Saturday, December 8, 2012

What do you want from Christ?

What do you want from Christ?

I think this passage will offer a wonderful meditation for us though our Advent journey.

Luke 18:35-43 The Healing of the Blind Man
"At that time, as Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God."

To provide some background, Jericho was the city which the jews had conquered with God’s help in the Book of Joshua as they paced around the walls blowing trumpets, and instead of using siege equipment they had relied on God’s mercy and faithfulness to bring down the walls. Jesus’ action of going to Jericho serves to connect us with the Old Testament, and point us to it’s fulfillment in Himself, the Son of Man. Just as God was present with the Jews in the Shekinah Glory of the Temple, so he comes to Jericho (Jericho being this world) again, but as the Word made Flesh (God’s promise amongst men, and with men as a man). On his journey there (which can be viewed as God coming down to humanity in the Incarnation) Jesus encounters a blind beggar on the way. The blind man, represents humanity, blinded to our knowledge of what is truly good and truly sinful by the fall of our ancestors. He recognizes Christ as the Messiah and calls out to Him. Jesus stops and has the man brought to Him and asks him directly “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks to see with his eyes, and Christ obliges. “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.”

This was a bold action by the beggar. If the blind man truly desires to see, asking to see, and being granted this will put an end to all that he knows and he may be forced to change his life completely (think of Saul becoming Paul as another example of this). Isn’t this our challenge when we are faced with the gospel? If we truly begin to listen to the words of Christ, and begin to live according to his statutes, we are shedding the cataracts upon our eyes. We may be forced into discomfort, but Christ never promised an easy life if we followed Him. Our generation loves comfort, and loves to ignore the gospel. It likes the idea of the Gospel, with feel a feel-good Jesus, but it does not like anything that sounds like self-sacrifice or suffering. Thankfully we have the fasts, to discipline our bodies and minds where they have grown lazy and fat. Charity, to force us back into reliance on God and not worldly things, and that we are called to humble ourselves before everyone. So what do we all want from Christ? Are we prepared to do what we need to do, once we are given it? Are we willing to make major changes in our lives to put aside our old life and enter into a new one? Remember your baptism! Embrace it! In our Baptisms we threw aside our blindness and spit upon the lies of the Devil! Cast off your boredom, your sleep and arise, the Bridegroom will come and we will not know his Hour! Fear afflicts all of us and draws us away from doing the right thing, but don’t despair, fight, and remember the words of Christ to the Beggar! “Receive what you have asked for, for your faith has saved you.” Trust, Hope, and Pray, and you will find a new faith awakened in you. Ponder this as we make our way toward the Feast of the Nativity over the next few weeks and God Keep you All!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tribulation and Struggle

Tribulation and Struggle

It’s amazing to see just how many people seek an easy out of any tough situation these days. Whether’s its held under the banner of being “non-confrontational” or a genuine attempt at apathy, no one seems to try anymore. Sadly, many Christians have succumbed to this but, this is nothing new under the sun. Since the very first centuries, Christians have been finding ways to shrug off struggle and tribulation for comfort and ease. But Christ did not promise us a life free of suffering, free of strife. In Saint John’s Gospel, Christ speaks frankly on this matter, saying, we are to endure all manner of pain in this life, but in Hope, and Faith. This is a mark of a Christian, to bear the world’s scorn in Peace.

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This seems like an impossible task for anyone, when our natural inclination is to kick the dust in front of us, complain, and be miserable in our endurance of whatever unpleasant ness may come our way. Some of us may even just call it quits (God forbid by taking our own life but, it can be as casual as numbing ourselves by frivolous entertainment).
The first step is accepting that we are called to face our afflictions and not avoid them (Baby steps, even the Desert Fathers would endorse). In doing this, we have done probably the hardest part, and have begun to open our heart and minds to the Holy Spirit.

A man of our day, Saint Padre Pio the Wonderworker was no stranger to the struggles of this life. He fought demons, he endured scorn and envy, was afflicted by physical pain, and bore unnumbered sorrows of the heart. But his teaching to those around him was very clear. Our life, as little imitators of Christ, is to endure in humility, everything the world has to throw at us, to our full measure. Whether it is the slander from lips of our brothers and sisters, the effects of disease and imperfection from the fall, or the assaults of the enemy.

However hard it may be, the seeking of worldly comfort and avoidance of pain is not congruent with a Life in Christ as Padre Pio explains:
“We must humble ourselves on seeing how little self-control we have and how much we love comfort and rest. Always keep Christ before your gaze; He did not come to rest nor to be comfortable either in spiritual or temporal matters, but to fight, to mortify Himself and to die.”

In order to sanctify ourselves, and climb the Divine Ladder, we must endure struggle:
“The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain.”

The more afflictions we bear and pass through in faith and hope, the greater we grow in our relationship with Christ. We enjoin ourselves further and further into His life, by suffering as He did:
"The more you are afflicted, the more you ought to rejoice, because in the fire of tribulation the soul will become pure gold, worthy to be placed and to shine in the heavenly palace.”

Only at our death will we be freed of struggle. Until then we must never give up the fight. As Saint Anastasius the Persian said to the Sassanian Shah Khoserau before his death, “We Christians fall, and we get up, and we fall and get up again, and we do this until our deaths, praying that we die standing on our feet.” May we struggle to the end in Hope and Joy.

Advent is upon us, let us look again at our relationships with Christ and His Body, preparing ourselves rightfully for the coming feast of the Word made Flesh, by taking up our crosses with a renewed vigor.

God Keep You All!