Sunday, 21 June 2009

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Shaftesbury

In our second reading (2 Cor 5:14-17) we heard St Paul say, "from now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh". And he proceeded to contrast "knowing" Christ in the flesh, with a knowing Him as a Christian knows Him. And there is an application of this in each of our 3 readings.

To "know” Christ in the flesh, is to know part of Him but not know all of Him. It is to know what the flesh can know: to see His humanity, to, as the first Christians could, touch Christ's human flesh, feel the grasp of his hand. And all of this is to "know" something that is true of Christ, namely, that He was and is fully human.
However, if we ONLY know Christ in the flesh then we only PARTLY know Him. He is not only human, is also fully God.

We saw an example of this partial knowledge of Christ in our gospel (Mk 4:35-41). The disciples were in a boat with Jesus, and they were experiencing a terrible storm, and they were with Christ. They already knew Christ: they had seen Him cleanse the leper (Mk 1:42); they had seen Him heal the paralytic (Mk 2:12); they had witnessed Him cast our demons (Mk 3:11); and they had heard Him teach, and issue His call to repentance, the call addressed to sinners and the outcast. They knew many THINGS about Christ, but, it seems, they did not yet know Christ Himself.
They knew enough, however, to realise that when the boat was going down in the storm that Christ might be able to help them, and so they turned to Him, saying, “Master, do not care? We are going down!"(Mk 4:38).

Jesus, as we know, then calmed the storm. But He did more than just calm the storm: He helped open their eyes to faith. He berated their lack of faith, “How is it that you have no faith?" But this reproof was also an invitation, an invitation to judge no longer according to the flesh but with the sight of faith. To see not just what the flesh can see, but to have that piercing discerning sight that can see truths, and The Truth, that lies beyond what can be immediately perceived.

To judge according to faith and not just according to the flesh is not always easy. We heard the disciples trying to do this but still seemingly struggling, "Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him" –they saw that He was something more, but didn’t yet fully see, didn’t yet say, “My Lord and My God”(Jn 20:28) as they would say by the end of the Gospels.
We, too, need to always be yearning and straining to judge according to faith, to see with the full light of faith, and not to see merely what the flesh can see. This is part of what it means to be the “new creation” that St Paul spoke of: to have our minds renewed.

Of course, seeing with the eyes of faith, even though it means we see more, does not mean that we are not left with some questions. In our first reading we heard about Job, the man who suffered, and wondered WHY he was suffering, the man who was offered 1000 faulty explanations by his philosopher-friends. And in the end, what he got from God was not answers but more questions: Where were you when I made the universe? Who are you are ask me why and how I do things? And even though these were questions and not answers, wiser men than me have noted that Job found the questions of God more satisfying than the answers of men.
The questions of God were more satisfying, at least in part, because they invited him to look beyond merely his own understanding, and judgements, and what he could see according to the flesh, and to look instead with the eyes of faith. Because part of what faith involves is the submission of the human intellect to what God has revealed, rather than what the human intellect alone and unaided can understand by itself. To realise this, in humility, is to open our minds to see MORE because we no longer see only according to the flesh.

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