Diving into Life


Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, January 24, 2021

Around our Lord was an aura of welcome. "Come to Me," he said. "Let the children come and do not hinder them,"  he told his disciples. The Samaritan Woman came, Zacchaeus came, Jairus came on behalf of his daughter, the Syro-Phoenician Woman for her son,  the lepers came for themselves. Even the Pharisees came albeit to challenge him, but in their challenge, I think, there was a longing to know, "Who is this man?" On and on we could go. The list is endless. And at this moment our names are written on it.

Whom did he turn away?  Actually, no one. Those who went away from him did so of their own accord for they were not ready, for various reasons, to follow him. The rest of their stories are mostly unknown to us, but that does not matter. The Lord we know never leaves nor forsakes us. He does not give up so easily in his search for the lost sheep, he is always listening for their cries from the wilderness and is always ready to respond with reckless love.

The truth is that the largest part even of our own stories is unknown to us for we do not know why we think what we think and why we do what we do. We come to the Lord as many have done before us to discover who we are. For only God knows our hearts and finding him and finding ourselves is a simultaneous event.

The blind man heard that Jesus was coming on the road to Jericho where the walls once crumbled at the sound of shouts and ram's horns. Could the opening of the blind man's eyes be an echo of that event as the scales fell from their eyes? He cried out from the crowd using a Messianic title like one of the prophets, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Did someone tell him who Jesus was or who others claimed him to be? It appears so. Perhaps God himself inspired the man. And he embraced the rumor, wrapping his whole self, all his hope, around the itinerant rabbi who would become his healer and redeemer.

The crowd dissuaded him, was annoyed by his cries and scolded him. "Don't bother the Master!" But Jesus, the Shepherd of the Lost, heard him, and was moved by his suffering. And he opened his eyes. The created light of creation entered and the uncreated light of the Master flowed through his rejuvenated eyes.

And once the healing so longed for is done
In the blind man and in all of us
And the externals are put aright for a short time
The opportunity for a transition is always offered 
An invitation to enter the heart

And remember only the one leper took that path
The other nine turned it down and rushed back
Into the dismal past 
The Narrow Path is the doorway to the soul
The sacred Present, the Eternal Now

We do not have to wait for the healing
Of the body before we plunge into the soul
Even when our backs are broken
And our hearts crushed
We have only to let go and fall in the mystery
Of God, to fall easy, 
And allow the blanket of letting go to warm and comfort us

For many 
The fear of dying is the Great Distraction
Holding on to the shell of a disintegrating life
Appears to be the only choice, but
for the courageous and creative, for women and men
of true faith
dying is a doorway
To the temple of the Spirit, to the courtyards
of praise and the fountains of Light
To life as it was meant to be

There is no prerequisite
To enter God
The deep well of the soul
Like a fiery baptismal font
yawns before us like a sacred Mayan well
Inviting us to dive
And to die before we die
And then to rise up
Through the blue-green water
And invisible flames

The Lord invites us to enter
The depths of life
To die with him
And be reborn

There we will discover ourselves again and again in
A deeper and richer experience

Dying and rising to new life is built into all creation. It is natural to us, like falling asleep and coming awake, like the Winter yields to Spring. Self-denial turns inside out as we discover through it the truth of who we are and who we were created to be - image and likeness. Our blindness is our path. Our wounds are where the light goes in and out. Thank God for every ache and pain, for every joy and sorrow, for everything under and above and around the sun. Let us give thanks and let go and fall into the arms of the Living and Ever-Merciful God. The aura of welcome that embraced the blind man on the road to Jericho invites us every moment to experience his glory in this world. Life in Christ is always dynamic and ever-changing.

"The symbols of the Holy Spirit are wind and fire,” writes Alan Watts, “—wind which is masculine in its strength and feminine in its softness, and fire which is masculine in its brilliance and feminine in its warmth and volatility. Water, too, is associated with the Spirit as the agent through which it works, for ‘unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ Wind, fire and water—all three are symbols of that Life, that Eternal Moment, which ever eludes the grasp of the possessive will and yet, because it is the love of God, never separates itself from us."

Our possessive will insists that we hold on to the ways in which we define ourselves, even if they are negative and destructive, our self-definitions. The blind man his blindness, the leper his leprosy, the proud man his pride, the rich man his riches. The blind man would never have cried out. He would have let the crowd silence him. The rich man could not let go and turned away. Our possessive will is what holds us back.

Jesus calls us to the Cross as the solution, to death as the ointment, to the tomb as our birthing place and to resurrection as our birth-right. All there is to do is say yes to the invitation. And then we will know why we have been made and placed in this beautiful world. As Mary Oliver writes in her lovely poem “When I am Among the Trees,” the trees speak to her like this:

“And they call again, ‘It’s simple,’ they say, ‘and you too have come into this world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine’”