Discerning the Goal from the Process
by Bishop John, The Word, March 2015
Let's not get so caught up in the Lenten journey that we forget our goal. Lent is a time of preparation. It is a preparation for our Holy Week celebration, which is a preparation for our Paschal celebration, which is ultimately a preparation for our unity with God and Eternity. Lent cannot be an end unto itself. God did not send His only begotten Son to us for us to crucify Him, so that we could fast, do good, and have a new worldview or religion. God took on flesh to join Himself to us and allow us to join ourselves to Him. Fasting, worship, and almsgiving are the process of our union with God, not our goal. Knowing the truth about God, man and the world is not the goal, but part of the process of learning to commune with the living God. He gave us a way through the Church to receive Him and share in His life. Orthodoxy is not the goal, but the way. Christ is the way and the Orthodox way is the God-given way to worship, live and share in His life.
We are given choices and opportunities, but there is right and wrong. The relationships that God gives us allow us to enter a process that leads to unity with Him and each other. Our God-given relationships with Church and family let us stretch and grow. They allow us to understand better. They allow us to desire God, to humble ourselves and to come to encounter Him, to forgive each other, and finally to accept that God accepts us. Because He loves us first, we come to love Him and do His will. Doing His will is our true nature, because, like God, we love and we give. It is only fear of not having enough love and being vulnerable to each other that prevent us from loving and giving as God lives and gives. Loving God and each other is what brings us into the union with God and each other which is ultimately our goal.
Christians are in the process of being saved. Salvation is union with God, and we are in the process of choosing God over anything that is not God. Desire or will are the start of the process, but the whole process involves a synergy of ourselves, each other and God. Lent is a good time to rededicate ourselves to that process.
In the March 2015 issue of The WORD, you will find some highlights of our Metropolitan Joseph’s efforts, as well as some parish highlights that have been sent to us. You will also see some historic material dealing with the early ministry of St. Raphael, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his repose. In this issue of The WORD we publish essays about truth and about the way in which some religious practices are coming into our modern lives and society. It is my hope that understanding these things will help us to discern better what is good and healthy for us in our journey to unity with God and each other.
We wish you all a blessed Lent for a holy Eternity!