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Thursday, October 29, 2009

God does not Explain Things; Things Explain God

Humans have always tried to understand the world around them, if only to survive, and to value their place in it in order to enjoy life as beings conscious of death. In this context the theology of primitive animist faiths can be seen as a certain science; an early attempt to explain how things are by virtue of their familiar or indwelling spirits. By explaining natural processes both predictable and unpredictable within such a rational framework the world became safer, even tameable within certain limits. Eventually the sense emerged through observation of higher organising principles at work in the world, maybe even a “Highest Principle” and so a Supreme Spirit or High God was “born” out of an existing and enduring spirit pantheon.

Monotheist religions took these developments to their logical conclusion, ONLY the High God could serve the purpose of integrating a created Cosmos as a whole, the lesser spirits being demoted into avatars, angels and other created subordinate servants or manifestations. At this stage, however, it is still the One-God-Who-Is-One who explains how things are. If the wind blows, it is his breath. If the ground trembles and swallows you up, it is his anger. If the stars shine it is because he has provided guides both navigational and astrological for his children. At some point of mature reflection, however, most if not all monotheisms wake up to the fact that there are ways of understanding how the world works that do not involve the all too easy and, frankly, rather demeaning (to God) idea that he has to be invoked to explain the unexplained. If God only exists as a stop gap explanation for our ignorance about the world then he is no God at all. For God to be God He must be the God-of-the-Whole or no-God-at-all.

So, difficult though it may be for all of us in varying degrees to accept, God does not explain anything at all. We do not believe in God to satisfy our ignorance about the world; in short to give us a nice and comforting alternative to science with its seemingly Godless explanations and “theories.” If we are thinking like that we do not truly believe in God nor do we receive the world as it truly is. We need to start the other way round. God does not explain things, things explain God. Many fathers make this approach to the Cosmos and its Creator explicit but perhaps none more so than the great St. Maximos the Confessor. In Ambigua 33 he says:-

“The Word becomes thickened […] concealing Himself mysteriously for our sakes within the logoi of creatures and thus He reveals Himself accordingly through the visible things as through some written signatures as a whole in His fullness from the whole of nature and undiminished in each part, in the varieties of natures as one who has no variation and is always the same, in composites, as One who is simple, without parts, in things which have their beginning in time, as the One without beginning, as the Invisible in the visible, the ungraspable in tangible things.”

The key idea here is the “logoi of creatures” ... what I am referring to in the shorthand of this article as “things.” These “logoi” function for St. Maximos as written signatures of God-in-creation; the disclosure of God in the being and beauty of things. So, as we discover more about the being and beauty of things through science, poetry and mystical contemplation and in so doing we discover or “explain” God. St. Maximos is clear, however, that it is Christ the Word of God, the Logos of God who is concealed and then revealed within the logoi of creatures, the self same Christ who is the Logos Incarnate. To use the theological terminology of St. Gregory Palamas, we might say that the energies of God in creation are disclosed Incarnate in the Word.

Orthodox Christians with this faith do not suppose that science or the arts are alternative truth perceptions to theology. The more we discover and know about the world the stronger and deeper in Christ revealed in the very sinews and flesh of our humanity and in the very physicality of Creation itself; its terrible and majestic glory ... signatures of God, vehicles of God indeed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Which Christ?

This might seem a rather strange question. After all, we all know who Jesus is don’t we? Well do we? The sacrificing Christ of Catholicism is very different from the prophesying Isa of Islam. Christ the global teacher or avatar is very different from Jewish Messiah yet to come. The Christ who dies instead of me to appease God’s wrath on account of my sins is very different from Jesus the charismatic healer. From an Orthodox point of view all these “knowings” are perceived through a distorting lens. Doubtless all these traditions (some closer to Orthodoxy than others) are being sincere and indeed the depth of the piety is not in doubt. The difficult truth perhaps for many moderns to accept is that someone might be sincere .... yet wrong. But on what basis might a hypothetical impartial observer judge one account be better or more truthful than another?

