The Glory and the Tragedy of the Church

“In Lent, we grasp our humanity” says Fr. Jeffrey Whorton.  That we need a reminder at all amazes me. I am in awe of the fact that I, a soft bodied creature, am still alive, after more than half a century, in this universe of whirling planets, exploding stars and expanding space. Extrapolating from today’s Gospel, Fr. Whorton points to the hedges God places around us for our survival. In Jesus’ parable, He tells of  a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a hedge around it (Matthew 31: 23)

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In nature and the Cosmos, Earth is protected by natural laws which set the rhythms of the tides, confine the seas to their basins and keep the very air we breath from drifting off into space. While in the spiritual  life, God’s children also have a hedge.  Before we knew the Grace of God, we were given the Law of God.  God’s people were to live not unfettered by human respect but by a Golden Rule which revealed the freedom of morally.  When the Grace of God arrived incarnated in Jesus Christ, love went beyond this Law to lead us to lay down our lives for one another, the supernature wed to the natural.  Lent points to our failure in this respect. It is precisely here, that we find another hedge protecting us from the Accuser and self-condemnation by an Incarnated Mercy, Whose love and forgiveness knows no bounds.

In daily life, the teachings of the Church provide a hedge against a license and an immorality that would favor the animal side of our natures.  Without the hedge of revealed Truth and instruction, we are deprived, and left to our sinfulness, which is more an inhuman nature.   Our humanity was glorified by Christ once Jesus put it on as a mantle clothing His Divinity.  However, it still needs the individual response of our consent and cooperation. Now, we are hedged by the very flesh of our Savior, and called to be truly human as revealed by Christ.

According to Fr.Whorton, “The glory and the tragedy of the Church is that the Church is on display.”  In our world of brute forces and competing philosophies and errors, we are called to shine like stars (Phil.2: 15), like sparks among the stubble (Wisdom 3:7). Fr. Whorton asks, as does Lent, itself, “Am I displaying the glory or the tragedy?”

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