Sun, 20 January 2019
Matthew 4:12-17; Ephesians 4:7-13
The Baptism of John was the Baptism of repentance; we tend to distinguish his ministry from the ministry of Christ. But today we are reminded that Christ – the God who is love – also preached repentance. Why would He do this? Yes, for the forgiveness of sins. But there is more. Start over ... for what?
Today's epistle (Ephesians 4:7-13) reminds us of our goal: to become as Christ (i.e. “until we come... to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”). This certainly requires a lot of growth, but first it requires undoing, re-examining, and then re-building a lot of the habits that we have acquired. Especially the habits of our mind.
Love? How can we love without knowing? How can we love when our understand is imperfect? We may have the impulse of love – to help, to serve – but we are likely to make things worse. The advice of Hippocrates is vital: FIRST, DO NOT HARM.
Some of us are so strong in our desire to help that we impose ourself – and our ignorance – on others at every opportunity. This is so wrong.
It takes real effort – beginning and constantly sustained by repentance – to gain discernment.
Discernment isn't a fruit of reading books or taking classes or even of Chrismation or ordination. Nor does it come through a force of will, but through quieting the mind and learning to listen. Discernment is the fruit of a particular kind of attentiveness, a peaceful attentiveness that listens not to judge or to offer advice or even to help, but first to understand. When we work on this skill, and when we pay attention to the workings of our mind as we do this, we will soon learn how our misconceptions and prejudiced assumptions distort our understanding, how mistaken our diagnoses often are, and how much damage we can do when we follow our instincts. Moreover, as we work on this kenotic and peaceful attentiveness, we are likely to learn that even our desires to assist are the result of mixed motives that themselves need to be evaluated and re-created.
Al of this, this process of discovery and the purification of our senses and mind – is what is meant by this deeper kind of repentance or change of heart.
The result of it is a great patience and calm and the ability to love without reservation.
It also brings humility and the recognition that often times the best action is no action at all (other than prayer) and that the best judgment is to reserve judgment.
So this is the challenge that we get today: repent!
So let's pause before offering judgment or advice. Let us be humble enough to realize that the world will continue to spin without us sharing our wisdom or immediately rolling up our sleeves to fix someone. Let's spend time questioning our motives and intent.
And as we do this action of repentance, let's notice the way the Kingdom of Heaven Christ promises today opens up to us.
“Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”