All these views justify themselves in relation to a sacred text, some interpreting the same text differently, some using different texts. Catholicism perhaps is closer to Orthodoxy in one regard, but not, of course, necessarily in others. This concerns the sufficiency of any text and its susceptibility to just one interpretation. Catholicism is not “Sola Scriptura” and neither is Orthodoxy. We claim that our perception of Christ concerns the mind of the Church stretching back both to Christ Himself and the Church of the Old Covenant (Testament). We insist that the Scriptures are the authoritative core of Tradition but not its exclusive limit. It is the Church herself as the pleroma (the fullness of Christ), and that precisely in her continuity with the People of God all the way back to Genesis, which gives us the confidence to know and see Christ clearly.

The divergence between Catholicism and Orthodoxy in respect of Christ and the Church concerns Rome’s innovations which lie outside the received and ecumenical phronema (mindset) of the Church in her historical trajectory. That phronema is essentially a consensual, conciliar reality of a people gathered before the God who manifests Himself especially and definitively in Christ. No one bishop can determine that ... nor can a show of hands or the latest take on a particular biblical text. It is much more to do with the universal and inclusive prayer from the People that ascends to God and returns with the truth from the Holy Spirit. So, neither synods nor the papacy, neither a text nor a Godly opinion that has the last word but rather Christ Himself in the Church ... much less easy to define and nail down of course, but in the end both true and eternally secure.

So, outrageous though this sounds to some, it is empirically defensible to claim that true knowledge of Christ; authentic, unadulterated, undistorted actual knowledge of “He Who Is” exists fully and exclusively only in the Orthodox Church; the Church of both St. Patrick and St. Panteleimenon, (for in Christ there is neither East nor West). The ecumenical task of Orthodoxy is to call ALL peoples (Christian and non-Christian alike) into this common ground of truth concerning the Saviour. Some may choose of course to remain outside this saving grace. That is their prerogative, their choice, their call. Moving the boundaries of the Church however to include them is not a loving thing to do for it sacrifices truth to expediency and in the end loses its own integrity and, therefore, serves and saves no one. “Which Christ?” – indeed! Choose wisely, choose well.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Booo!

In recent times there have been countless headless chickens running round the courtyard under a sky that seems to have been perpetually falling in. Alarmist predictions about total economic collapse, falling asteroids, decimating pandemics and the like have far outlasted the millennial transition, usually most noted for such scare mongering.

It’s not of course that these risks do not exist. Life is and always has been beset by dangers numerous and unseen. Part of the population, however, seems stuck in the nursery where nothing bad could or should happen. Then we have the bogus experts whose careers have been built on keeping the various bogeymen at bay, real or imagined. These have a vested interest in pandering to the fears of the worried well and the various other Chicken Littles of this world. They compete for attention with some politicians for whom the fear of terrorism, disease or natural disaster can be meal ticket to electoral success and social control. Those who are really trying to help, the professionals in the field, are continually hindered in their work by the panic inducing reactions of the risk averse and their cynical manipulating guardians.

Then there are others of course who just like a good scare. They include the sociopaths and misanthropes who relish the effects of disasters and the bored for whom the excitement of danger, any kind of danger, is far preferable to the monotony of conventional modern living ... which is why peace time armies have never been short of naive young men. But what of you and me? Go on admit it! We all like a good scare from time to time! Disaster movies attest to the universal human fascination, the adrenalin pumping thrill of everything going “belly up.”

Bad religion has also sometimes cynically used this fascination with death and destruction, both the dread and the relish, in order to control its adherents. The sociopaths have rejoiced at the pains of the damned, sadists have enjoyed their torturing of heretics, preachers have used the fear of hell to convert their hearers and the profane have shocked with their blasphemies. Mercifully such things are entirely absent from Christian Orthodoxy because we are not concerned to control and unregenerate mass of reprobates but rather we would have God restore freedom and dignity to humankind in the face of the demonic forces that oppose Him and us.

Fear and anxiety are indeed extremely potent human emotions and we have a complex and ambiguous relationship to both. The gospel, however, sets quite a different standard for fear. There is a godly fear which approaches God with reverence and awe. Against this I do not speak but there is another servile fear which has no place in Christian living. It is a fear of life, a fear of the “other”, a fear associated with punishment, a dread of death. The existence of this fear betrays an attenuated or absent sense of the love of God. Such Perfect Love casts out fear, (1 John 4:17-19). It assures of what St. Paul taught from his own experience when he wrote:- “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.” (Romans 14:8).

