SEPTEMBER 20, 2009: 25TH SUNDAY- MARK 9: 30-37

 

WHOEVER WELCOMES A CHILD LIKE THIS FOR MY SAKE WELCOMES ME. AND WHOEVER WELCOMES ME WELCOMES, NOT ME, BUT HIM WHO SENT ME.  Our Lord’s words are a palmary instance of his ability to convey sublime truths in readily understandable, simple language. The very human warmly affectionate act accompanying his teaching illustrates and gives reinforces his message in the most natural manner. At the same time the commentary he provides implies certain profound truths not only concerning our Lord’s person, but also makes a claim in regard to the Father. For what he reveals here is nothing less than his divinity. He does this in the common speech of his time, language that can be grasped by all. He is careful to avoid abstract terms even while he makes theological points that involve transcendent realities. What Jesus states here is that he is so identified with God the Father, who is the one that sent him as the Gospel affirms elsewhere, that in relating to him we are more in contact with the Father than with his own humanity, even with his own person. The implied, unspoken message here is that Jesus is so much one with his Father, so fully lives in Him that to believe and trust him is to be in communion with the One in whom and from whom he lives.  So complete is this union that it is the very basis of his personal identity. In a sense he belongs more to his Father than he does to himself. A few centuries later, Saint Augustine was to echo this teaching when he refers to God as being intimior intimo meo that is to say,’ more intimate to me than I am to myself.

 

This affirmation, astonishing as it is at first hearing, is not a mere rhetorical flourish, but rather expresses an insight into the immanence of God within his creation. Nowhere is it more true than in the case of the humanity of Jesus. The body and soul of our Lord, with its emotions, imagination, desires, and thoughts, are recognizably human, yet are not the expression of a merely human person. The person of Jesus is the divine Logos, the Son of the eternal Father, who remains eternally so much one with the Father as properly to abide in Him. Really to see Jesus, to behold his person and not only his outward, human character, is to perceive the Father who is more intimate to him than his own humanity itself. This reality is the basis for his saying in today’s text: “He who welcomes me, welcomes, not so much me, but the One who sent me.”

 

Of course, like all the affirmations concerning the inner life of God, this statement of our Lord too, points to realities beyond the power of words adequately to body forth. His words inevitably indicate here a truth that surpasses human powers of expression. His relation to the Father is, quite literally, ineffable. They bring us reliable information concerning the highest of truths, while making us aware of their surpassing, mysterious nature.  Since we, as human creatures are made in the image and likeness of God, there is something analogous in our nature that points to the transcendent nature of God. There are insights we experience on occasion that are the result rather of empathy, of respectful love, than of superior intelligence.

 

Where such sympathy dominates we can recognize in another a feature of his or her identity that remains unknown to that person. Based on such an understanding we become capable of communicating to that person some insight concerning the self hitherto not consciously experienced. Such communication depends as much on a trusting love as on knowledge. A relation of this kind is at the basis of every human personality. Only when a newborn infant is recognized and affirmed by another who reacts to its potential as a loving, intelligent person in its own right, can it develop its innate potential. In this sense my mother is interior intimo meo.  In an analogous manner unless God is present to us by his love and understanding we cannot grow into the self we are created to be. We must welcome this presence by faith and by a choice that engages us from the root of our being.  By such a welcoming choice we activate the latent capacity of our spirit and discover our potential for living as children of God, in a new environment - an environment that is the diffusion of the life-giving light that is God himself.

 

Jesus, conscious that he is the beloved Son of the Father, invites us to share this life by welcoming him in loving faith that mobilizes and focuses our desire for a love that is eternal and pure, communing in the light of a truth that is absolute and all-encompassing, that is to say, God the Father of lights. It is this mystery that we enter into here today as we welcome the one who sends his Son to us in this Eucharistic sacrifice. *


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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