FEBRUARY 1, 2012, WEDNESDAY OF 4TH WEEK: 2SAMUEL 24:2,9-17 ; MARK 6: 1-6

 JESUS WAS AMAZED AT THEIR LACK OF FAITH. A PROPHET IS NOT WITHOUT HONOR EXCEPT IN HIS NATIVE PLACE.  When I hear the words of today’s Gospel I am reminded of an experience I had as a young priest that was so disconcerting that I not only remember it after some fifty years, but still experience some of the feeling it occasioned at the time. When I was working at Georgetown U. hospital as a resident getting further clinical training in view of doing screening at Gethsemani, a highly placed chaplain, a colonel at the Pentagon, just across the Potomac River from the Hospital, wrote to the abbot about pursuing a possible vocation as a monk. Since I was close by Dom James told me to contact him and explore the issue. I followed up without delay and had a series of meetings with this priest who was the most decorated chaplain in Europe during WWII. After some meetings in the Pentagon at his office, he invited me on a number of occasions to visit him at his home. In helping him to arrange some papers I came across a number of official documents that were quite exciting to read in that they were descriptions of his many courageous actions during heavy fighting for which he was awarded a number of medals for bravery as well as a couple of purple hearts for wounds sustained in the course of exposing himself to danger. One day, in the hospital cafeteria I shared with a colleague, the story of one of these heroic actions in which the colonel had risked his life to climb in a burning tank under machinegun fire and rescue a wounded soldier. He succeeded and as a result was awarded the army cross by General Patton. When I told this story shortly after reading the report, to my friend and colleague who was well trained in science, I did not mention that I had read the official document.  He absolutely refused to believe my story.  He saying it was just a tall tale. I was so taken back that I immediately felt as if a thick veil separated him from me. Though he continued to be friendly and in other ways dealt with me trustingly, I could no longer relate to him with the same sense of confident trust that had marked our dealings till then. We could work together easily with a superficial friendliness on my part, but I could not feel that confidence which is essential for true friendship.

Our Lord had given every reason to his townsmen to hold him in high esteem. They heard his moving preaching on high matters of the spirit and witnessed the healings he performed simply by a touch or a word, and yet, being familiar with him and his family, their reaction was one of mistrust and even criticism.  Our Lord, Mark tells us, was amazed at their lack of faith.” The more experience we gain of life in this world the keener our realization becomes that our relations to others depends heavily on their inner attitudes as well as on their behavior. In fact, what we are capable of knowing about others and about the physical world we live in day by day depends ultimately on a disposition of the heart and soul. What we know through education, formation and study is important, but at the same time, limited. What determines the meaning of life and gives significance to our behavior is a fundamental choice that disposes us to be confident that we belong to God and are answerable to him, or the choice to limit our belief to this material world and to perish at death.

Ultimately, as our Lord’s own experience reveals, we humans are confronted with a radical choice that we are guided by so long as we adhere to it. We can affirm it by our fidelity to its implications and the result is a strengthening of conviction and of the capacities that result from such faith; we can also weaken it by neglect and, even lose it by refusal to follow where such faith leads. In the end, we live in a world of great mystery because its origin is in the Word of God, hidden in the very substance of the Divinity, but revealed in sufficient measure through His Word made flesh. It is this hidden power in the service of divine love that we celebrate at this mass through our faith in this Word and through our communion in the sacrament where the glorified body of the Word made flesh is given us who put our trust in the Lord. &

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger


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