January 22, 2011 – Saturday of 2nd Week ; Hebrews 9:2-3, 11-14 ; Mark 3;20-21

CHRIST THROUGH THE ETERNAL SPIRIT OFFERED HIMSELF AND SO CLEANSED OUR CONSCIENCES TO WORSHIP THE LIVIING GOD. Each generation of our human race is confronted with a vast panorama of material beings that obviously are involved in a web of relations. Not only humans and animals, but plants and insects exist in inter-related ways. This complex existence on earth itself is mysterious enough to engage wonder and reflection for a lifetime. However, this planet has always been perceived as but part of a larger whole and in recent times has been discovered to be a very small portion even of our local galaxy that includes so many billions of stars and planets. We occupy a universe that presents a wide variety of objects that are, in certain characteristics, widely different from our familiar surroundings. We are confronted with the countless bodies that the night sky reveals to our gaze, and in recent times amazingly powerful instruments bring into our field of perception billions of objects hidden to our unaided senses. Just this past year the most distant galaxy ever recorded was registered at 13 billion light years from earth.

As vast as is this universe to which we belong as inhabitants of earth, yet it is but a portion of creation. From early times revelation spoke of an invisible world of angels and spirits created by God and subject to his will. The New Testament, we might maintain, begins with the sending of an angel who reveals God’s plan for a Redeemer to the Virgin Mary. Now, in very recent times some of the best informed scientists have proposed as the most likely explanation of certain observed data, that there are multi universes in existence, of which ours is but a single one. If this should eventually prove to be the case, it poses no problem for faith in God who is referred to in the liturgy as the “Creator of Worlds”, not just of the world.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, each individual human forms a concept of the world we live in, based on information that is gathered through the culture as well as from personal investigation of available facts and lived experiences. But it is only faith that gives access to the world’s creator with a clarity that enlarges our inner horizon, and yet remains obscure in particular features. All of our human activities are fitted within the concept each of us forms of the world we belong to, and so, in some degree this idea we carry within us marks all our relations and activities in varying measure. The more one reflects on this subject, the more mysterious and challenging our existence appears to us. There is one reality in this immense created, material universe that stands out above all the other characteristics it manifests; that is the human spirit with its capacity for transcendent knowledge and free choice. However, minute a fraction of all that constitutes this existing universe, nothing in it, not even all of its marvels together, approaches in dignity the human person, consisting of spirit, soul, and body.

There is an immense amount of resources and intelligence being expended on the search for intelligent life elsewhere in this complex universe. Thus far there is no evidence that life, much less intelligent life, exists elsewhere than here on earth. In my opinion, though there is no theological objection to the possibility of some kind of intelligent material life elsewhere, it is a search doomed to failure for here alone is the created home of intelligent life. God made man in his own image and likeness and in recreating him through the Incarnation of the Word, established our human nature in a unique,, unrepeatable dignity. Every person, by nature, and even more by virtue of the grace bestowed through obedient faith in the Incarnation, possesses a dignity that surpasses the value of all the planets and stars of this created world.

Today’s liturgy reminds us of these truths and celebrates them by commemorating the right to life of every human being from the beginning of its existence at conception. Abortion, so widely accepted and practiced in our country and elsewhere in these times, is an aggressive attack on the dignity and rights of the person. Aborting unborn babies is an offense against God the creator and sustainer of life, and lowers the respect and dignity of mankind as a whole to the extent it is accepted.  As Pope Paul VI foresaw, once the killing of the child in the womb becomes acceptable, the dignity of life is undermined and euthanasia begins to appear an acceptable practice. In Holland, for example, a major medical problem has arisen in recent years after euthanasia became legal: in many instances, it was not the subject but the doctor who made the decision, illegally. To cultivate a sense of our spiritual worth and so of our human dignity and to live according to the teaching of the God who establishes us in his own image, is to defend the most basic truth of our humanity.  

From the opening words of the Epistle to the Hebrews we are introduced into the transcendent world whose very being is the divine Trinity. The whole of this document views reality against the background of the invisible spiritual world that gives meaning and purpose to the existence familiar to our senses. The more we engage the text of this inspired, early document the greater our awareness of the unique and essential role of Jesus. His place in God’s plan remains for all time fundamental to the human condition. He is, in his very person, the bridge between God and human persons. The Latin word for ‘bridge’ is ‘pons and a ‘pontifex’, ‘bridge maker’, from which our English term ‘pontiff’ derives. Jesus in the teaching of the letter to Hebrews fulfills the role of the eternal pontifex, bridging the distance between God and man.

One of the unique characteristics of our Lord’s high priesthood that is emphasized elsewhere in this Epistle is that Jesus offers himself, not some sacrificial animal, in the course of fulfilling his role. He does so, not to expiate his own sins, as the Jewish high priest was obliged to do, for he is altogether without sin, But rather, as today’s passage states with all desirable clarity, CHRIST THROUGH THE ETERNAL SPIRIT OFFERED HIMSELF AND SO CLEANSED OUR CONSCIENCES TO WORSHIP THE LIVIING GOD. This is our great privilege, won for us by our Savior who restores, by his action in us, the graces of the children of God. Each person has a right, from conception, bestowed by our Creator and enhanced by our Redeemer, to life and the possibility of eternal life offered to obedient faith in our Lord. May we ever prove worthy of this grace by our faithful adherence to Jesus’ teaching. And by our lives of loving faith may we be witnesses to the highest dignity in the whole of the universe: that of being members of the mystical body of Christ, the Savior of the world.Ω

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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