In a recent article of the national newspaper USA Today, the paper reports that, since 1970, marriages in the US continue to decline. The article goes on to suggest many factors for this demographic shift away from marriage and more towards cohabitation ranging from an increase in secular attitudes to economic chaos. (USA Today, June 17, 2013)
Let’s face it, there is no sense in trying to pretend it is easy to hold a robust Orthodox Christian worldview in a society increasingly different from that worldview. It’s hard to be consistently and purposefully Orthodox in today’s world. But, frankly, that has always been true. The fantasy of a “golden age” of Orthodoxy when “all the world” followed the Gospels is simply an escape from reality, and a temptation to bludgeon the present with the illusions of the past. The world has always ebbed and flowed either toward the Gospel of Christ or away from it. Our task is always one of faithfulness, whether it is difficult or “relatively” easy.
Take a look at today’s Gospel lesson in St. John 16. Jesus tells His disciples “the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” (John 16:2). He then goes on to tell them “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (St. John 16:7-11)
It is hard to hear from the Lord’s lips the words “it is to your advantage that I go away” because the disciples have grown accustomed and dependent on the Lord’s immediate presence to guide them, correct them, and encourage them. But the Lord has worldwide plans for the salvation of all of humanity and He is about to multiply Himself through the whole world. He is about to extend His “body” to every land on earth, through the coming of the Holy Spirit. In another place He tells His disciples that now He is with them but soon He would be “in” them!
This is why the Feast of Pentecost is so very vital to our full understanding of the mission of the Church and our part in that mission.
Look at the three revelations of the work of the Spirit when He arrives! The Holy Spirit will “convince” the world (notice the world wide mission of the Lord is already being revealed) of sin, righteousness, and judgement. The Holy Spirit is going to show the whole world the Truth. The Holy Spirit is going to destroy the illusions and fantasies and ignorance of humanity and the real condition of the human heart. The Holy Spirit is going to empower mankind to see things as they truly are AND give them the power to overcome human weaknesses through Divine Grace and Love.
And the Holy Spirit isn’t going to do all this wonderful work by magic. He is going to enter the very flawed and broken disciples of Jesus and fill them up with His power and transform the followers of Jesus into what humanity was created to be! Then He is going to send those followers of Jesus into the whole world to repeat that salvific process in every human who wishes to be like Christ. And He isn’t going to stop till He is finished with the work given Him by the Father.
And we get to participate in that cosmic work! If we will!
Today, my dearest, you are invited to make your baptismal vows authentic and effective. You are invited to embrace the reality of your chrismation. You have laid at your feet every spiritual tool you will ever need AND the divine power to use those tools for your salvation and the salvation of all around you. Today, reach out and embrace the invitation by the Triune God to enter into “symphony” with Him and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be who you really are! Today, the Lord has ascended and the Holy Spirit has come. Let’s live this truth today!