APRIL 30, 2010 FRIDAY 4TH WEEK OF EASTER; ACTS 13:26-33; JOHN 14;1-6

 

I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT THROUGH ME.   Earlier this month a prominent, brilliant British thinker, writer of many books, Sir Anthony Flew, died at an advanced age. His death was brought to my attention by a lengthy article in a Sydney, Australia newspaper, sent to me by email. It has not been reported in our US press that is perhaps too busy publishing matters critical of religious belief. The article tells the story of his conversion to faith in God after a thirty year long career of proclaiming himself an atheist. He announced in 2004, however, that, after studying the recent findings of molecular biology that reveal the astonishing complexity of cellular functioning in organic life, he arrived at the firm conviction that there is of necessity an intelligent cause responsible for this marvelous product that is the basis of all life on earth. And so he retracted his atheism and proclaimed himself a believer in God. However, this same article points out that he never arrived at the conviction that there is an afterlife. He came to accept the truth that Jesus announces in the Gospel we have just heard: “Have faith in God”, but he did not arrive at faith, alas!, in the second part of this sentence “have faith in me.” For to believe in Jesus, as he makes clear in this Gospel, is to believe that he prepares a place in his Father’s mansion for those who put their trusting faith in him. In fact, he gives as the very purpose of his coming death his going ahead to prepare a place in God’s dwelling for his faithful followers. The instance of Sir Anthony raises the question of the deep mystery of grace.

 

St. Matthew reported in his Gospel (11: 25-30) that Jesus was well aware that it is not the brilliance of mind that attracts the grace needed for union with him and his Father. Jesus expressed himself in these terms: “I give you thanks Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to children.“ As we learn from the word following this prayer of praise, the point of our Lord’s teaching is that humility of heart is the condition for knowing and pleasing God, not education and brilliance of mind. And so he adds: “Come to me . . . and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Matthew who reports these words, was himself one of the more learned scribes, obviously also one of the more intelligent, Luke as well. And, as John makes clear in his Gospel, Jesus displayed repeatedly in his encounters with the learned leaders of his nation a mind superior to others. However, that which matters is trusting faith that supplies the context for the use of such powers of soul as each of us possess. Humility of heart does not replace self confidence, but rather is a condition for the healthy kind of confident trust that is founded on the merciful gift of God’s grace. True humility is not a form of self-doubt, for such a disposition causes wavering of mind and paralysis of effective action. Rather, the humility that Jesus taught and exemplified in his relations and actions, is an unshakable confidence that God’s love is given to me personally. Knowing I am undeserving and yet sure I am known and loved by my Creator and owe all that is good to Him, is the only sure foundation of humility. When Jesus speaks of those who are accepted by God and who known Him as children, this is what he has in mind: such persons relate to God as a loving Father on whom they depend totally and in whom they trust absolutely. If they happen to be brilliant and learned, all the better, but it is their trusting faith, not their knowledge or intelligence that is the essential. We see this teaching exemplified in a striking way in the life and preaching of Saint Paul. That he learned this lesson well, he makes evident in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (1:19), in words taken from the prophet Isaiah (29:14): “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the understanding of the intelligent.”  Paul goes on to emphasize this point: “Where is the wise? Where the learned? Where the researcher of this world?  Has not God shown the wisdom of this world to be so much foolishness?”(19:20)

 

True wisdom, nonetheless, can be had but in a form that does not fit snugly into this world. Paul, in fact, presents his preaching as a proclamation of the real meaning of life and the world: “We speak the wisdom of God inn a mystery that is hidden. God had foreordained it before the world to his glory.” It is this mysterious, hidden plan of God that we are celebrating these days in our liturgy of th e Easter season. The death and resurrection of Jesus alone gives knowledge of life’s meaning and purpose. We make this wisdom our own by the faith that brings us together here at this altar in this Eucharist. More, by re-enacting the death and resurrection of Jesus in this liturgy we are being prepared for the fullness of wisdom that is promised to those who obey the words of Jesus we heard in this Gospel: “Have faith in God, have faith in re.”&                


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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