So whereas we can all enjoy the occasional good scare our hearts at deep level must know both the security and assurance that can only come with an abiding knowledge of both God’s love and providence, His own very Presence with us and in us. Against such there is no law, no threat, no ensnaring danger but only the perfect peace and glory of the saints. Perhaps it is this that this generation misses most of all.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

For All the Saints ...

From the Profession of Faith at Chrismation…

"I believe and confess that it is proper to reverence and invoke the saints who reign on high with Christ, according to the interpretation of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Church; and that their prayers and intercessions avail with the beneficent God unto our salvation. It is well-pleasing in the sight of God that we should do homage to their relics, glorified through incorruption, as the precious memorials of their virtues."

The saints personalise Christianity. There are versions of Christianity around which reduce Church life to a set of doctrines, good in themselves, but because they are not enfleshed in the lives of real people, such Christianity remains, abstract, dry, formal, conceptual. Think back to your time at school. I guess it's not the lessons you remember directly, rather the teachers who, for you, embodied and made accessible what they taught. So it is with saints. If you want to know who the Holy Spirit is, read the account of Motovilov's conversation with Fr. Seraphim. If you want to understand the place of monasticism in the life of the Church, read St. Athanasios' Life of St. Antony the Great. If you value the healing work of God, don't even read about it, just invoke the prayers of St. Panteleimon, St. Swithun or some other unmercenary healer. The saints make real, vivid and personal what we believe and how we live by those beliefs.

Secondly, the saints warm the fellowship of the Church. Being the friends of God, they are our friends as well. As friends, we should get to know them, develop a personal relationship with them. We can do this in ordinary tangible ways. Their icons are our portals into their fellowship. Their incorrupt remains are memorials of a faith and a life that is literally death-destroying by the power of God. Their prayers, when invoked, avail with God for our salvation. They are mighty intercessors before the Lord and many are the miracles that have been wrought by their prayers. It is right that we should develop personal attachments to those particular saints who speak to us, those to whom we feel drawn. In this way is the Church built up within one fellowship, the Communion of Saints, here and beyond the grave.

Thirdly, the saints provide us with living testimonies of a redeemed humanity. They show that Christian perfection is not an absurd or inaccessible goal. They are the ones whom God has touched and made whole. They shine with the uncreated light of the Godhead, irradiating their humanity with the new life of the Kingdom against which even death itself has no power. They are mirrors, as we behold them, of what we could be. They inspire us towards this goal, theiosis, the promise of a new humanity, a New Creation, transcending even the biological necessities and chances of evolution towards something sublime and true, the Love of God made visible, the birth pangs of a new age in which God shall be all and in all.

Who then could do without the saints? No-one truly calling themselves Christian. The saints are the keys toward the re-conversion of these islands to Christ. Let us honour them in our generation that others by their example, fellowship and prayers may also become Friends of God.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In the Name of God, go! (a message to our MP's)

After Charles I, king of England, was executed in 1649, the Rump Parliament prevented Oliver Cromwell from convening an interim council to formulate a new constitution. Cromwell was the dominant figure in the victory over Charles I, but the Rump Parliament was a more conservative assembly than the body that had agreed to execute the king and abolish the monarchy. In 1653, after learning that Parliament was attempting to stay in session despite an agreement to dissolve, Cromwell's patience ran out. He dismissed the assembled members with this speech. The "shining bauble" referred to is the parliamentary staff, which must be present, by convention, in order for Parliament to sit.

April 20, 1653 - Oliver Cromwell, Republican usurper but in this matter a "good egg."

"It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money; is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? is there one vice you do not possess? ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God's help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do; I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place; go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!"

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Frankenstein or Christ?

