Why does it always feel like the crosses that we have been asked to bear through life seem so difficult…and so heavy? Why is it that it seems that others have better lives than us? Why are their hardships so miniscule when compared to ours? Why does a denial of ourselves and a willingness to pick up our Crosses and follow Christ…have to be so difficult? I’m sure that each of us can point to a day in our life, where rather than bearing our passions and difficulties, it feels as if our ankles are tied to them and they are dragging us through life…as our bodies hit and bounce out of every Michigan sized pothole that the world can throw at us....
At some point we need to move from a mental to a spiritual experience in order to make the grace of God real within our own lives. We can certainly rely on the lives of the saints as guides for our own spiritual journey, and we can certainly benefit from reading the writings by and about their lives. But at some point along the way, we need to make their story our own. We need to discover how to apply their life lessons. In other words, we need to develop our own personal relationship with God.
I often think about what would happen, if the incarnation of Jesus Christ took place today, instead of 2000 years ago. Can you imagine how angry iconoclasts would be if this happened?
Every single day, we would be watching viral videos on YouTube of Jesus touching sick people and healing them. We would be seeing on some (not all) of the news channels, footage of Christ feeding the 5,000 and walking on the Sea of Galilee. There would be thousands of people ripping out their iPhone after Christ shouted at the tomb of Lazarus for a man, who had been dead for several days, to come forth! The image of Christ would be EVERYWHERE…inspiring and changing the lives of billions upon billions of people throughout the world, who would be unable to go and listen to him preach on the mountain. This is precisely what icons do for us in our faith…they speak and teach the truth of the kingdom, without the use of speech!
For centuries, The Church has had its own version of a boot camp. It calls this first week of lent “Clean Week”…and if we take our spiritual lives seriously, this week should be more difficult than anything we have experienced before, because our goal is eternal salvation…and personal transformation. The battle field which we are preparing for is not some field that we can find on a map…it is the battlefield of life. The freedom which we are fighting for is not from an oppressive government dictatorship…but rather freedom from ourselves. We embrace the next few weeks that the Church has given us, in order to conquer the demonic ranks…and to seek out and destroy our own personal struggles with evil!
...The young man wasn’t aware of the magnificence of being around his dad, and he started listening to evil thoughts…thoughts that I’m sure we all have had to endure while living and being in the Church: There is nothing special about being here. All of the things you were taught, are worthless. Leave the house…enjoy yourself… because all of these fasts, and prayers, and services aren’t worth your time. All of these religious people are trying to steal your fun!”
Turn on the television, read a newspaper today, or spend one Saturday night or Sunday morning, driving up Hollywood Blvd and watch the antics that are being played out by all of the prodigal sons who are out in the world. Doesn’t this sentiment sound familiar?