OK, it’s really not a secret, but hopefully the provocative headline grabbed your attention!
But, our busy lives really do challenge us in keeping our priorities in the right order, don’t they? We moderns are a complicated mishmash of schedules, opportunities, affluence, and “freedom.” And that multiplication of events, desires, hopes, and advertisements don’t seem to be slowing down. It seems that each new day brings a new barrage of invitations, exhortations, and marketing all meant to fill up every available moment of our day with “You just have to do this! It’s got to be your number one priority!” or “You won’t be truly happy/fulfilled/popular/relevant/up to date/ if you don’t have/do/sign up for/attend/buy this _____________!”
Eventually our affluent society (and even our “poor” are affluent compared to the rest of the world) has to come to the breaking point of all this manic opportunity! And many of us will (or have already reached) reach our own breaking point of the avalanche of over-scheduling long before the mindless obsession with “relevance” exhausts our whole society.
But the costs of that obsession are so very high. The selfish attention to “my needs” and performance based acceptance are evident to anyone willing to look at the facts and sober up from this intoxicating syreen-song of empty promises.
So, in light of our crazy (for the most part – self imposed) schedules, how do we develop an antidote for our own weaknesses to get distracted from the timeless priorities that lead us to real happiness and peace?
In our Epistle Lesson today, St. Paul makes some pretty amazing statements. He is writing to the Church in Corinth, that cosmopolitan port town filled with sophisticated and the unsophisticated, busy, important people. And what he tells these very high achieving folks, these business men and women, these educated and well travelled Roman citizens, will give us a powerful insight into how we thread the needle of our lives and keep the main thing, the main thing!
In 2 Corinthians 4:6-15, St. Paul offers the Corinthians (and by extension to us as well since we are all one Body in Christ) three doses of reality to keep us sober in the middle of the intoxicating world we live in.
First, St. Paul reminds these Corinthians that God is God. Sounds simple enough. But I tend to be intoxicated by the “opportunities” to fill up my life with distractions when I forget that my life has but one overarching narrative and goal: to know God. Because knowing God reveals my true self and my true purpose in life. When I forget that God is God, I naturally (or unnaturally) slip into choices and behaviors that feed my selfishness rather than my true self, which was created to know God and be known by Him.
Second, St. Paul tells the Corinthians they “need” God. He reminds them that part of our problem is when we forget that we hold this treasure of faith in “earthen vessels” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7). When I forget that my true life is a gift, my abilities are gifts, my world is a gift, I start forgetting my dependence on God for my very breath. That forgetfulness makes me ungrateful. And ingratitude intoxicates me into believing I am enough for myself. When that happens, well, cue crash and burn sound effect!
Finally, St. Paul shows the Corinthians (and us) that God is enough! He reminds the Corinthians that since Christ has destroyed “death by death” then all our excuses, all our forgetfulness, all our distractions, are powerless to hold us. They only hold us now because we allow them to hold us. And that means the Resurrection of Christ offers us the path to a sober and faithful life.
Today, we march steadily toward Great Lent. We move purposefully toward the sobriety of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. We are invited once again, lovingly, forcefully, and graciously toward the wake up call of our Orthodox faith to “BE” faithful, and in being faithful, put an end to the chaos of undisciplined lives. All the tools you will ever need are at your feet to stay awake to the real priorities of your life. Chaos is now self-inflicted. The freedom to live in the beauty of purpose and clarity is within your grasp. The choice remains yours, and yours alone. Great Lent is God’s loving Gift to you. Receive it as such and you will be Orthodox on Purpose!