She had her eyes closed and her fingers in her ears and she kept saying “la, la, la, la, la, I can’t hear you!” You see I had uttered the ancient and hated words “Sweetie, it’s time for bed.”
And she didn’t want to go to bed, but rest is what she needed. She needed a decent bedtime, so that her tomorrow wouldn’t be poisoned by bad choices of her today. She needed to sleep so she could continue her joy tomorrow with strength and clarity of head. All of this truth was self-evident and had been proven true all too many times before. And yet, she didn’t want to hear what was truly good for her. After all, she was only 5 years old!
Isn’t it amazing how the theme of immaturity keeps creeping back into the sad narrative of our mistakes?
And while my daughter’s story may put a knowing smile on your face, other manifestations of immaturity provoke a more terrifying conclusion.
In today’s Gospel Lesson we read the misguided anger, rejection, and even hatred of religious leaders to the Truth proclaimed to them by our Lord Jesus. And this rejection of the Lord’s wisdom is tantamount to the childish denial of unwanted wisdom.
In John 8:42-51 we step into the middle of a dispute between the Lord and the leading religious group of His day, the Pharisees. Now, before we jump to impuning these religious leaders, we have to realize that the Pharisees were the group who insisted on holding onto the full tradition of the Jewish faith. They were sticklers for obeying the scriptures and knowing the scriptures. They insisted on honoring the traditions of their fathers and to keep all the faith traditions of the past. In other words, if we met some of the best of these men, we would probably be both impressed and in awe of their piety and their faithfulness.
But those traits alone can, and do, offer no guarantee of freedom from spiritual immaturity and spiritual blindness. There is always the danger of a key, missing, ingredient that protects us from the self-righteous blindness that seems to have gripped these enemies of Jesus.
Our Lord is making clear to these religious men that the dividing line between those who are righteous and holy and those who are not has nothing to do with bloodline, or culture, or even education. Though all of these can contribute to righteousness and holiness; they are still no guarantees of either. The Lord confronts these men with uncomfortable Truth, and it has little to do with this or that interpretation of this or that passage of scripture; this or that religious practice; or even this or that understanding of history or politics.
No, the dividing line between those who are truly righteous and on the path to life, and those who are no where near the path to life falls in the heart.
The Lord says to these very religious men, men we would probably respect and honor as wise and good, that the dividing line is simple: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.” (John 8:42-43)
Today, it is my love for God, unadulterated by the self-love that feeds self-centered desires of prestige, acceptance, and comfort, that allows me to hear the Lord’s wisdom and His wisdom leads, always leads, to eternal life. The whole Orthodox faith is meant to foster and grow to maturity this love for God. All the practices of the Faith, all the disciplines of the Faith are meant to grow that love for God in your heart. And when this isn’t the case, then the fault lies not in the practices of the faith but the immature heart of the “practitioner.”
Today, does your love for God inform your choices, your priorities, your piety? Know beyond any doubt that that faultline in your own heart sets the ability of your ears to have the courage to truly hear the eternal wisdom of the Lord Who loves you.