SEPTEMBER 3, 2007 SAINT GREGORYTHE GREAT: GENESIS 1:26B2:3; MT.13:54-58

 

IS THIS JESUS NOT THE CARPENTER=S SON? Repeatedly in our Lord=s life a pressing issue arose concerning the most personal of all matters, namely, the question of his true identity. Who is this man who speaks as no other person ever has spoken? Both his speech and his person so impressed people that this question forced itself upon the notice of many who encountered him. The simple provincials of his home town asked this question among themselves, as if to reassure themselves he was no better than they, his neighbors. The learned lawyers and more sophisticated men of the capital in Jerusalem directed their question to him quite bluntly, some with indignation, others in good faith: AYou are testifying on your own behalf . . . where is your Father? . . . Who are you? (Jn 8:13,18, 24).@  His answer included such statements as: AI am the light of the world.@ Such declarations led to divisions among his audience. the conversion of some who, the Evangelist tells us, came to believe in him.@ However, it intensified the hostility of others. At the end of his lengthy declaration of his heavenly origin, Apicked up stones to throw at him (8:57).@

 

Actually, the issue of establishing his identity began already at the time of his conception. The angel Gabriel, St. Luke tells us, directed  Mary to name him Jesus, adding that Ahe will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.@ St. Matthew as well, in opening his Gospel, tells us that Jesus is the son of Mary, but is conceived, not of Joseph, but rather of the Holy Spirit of God. In a dream Joseph too learns more concerning the true nature of his person. He is to be named Jesus, Afor he will save his people from their sins.@ St. Mark tells us in the first chapter of his Gospel that God himself testified concerning Jesus: AYou are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on you.@ After some years as St. John wrote the Prologue to his Gospel he provided the ultimate answer: Jesus is the Word of God, who is himself God, made flesh.

 

And so it happened that in a variety of approaches to this fundamental question concerning what we are to make of this person who is so strikingly different from any one else each of the Evangelists begins by identifying as well as they were able, who he really is. The result is at once clear and  mysterious. Evidently, this man belongs to a higher world than this visible creation. Not only angels and a holy woman and a faithful, devoted  man, but God himself attests to his heavenly origin and nature. The inspired writer John assures us even that this person is himself God in the flesh: AAnd the Word was God. . . . and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.@ Saint John places these affirmations in his Prologue for he intends that we view the entire story of Jesus= life and ministry as that of God as well as of a man. In Jesus God himself lives and acts among us.

 


 

As we commemorate St. Joseph the Worker today, Labor Day, at this Eucharist, today=s Gospel reminds us that Jesus passed among people as the natural son of Joseph. Joseph and Mary knew otherwise; both were keenly aware from the first that in this child God was present in a particular, even unique manner. They never forgot that he belonged more to God than to themselves, and because of that fact they were all the more personally bound to him in respectful love. Their awareness that in living together with this man as he grew in the various stages of his development, they were actually dealing with a person who belonged more to another than to themselves. In the ordinary dealings of everyday life, they entered into communion with the Father, by attention to his Beloved Son, even though at times such knowledge remained submerged in the cares and occupations of the day. This became evident when the twelve year old Jesus was found in the temple. He then reminded them, with a freedom that was a gentle rebuke, that they should not have been worried: ADid you not know that I must be busy with my Father=s affairs? (Luke 2:49)@, he replied to his mother=s complaint.

 

We also commemorate today the Feast of St. Gregory the Great to whose faith and dedication the whole Church owes so much of her spiritual tradition. Cistercian monks have a particular debt to him, for his teaching was thoroughly assimilated by those monks who gave form and impulse to the way of life we strive to realize in our own times under new and rather different circumstances. What was central to Saint Gregory=s concerns remains unchanged and fundamental for us today, however changed and distinct the world we live in: The knowledge and love of Christ Jesus. Like him we strive to know through loving faith the Lord of glory; guided by Gregory=s example and teaching we seek to assimilate the dispositions of our heart to those of Christ. He is the one who still comes among us as our Savior, who alone gives access to the presence of God, the Father. To him be praise and thanksgiving through his Son, in the Holy Spirit. Amen. #

 

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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