Let’s face it, we had it great in Paradise! It was the perfect place to get to know God and each other. It was set up specifically for that purpose. But, alas, we had to leave that paradise because of the mortal danger of eating from the Tree of Life unprepared and enslaved to our rebellion.
God, in His infinite love for us put us away from that danger until He came among us as one of us in His Son, our Lord Jesus. And He came as one of us to do for us what we could not do for ourselves, defeat death once and for all. When He did this for us, He opened the gate of Paradise once more so that we could eat from the Tree of Life, the Holy Eucharist.
Now we are invited by God’s grace to walk in His Light so that we can do what we were created to do – know Him and each other in love and peace!
And this isn’t new information. The Lord prepared us for this Good News even in the Old Testament.
Look at our lesson today in Isaiah 2:3-11:
Thus say the people: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
For thou hast rejected thy people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of diviners from the east and of soothsayers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with foreigners. Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots. Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made. So man is humbled, and men are brought low — forgive them not! Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust from before the terror of the Lord, and from the glory of his majesty. The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the pride of men shall be humbled; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
The prophet Isaiah seems to be describing our very day in his words when he tells the nation of Israel that “there is no end to their treasures.” He reveals a land where the people are gripped by the unfaithfulness of idolatry. They worship their own works. They have all kinds of horses and power, but they have forgotten God. His description of a land filled with material riches but poverty stricken when it comes to faith.
And how does the Lord remedy this sad state of affairs?
He invites and then He judges.
First, the Lord invites us to wake up from our delusions. He calls us to come to Him on His holy mountain; to ascend to Him through the effort of seeing the emptiness of our material riches and the revelatory power of His Light to pierce through the fog of our unfaithfulness to the true spiritual illnesses that enslave us to the blindness of this world. There is no eternal future for those who blindly trust in temporary things like physical riches. These temporary riches always fail us because they cannot heal what is truly broken in our lives. They offer only false hope and comfort.
Then, He judges rightly, revealing the emptiness of the darkness of unfaithfulness. This judgement isn’t based on retribution or anger as much as love. This love refuses to leave you in the fantasy of a life without Him. And confronting this reality is always a painful thing for those who refuse to see Him.
The end result of this salvation is peace and a singular devotion to God.
Today, where are you deluded into trusting in temporary riches to make you happy? Where does this blindness keep you in the dark of self centered living? The ministry of Great Lent is meant to heal you from this fantasy life and invite you to walk in the Light and ascend the mountain to commune with our loving God. Only then can you ever hope to be Orthodox on Purpose!