To Be PitiedFr. Barnabas Powell
“For pity’s sake,” a phrase I heard my grandmother used and the context was a conversation about a man who just couldn’t seem to stop making trouble for himself. She had tried and tried again to help this man stop abusing himself, but he refused even “for pity’s sake.”
But even St. Paul understood this concept when he said “in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves…” in 2 Timothy chapter 2.
Some are really their own worst enemy. And, if we are honest, we fit that description many times in our lives when we really are acting in self-destructive ways. But that is the natural end and consequence of wrong beliefs and bad theology. This “too small” thinking produces a “too small” life and we miss the grand and cosmic beauty God intended us to have! We live our lives as if there is no resurrection and no eternal life. And that is such a pity!
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19:
BRETHREN, now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.
St. Paul understood what life would mean for him if Faith and the Resurrection were not true. He knew that between the joy of the Resurrection and despair, there were no other options. Either Christ has really risen from the dead; bodily, and physically, destroying mortality and filling up all of humanity with hope, or “we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Far from reducing the Resurrection to just another science experiment where “Evidence Demands a Verdict.” Far from accepting the mindset of modern man that everything must be “provable” to be believed; St. Paul insists that the very real Resurrection of Christ was more than mere survival of an itinerate Jewish rabbi in 1st century Palestine under Roman Occupation. He declares this truth of the Resurrection of Jesus is the very linchpin of all of Christianity! It is the center around which all the Faith revolves. No wonder Pascha, for we Orthodox, is the center of our Church Year. Everything that happens before Pascha is to bring us to Pascha. And everything that happens after Pascha, happens because of Pascha. The Resurrection is the central theme of all the Feasts of the Church. Period.
So what? Well, the “so what” lies in the implications of the Resurrection of Jesus. If He really did destroy mortality then mortality can no longer be our excuse for selfishness, for short-term decisions, and for behaviors that are more about temporary comfort rather than the developing, healing, and maturing of my soul. All the excuses for my inattentiveness to my spiritual life become foolish and deadly. But what makes this worse is my inattentiveness then reinforces the inattentiveness of others. When I abandon my lack of attention to the disciplines of my Faith, I wound the whole universe by saying even my suffering is without meaning and hope! My Faith and confidence in the Resurrection of Jesus (and I’m not talking about some namby-pamby sentimental belief in His “resurrection” in “our hearts” and memories, but a robust, nitty-gritty, physical resurrection of a brutally beaten and tortured physical Body walking out of a grave on Pascha morning before sunrise and then that same Physical Body being taken into heaven!) remakes my own life and insists I NEVER insult my existence by reducing it to some shortsighted living that somehow is meaningless and ends at a grave!
On this day after the Feast of the Transfiguration, we must allow the power of this miracle to shape our everyday thinking and actions. Jesus gives us a glimpse of His eternal glory in His Transfiguration. He allows His disciples to see Him in His glory as well as the TRUTH of eternal life in allowing them to see Him and St. Moses and St. Elijah together with Him on the mountain. So it isn’t just us seeing Christ in glory and eternal life, but also those who look to Christ in His glory as well. Before the horrible event of the Crucifixion, Jesus tells His disciples and us “Don’t think this terrible event is the end. It isn’t!” And neither is your own appointment with mortality. That reality has to shape and affect your thinking and your choices. You are going to live forever. Christ has conquered death. Your life must be trained by this wonderful and “awful” Truth. And your everyday living has to display to all that this is the governing wisdom of your living, your priorities, and your decisions.
Today, I know you say this all the time, that you believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the age to come” but do you really? The everyday practice of the wisdom of the Orthodox Faith is meant to drive deep within your heart worth and dignity that fills up even your suffering with meaning and worth. Living a Normal Orthodox Life destroys the shallow mindlessness of modern hopelessness and offers another path to all around you!
P.S. You were transfigured on the Mount, Christ God revealing Your glory to Your disciples, insofar as they could comprehend. Illuminate us sinners also with Your everlasting light, through the intercessions of the Theotokos. Giver of light, glory to You.