One of the greatest consequences of our modern world is that we moderns have been convinced that egalitarianism and individualism have been elevated to the highest good. We insist on a definition of “freedom” that means “I want to do what I want to do!” But the problem is if I do what I want to do, my desires have to be disciplined and mature or what I want to do quickly becomes addiction rather than freedom. All we have to do is see the “fruit” that comes from people indulging their desires without first insisting their desires be disciplined to see where this madness leads.
We long for what only God can give us: everybody being equal and justice being done. What we long for is a good desire, but how we achieve our desires is broken by our disconnection from our Creator. And, in fact, our current obsession with “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” is poisoned by the delusion of forcing language and mere revenge for real or imagined wrongs done by one group against another.
But the problems aren’t “linguistic,” they are much deeper. What we need is to be blessed, not indulged.
Look at our lesson today in Luke 6:17-23:
At that time, Jesus stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.”
Jesus stands on a “level place” to teach the people those famous “Beatitudes” (“Blessed are you…”) He sees a cross-section of the local population who came to hear Him AND to heal their diseases. What drove these people to Christ was His reputation for healing, and they desired healing for their bodies. But what they found in Christ was Someone Who not only healed their physical brokenness but also He insisted they face and have healed their spiritual illnesses as well. He confronts them with this challenge because physical healings are always temporary but true, deep, and eternal healings always include the soul! No wonder He announces “Blessed are you…” as His way of revealing what truly matters.
In other words, our human desire for justice or equality has to be found, not in a set of legislation, political philosophy, or ideology, but in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is our answer to injustice, inequality, and brokenness. He is the Source of freedom that is true freedom and not the fantasy of freedom that is really just another form of slavery. If our society is going to escape the fractured tribalism of our day, we are going to have to bring society to Jesus Christ. That means we who say we follow Christ are going to have to get serious about being proactive disciples of Jesus and live out the “Blessed” revelation of true freedom and equality.
And look what that means to you and me.
First, we have to stop looking for answers to our own brokenness or our society’s brokenness in other places that aren’t Jesus. We Orthodox have such a rich treasure house of spiritual insight and wisdom laid at our feet by the saints, the liturgy, and the spiritual disciplines of the Faith (like confession, generosity, and fasting) that if we simply have the courage to actively know these sources and be humble enough to embrace them and practice them, we will see our own lives healed and blessed at a level deep enough to affect all around us.
Next, we have to have our desires matured and disciplined. We have to escape the spirit of the age where we define freedom and equality in merely economic terms. This small-mindedness always devolves into fantasy, delusion, revenge, and a fractured society. It creates the “us vs. them” mentality that actually destroys freedom and substitutes one tyranny with another. We who say we follow Christ have to become a “light” that shows the rest of society how to live, and that starts with the maturity and peace of our local parishes! Our parish communities are called to be the example of heaven on earth and communities that share and extend the blessings of Christ to all.
Finally, we have to embrace a lifestyle of generosity and repentance. We cannot be examples to the world if we still maintain the prideful arrogance of exclusive communities that only belong to our ancestral tribes! That’s just one more delusionary slavery that perpetuates the sickness of our human race. We have to become persons rather than individuals. We have to seek Him Who IS the True Human among us in His Church and invite all around us to become by grace what Christ is by nature. And that means we have to perpetually allow the Holy Spirit to confront us with our wrong thinking and subsequent wrong actions. We have to LIVE repentance and we have to SHARE that healing and blessing with everyone.
When Roman Emperor Aurelian ruled Rome (270-275 AD) he persecuted the fast-growing Christian faith with impunity. Towards the end of his reign, he had a certain Chariton of Palestine, arrested and tortured for his Christian Faith. Chariton had been born in Iconium and followed Christ regardless of his persecutions. He was from the same area as St. Thekla, whom we have just celebrated, and held her example of Christian Faith as his own. St. Chariton boldly denounced paganism and strongly preached Christ as God and Savior of the world. Having survived fierce tortures for the Faith, he was imprisoned by Aurelian. But when the Emperor died, St. Chariton was set free. He left prison and went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he eventually established a monastic life in the desert surrounding the area. His strict form of life and deep devotion to prayer eventually saw him advising all that came to him in the truly blessed spiritual life. He established 3 monasteries and was said to have authored the Office of the Monastic Tonsure used to enroll those who sought the monastic life. He died at an advanced age on September 28, 350 AD having lived the blessed life of one who sought God’s will and not his own.
Today, are you willing to come to Christ “on a level place” and allow Him to heal you at your deepest brokenness? Are you humble enough to embrace timeless wisdom preserved for you and your children in this precious Orthodox Faith, and actively educate yourself through that wisdom? The whole world is waiting to see if you will be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O Chariton, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.
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