SEPTEMBER 6, 2010 – 1 COR 5:1-8; LUKE 6:6-11

 

 LET US CELEBRATE WITH THE UNLEAVENED BREAD OF SINCERITY AND TRUTH.  These words of Saint Paul are a most apt summary of the lesson Jesus taught in the episode described in today’s Gospel. Our Lord, at serious personal risk, violated the over-rigid, legalistic interpretation of the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. He made the purpose of this commandment clear by performing an act of healing on the Sabbath thus emphasizing the intent of the law is to honor God while benefiting man. Elsewhere he states the principle explicitly: “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)  He then goes further, to make a claim that would be outrageous for any merely human person to make: “for the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Luke repeats this claim shortly prior to narrating the healing recounted in this Gospel text. (Luke 5:39)

 

Of course, for the Jews, who were his audience on this occasion, only the eternal God was considered to be the Lord of the Sabbath, so that this assertion on Jesus’ part would be blasphemous unless they accepted him as sent by God and possessing the powers of his delegate. The lesson for us who have put our faith in Jesus as being not only sent by the Father, but also as being his Son, equal to him in substance, is that we are to strive to act in obedience, as Saint Paul says in the first reading, from the heart, in sincerity and truth. Such a way of carrying out God’s commandments does not always entail a spontaneous and ready compliance with dutiful response. We often find it a considerable struggle with our natural preferences and inclinations to be kind, patient, meek, and in a word, to practice charity to those who provoke us and in dealing with those who otherwise make demands upon our sensibility or sense of worth.

 

In our present day society there are increasing pressures placed on those who are striving to live the Gospel and witness by their lives to the love of God. As our culture becomes more secularized, a greater independence of spirit is required to adhere to our Catholic way of life. There is less support provided by the environment that is increasingly materialistic and self-assertive. The gridlock that has been notably present in Congress and in the State of New York in an even more marked measure, reflects the dividedness in our country based on a wide loss of Christian values and practice. We do well to learn from history’s lesson. The same kind of national, widespread secularism had shown itself with increasing influence that undermined the moral fiber of the France of the mid twentieth century, and contributed importantly to the country’s collapse in 1940.

 

From the beginning of her history the Church has had to confront opposition from a pagan society and even fierce persecution from government. The faith nevertheless not only persevered but spread and at times thrived. Monastic life itself was in part a response to the difficulty of living a seriously Christian life in surroundings that were uncongenial even after persecution ceased. Its presence and radiation contributed appreciably to the vitality of Christian practice in a society often unfavorable to the Church’s holiness. Of course, Jesus had anticipated this kind of struggle for his followers and made no secret of it in his instruction. The world will hate you, he warned, and even your family will prove to be opposed to you. In earlier times such opposition was often more overt and even violent; in our times at present it is no less an assault for being the more subtle and even insidious.

 

The words of our Lord call us to personal choice that engages us from within so that we become all the more actively independent in our lives, witnessing, as Paul urges, from the heart in sincerity and truth. Let us stand up for our convictions and values with confidence, and sustain one another in our fidelity to the Lord Jesus and his Church. And may the grace of this Eucharist strengthen us in this resolve as we move ahead together in Christ on the way that leads to the Kingdom of God our Father. &            


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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