For This Purpose

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As we come to another infamous anniversary of September 11th, the perennial struggle with “purpose” comes to my mind. I was having a conversation the other day with a dear, educated man, who also happens to be an ordained clergyman in one of the many Protestant denominations in our fair city, and the conversation turned, as it often does, to the “struggle” in today’s religious landscape between the “conservatives” and the “liberals.” My friend fancied himself quite “liberal” in his theology and his emphasis on social services as the primary sign he was a Christian. When I asked him about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, he looked at me quite confused as to the connection.

The truth is our modern society is gripped, just as our modern American understanding of the Faith is gripped, by a loss of “purpose.” In that confusion we grasp at any and all other “purposes” that might fill the vacuum. And in that vacuum appears all the “isms” we desperate humans run to to satisfy that gaping hole in our soul, whether it is religious, political, or sociological. Just like our parents in Eden, we love the shortcut, the easy answer, the simple explanation, and we defend those “isms” with all the rhetoric we can muster. And, for all our posturing, where is the peace? For all our defense of this or that ideology, where is the joy? In my own heart, I have had to go to my spiritual father on many occasions and repent for falling all too easily into the spiritual trap of abandoning my peace to this or that contemporary event that I allowed to disturb my peace and joy, as if this present age was beyond the love and care of my Lord.

Look at our Gospel Lesson today in John 12:19-36:

At that time, the Pharisees took counsel against Jesus and said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.”

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show by what death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

Here, our Lord is “troubled” by the events surrounding Him at this moment of Truth before He is killed. But look what steels Him for the task before Him! PURPOSE. Shall He avoid the challenge, the “trouble,” the reason He came? No, because His PURPOSE is the foundation of His life, and that “purpose” glorifies the Lord.

It is precisely this purpose that give us hope and stamina to stand in the face of a world where the ground is shifting under our feet. When we are tempted to try to avoid the trouble or try to “correct” the world by ourselves, we remember that it is when He is “lifted up” from the earth that He will draw all to Himself.

Today, are you gripped with the easy answers of this or that “ism?” Do you find your soul “troubled” by the society around you? When that happens, flee to your (His) purpose and draw strength to stay faithful from the foundational Truth that is the timeless Faith.

P.S. Just a quick word of thanks to you for your stamina with me as we celebrate a year on Ancient Faith with our Live call in show “Faith Encouraged LIVE.” On the next Faith Encouraged LIVE, we are going to tackle the thorny issue of modesty in how we dress, especially in Church services. That’s this Sunday night on the next Faith Encouraged LIVE!

7 comments:

  1. Fr. Barnabas, thanks for this good word. So is “now shall the ruler of this world be cast out” a turning point? Is the roaming lion of the world seeking who to consume now limited or is this all future speak?

    God bless.

    1. Thanks Jon. Please keep us in your prayers.

      Actually, look at the Lord’s words as a further revelation of the power of the Incarnation itself. When God enfleshed Himself to enter His world, the evil one was doomed. But further evidence of his doom was revealed when empowered men were able to cast his minions out of other humans vexed by the demons. Jesus was reacting to the absolutely amazing reality that the “prisoners” were overcoming the prison keeper by the grace of God!

      So now the “roaring lion” is toothless.The Kingdom has been in “mop up” mode since the Resurrection!

  2. “When I asked him about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, he looked at me quite confused as to the connection.”

    I missed the connection, also.

    1. Dear Jim,

      The point is that our theology is absolutely essential to our practical living.

      We in our modern age like to “cubby hole” and “systematize” our theology and create “specialties.” In doing so we reduce theology to a mere tool when it is meant to be the way we know reality.

      The divine mystery of the Holy Trinity is foundational for me to understand my relationship to others and to God since I am, in fact, created in God’s image along with the rest of humanity. Miss the Trinity and you miss everything. As Lossky said: “Between the Holy Trinity and Hell there is nothing.”

  3. Thanks for these good words today, Father! What comes to mind when I think about the lost sense of purpose is the seemingly concurrent rise of the “individual” in our culture, in the US, in particular. Would it seem accurate to say that as we eschew traditionally “communal” things (like religious faith, local community, neighborhood schools, etc) we also start to lose that sense of what it is that binds us all together?

    1. Dear Angela, what a wonderful insight.

      The wondrous spiritual health and insight of a timeless Orthodoxy is the beautiful way the Faith promotes both a community AND a fully realized person. All the world can do is reduce us to either a cog in the group or a lone ranger.

      This is why the Faith is vital to make us whole persons in communion.

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