General Spirituality

Avoiding Christ!

It is worth the effort to examine closely our own willingness to believe in the Lord Jesus as the One in Whose Name is Life. The Forerunner John challenged men to accept Jesus as God, as the One Who is above all men by nature, the living Truth of God embodied as man.

This passage from the end of St. John’s Gospel records events toward the end of the Lord’s earthly ministry, but the issue raised by the Forerunner remains. Yes, it remains for us: will we commit ourselves to Jesus as Thomas did, crying out “My Lord and my God” (vs. 28)? The Forerunner’s challenge came before the healings, the teachings, the Cross and the glorious Resurrection. Yes, Thomas had time to “think over” the issue, but his confession of the risen Lord delivers that issue to us. The One Who was dead stands before each of us, challenging us: look at My wounds, touch Me. I have trampled down death by My death. “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (vs. 27). What will it be for us – acceptance or avoidance?
There is an easy way to avoid Christ, to evade His claim on one’s life: stay away from the Church and her worship. It is the “method of choice” for many. Out of sight, out of mind! The disciple Thomas “was not with them when Jesus came” (vs. 24). What did he know of the gladness, the joy when Life touched and renewed them (vs. 20)? Their story was “all right for them,” but Thomas demanded tangible proof (vs. 25). When he rejoined the other Disciples, the Resurrection was for him hearsay – the experience of others and without personal vitality for him. Beloved, the appearance of the Lord, His living presence, happens whenever the Church gathers for the Liturgy. When we stay away, the clamor and claims of the world deaden our hearts to the Lord’s presence. Of course He is everywhere, yet how shall we hear Him, or how shall we “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 33:8 ) apart from the Liturgy? The world supports not being with the Church, not being forgiven (vs. 23), not hearing His peace (vs. 21), not being filled with the life-giving Spirit (vs. 22), not receiving His true Body (vs. 27).
Instead, the world offers pleasures, and in ample abundance: sleeping in, sports, travel, work, hobbies, entertainment, family-time, and chores. One chooses whether or not to join in the action of the Body of Christ, a decision avoided once and then repeatedly. St. Ignatius said clearly: “Unless a man is within the sanctuary, he lacks the Bread of God…Therefore he who does not come to the assembly is already proud.” The world corrupts. The Lord heals and cleanses.
There is another method for avoiding the Lord’s claim. The technique is to set up one’s own conditions for submission to the Lord: “Unless I see…and put my hands into His side, I will not believe” (vs. 25). Such an assertion is fueled by arrogance and pride. The demand for objective, verifiable evidence sounds entirely reasonable at first blush, but it is human “wisdom.” The contemporary world is filled with people who brush the Lord aside with worldly wisdom. Be advised: God will not stop the person who tosses aside the claim of the Person and ministry of the Lord Jesus. He allows us to set our standards of evaluation, to “reduce the size of the playing field,” and to “prove” what pleases us at the moment. The results are materialism, self-indulgence, and the passions. When God is addressed as an hypothesis, where is the mystery that humanizes life? Listen to St. Paul: “Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). Let us join Thomas and let us all say:
Turn my obstinate soul with fervor to true Faith, for You are my Master and my God Who Rose From the Dead, Glory To You!
Subdeacon Chris

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