I struggle with road rage! There, I said it. I guess it comes from my years as a police officer, trained in the rules of the road, trained as a defensive drive and in high speed chases (very terrifying, by the way!) It just gets on my nerves when I see people not paying attention to the conditions, the flow, and the purpose of driving. What really drives me crazy is when it’s obvious someone has their minds on a million other things than accomplishing the purpose of WHY they got in the car in the FIRST place! It makes me mad! OK, I confessed it! Forgive me?
But what makes Jesus mad is something entirely different than forgetting to put on your turn signal (Come on, people, I’m not a mind reader!) or cutting me off in traffic (If I was in a police car, you’d be getting a ticket right now!).
Look at our Gospel Lesson on this day before the day before in Mark 10:11-16:
And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.
OK, so this makes Jesus mad, well, “indignant.” It’s telling how the dictionary defines “indignant”:
Again, because the Lord understands first principles. The Lord knows how important children are and that moment in human life where we haven’t become cynical, blinded by disappointment, and motivated by our foolish notions of mere rationalism. The Lord knows if He can get us to embrace the very difficult task of being child-like without being childish, He can reveal the Kingdom of God in and through our lives! And that will open the Kingdom to all those around us as well. This key to spiritual peace and maturity through being child-like is one of the greatest paradoxes of the Christian Faith and yet it is absolutely vital if we are ever going to truly be able to celebrate Christmas!
You see, it’s in the loss of first principles that we forget just why this or that practice, belief, or ritual is vital to our salvation. And it’s in this perpetual struggle against forgetfulness that always calls us to hold on to these first principles! And the only way to holding onto first principles are the disciplines of the Faith, but the only way to stay motivated to hold onto the disciplines of the Faith is to constantly remember WHY we are doing them: These First Principles Usher Us into the Kingdom of God! That’s why the Lord was “indignant,” because the short sighted disciples were actually putting their own souls and all the souls around them in jeopardy of missing the Kingdom! And, it’s why I encouraged our parents to make sure our children are in Liturgy with them, even with all the crying, fussing, and fidgeting. Having the children there invites us to remember God’s Kingdom and how to enter it!
Today, as we can see the bright light of the Nativity just over the horizon, let’s not get angry at things that don’t, ultimately, matter. But let’s not forget what makes the Lord “indignant.” Seeing this wisdom will always help us do the hard work of always keeping first principles at the very front of our thinking so we don’t fall into the trap of forgetting the only goal worth living for in the first place: The Kingdom of God. It’s the only way we will ever have the strength and motivation to be Orthodox on Purpose!