OCTOBER 21, 2009- ROMANS 6:12-18; LUKE 12:39-48


The Lord Jesus created a new period of human history when he was born in the flesh. In his active life of preaching he established the basis for a way of life that was conformed to this definitive stage of human development. He taught the spiritual and moral requirements of active participation in the society of the future that he termed the kingdom of God, or at times, the kingdom of heaven. In the sixth century after his birth a Benedictine monk, Dionysius, who was devoted to the study of history, initiated an new system for reckoning time. The rationale that gave rise to this way of calculating time by numbering the years before and after the birth of Jesus was theological. With Jesus’ appearance as man all events, past, present, and future were given an increment of significance. Dionysius had come to the sharp awareness that with the birth of Jesus a radical transformation took place that situates all occurrences in a context that takes its meaning from the life, work, and words of Jesus Christ. And so arose the usage of numbering dates that results in our now referring to this present time as the year of our Lord (in Latin, anno Domini, abbreviated to A. D.) 2009.

Today’s two readings illustrate the sound insight that has given rise to this view of history in time. In writing to the Romans Saint Paul explains that the human condition must now be viewed in a fresh light that changes the way we understand our very self and our times. Encounter with Christ so marks the individual that it divides the meaning of life into a ‘before’ and ‘after’. Paul states the matter this way: “You are now under grace, not under the law . . . . Though once you were slaves of sin . . . freed from your sin, you became slaves of justice”. Incorporation into the living, risen Christ is what creates this ‘before’ and ‘after’, and in the process represents a movement from death into a new kind of life. The apostle says as much in our reading today: “offer yourselves to God as men who have come back from the dead to life.” This new time of our Lord is marked by accessibility to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Paul brings out this truth later on in this same letter when he sets out its theological meaning: “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death . . . since the Spirit of God has made his home in you.” (Rom 8:1, 9) The centuries following Christ is the historical period, then, of life in the Hoy Spirit for those who open their hearts to the Lord.

In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus also centers his teaching on historical times. He is keenly aware that with his coming among us there is a fresh urgency to the passing of time- though, as he points out elsewhere- specific dates remain unknown. What is clear, he affirms, is that we live in a world under a judgment that is liable to come upon us abruptly, when we least expect it. The only way to be prepared is to avoid complacency by remaining alert, vigilant, watching for God’s time that will surely come. His words are intended to be a wake-up call, a warning lest his audience fail to prepare for the final encounter with the Lord of history. On another occasion Jesus spoke of the need to recognize the signs of the times. If he emphasized this point it was because he knew well how easily we fail to understand the deeper meaning of the events we live through.  We are so immersed in contemporary events that our vision tends to be limited by the immediate horizon that bounds them.

The faith that the Lord Jesus inculcated creates a fuller vision, one that has as its horizon, the eternal plan of God our Father. This disposition of history according to the hidden, but very active will of God, is a constant reference that is to guide us as it was the directing force that impelled Jesus himself in his mission. Our own times today are a period of a cultural major transition as is widely recognized. New forces are organizing a culture that is increasingly world-wide in its extent and driven by a technology that is immediate in its impact and limited in its vision to material well being. In this environment, then, the words of Jesus we have just heard assume a fresh urgency: “Be alert, stay on your guard” for even now God’s Spirit is at work. Make good use of what is given you in this Eucharist that you enter into the plan of God, redeeming the time, through obedience to the Gospel of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. & 

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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