Come Here!Fr. Barnabas Powell
Who are you? Really, putting all our false faces aside and pulling back the curtain of our real selves, who are you?
I know, I know, that’s a bit heavy for first thing in the morning. But entering into the life-long process of answering that question requires some prep work so we avoid continuing to lie to ourselves. And that’s where some fundamental choices about reality come into play.
We live in a society, a so-called modern society, where it seems the avoidance of consequences is considered the greatest good. And I understand that. I’d love to eat “galaktoboureko” (look it up and get the recipe. It’s WONDERFUL) every day, but the consequences for my health, and the consequences for those around me, including my wife and children (especially) would be bad. So, I have to make the choice to have this delicious treat only once in a while. But life is full of small and big choices just like that.
But our society considers any suggestions like this to be “judgmental.” When you hear somebody say things like “Don’t judge me!” usually it really means “Hey, I don’t like feeling bad when my poor choices are revealed, so stop it!”
In today’s Gospel Lesson our Lord Jesus and His disciples shine an uncomfortable light onto the spiritual poverty of reducing our relationship to God to mere rule keeping. The disciples are hungry and it’s the sabbath. No work is suppose to be done on the sabbath. But as the disciples walk through a grain field, they pick some of the grain and eat it. Read the whole story in Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-5.
The Lord is confronted by the really pious religious leaders who rebuke the Lord for allowing His disciples to “break the rules” of the sabbath, and the way the Lord deals with this instructs us in how to deal with our own spiritual growth and maturity. He makes two very important distinctions in His actions and His words.
The first distinction is the “rules” were made for man, not man for the rules. Actually, it is instructive in our Orthodox tradition that we don’t refer to the directions or the disciplines of the faith as “rules.” We refer to this body in teaching as “wisdom.” The Lord makes it clear that the wisdom of the sabbath disciplines are meant to generally change our thinking and actions about priorities of or lives, not to become straightjackets that prevent us from doing good or loving our neighbors. Wisdom is exactly that; wisdom. A wise man embraces wisdom and doesn’t try to reduce his relationship with God or others to mere rule keeping.
The second distinction is equal to the first. The Lord doesn’t say the wisdom is useless! Or that it should be changed or discarded! The Lord reminds these Jewish leaders that even King David allowed a higher wisdom to govern his behavior when he and his men were hungry. They ate the bread in the temple that was exclusively reserved for the priests. Then the Lord healed a man with a withered hand in the synagogue showing that being loving toward another is always a higher and greater wisdom than disciplines that might technically be obeyed to the detriment of others.
Today, we are blessed with volumes of wisdom that illustrate for us how the Holy Spirit has guided and manifested His love and wisdom in the lives of so many saints, fathers, and leaders. We are inheritors of this beauty and this wisdom. We are called to be purposeful in our relationship with God and one another and, by being purposeful, we reveal the wise truth that we prioritize these relationships as most important in our choices and actions.
Today, allow the “light” of this wisdom to inform, shape, and mature your relationship with God. Know that, many times, this “light” will make you uncomfortable. Do it anyway!