MARCH 8, 2010 – NUMBERS 24: 2-7, 15-17 ;  MATTHEW 21: 23-27

 

NEITHER SHALL I TELL YOU BY WHAT AUTHORITY I DO THESE THINGS. Jesus was in constant communion with his heavenly Father as he himself tells us in John’s Gospel: “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” The very words he spoke were the fruit of this community of mind and heart. One of the many fruits of this union was our Lord’s independence of spirit. He was a free man who did not depend for his sense of security and wellbeing on the approval and understanding of others. Since in becoming man the Word of God subjected himself to the limits and weaknesses of our human condition in this material world, he, like all of us humans, had to learn from his interaction with the world as well as from his inner experience of prayer. Experientia magistra,’experience the teacher’, Saint Bernard declared as he commented our human development. The Lord submitted to this law of the human condition when the Word humbled himself to become a  man, as Saint Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Philippians.

 

From the first moments after birth, the human infant is highly susceptible to the environment. We know now from a wide variety of evidence that already in the womb the fetus is marked by sensory experience as well as by its physiology, so largely is it dependent on its physical bonds to the mother. The senses begin to function already in the womb. Sight, of course, is not functioning yet, but hearing definitely is actively receptive and exerts an influence on the fetus that has an increasing psychological resonance contributing to the formation of the basic character. Not only the mother’s diet but her attitudes and dispositions  influence on the child she carries in her womb. After birth the psychological influence of experience comes to have an increasing contribution to the way the developing person comes to know the world and itself.  A sense of security takes hold in the face of the many threats to feelings of safety takes hold in varying degree in all infants that survive the earliest stages of life. In certain areas of our present-day world as in past ages, a high percentage of infants do not manage to survive, so susceptible are we to the conditions of this world. We all require a large measure of friendly, evenly loving care to develop a sufficiently healthy body and character to function adequately in later life. The sense of adequacy and of security is learned not just given and is dependent on experience.

 

We are informed of very little of Jesus’ early development after the fortieth day. The one event that is narrated concerned his twelfth year when he accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In the description of his behavior at this time the striking characteristic that emerges is his total concern for the Father’s will and the accompanying emotional and mental sense of security and the resulting independence he spontaneously displays in carrying out his Father’s business as he understood it. This independence assured that when he obeyed his parents and returned with them to Nazareth remaining subject to them, as Saint Luke reports, his behavior was an expression, not of need, but of loving choice. As a result, at no time or in any circumstance does Jesus reveal any indication of personal guilt feeling, even when sharply accused by religious authorities. In this respect he functioned in marked contrast to the rest of us. Mary too, not incidentally, never shows ayo indication of personal guilt or regret. No doubt, Jesus had learned from her in large part, the trusting, confident attitude he displays in all circumstances and events, even the most threatening.   

 

In today’s Gospel our Lord displays the same inner freedom and strength of mind in his dealings with the accepted authorities of his adult years. He does not need to appease them, nor even to make a show of pleasing them when they are not properly disposed in their treating with him. He will not allow them to make claims on him unless they are honest and sincere in their purpose and manner. The Lord has a strong sense of dignity based on his awareness of a personal worth that deserves respect from those who treat with him. Not only on this occasion, but also repeatedly with unvarying consistency through out his life, Jesus never forsakes his self-respect and honor to appease or please anyone, even when he deals with those in authority who possess power to put him to death. All the rest of us, in various measure and in different areas of our inner life, have been wounded and weakened. Healing is offered us through Jesus who, was soon referred to by his followers as the Divine Physician. By his words and sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist, he continues to bestow his healing grace on us. By putting our trust in him we can grow in our confidence and sense of security that frees us from need of human recognition and approval. May our Lenten practice of spiritual reading and this Eucharistic communion obtain for us the strength of soul that is the freedom of the children of God, and is the fruit of our confident trust in his loving mercy. &      


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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