’s sharpest sorrows occurred when her son was twelve years old. For three days he was lost to her only to be found again in the temple. He made it clear to her that in leaving her and Joseph, he was responding to his divine Father’s will and felt able to act quite independently. If he returned with his parents to Nazareth and lived subject to them, Saint Luke clearly implies, it was a choice freely made in obedience to his Father’s plan; he did not act from human weakness or the constraint of dependency, even in his teens.


When we attempt to penetrate to the heart of our Lord’s personality so as to know him as truly and fully as is allowed to us, we discover that he defined himself as the obedient son, doing only what the Father reveals to him. He knows himself as the one known and loved by his eternal Father. As a result he can affirm that “every thing that the Father has is mine.”(Jn 16:15) Jesus experienced his very life as a gift from the Father: “the living Father sent me and I live on account of the Father.” The very words that the Lord employs are not his own so much as the Father’s: “The words I speak to you I do not speak of myself, but the Father who remains in me he performs the works. ”(Jn 14:10) Jesus thought as a Hebrew, and in his native language the term ‘word’ also means a ‘deed’ as occurs in this passage. Deeds are so closely bound to the words that give rise to them, whether spoken or simply thought, that dabar , ‘word’ is equivalent to an act. To receive the Father’s word, to hear it for him was to take it into the heart, to live by it, to act from it.


Our English word ‘obedience’ derives from the Latin ‘obaudire,’ meaning ‘to listen attentively’. Not incidentally, but rather by design it is the first word of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The daily prayer of the faithful Jew, the Shema, spoken every morning and evening, takes its name from the opening word, that means ‘listen.’ To listen with readiness to put into effect the word of God wherever he leads us is to share in the love of Mary that is integral to God’s plan of salvation. Such obedience inevitably entails a share in her sorrows and in the sufferings of her son,. May her intercession and the mediation of our Lord and Savior obtain for us here at this Eucharist the grace we so much need to remain faithful in obedient service to the word of God, spoken through his son, and echoed in his Church. &          


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger