No One Goes to Heaven AloneFr. Barnabas Powell
Faith is too big for just one person.
That’s the reason why the shallow reduction in modernity of the person to a mere individual has such horrible results for that person, society, and world.
Just today, I was reading an article about how worried folks are in Colorado about legalized marijuana being used by under aged kids. There’s a new device called a “pocket hooka” that is easily used and hidden and it adds potency to the inhaler. It seems that each day reveals humanity’s creative abilities AND our penchant for using that creativity to destroy ourselves.
But the Christian anthropology, that says we are created persons in the Image of Him Who knows Himself as Persons in communion, transcends this shallow and merely animalistic vision of humanity. A person is only a person in communion with other persons. Cut off from communion with other persons we become insane and deluded into seeing only ourselves as the end goal of our own existence. That poverty and delusion leads us to “love things and use people.” That delusion traps us inside our appetites and desires and makes us addicts rather than free men and women who have mastered the passions through discipline. And that slavery is an ever tightening grip that is designed to destroy us.
Doesn’t sound very appealing when described like that, does it?
No wonder we dress up our self-centeredness with ideas of “self discovery” and “rights” and “Don’t I deserve to be happy?”
Our faith offers us no such vision of reality. In today’s Epistle Lesson St. Paul contrasts and compares two mothers, two sons, two places, and he teaches us that we are meant to be the children of the Free Mother, the Free Place, and that freedom isn’t some silly notion that “I get to do whatever I want” but a robust vision of freedom that recognizes the struggle for true liberty has to be fought and won in my own heart. Read the passage of this powerful contrast in Galatians 4:22-27.
Today is the feast day of the Conception of the Theotokos by St. Anna, the maternal grandmother of our Lord Jesus. And this feast day is significant for several reasons.
First, our God has been planning our redemption, our spiritual restitution and salvation since before He said “Let there be light.” God has meticulously worked with the freedom of human persons through the centuries wooing willing hearts to agree to work with Him in the restitution of creation. He has left no stone unturned and has loved you so much that His very plan includes your free will to keep saying “yes” to Him. Here our Lord blesses Sts. Joachim and Anna with a child in their elder years, a gift to this barren woman and her husband, who will be diligently prepared by God and the wisdom of His faith preserved in the history of the Jewish nation to become the bodily “temple” for the Lord in His incarnation. Such detail. Such patience. Such humility! What god is as great as our God?
Second, our God humbly offers His love, never demands it. He knows we are persons and persons are to be honored and respected, not forced, coerced, or manipulated. So He lovingly and patiently and humbly waits for those persons who hunger for Him and His true life and when He finds them He enlists them in the work of redeeming the world! The free mother and the free City are populated by truly free persons. The bondwoman and her son are earthly and gripped by the delusion of merely what they can see and desire.
Finally, the reality of God’s work on our behalf (remember, God isn’t the One with the problem here. We’re the slaves. He’s the rescuer) calls us to not “hide” our light under a basket, but to live out the freedom purchased for us at such a high price, the price of the Son of God Who loved us and gave Himself for us. How can we justify being silent about such joy and love?
Today, as we celebrate and prepare; celebrate the faithfulness of those gone before us and prepare to then go on to celebrate the Nativity, let us embrace our communion with such heroes of the Faith that stand with us and help us hold this treasure of faith that will always be too big and wonderful and glorious for us to hold by ourselves. Let us today, stop and thank God for Sts. Joachim and Anna and their faithfulness in saying their free “yes” to God’s loving plan and their willingness to continually cooperate with Him. We are each so wonderfully gifted to serve one another in love and to join together and value our communion so highly that we actively fight to maintain our connectedness and our mutual love. There is so much at stake if we fall for the delusion of our own autonomy, and so much to be gained by the hard work of communion.
May God, the Holy Trinity, Persons in communion, grant us the courage to live out the true freedom of communion and mutual love. Blessed feast day to you.