Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lent 6: Do you come to Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

May I speak in the name of Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Amen
Tonight we come to the last of our baptismal promises: Do you come to Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Let us begin with the words 'do you come?' They are an invitation. The reasons for accepting that invitation have already been dealt with during the course of the previous promises. To refuse it is to instead align oneself with the devil and proud rebellion against God; it is to embrace the deceit and corruption of evil; it is to deliberately to enter into a life of sin, knowing that such a life not only separates us from God, but from the people around us as well. It is to refuse to turn to Christ as Saviour and therefore to reject the salvation he offers to all; and it is to refuse to submit to him as Lord, in the full knowledge that he is not only our Saviour and Redeemer, but God himself made man.

But, a I said, it is an invitation. And invitations can be declined as well as accepted. We have free-will; God gave it to us so that we might not be puppets who, because we could not choose to do evil, neither could we choose to do good; he gave it to us so that we might love him, the one who loved us enough to create us and all the world around us to live in – and love without the ability to choose not to love is not love at all, but a kind of slavery. And he did not create us to be his slaves, but his children. And so we may choose to accept or decline his invitation to come to him through his Son; but, we may not claim if we reject that invitation that we did not know what it is was we were doing and what the consequences of that action are.

And the warnings we have given as to what rejecting God means for our eternal destiny can not be seen as some kind of threat or coercion. The man who throws himself off a cliff is dealt only the natural consequences of his actions when gravity drags him screaming down to his death. And if he was foolish enough to believe others when they told him he could fly, in the face of the overwhelming evidence that the world presented him with that he could not, that will not save him. So it is with life in the world to come. We can not both reject God and expect the eternal happiness that results only from our free-will decision to love him, and show that love by obedience to his will in this life. In his love, God gives us a choice; and from that same love he will respect the choice we make, even if it is to reject him.

But because he loves us, he does all he can to guide us toward the right choice, the choice that is a loving acceptance of him on our part, instead of a hate-filled rejection; and he has given us many graces to help us on our path. The greatest of these is his Son, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. What greater proof of his love for us could there be, to paraphrase St John the Divine, than that he sent his only begotten Son that we might have eternal life? And he did not send him to a life of ease and comfort, the life of a king in a palace, waited on by servants, eating choice delicacies and never having to lift a finger for himself. No, he sent him to live a life of poverty and hard work, and to finish that life on a cross – not for any crimes that he had committed, but for us, for our sins, so that he might conquer death and open the gates of heaven to us.

That is why Christ called himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life; because no one comes to the Father except through him … and unless they eat his Flesh and drink his Blood in the blessed Sacrament of the Altar – something that can only be done by those who are members of the Church he founded – they can have no life in them. Therefore, we must come to Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life if we are to have eternal life. This idea makes some uncomfortable. What of those outside the Church, they wonder? They listen too much, I fear, to those who think all religions are the same. Clearly that cannot be true, for they all make many conflicting claims. Only one can be true – and Christ told us that he was the Truth itself. And if you do not believe that, then you do not believe Christ.

Those who do believe worry about the implications of this for those who are not Christians. They need not fear. God is merciful; and such things are for his judgement, not ours. And I do not think that the Father who desired that all men be saved will deal harshly with those who have not heard of Christ, or reject him through no fault of their own … perhaps because they have not heard him preached … something, I think, he is more likely to hold those who have heard accountable for for failing to bring the Gospel to all peoples.

But leaving the above aside, we in any event do not have the excuse of not knowing Christ. We have been baptised into his Church, received the Sacraments she offers and the Grace they give, and been instructed in the faith. In theory we have accepted the invitation to come to Christ - and I say 'in theory' because as Jesus himself told us not all who call him 'Lord, Lord' will be saved. Many have called themselves followers of his with their lips but not shown themselves to be so with their lives; they have, instead of a life of humble obedience, chosen to follow the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is not, of course, too late for them to amend their ways. God, as I said, is merciful. But time, it must be said, is short; for we know not the day nor the hour.


But we need not fear, I think. God is indeed merciful. And those who take seriously their baptismal promises, and live them out daily, truly repenting when they stumble and fall, and returning once more to the Way Christ sets before them, may hope that at the last their journey will end with him in heaven. This is my prayer for you all; and I ask that you pray the same for me. Amen

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