The older I get the more I’m convinced I’m not going to live long enough to learn all I want or even need to learn. There just seems to always be more! And that can be a daunting realization for a man who (foolishly) believes he has some sense about him! Frustrating as well, especially since his arrogance insists he know everything!
But we humans have to come to the end of ourselves to ever really know ourselves, and I am convinced, my dearest, that this is precisely the root cause of much of our hiding from ourselves, others, and even the foolish notion that I can hide from God (just look how well that turned out for Adam and Eve!). This sober realization of our own limits can also, if unprepared for this revelation, cause us to fall into despair, or anger, or even a loss of faith.
So, what wisdom do we need to embrace to steel our souls for this inevitable confrontation? It’s found behind our Gospel Lesson this morning! Shall we take a look?
“At that time, standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” John 19:25-27; 21:24-25
We know this scene well. The Lord, hanging from the cross for me and you, sees His mother and St. John, the beloved disciple (how’d you like to be known for eternity like that?). The Lord, being the only Son of the Theotokos, knows someone will have to look after His mother after He’s ascended, so He gives His mother to my brother, St. John. And St. John takes her into his home from then on.
Then St. John, whose repose we recall today (by the way, the only Apostle to die from natural causes, all the rest were martyred), ends his Gospel with this confession: “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Always more!
We will confront our own limits by three insights that liberate us from shame and despair. They are 1) the insight of Presence, 2) the insight of Practice, and 3) the insight of Perspective. Presence, because I cannot look into the abyss of my own soul by myself. I NEED to be in the Presence of my Creator Who loves me to begin to hold the mystery of my own personhood! Practice, because it isn’t enough to simply be aware and awake. I must “take her” into my own home; I must move beyond awareness to actual action if I am ever going to come to grips with my own limits and allow His limitlessness to strengthen me. And, finally, Perspective, because it’s the delusion and arrogance of my own inflated view of myself, my abilities, and my “importance” that blind me to the eternal Perspective I MUST adopt if I am ever going to embrace my true self as the companion of God! I have to get past my small pride to be able to stand, without fear, in the expanse of His purpose for me. I have to be made larger than myself to ever become myself!
Today, are you able to see yourself and then beyond yourself to Him Who will FINALLY introduce you to your real self? Are you willing today to confront your own limitations and, in that real liberty, cry “Lord have mercy!?” You cannot develop as a mature believer in Christ without this inevitable confrontation with yourself. You will either embrace this confrontation now or you will be forced to face this confrontation at the Parousia, the Second Coming. Better to embrace the “always more” now than be forced by His Light and His Coming to look into this mirror then! “For a Christian end to our lives, peaceful, free of shame and suffering and for a good answer before the awesome judgement seat of Christ, let us pray…”
P.S. I’m really getting excited about Sunday’s program on Faith Encouraged LIVE. We will be talking with Dr. Terry Hebert about Rapture theology and why this too small view of the Second Coming is both harmful to your spiritual maturity and why the timeless understanding of the Parousia (look it up. You should know this word) is so very life giving! Listen THIS SUNDAY night at 8 PM Eastern/5 PM Pacific on ancientfaith.com/live!
I’m excited about the Sunday program, too. We Protestants have this whole thing so messed up, it would if comical if so many people didn’t really believe it!
Thank you, Fr. Barnabas, for this one. As a fairly recent convert from Protestantism, I am continually amazed at how my Orthodox faith sets me on the path toward “getting over myself so that I can truly become myself”!