The story of Frankenstein touches something deep inside us. The longing for immortality so cruelly expressed in this enlivened cadaver and in all the other failed human resurrections from Tutankhamen to Lenin persists. The tragic aspect concerns what we know of all such human attempts at immortality from cryogenic freezing to elixirs of life, from transhuman cyborgs to Frankenstein zombies: they are all doomed to fail. Yet humans still strive to make themselves immortal and each fatal setback does not seem to put them off. What they and we resist is the notion that THIS life does not bear within it any seed of immortality, either accessible by science or religious experience. This life always has limits from life spans to the distant but nonetheless finite trajectory of the universe. All turns to dust in the end. We still of course labour and exult in the wonder of this creation for all that, and rightly so. A creation with limits still has inestimable value and our place and calling within it reflects that. In Christian terms though this creation is dying and any attempt at amelioration is conditioned by that perspective. If then we attempt to build a human centred utopia from the raw materials of this world we shall only see corruption. This is the inexorable logic of the Frankenstein myth. Eternal life cannot be moulded from the stench of human corruption. Immortality is from God or it is from nowhere.

Of course this is the point where Christians part company with humanistic fellow travelling idealists of all sorts. On this we insist that the resurrection of Christ is our ONLY grounds for hope in eternal life; His, that is God’s, victory over death which He has imparted to our humanity in the Incarnation and sacramentally through Holy Baptism and the Eucharist. As we die to ourselves in His death, his resurrection life breaks through into our own. As we drown the old Adam in the waters of baptism so the Risen Christ is manifest in our members within the Church, the Body of Christ, (no Frankenstein body here!). As we eat of the Body of Christ and drink of his Blood in Holy Communion we taste of the goodness of the Lord in the Food of Immortality. As we embrace Christ in His embrace, as we drink freely of the Spirit outpoured for us we find, as it were, a fount of living water bubbling up inside of us to eternal life. As we die to ourselves we are born again (or from above) to a life in God that has smashed death and rendered it senseless. As we surrender this creation to God we receive in its stead a New Creation where the waters of God’s regenerative and healing Love remake and renew all things.
So Frankenstein or Christ? No contest.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Trouble in the Garden

The story of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden which is rehearsed in the Orthodox Church on Cheesefare Sunday just before the beginning of Great Lent raises the issue again of how we make sense in Christian terms of the Fall in the light of what we know now about hominid evolution. I believe that the Fathers can shed some useful light on these issues which may be an unusual insight for some since these teachers lived in an age that knew nothing of Darwin and microbiology!

Eden is about immortality and its loss or rather we should say that the Fathers of the Church held that the potentiality for immortality could have been fulfilled in Eden through obedience, (which in this context means loving fellowship with God, not craven submission but the responsibility of intimacy), but in fact this potential was tragically not realised. That's the post-fall point about the skins to cover the couples' nakedness and their need to hide from from God.

So the Orthodox insist, contrary to much Christian teaching elsewhere, that there WOULD have been a time when humanity matured through intimacy with God to the point when the fruit of both trees could be eaten .... which in Orthodox terms is deification. Satanic temptation always works with a TRUTH (you will be like God) upon which the lie (from the Liar - the Devil) is parasitic ... "take a short cut instead ... cut Him (that is God) out." The expulsion from Eden was actually for human protection, not imposed as a punishment, so that the curse of this alienation and loss from God would not have become embedded for all eternity in death. Christ, undoes that curse through his death and resurrection and so now, through repentance, we may obtain the blessing .... that is to EAT of both fruits .... which of course is the Eucharist. There is ample patristic evidence for all of this.

Listen to St. Irenaeus:-

"Man was a little one, and his discretion still undeveloped, wherefore also he was easily misled by the deceiver."

Listen to St. John Chrysostom:-

"Partaking of the tree, the man and woman became liable to death and subject to the future needs of the body. Adam was no longer permitted to remain in the Garden, and was bidden to leave, a move by which God showed His love for him … he had become mortal, and lest he presume to eat further from the tree which promised an endless life of continuous sinning, he was expelled from the Garden as a mark of divine solicitude, not of necessity."

[Hom. in Gen XVIII, 3 PG 53 151]

Listen to St. Cyril of Alexandria :-

"Adam had heard: ‘Earth thou art and to the earth shalt thou return,’ and from being incorruptible he became corruptible and was made subject to the bonds of death. But since he produced children after falling into this state, we his descendents are corruptible coming from a corruptible source. Thus it is that we are heirs of Adam’s curse."

