JANUARY 22, 2010- MARK 3: 13-19
The Appointing of the Twelve Apostles

 

THE EXPERIENCE OF centuries and the efforts of the best minds demonstrate that our human nature is a vast mystery. Nothing is closer to me than my own nature, and yet the workings of my heart, the operations of my mind, the imaginings of my fancy in their operations remain obscure, and in large part are altogether hidden. Even after years of life and great variety of experience, each of us remains in some areas of the self a mystery for others, even for those closest to us. What is more remarkable is that throughout a long life and having expended no little effort on reflection, at certain levels of my being I know with certitude that the very core of my self will remain obscure even to me so long as I exist in this world of time. Our faith provides the explanation of this state of affairs. For, on the first page of the Bible it is revealed that the human self is a substantial, limited, that is to say, finite relation to the infinite God. Only insofar as I know myself in God, then, is my self known to me at the most intimate center. Since our knowledge of God remains obscure so long as we exist in time rather than in his eternity, we remain in good part hidden in the mist of mystery in the depths of our heart.

 

This truth is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures in a variety of ways. In the opening lines of the sacred book the mystery of our being is implied as a consequence of our creation. Adam, that is to say, Man, is made “in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26). Our Fathers in the faith made much of this truth. Such outstanding men of faith as Saint Augustine and Saint Bernard understood that this fundamental fact provides the key that unlocks the hidden places of sure knowledge of the purpose of life in time. How difficult it is for the human mind to attain to such certitude regarding the meaning of existence is made increasingly evident as we are informed by so many of the best minds in science that they are persuaded that there is no ultimate meaning. The human must accept the fact that there is no significance to this material cosmos beyond its own immediate processes. Many others have arrived at the opposite conclusion, but differ widely as to what that meaning consists in and what bearing it might have for our human race.

 

The revelation that we accept as God’s word directed to each person in the Scriptures supplements the weakness of our human minds and enlightens the darkness of our spirit. We are aided in our efforts to grasp the true message of this revelation by the teaching of holy men who were guided by the Spirit of God in their teaching. Among these are such witnesses as Saint Augustine and Saint Bernard. The abbot of Clairvaux explained that, having lost the likeness while retaining the image of God, we live in a region of unlikeness and yet retain a capacity for recovering what was lost by sin. The restoring of the likeness is the radical purpose of all our strivings in whatever manner our personal gifts and opportunities afford.  This work of restoration is what gives meaning to our human life; recovery of the lost likeness to our Creator is the essential task assigned to each of us by the fact of existence in this fallen cosmos that is ever changing and decaying in the process. We are created in a cosmos subjected to time and so destined ultimately for an end. The final pages of the Bible give an image of the ultimate state of creation that realizes fully its original promise. This world will be transformed and exist in a form that reflects the glory of God. He will be all in all, we are told. In his elect the original likeness, having been restored by the grace of the Risen Christ, given to his faithful followers, attains to its fullest expression, energized by God himself in whom we will forever exist.

 

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus choosing the twelve men to whom he was to entrust this heavenly revelation. He not only charges them to preach what he teaches in words but also gives them power to change lives. As a sign of this transformation he gives Simon the new name Peter. Only after his death and resurrection and the sending of his Holy Spirit would the fuller content of this message they were to preach become clear to them. It had to be lived out rightly to be grasped. This preaching has been given to us to hear and make our own. In this Eucharist we are given the power to live its demands and to realize its promise. May we witness to its truth and embody in our daily life the promise of its fulfillment in God’s Providence and loving care. &  


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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