Many times when we hear the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16.19-31, we get confused about the great chasm between heaven and hell. Most think this is a physical separation, but the Fathers teach us that the chasm is the time of our death. We have until NOW, before we die, to prepare our heart to experience heaven as joy. If we live our life like the rich man, totally self-absorbed and ignoring the needs of others, we will experience heaven as torment and fire.
When it comes to living a New Life In Christ, it requires more than just asking God for blessings. When Jairus asked Christ to heal his daughter, he had to show obedience and patience, even knowing his daughter died, before he experienced God’s blessings.
Sometimes we hear the Gospel and think of “just another story from another time in history.” In truth every story in the Scripture is for out benefit today. When we hear the story of the Gadarene Demoniac, although we may not be demon possessed, there are many demons that can cripple us and leave us alone in the wilderness. The joy we can have through hearing this Gospel lesson is that God is always protecting us, and He has the power to free us from the demons that control us.
I’ve been thinking about this a great deal lately. Being a priest in a historical cathedral, in a historical community, I often hear stories about how the Church was the center of everyone’s lives “back then”. It never fails that the one sharing the particular story with me inevitably states how nice it would be to return to a time when the Church was the center of life for our community. But before we can return, if in fact we need or want to return, we must first ask the question, “Why was the Church the center of life in the first place?
When it comes to hearing the Word of God, everyone has an equal chance to hear and receive the Gospel. Each of us, depending upon the condition of our heart and soul will hear the Word of God, and either produce fruit or not produce fruit for the glory of God. Year after year the Church proclaims the same Gospel story so that as our heart and grow closer to God we are able to produce fruit, but it requires work to prepare our soul.
Sometimes words just are insufficient for comfort, especially when tragic events occur. In those moments, it can be enough to just be present with those who are suffering. In those moments, God’s presence can be experienced through our willingness to keep our mouth shut and just pray with others. God’s grace is able to bring comfort where we fall short, no matter how many people gather. God is there whether we see him or not. Whether we recognize it or not, God is always standing, holding our hand.
Several times in my ministry I have had the profound experience of spending time with families during a variety of tragedies. The most profound is when I am blessed to walk along with a parent who is forced to bury a child. I have long believed that human beings are not designed to bury children. As difficult as it can be to bury parents, grandparents and even spouses and siblings, there is a unique pain when a parent is faced with the death of a child, no matter who old that child is.
When it comes to the work of Christ and His Church, we are expected not to put our trust in our own understanding. Instead we are expected to have faith the Christ knows what He is asking us to do, we are expected to be obedient to Christ, and to have humility when Christ reveals the great results He always knew was in store for us. Christ already knows what He wants us to accomplish when He sends us out into the deep unknown. It is up to us to have faith, be obedient and humble, three Great Characteristics of our Christian Journey, so that Christ can be glorified.
It may be popular these days to pick and choose what we believe and like about the Church, but is that going to help us get to heaven? Christ invites each of us, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” The Christian way of life is not a life of self-indulgence and easy living. It is the hard way, the way of the Cross.