Inoculated against the TruthFr. Barnabas Powell
Christ is risen!
One of the greatest discoveries of medical science was when doctors found they could build immunity to a disease by giving the patient just a small dose of the disease itself. A little bit of something can make you immune to the full blown sickness.
Well, that also works for those things that are good for you too. Anyone who has ever started a diet or an exercise routine will testify that getting just a little bit of either can create a false sense of accomplishment if you don’t keep pushing yourself.
Notice a portion of today’s Gospel lesson from St. John 5:37-40: “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen; and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent. You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
These men and religious leaders our Lord was speaking to, had had centuries of religious training. They had the worship of the synagogues and even the Temple liturgy. They were even diligent in searching the scriptures. And yet, standing before them was the Embodiment of the Uncreated, and with all their religious training, they still missed Him.
What a terrifying reality!
But, even in our own lives, we have seen this same scenario play itself out in our hearts. Washed for generations by the fullness of the faith in the liturgical life of the Church, given the beauty of Christian baptism – that spiritual head start of Christian perfection, and hearing countless sermons and teachings, and even Bible studies, and still we find it so easy to slip into lethargy and mediocrity in our practice of the faith. So, before we stand aloof and condemn these men Jesus was speaking to, we must see their folly as the warning it is to us right now – today!
There is a dual challenge here, and if we stay awake to these challenges, we will go a long way in passing on a robust and healthy faith to the next generation.
The first challenge is to dismiss the value of our religious heritage. This mistake sounds something like this: “Well, if they still missed Jesus with all their preparation, then we should probably abandon all that religious training.” Huge mistake! It wasn’t the rhythm of religious life that inoculated these people against seeing Jesus for Who He was; it was the exact opposite. The faith that had washed over them for centuries was no long penetrating deep in their hearts. It was only slightly entering their lives, and it was this slight penetration of the wisdom of faith that gave them just enough of the truth to make them immune to the fullness of the Truth.
The second challenge is to embrace the mediocrity of the moment. The fault never lies in the wisdom of the fathers, the rhythm of the liturgical life, or the disciplines of Orthodoxy. It lies where it has always been found – in my heart. The addiction to mere form or intellect is always a false security and ultimately an enemy of a robust faith. The key that unlocks the potent medicine of the wisdom of the fathers, the power of the liturgy, and the disciplines of Orthodoxy is to be found in an authentic desire for and deep love for God Himself. These men Jesus was speaking to on this day had one fatal flaw – they loved the means to know God more than they loved God Himself, and they missed the Lord because of this.
Today, do you love God?