[Doctrinal Questions and Answers, IX, 6 in Cyril of Alexandria, Selected Letters]

St. Irenaeus again ...

"God the Son became Man in order to regather in Himself the ancient creation, so that He might slay sin and destroy the power of death, and give life to all men."

[Against the Heresies, III, xix 6 ANF]

and finally the fruit of redemption in St. Macarius ...

"the inner being of believers who through perfect faith are born of the Spirit shall reflect as in a mirror the Glory of the Lord, and are transfigured into the same image from Glory to Glory."

The patristic witness to the truth of the Incarnation and its attestation in Scripture is clear. We were created neither to be dumb, nor infantile, not repressed by guilt, nor fearing punishment, nor oppressed by the devil or anything dark. We were created to achieve the fullness of Christ, the maturity of the Lord of Glory .... yes, knowing both good and evil and partaking in eternal life .... BUT NOT WITHOUT GOD. THAT's Hell.

Finally, how is this all compatible with what we know about the evolution of life and the human species in particular?

Let us consider how myth works:-

(1) Myth is not falsehood. It is a way of telling a truth.
(2) The myth may reference a key event or events from which this truth is itself extracted.
(3) The mythological overlay is the imaginative "wrapping" ... it has no necessary permanence as a vehicle for telling that truth.

So, in the myth of the Minotaur we probably have an historical place, (Knossos Palace, Crete) and geopolitical historicity, (the breaking of Athenian-Minoan tributary relations) ... but the mythic story itself is not historical, albeit that it references a historical events and truths.

Applying the same genre logic to Genesis in the light of hominid evolution we may legitimately and gainfully speculate that at some point in the development of our species conscious moral agency became a critical aspect of human social and spiritual relations. THAT is when the realisation dawned in the human psyche that things were not as they should have been.

This is often characterised in human mythology as the loss of a Golden Age (approximating to Augustinian Christian theodicy) or the inability of humans to ascend to the gods (approximating to the Irenaean Christian theodicy). The persistence of this sense of loss and restoration (fall and redemption) in many different religions (perhaps persisting in the Jungian collective subconscious) underscores the universal importance of the truth(s).

The difference the Incarnation makes is that God does something about it! He comes and unites the human to the divine and offers the possibility again of immortality .... but we still have to repent and we still have to grow in Him. Now, however, the curse of death is removed and by the Cross we have access to eternal life (the Resurrection).

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Oh to Work for the Inland Revenue / IRS!

Christianity is not for "good" people. Good people crucified Jesus. Good people defend God's honour by force. Good people kill the souls others with their oppressive religious duties and expectations. Good people fast twice a week and give tithes of all that they possess …. and then look down on those who don't. Good people don't eat with tax collectors, prostitutes and other heinous sinners. Good people keep themselves pure. Good people never experience any doubt …. isn't that frightening? Good people are blameless. To paraphrase an Archbishop. Good people don't dream. They sleep the sleep of the righteous. How can God save good people? Well with God, anything is possible.

Christianity is not for evil people. Evil people will use religion to suit their own ends. Evil people will put on the mantle of religion to bless bombs, to curse enemies, to demonise those who oppose them. Evil people will cast away the mantle of true religion and persecute those who hold to what they hate. Evil people do not want God. They have themselves. Cast not your pearls before such swine!

But, if a "good" person should repent, if an "evil" person should repent, then Christianity …. CHRIST! is definitely for them. Such a person will not lift his or her eyes toward heaven. Rather with a godly grief he will confess: "God be merciful to me a sinner!" And God will not disappoint in His mercy. Oh, then, to be a publican! Oh to have his grace, his self knowledge, his hope. Here are the truly great, despised by the world but magnified in the kingdom of heaven, the truly humble. Their humility is not an affectation, a pretence, a bargain with the Almighty; it is a painfully wrought true understanding of the human heart.

