There is no life without wonder. The life that is given to us in Christ is not something that emerges from our own imagination or judgment; rather it is revealed to us in the cross, in the gospel, and especially in the holy Eucharist. We are drawn into something that is greater than ourselves and on a natural level this cannot be anything but terrifying. The desert fathers present us with the gospel in an unvarnished fashion. Over and over again we are shown how we are to prefer God and seek God above all things; even above those things that seem just, right, and good. The evil one will relentlessly seek to draw us away from the will of God and from the life that he has offered us and pull us back into the mire of sin. This is why we must mortify ourselves; that is, we must die to self and self-will in order to live for Christ and to experience the peace of the kingdom. The path to evil and sin is easy. Everything in this world draws us towards it. It’s only when we repent and turn towards Christ in an absolute fashion do we come to experience freedom - the freedom of sons and daughters of God. Only then do we see ourselves as God sees us. When this happens we lose all fear and anxiety.
Understanding this, we should not be surprised when men turn back to the world. What is more amazing is when we see a man clinging to Christ with heroic love and fidelity.
Text of chat during the group:
00:24:47 Anthony: At first it seems harsh, but it is perceptive. Poimen called Ruler's bluff, and let him look at his own conscience as a mirror for his unjust deed.
00:26:15 Daniel Allen: That story is a lot like how Herod wanted to meet Jesus, but he never sought Him out and was amused and intrigued by him but with no intention to learn from Him. Jesus never went to Herod, until His Passion. This ruler is amused by Poimen and tries to entice Poimen to come to him to fulfill his amusements. And Poimen refused to cater to his petty curiosity and amusements.
00:33:52 Carol: Reminds me of Newman, “one step enough for me”
00:36:00 Anthony: This brings up another question: a good understanding on retirement accounts, pensions, investments, interest/returns and even usury. It's hard to turn away from predicting the future and money, even trying to be prudent so we are a burden to no one since we are self sufficient. Is this fear, or is investment good, like the parable of talents taken in a literal sense?
00:39:14 Ashley Kaschl: I think we can fall into a false prudence pretty easily, which would translate to self-preservation at all costs.
00:40:52 Ren Witter: Wow - so much is packed into this paragraph. I am particularly struck by the sentence “For He Who promised this does not lie." I am so anxious about the future, but I don't often see my inability to trust as an accusation that the Lord is a liar, but in the end it is. Maybe the way He provides for us is just different from what we imagine being provided for looks like? I can't imagine that he is promising to provide us with all the material securities we believe ourselves in need of.
00:53:57 Kevin Clay: “If you help her, another will come along asking for help…" It seems like ALL the lessons tonight are saying the same thing: If we make an exception, then the exception becomes the rule. Thus we need to save ourselves from the *false* guilt of breaking from the duties of our Christian vocation for others out of need - because there will always be needs - or even our own curiosities to chase ideas and activities. In short, once we make an exception, we become regularly distracted - and potentially eventually completely off course.
01:06:29 Ren Witter: Really, paragraph one is also wonderful advice simply for the sake of our own peace of mind and joy: how much better to be rejoice in virtue and constancy, then to be constantly turning the mind to falls and failures, and being pulled down into the sorrow of them oneself. Better, always, to look to what is a cause of joy.
01:07:46 Lee Graham: “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” 2 Peter 2:20-21
01:07:48 Daniel Allen: Could this also be more personal than prophetic? End times as in we live in the end times since the coming of Christ. And that finding 3 people who strive towards God (co strugglers) is of greater value than the security of the group (the thousands).
01:13:05 Carol: Also the Good Samaritan and the man lying in the gutter
01:13:27 Daniel Allen: You’re so correct and it’s terrifying
01:16:19 Sheila Applegate: It is terrifying because we see our smallness and lack of faith in the providence and grace of God.
01:17:22 Sheila Applegate: We prefer to intellectualize and analyze our own way.
01:17:51 Ren Witter: This message is really so extraordinary: we do not want to attend to the poor, because their poverty terrifies us; we do not want to attend to those who are sad, because their sorrow is discomforting; we do not want to attend to the physically or mentally ill, because we can be literally afraid of catching something, or losing our own peace of mind. Evil, and this strange manifestation of it - a preference for the rich, the healthy, the strong - are so much easier. But virtue, and keeping company with the truly blessed - the poor, the meek, the sorrowing - is hard and uncomfortable.
01:18:27 Ren Witter: So compelling. Wow.
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