In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
St John Climacus, whose memory we keep today, says in one of his writings: “We
shall not be judged, brothers, we shall not be condemned for not having worked
miracles or spoken words of prophecy; but we shall be condemned for not
having bewailed our sins throughout our life.”
What is there in sin which should cause us such broken-heartedness that all our
life should be – not darkened but inspired by this pain in our hearts? We tend
to define sin as breaking of the moral law, or acting in a way which is contrary
to our duty or to what is right, but there is something more fundamental in sin,
which should indeed cause us sadness and more than sadness: a deep pain.
Sin is disloyalty, sin is unfaithfulness; it is unfaithfulness and disloyalty
towards God because it means that whatever He says matters little to us,
although when He spoke to us, He spoke with all His human love and all His love
divine; and indeed, to show us how much we matter to Him, how deeply He values
us, He gave all of His life and all of His death to save us, and for us to
believe in love divine!
To sin means to turn away from One who loves us unto life and unto death; and it
means by implication that His life and death are too little for us, too little
for us to respond by love, to respond by faithfulness and loyalty. Indeed, this
attitude results in our breaking in a multitude of ways those laws of life which
are conducive to life eternal; those laws of life that would make us truly,
perfectly human in the way in which Christ was perfectly human, in the total
harmony between God and us.
But these concrete sins which we commit all the time, this coldness to one
another, this indifference, the ease with which we judge and condemn, the way in
which we turn away from the need of others, the way in which we care nothing for
the love which is offered us: all that results from the coldness of our hearts.
It is not in vain that Christ says today in the Gospel, “This demon, this spirit
is cast out only by prayer and by fasting”: fasting, in the sense of turning
away from all those things which are beguilement, which take us away from
love, from loyalty, from faithfulness, from integrity, that destroy our
wholeness; and prayer, as communion with the Living God, who is love, and in
whom alone we can find the strength and power to love.
So it is not surprising that when the man who had brought his child, sick with
epilepsy, to the disciples, turned to Christ saying “They were unable to heal
him,” He said, ‘Bring him to Me!” Unless we are brought to Him, all other
things are in vain.
We may ask ourselves, “Are we so separated from God that we should bewail this
separation all our life?” Indeed, who of us would dare say that at every moment
his heart is warm, his heart is deeply moved by the sense of being with God, of
God being close, of being in communion with Him?
We should be with regard to God in the condition of one who is in love, who at
every moment, day and night, waking or sleeping, is aware that his heart is
exulting and tremulous with a love that fills him to the brim, that is joy, that
is exultation, that is peace and serenity, and strength, and courage, and a love
that allows us to look around and see everyone in a new light, that allows us to
see the image of God shining in each person whom we meet, rejoicing in it.
If we ask ourselves how far we are from God, and cannot measure the distance
between us because our experience if being close to Him is so small, let us ask
ourselves, “How far am I from the people who surround me? How little love, how
little loyalty, how little gift of self, how little rejoicing in my neighbour
there is in me. How much there is of judgement, of indifference, of coldness, of
forgetfulness”. And then we will be able to say, if I am like that it means that
I am not God-centred, that God is not the King reigning supreme in my
heart and mind and my whole being and life. And when we think of ourselves and
see ourselves divided between the call of God, the desires of our fallen
humanity and the beguilement of evil, then we can again say, “How far I am.” And
until we have found harmony with God, we will be divided and broken within
ourselves, until we have found harmony with God, we will be divided one from
This is why St John Climacus calls us to give absolute centrality to the way in
which we relate to God, because everything else will depend upon it. God is like
the key of harmony that allows a tune to be read and sung. He is, as another
writer says, the thin string that keeps together flowers which otherwise would
fall apart - even flowers, even virtue, even beauty, even truth fall apart if
there is not that wonderful love, exultation and joy which is given only by our
communion with God, because He is love, He is life, He is truth, He is joy and
light and exultation.
Let us therefore turn to repentance in the sense in which St John Climacus sees
it: not an empty bewailing of our past, not a useless, barren regret at our not
being what we wish we were, but a cry to God, “Come, Lord, and come soon!” And
if we cry wish all our heart, all our mind, all our need , then God will
come, then we will find ourselves in communion with the Living God and all
things will become beauty; we will have entered into the Kingdom of God. Amen