No matter how long any of us live, there’s something about the changing of the calendar that invites us to look at ourselves. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” Great quote.
And it’s great advice. But, how do you do it?
That, my dear ones, takes a perspective adjustment that is deeply embedded into the wisdom of our Orthodox Faith. St. Silouan, The Athonite said, “Keep your mind in hell and despair not.” At the same time, the Faith teaches us to live in the moment and not worry about tomorrow. And here is the key: To remember your mortality and to not worry about tomorrow is the Path to internal peace that cannot be shaken!
Look at our lesson today in Mark 12:18-27:
At that time, Sadducees came to Jesus, who say that there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the wife, and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no children; and the second took her, and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; and the seven left no children. Last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.” Jesus said to them, “Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”
Our Orthodox Faith embraces the fundamental wisdom that keeping The End in mind is the only Way to live Today! And the reason for that is if we don’t know how things end, we will never know the very purpose of our lives.
In today’s passage, the Sadducees were a sect of Second Temple Judaism that rejected the belief in the Resurrection of the dead. They considered only the first 5 books of Moses to be scripture and taught that the purpose of religion is to govern the here and now, and not worry about the end of things. Once you’re dead, you’re dead, they taught. And Jesus tells them “you are quite wrong.”
It turns out the only way to get Today right is to study and allow the End of all things, including your own earthly life, to give me a spot in the future to live towards. Like the North Star in the sky that led mariners home because they had a fixed star to navigate by, we too will live wise lives only when we keep Endings and Beginnings in their proper perspective.
Jesus gives us insight into just how to do that. First, our mortal lives, while temporary, are not without hope. There is going to be a Resurrection. We will not be disembodied “spirits” forever. We will get our physical bodies back at the Resurrection. We will face the reality of our mortal lives and how we lived them and what our choices screamed to the whole universe about what we truly believe! Second, our earthly relationships will be transformed by this eternal life. How we ended relationships and how we began relationships reveal our real selves to us and to all around us. And Finally, the God Who made us made us for life, not death!
This wisdom about Resurrection, Relationships, and Real Life confronts us today with choices. Will we know ourselves well enough to recognize our vices and fight them? Will we appreciate the gift of eternal life to keep perspective about our relationships? And will we put the effort and energy into knowing our Life-Creating God so that we put Him first in our lives?
Today, we each struggle with the hard work of growing up and having the eternal perspective that is offered to us by our Orthodox Faith. This constant struggle can really become wearying IF we fail to remember we don’t have to struggle by ourselves! Our Faith is the Faith of The Church and the eternally strong grace of Jesus Christ. You are not alone in your struggle to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, It is so hard to keep my perspective eternally on You. It seems the whole world is distracted by troubles or relations. And I confess, Lord, I stumble into the same traps when I lose sight of Your eternal perspective on life. Please help me today to embrace my own mortality and then to see past this terrifying moment to the eternal Life You have given us all through Your conquering of Death by Death! Help me today, at this moment, to live right now AND remember the temporariness of this world! And all with Your joy! Amen!