THE CALL TO HOLINESS
Second Sunday in Lent (A)
My dear encountered couples:
When you take a trip, do you plan everything out before you leave or just get in your car and hit the road? Some people plan it all. They make motel reservations for all their stops along the way and of course for their final destination. Others just play it by ear. Though they may have a final destination in mind, they don’t pin themselves down to any arrival date. Along the way, whenever and wherever they feel like stopping, they look for a motel that still has its vacancy sign turned on and check in there. It is about the same when they get to where they want to spend the major part of their vacation. They shop around for the best room they can afford, leaving it up to chance or to God that a place will be provided. It seems Abraham traveled that way.
Somehow, God communicated with Abraham and told him it was time for him and his family to move on. So they did. But not knowing exactly where it was God wanted them to go, they just sort of let the Spirit of God choose their direction and guide them along. The family and servants said a prayer, packed their bags, left the town of Haran in Assyria and headed southwest towards the land of Canaan. Whenever they felt like calling it a day, they picked a vacant spot and pitched their tents. Abraham did a lot of traveling, a lot of trusting in God, and made a huge effort to keep everyone travelling with him well cared for and happy. Maybe you know how hard that can sometimes be.
This is the call Abraham received from God as briefly stated in the Book of Genesis: “The Lord said to Abraham: ‘Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.” And we are told, “Abraham went as the Lord directed him.”
We all must move on, you know. None of us are to remain where we are forever, not even for a goodly while. I’m not talking about our physical place of residence necessarily. It may be just fine with God that you stay in the same town where you were born and live in the same house for your entire life. But he wants you to move on spiritually. God wants you to change and grow and improve in not only your human characteristics but in your spiritual.
As our bodies do not remain physically as they are on the day of our birth, our souls are not to remain spiritually as they are on the day of our baptism. Our souls are to go forth, so to speak, travel along the way of Christ over the hills and through the valleys of life, gradually climbing higher and higher in goodness and holiness, until we reach the top of God’s mountain where we enter into his heaven to spend, with him and each other, the rest of our eternity. We don’t have to worry about making any reservations. God our Father has already taken care of that for each and every one of us.
Our trip along the way of Christ, or if you prefer, the road to heaven, will not always be easy, but it won’t always be hard either. All moving and traveling can be expected to have its mixture of enjoyment and grief, surprises and worries. I think you know what I mean. This is not only true of moving our homes to another town or going on a vacation, it is also experienced as we move farther and farther along the road of spiritual growth.
And just as there were among the first pioneers heading west some who never made it to their intended destinations - they got tired of the hazards of traveling and settled down - we might be tempted to give up the struggles that growing in the likeness of Christ can require. And instead of continuing along the path of soul improvement, we might just settle for a much less than perfect spiritual level and stay there till the day we die. When quite possibly we will find that what we did not move on to during our lives here, must be taken care of in our lives there before we can enter heaven. Can you understand what I am saying?
Abraham did finally settle down in a certain place, but that was concerning his physical location. Spiritually he never stopped moving on to become a better and holier man. Test after test God let him have - trial after trial, trouble after trouble. And he passed every one of them with flying colors, the most well known being when he was told to sacrifice his only begotten son. Though Abraham never clearly understood the ways of God, though he was repeatedly left confused and confounded, he trusted God to make all things work out well. So if it was God’s will, he was willing to persistently and repeatedly leave old ways and old customs behind if it could possibly mean his approaching closer to God. We are to do the same.
Jesus has given us a way of life in his teachings. We are to learn them, practice them, and be faithful to them - until we have integrated them fully and perfectly into our lives. But as a journey is made day by day, little by little, and often without the end clearly in sight, we are to practice living just little by little what Jesus has taught us. We can’t do it all today, nor tomorrow, maybe not in our entire lifetime, and not perfectly as Jesus taught it. But we are not to give in to discouragement and give up, we are not to stop and settle for second class spiritual quality of soul. We are to keep faith in God as did Abraham and keep treckin' until we have climbed all the way to the top of God’s spiritual mountain. Lent is to shake us awake and rouse us off our spiritual couches, to spur us on to greater heights of holiness. Do you get what I am saying?
We must never stop trying and trying to live better and better the things Jesus taught. Our goal must be to become really good people. For us there must never be any giving up or settling for less than the perfect. “Go forth from where you are,” God says to our souls. “Trust me and climb until you arrive at the heights of goodness. Have faith in me. I will take care of you and show you the way.”
MAKE A GREAT LENT! DON’T LET YOURSELF SETTLE FOR LESS!