A Samaritan AND a Heretic!
Christ is risen!
She had her eyes closed and her fingers in her ears and she kept saying “la, la, la, la, la, I can’t hear you!” You see I had uttered the ancient and hated words “Sweetie, it’s time for bed.”
And she didn’t want to go to bed, but rest is what she needed. She needed a decent bedtime, so that her tomorrow wouldn’t be poisoned by bad choices of her today. She needed to sleep so she could continue her joy tomorrow with strength and clarity of head. All of this truth was self-evident and had been proven true all too many times before. And yet, she didn’t want to hear what was truly good for her. After all, she was only 4 years old!
And while my daughter’s story may put a knowing smile on your face, other manifestations of immaturity provoke a more terrifying conclusion.
In today’s Gospel Lesson we read the misguided anger, rejection, and even hatred of religious leaders to the Truth proclaimed to them by our Lord Jesus. And this rejection of the Lord’s wisdom is tantamount to the childish denial of unwanted wisdom.
Look at John 8:42-51:
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it and he will be the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.”
As we move toward the Feast of Pentecost and the 5th Sunday of Pascha, the Sunday of the Blind Man, we step into the middle of a dispute between the Lord and the leading religious group of His day, the Pharisees. Now, before we jump to impuning these religious leaders, we have to realize that the Pharisees were the group who insisted on holding onto the full tradition of the Jewish faith. They were sticklers for obeying the scriptures and knowing the scriptures. They insisted on honoring the traditions of their fathers and to keep all the faith traditions of the past. In other words, if we met some of the best of these men, we would probably be both impressed and in awe of their piety and their faithfulness.
But those traits alone offer no guarantee of freedom from spiritual immaturity and spiritual blindness. There is always the danger of a key, missing, ingredient that protects us from the self-righteous blindness that seems to have gripped these enemies of Jesus.
Our Lord is making clear to these religious men that the dividing line between those who are righteous and holy and those who are not has nothing to do with bloodline, or culture, or even education. Though all of these can contribute to righteousness and holiness; they are still no guarantees of holiness. The Lord confronts these men with an uncomfortable and unwelcome Truth, and it has little to do with this or that interpretation of this or that passage of scripture; this or that religious practice; or even this or that understanding of history or politics.
No, the dividing line between those who are truly righteous and on the path to life, and those who are no where near the path to life falls in our own heart.
The Lord says to these very religious men, men we would probably respect and honor as wise and good, that the dividing line is simple: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.” (John 8:42-43)
Today, it is my love for God, unadulterated by the self-love that feeds self-centered desires of prestige, acceptance, and comfort, that allows me to hear the Lord’s wisdom and His wisdom leads, always leads, to eternal life. The whole Orthodox faith is meant to foster and grow to maturity this love for God within my daily life. All the practices of the Faith, all the disciplines of the Faith are meant to grow that love for God in my heart. And when this isn’t the case, then the fault lies not in the practices of the faith but the immature heart of the “practitioner.” Our beautiful Orthodox faith is not immune to the dangers of self-righteousness and the spiritual blindness that always accompanies this weakness, and the hard truth is it is our own hearts that determine if this spiritual medicine will heal us or ultimately condemn us. No wonder we are called to be Orthodox on purpose!
P.S. Did you miss last night’s Faith Encouraged LIVE program? No worries. All you have to do is go to the Faith Encouraged LIVE Archive Page and listen today! I really enjoyed talking to Fr. Tom Soroka about God’s grace and those outside the Orthodox Church! I hope you’ll enjoy listening as well!