Remember Lot’s WifeFr. Barnabas Powell
Actions have both consequences and motivations. The consequences may be unforeseen and the motivations may be a mystery, even to the doer, but without a doubt, they always exist.
The challenge to me is will I own up to both my consequences to my actions AND observe and scrutinize my motives? Because I am never going to break the pattern of behaviors that keep me from becoming who I really am without that work!
And it seems modern life is hell-bent (used intentionally. I will leave it to the discerning reader to know why!) on keeping me from both accepting my responsibility for my actions AND peering deeply into what motivated them in the first place. I will even go so far as to say that even religion can be used to hide from this necessary and maturing internal labor.
Take our Gospel Lesson for example. In today’s lesson our Lord Jesus confronts using the curiosity about the “End of Time” (always a great source of income for books and movies!) to hide from the real spiritual issue at hand.
Look at what He says: “The Lord said, ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was in the days of Lot — they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and sulphur rained from heaven and destroyed them all — so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed. On that day, let him who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away; and likewise let him who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together; one will be taken and the other left.’ And they said to him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, “Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?'” Luke 17:26-37; 18:8
The context of this passage and a similar passage in Matthew’s Gospel reveals that even in Jesus’ day, folks speculated about the end of days. After all, we humans have the ability to contemplate our own mortality. But even that ability to think about our own end can become an over-emphasis about the “end of the world.” In fact, I would suggest that all the hubbub about “when will Jesus return?” and “will the planet be destroyed?” and “what about this or that prophesy concerning the end of the world?” can actually be a business of speculation that we use to hide from the real lessons of all these realities. We can get so caught up in the “End of the World” that we fail to appreciate the real lessons about our own mortality. What may be great for book sales and movies may not be so great for my own spiritual growth.
So, our Lord reminds His disciples that the wrapping up of all of human history isn’t going to be so obvious that it will wake up the whole population. In Noah’s time, people were living their lives day to day as they always had. And they watched Noah construct the Ark, but no one examined their own heart in light of this clear warning. They just kept living their unexamined lives. The same story is at work with Sodom and Gomorrah. People kept on living their lives and were blind of the myriad of opportunities to examine their lives up until the vast consequences of their blind behavior rained destruction upon them.
These two examples by the Lord aren’t meant to satisfy some curiosity about the End of Time as much as they are meant to wake us up to our own responsibility to deal with our own lives here and now!
And the answer to breaking the chain of behavior in our lives that lead to this blindness about consequences and motives is the central teaching of our faith: “If you die before you die, you won’t die when you die!”
If you have the courage to do the very hard work of examining your own heart, if you bravely peek into your own soul and “die” to the false notion that you are the center of the universe, if you can learn to “die” to the temptations of fulfilling all your desires in a selfish way, then you will wake up to the true life that God offers you in the Resurrection of His Son, our Lord Jesus. If you selfishly “save” your life for merely yourself, you will watch it slip away. But, if you dare to enter into the disciplined life of a believer in Christ, you will see that saying “no” to temporary things so you can say “yes” to eternal things is really living!
No wonder the Church, under the gentle and loving tutelage of the Holy Spirit, leads us to a time of fasting before the great Feast of the Nativity! To teach my stomach to discipline its desires is the beginning to teaching my whole self how to “die” to my immediate wants in favor of my eternal life!
Today, don’t let anything, even good things, help you hide from the real work of your life – learning how to repent and enter into the life of Christ. Don’t be like Lot’s wife, and look back longingly on a life of self destructive behaviors even while escaping from that old life! She looked back and her true heart was revealed. She really didn’t want to leave Sodom, and so she was forever “frozen” in that fallen desire.
Today, don’t look back. Look forward. Look inward. Look upward. And learn how to “die” to the soul killing patterns of that which isn’t real life at all. Learn to leave what was behind and keep reaching forward to Him Who is Life Himself. Fast, pray, worship. This leads to real life.