Listen to what St. Theophan the Recluse says in his brilliant “Unseen Warfare”: “Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give tomorrow to God. No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God; keep in your mind the thought that after the present hour you will not be given another and that you will have to render a strict account for every minute of this present hour.”
Whoa! Think of it. To treat each moment as filled with the responsibility to “give account” for each moment of our lives! No wonder we are constantly praying “Lord, have mercy.”
But think of that word “account.” It is a word filled with meaning; from the mundane fiscal meaning of a responsible use of our finances, to the sublime meaning of having the “right answer before the awesome Judgement Seat of Christ” where we will give an account for our lives in light of the wisdom granted to us. This can be both a terrifying and unsettling thought, but how can we foolishly ignore it?
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 12:48-59:
The Lord said, “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more. I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
He also said to the multitudes, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper.”
Our Lord Jesus uses some strong words in today’s lesson. Some might say He uses incendiary words. But, when this happens in the Gospels (and it happens often) it’s important for we who are serious students of God’s Word, to really explore WHY the Lord feels He must speak like this. And the reason is simple: The Lord desires us to be rescued from the “burning building” of a life spent asleep to the reality of eternity. It is sometimes necessary to speak so plainly, so emphatically, that we are shocked into awareness of just what is at stake in our gift of life here and now.
And what is at stake is nothing less than our responsibility to account for the gifts of time and talents given to us to both make the most of and to develop for the benefit of others. But that won’t happen if we are “asleep” in the delusions of selfishness and ignorance. So, the Lord speaks plainly to help wake us up and set us on the path of what the Fathers called “nepsis” – wakefulness!
Today, are you awake to the reality of eternity? Are you aware of the gifts of time and talent you possess, and for what reason you have been so blessed? It’s high time to “wake up” and see your responsibility to these treasures and how to use them well, for the spiritual health of your soul and for the life of gratitude and service you were made for in the first place. This wakefulness isn’t easy and it may be a bit jarring at first, but that is a small price to pay for an eternity of grace available to you because of the grace of God. Let’s “wake up” together and support one another in being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Lord, please help me wake up to the reality of eternity, and don’t allow the slumber of sin to drive me into the dreamworld of fantasy and delusion. Give me courage, O Lord, to live in the reality of Your Eternal Life!