Reflections for the Week of Sunday March 13, 2016 Fifth of Lent

Scriptures: Isaiah 43.16-21; Psalm 126; John 12.1-8; Philippians 3.4b-14.

Isa 43 tells of the LORD who brought His people through the waters of the Red Sea and crushed the Egyptians. Ps 126 is s song of hope and joy sung to the LORD who restores His people. Jn 12 tells of Mary of Bethany pouring perfume on the Lord’s feet. In Phil 3 Paul says nothing matters in comparison with knowing Christ as Lord. All other accomplishments he counts as rubbish.

The Human Condition

After their disobedience to God’s command, Adam and Eve felt shame and fear and fled from God to hide. God called to them saying, “Where are you?” This is mankind’s predicament ever since until he is saved by Christ. The question, ‘Where are you?’, means where are you in relation to God, to yourself, and to others? To answer the question honestly is to begin the spiritual journey to Christ which is also the search for ourselves. To have lost God is to have lost our ‘home’ where happiness is to be found in intimacy with God’s loving presence. We have lost the key to the narrow gate that leads to fulfillment, so we search in all the wrong places to find it. But the key is in ourselves where Christ dwells when we come to saving faith. Human beings have an unbounded desire and capacity for happiness and we seek it by fulfilling the needs for affection, security, and control, but they are illusory and can’t succeed. This is our false self–what Paul calls our ‘old man’ (Eph 3.22). Augustine said original sin has three components: we don’t know where to find happiness (ignorance); we look for it in all the wrong places (concupiscence); even if we knew where to look, our willis are too weak to pursue it. Herein lies the root of addiction. We seek pleasure or we seek to numb our pain and disappointment. We defend ourselves by projecting our pain onto others by blaming them, but the problem is in ourselves. When Jesus called us to repent, He was inviting us to grow up and enter the narrow gate to the difficult path (Mt 7.14) to the Triune God where we find the kingdom of God (Mt 6.33) and our true Self. God has not promised to take away our trials, but to change our attitude toward them and to be with us in them. We need to see that they point to our false self and its illusory programs for happiness. This insight is what holiness and interior freedom are. It is participation in Christ’s suffering and coming to be like Him. The Spirit calls us to transformation of our inner being to know the Triune God as the Ultimate Reality. He is unconditional love and moves in by grace, supplanting the human ego with the divine “I”. The Spirit deepens our faith in the divine presence dwelling in our inner being. This is the kingdom of heaven which has come upon us and dwells within us (Lk 11.20; 17.21). Everything in the universe comes to remind us of God’s presence. Sitting with Scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit allows Him to deepen our capacity to listen. The external, written Word of God awakens the spiritual Word of God within us. By means of the Spirit we return through the Word to the state of intimacy with the Triune God that Adam had in the Garden of Eden when he walked with Him in the cool of the evening. The transformation God works in us allows us to accept people and events as they really are rather than filtered by what we would like them to be.

Memory Verse: Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4.22-24).

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