One of the most fundamental marks of maturity is the clear and unmistakable realization that actions have consequences. Ideas have consequences because they become actions. And avoiding consequences is always a sign of immaturity.
No wonder our modern world is struggling, as it has always struggled, with the consequences of ideologies and actions. And we see it everywhere. From the sad state of affairs in the war-torn Middle East to our very polarizing political atmosphere in our country, to the statistics that seem to show our society is becoming less and less religious and more and more gripped by the ideas of entitlement and expectation. Either way, we are struggling with accepting the consequences of our choices.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 17:26-37; 18:8:
“The Lord said, ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was in the days of Lot — they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and sulphur rained from heaven and destroyed them all — so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed. On that day, let him who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away; and likewise let him who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together; one will be taken and the other left.’ And they said to him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, “Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?’”
Our Lord reminds His disciples that the wrapping up of all of human history isn’t going to be so obvious that it will wake up the whole population. In Noah’s time, people were living their lives day to day as they always had. And they watched Noah construct the Ark, but no one examined their own heart in light of this clear warning. They just kept living their unexamined lives. The same story is at work with Sodom and Gomorrah. People kept on living their lives and were blind to the myriad of opportunities to examine their lives up until the vast consequences of their blind behavior rained destruction upon them.
These two examples by the Lord aren’t meant to satisfy some curiosity about the End of Time as much as they are meant to wake us up to our own responsibility to deal with our own lives here and now!
If you have the courage to do the very hard work of examining your own heart, if you bravely peek into your own soul and “die” to the false notion that you are the center of the universe, if you can learn to “die” to the temptations of fulfilling all your desires in a selfish way, then you will wake up to the true life that God offers you in the Resurrection of His Son, our Lord Jesus. If you selfishly “save” your life for merely yourself, you will watch it slip away. But, if you dare to enter into the disciplined life of a believer in Christ, you will see that saying “no” to temporary things so you can say “yes” to eternal things is really living! Why do you think the Church, in her wisdom, gives us this period before the Feast of the Nativity to fast and pray? It is only this purposeful discipline that keeps me attentive to the consequences of the Coming of the Lord!
Today, don’t look back. Look forward. Look inward. Look upward. And learn how to “die” to the soul-killing patterns of that which isn’t real life at all. Learn to leave what was behind and keep reaching forward to Him Who is Life Himself. Fast, pray, worship. This leads to real life. This makes you Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. O Loving Lord, grant me the courage to die to the death of selfish temptations through the daily practice of the spiritual disciplines You have preserved in Your Church for my salvation. Help me, Gracious Lord, to drive away the clouds of confusion and temptations that distract me from You, and fill me with that joy that comes from a life lived free and in love with You. Amen.