Reading – Ephesians 5:8b-14
Feast of the Holy Innocents
Images of God and God’s love as light speak powerfully to me, but what really caught my attention this evening was the phrase “Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”
As much as I dislike the culture of constant affirmation and award, I feel that in some way it holds true in God’s relationship with us. It’s not as though heaven is open to just anyone who shows up and walks through the door, a place where everyone is a winner and participation trophies are as common as bellybuttons (sorry, Kyle XY).
Or wait: is it?
Remember Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard hired at different times of the day (Matthew 20:1-16)? All received the same wage, even though some worked many hours more than others. The owner points out that the first workers agreed to the set wage when they started and that he as the owner has the right to be generous toward the other workers.
Along with the parable of the prodigal son and the shepherd with the lost sheep, Jesus showed and shows us that it does not matter so much when we turn to God as that we turn to God. God is, I think, elated each and every time someone does this, especially early in their lives. The eternal life and joy of heaven is held out for all of us, though, through our whole lives, and God will gladly take us by the hand and fulfill that promise whenever we decide to trust in it. And how much better can communion with God get, whether you sought and accepted it from age nine or age ninety?
At the same time, I do not think that we ever fully seek or trust in God’s promise in this life. We’re human: we’re scared, and we make mistakes, sometimes rarely, sometimes often. But, in desiring God, we can strive for perfection. We can try.
Trying means making a decision, not remaining caught in indecision, a veritable hell in itself. Trying involves participation, being present to God, others, and oneself and seeking to understand them while accepting and affirming them as mysteries (or Mystery, in the case of God). Trying requires dedication and perseverance, reaching out and in even when nothing seems to exist in either direction. Trying means acknowledging your limitations and faults but also your achievements and gifts, knowing that you are loved and pushing yourself to act in light of that love, with love.
Trying, in the end, requires effort, faith, hope and – of course – love. What we’ll receive for trying, for accepting God’s love and promise, is much greater than a Certificate of Participation. It is the affirmation of the self by the self, the creature by the Creator. And we won’t just exist and receive this affirmation. We will joyfully accept and reciprocate God’s affirmation.
May we try, God, and try each day. ~