MARCH 16, 2009- MONDAY THIRD WEEK OF LENT: LUKE 4:24-30


“NO PROPHET IS ACCEPTED IN HIS OWN COUNTRY.”  These words of our Lord are among the better known of his sayings. When some one feels misunderstood or contradicted upon giving advice often enough he expresses his chagrin by making use of these words, commonly with a certain admixture of light humor. Often enough, though, they are spoken with earnest seriousness that entitle him to remark “I told you so” after the prognosis proves to be correct. The instances of this kind of unheeded ‘Prophecy’ are all too numerous: A father tells his son, “If you do not study more, you will not get your diploma”; the physician tells the patient “if you do not give up smoking you will get emphysema.” Wisdom, if it comes at all, is commonly acquired through suffering from our mistakes.

 

Although Jesus had at first by his words made a strongly favorable impression yet when he claimed acceptance as one who spoke in God’s name, he was rejected. Today, upon hearing the account of the occasion that evoked the reproachful observation that a Prophet is not accepted in his own country, we are invited to consider what led him to pronounce such a judgment on his audience. He addressed this sharply critical observation to people who had been his neighbors for years. They had known him as a member of an ordinary working-man’s family from boyhood. They considered that they knew him too well as one of their own to view him as God’s chosen representative, as the one who speaks for God, in a word, as a prophet. His comment was not only a voicing of his deeply felt frustration, but a warning that still invites to reflection as to our readiness to take his words to heart and to act in compliance with their message.

God regularly reveals his will to us in the familiar circumstances of daily life. The surface of life often serves as a screen for deeper realities that remain buried within events and remain hidden in the heart of the individual. St. Augustine refers to the latent mystery of things in his Confessions: ”O God, most high and near, most hidden yet intensely present . . . everywhere whole yet not confined by place.” (VI.3.4) He draws the conclusion that he had to seek humbly to realize this truth. This is the lesson that today’s readings would have us learn. For us too, as in the case of Jesus and the daily life of the Holy Family, the ordinary is but the outward form assumed by the most portentous of all mysteries­– the hidden life of the Word of God made flesh now risen in glory, he is present yet most hidden in the world we encounter daily. That our Lord’s fellow townsmen and women proved insensitive to his true worth is a warning that we must seek in humble prayer to recognize him in the lowly forms he assumes still today. The failure of his neighbors in our Lord’s lifetime is a measure of the lowliness to which the Word submitted in becoming man. St. Paul cited one of the earliest Christian hymns that refers to this humble state: “He emptied himself . . . and being as men are, he was humbler yet.” (Philippians 2:7)

Jesus spent most of his life of earth in obscurity, engaged in the same everyday tasks as the large majority of people living in small towns and out of the way places so that his associates perceived nothing about him that opened their minds to his unique personality. Even when Jesus launched his mission of preaching the coming of the kingdom of God he regularly spoke in parables whose meaning remained closes to the generality of his audience. He revealed his message and his identity only to those specially chosen and willing to respond from the heart.  Today too he comes in the imperfect members of his body, the Church, and in the people who do not know him as the one sent by God. But her remains most present in this world, and yet hidden. In this sacrament of the Eucharist, under the ordinary forms of bread and wine, he remains among us and joins himself to us in a communion that is a pledge of his fidelity and love. May we open our hearts to him with trusting faith and follow him where he leads until we meet him in his glory.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger


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