Who can bear such knowledge? Wouldn't we rather think a little better of ourselves? You know, the typical English disease:- "not too bad, not too good, moderation in all things, a little bit of God when you need him." To these the Son of Man says:- "I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth!" (Revelation 3:5-16)

Some people say that we don't like looking at our true selves because we are frightened what God will think of us; others that we secretly hate God and just go through the motions; others that it is too upsetting to our self esteem, others that we resist the call to change, preferring comfort instead. I don't think that there is just one answer to that question but the key is honesty. I recall, a long time ago now, an alcoholic at his wits end coming into church, (not here), and sitting alone. In a long conversation, I asked him if he could pray. His reply was disarming. "If I can't be honest with myself, how can I be honest with God?"

"Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)

Happily our God is big enough for such problems, but we are not small enough to see the solution. One of history's great tyrants, Napoleon Bonaparte," is buried in a mausoleum in Paris where visitors have to bow their heads to view the body. In a monstrous parody of Christian worship, we recognise what we often neglect in our relationship with God. We have to get down in order to be raised up. We have to lose everything in this life in order to gain heaven.

This is why our Lord drew close to the poor. They were already pretty low down. This is why he drew close to children. They were already nearer the Source. This is why he drew near to the despised. There only hope could be God. Marx saw in all of this the opiate of the people. We see the glory of an eternal kingdom. Oh then to be a publican; to pray the Jesus prayer:- "God be merciful unto me a sinner." Only in this manner can we be saved. So, as we draw near to the beginning of the Fast of Great Lent with the Jesus Prayer and the Prayer of St. Ephraim ringing in our ears, let us always keep before us the great truth that these prayers can only be truly prayed with a humble and contrite heart. In this life we shall never cease to need to repent.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Metanoia - Change Your Mind

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17)

The Greek term for repentance, metanoia, does not mean being sorry for one’s sins. In fact it actually means “a change of mind.” It means gaining a whole new life outlook. Specifically in relation to God it means leaving everything behind that hinders our relationship with God and reaching out for all those things that will bring us closer to God. In a Christian context that means Christ Himself ... the one who is both God and Man, the One who restores that relationship through self sacrifice. That is His Mind, which if we are to be Christians, must be ours as well.

Listen to St. Paul ...

Philippians 2

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

By which we learn that repentance is the acquisition of humility and that requires both understanding and action.

"Repentance," says Basil the Great, "is salvation, but lack of understanding is the death of repentance."

First then, understanding ... we may need to relearn repentance because although a change of mind will involve sorrow for one’s sins as evidence of repentance sorrow alone is not repentance. Sorrow can become maudlin, self pitying, impassioned. Far more important is actually changing one’s mind in accordance with that presented by Christ ... and that we need to understand ... and then practise.

It is often said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Metanoia is doing something about our alienated existence ... like the prodigal son, returning home to his non-judgemental all loving father. As it says in the gospel .... “I will ARISE and go to my father...”

There must be action ... change and it must be sincere.

Earlier in St. Matthew’s gospel Jesus confronts a group of hypocritical and conniving Pharisees and Sadducees who make a show of coming to John the Baptist for his baptism. He challenges them with the true consequences of metanoia ... “bear fruits” he says “worthy of repentance.”

That’s how it is ... is there humility, is there true change, is there a new life, a new orientation, a new mind? If there is there will be fruits in compassion born out of humility, justice flowing from mercy and righteousness and peace .... all in short supply it seems in our world today, especially, sadly in those lands where this message was first heard. But what of us?

Here’s a conundrum ... we need to change, but what if we ourselves hinder our own changing. What can be done? We may want to change but we feel impoverished in spirit ... we lack the capacity, the power to follow through on our choice for God. So many things can hold us back .... habit, addictions, poor self esteem, lack of true deep seated desire.

God can and will help us with this but he does need a little step on our part, a beginning ... a down payment on transformation ... a step of faith; but whatever we must do we must do it NOW.

The other element of the gospel extract today expresses this urgency. “The Kingdom of God is AT HAND.” We may not have another chance. We can’t prevaricate. We must act while we can; while we have the light.

Let us then choose God, choose life, choose joy, but NOW, not later. Then we shall enter the joy of our Lord. Then we shall know his Love and show that Love in the world. Then we shall have the mind of Christ. Metanoia.

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