Tuesday, October 18, 2016

St Luke at war!

Christian, dost thou see them
on the holy ground,
how the powers of darkness
compass thee around?
Christian, up and smite them,
counting gain but loss,
smite them by the merit
of the holy cross.

Christian, dost thou feel them,
how they work within,
striving, tempting, luring,
goading into sin?
Christian, never tremble;
never be downcast;
gird thee for the battle,
watch and pray and fast.

Christian, dost thou hear them,
how they speak thee fair?
"Always fast and vigil?
Always watch and prayer?"
Christian, answer boldly:
"While I breathe I pray!"
Peace shall follow battle,
night shall end in day.

"Well I know thy trouble,
O my servant true;
thou art very weary,
I was weary, too;
But that toil shall make thee
some day all mine own,
and the end of sorrow
shall be near my throne."
Translated from the Seventh Century Greek by Fr John Mason Neale
It seems strange to reflect on these words on St Luke's Day, especially when we are celebrating a compiler of Good News. There is no good news in smiting one's enemies, is there?

One thing that St Luke presses for more than anything else is the Truth. He is a seeker of what really occurs in the life of Our Lord.
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (St Luke i.1-4)
He speaks to the eyewitnesses, hears the narrative and even uses his own personal testimony to bring together the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He has been described as an historian in the spirit of Thucydides, an historian of great accuracy and trustworthiness. Modern historians disagree mainly on the grounds that his history makes sense only if it fits one’s worldview. A materialist would regard tales of miracle and resurrection as superstition as being historically inaccurate to say the least.

The fact of the matter is that no evidence, no matter how obvious, will convince the hardened materialist that miracles happen. Of course, they will turn that around and say of us that no scientific evidence, no matter how obvious, will convinced the hardened Christian that miracles don’t happen. Crossing the worldview is a very difficult thing to do. Some manage it, either to their cost or to their benefit.

There is more to St Luke’s truth than just meets the eye, and it is an important and unpalatable point. Until we are all perfected, Truth will be inconvenient and difficult to swallow. Our Lord is, these days, portrayed in the secular sphere as a nice guy, and in many liberal Churches as a nice guy who saved everyone from their since so that we will all go to heaven and be happy together. St Luke paints a different picture of Our Lord:
…a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in , and sat down to meat . And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms of such things as ye have ; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done , and not to leave the other undone.  Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. (St Luke xi.37-44)
It is in St Matthew’s Gospel where the Lord calls the Pharisees children of Hell (xxiii.15). This is important. The Good News contains the truth about ourselves. It is Good News because recognising the evil that is in us is the first step to our recovery. We can only recover once we know that we are ill. The trouble is that this takes some doing.

In this passage from St Luke’s Gospel, we see the God of both the Old and New Testaments. This is a God who will not tolerate any scrap of Evil. His very being fights against it and, being the only whole substance, automatically prevails. God’s very being is an act of war against Evil and Evil must flee from His presence. This has devastating consequences for all who hold to Evil. God will not suspend His hatred of Evil in order to allow those who will not repent of sin to be part of His kingdom. If there is no desire of repentance, then there is no possibility other than Hell itself.

This is so difficult for the modern mind to hear precisely because it is so against our notions of love, compassion, and tolerance. However, think about it. Would we want a Heaven in which Joseph Stalin, Osama Bin Laden and Adolph Hitler were allowed to be present regardless of whatever atrocities they instigated in the same place as their victims? Would Heaven be Heaven if members ISIS were allowed to receive their apocryphal seventy-two virgins, just because God is good and kind? Our Lord testifies to the existence of Hell and it is to our Good News – Evil will not be tolerated! Hell is not empty – Judas Iscariot (called the son of perdition by the Lord). Lucifer and the Demons are there. We may not know who else. Without Hell, there is no justice.

We have got so used to this idea of tolerance that we are becoming intolerant of people who are intolerant. What do we mean if we are tolerant? We hear hate the sin and love the sinner. This is true. God loves even the denizens of Hell – it is because they reject Him that they suffer. However much we love the sinner, we must hate the sin. This puts a strain upon us because Love brings people together whilst Sin forces them apart. The pain of this is precisely borne upon the Cross. It is a tearing of the flesh of Christ which must take place in order for any reconciliation.

It is interesting that only St Luke records the words of the thieves crucified with Jesus. In a conversation lost to the other Gospellers amid the noise of mockery and jeering, only St Luke hears (possibly from Our Lady or St John) the salvation of a penitent thief at the eleventh hour. This is the Good News indeed! While there is life, there is hope for us! The other thief dies without the words of comfort that the penitent receives before his legs are broken and his life ebbs away next to the already dead body of Our Lord. If that thief were not penitent after that, there can be no salvation for him – but we CAN’T know that!

The Good News of St Luke and the other Evangelists is clear. We walk in darkness with its powers trying to lay claim to our lives. We walk appropriating the darkness for ourselves and call it good. The Light of God comes and shows us that we are indeed in darkness, that we love darkness, that we even revere it! He shows us that we but need only turn to the light and walk as children of the light, bringing light into the darkness. He makes the way to light through Himself – we see that light of God through the holes in Christ’s body. And then, as children of light, we rise with Christ.

We must truly and viscerally hate Evil and wickedness. We have to loathe our sins and really must seek to die before we commit them again. We have to fear that our sins have become so habitual that they have an effect on our lives. We have to worry about any stain of sin in us. We are not to judge others because we have no capacity to know their hearts. We must judge ourselves in our own actions and bitterly bewail the wrong we have done, and make true repentance!

We must also have hope. God does not desire the death of a sinner but rather he turn from his wickedness and live. If he will not turn, he will die, that’s true, however if he does turn to Christ honestly, truly, and fully, he will be saved. The hope is that any battle against Evil that we undergo for love of Christ will be met with unmitigated victory, though in the eyes of the world that victory may seem like the defeat of the Cross. We have to be deadly serious about getting rid of Evil in our lives. We must seek what is truly good, and not let the World deceive us that its good is the True Good: it is not, but rather so far from truly good as to be sickeningly twisted. The World would have us believe that morality is a human construct. It is not. Good deeds can be done by all, but only those done from good intentions will matter to God.

St Luke, the physician, brings us the Good News of our hellish sickness and its Holy Cure. Let us pay heed to its words for they come from The Word Himself. We may tire and falter in our intentions, but God really is good, a true fighter against evil and a mighty warrior in battle against the forces of darkness. Under His command, we will obtain victory, then true, lasting, loving peace.

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