Monday, November 5, 2012

Had she said ‘No’

The Sunday of the Last Judgment has come and gone. Will I sleep through the Event it represents just as I slept through the services of that day? God knows I’m a sinner and deserve death, but it seems He’s gone out of His way to save me somehow. ‘If anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him…’ (Matthew 5:41). It seems He’s taken His own advice. I suppose that gives Him the right to tell us to do the same. And as for ‘turning the other cheek,’ well, what more can I say?

I keep asking myself the obvious. What is it that makes some of us ‘die, and go to heaven,’ and the rest of us ‘die, and go to hell’? This is not just kidding around. This is an important question. Apparently wars have been fought over it, people dying on both sides and expecting to be included in the first group. Ask any number of church authorities, or read their writings, and maybe find the answer. What? You’ve tried, and you’re just as confused as ever?
That makes two of us…

Being great students of the Bible, we have cleverly discovered the scheme of salvation. Which scheme, of course, depends on ‘where we go to church’ or even whether we go to church at all. If you are a churchable, like I am, you already know that the scheme of salvation is a done deal. There’s nothing you can do to find out any more about it than your church is willing to tell you, and according to them, you needn’t try. Why not? Isn’t it obvious? ‘It’s all writ down…’

We’re so used to being told ‘that’s how it is’ that most of us don’t even come anywhere close to the edge of asking, ‘Is it so?’ That’s what makes people unchurchable, and we must not let that happen to us. What would the neighbors think?

If anyone reading this thinks that next, I’m going to launch out on a diatribe of questioning every teaching handed over to us by Holy Church, you can rest at ease. If this is what you wanted me to do, you may leave now. If any of you want to stay with me and push against the veil of the Temple to see whether or not it’s still attached, and to sneak behind it through the rip made by the Son of God when He entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the Mercy Seat with His own blood
(see Hebrews 9), then stay with me…

Beyond the protocols of Zion, those rules and regulations, formulas and declarations made by the Church, following her Master, to show us ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6), since by ourselves we could not find it, we still can read for ourselves the statements that Christ Himself makes in our hearing, that ‘no one comes to the Father except through Me’, and ask Him ourselves, what does He mean? He is not an historical person only, smart but dead like Socrates. He is the living God.
The only place I can think of where Christ tells us openly what is the criterion for our eternal happiness or our everlasting grief is precisely in that parable that was read in the gospel of the Sunday of the Last Judgment. But is it really a parable only, or is it the refining fire set before us, that we might meet the Day as creatures of the day and not of the night? That we might not be sent to the left, but to the right? If so, it’s strange that the Lord doesn’t ask any of the questions we ask each other, to make sure we’re ‘saved.’

Instead, it seems He doesn’t pay attention, or maybe just doesn’t hear, when those He is sending into eternal darkness call Him ‘Lord’ and protest, ‘when did we see You… and not come to Your help?’ (see Matthew 25:31-46). Perhaps they didn’t pay attention, or maybe just didn’t hear Him, when He says, ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of My Father in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). Could it really have been that difficult?

But He does say things like this to us: He tells us, not only the sister of Lazarus, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. If anyone believes in Me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die,’ and then He asks, ‘Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26). We can read her answer for ourselves, and we can make her answer ours, realizing that it is this confession that produces the promise in us, and really, nothing else. She said ‘Yes, Lord.’ What then, had she said, ‘No’?

This we shall never find out, just as we shall never know ‘what would’ve happened’ had another woman said, ‘No,’ when met with the first words of the Good News that, when first spoken, seemed like anything but good news, ‘You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him…’ (Luke 1:31). Why anything but good news? She was a bride unwedded, a virgin. This conception would come about without the agency of a man. Her response? ‘Let what you have said be done to me’
(Luke 1:38).

But salvation, not the life of salvation as it’s called, which means merely ‘Christian life’ whatever that is, but salvation, what Jesus keeps referring to when He says, ‘I am the Gate. Anyone who enters through Me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture’ (John 10:9). Or when He says, ‘I am the living Bread which comes down from heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live forever; and the Bread that I shall give is My flesh, for the life of the world’ (John 6:51).

Holy Church has already told us, over and over, what all this means, has converted it, nuts and bolts, into the system of Christianity that has existed from the beginning until now, so that we can be invited, welcomed, accepted, initiated, integrated, instructed, assigned our places, and guaranteed our salvation. Leaving nothing to chance may be the strategy of the Church, a reflection of what Christ Himself does, but where does it all really start, for me, for you, if not with our own ‘Yes, Lord’?

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