“Behold we go up to Jerusalem”
As we prepare to enter the threshold of Lent, Holy Mother Church reminds us of the goal: we are heading to Calvary, and through Calvary, to the Resurrection. As we do so, two precious lessons are given to us. The first is presented in the story of Abraham read this morning at Matins.
The great patriarch is summoned by God to leave all things: Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed (Gen 12:1-2). The text certainly had a literal meaning for Abraham. He did leave his country and went off, as the Epistle to the Hebrews says, not knowing where he would go. By faith he abode in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in cottages, with Isaac and Jacob, the co-heirs of the same promise. For he looked for a city that hath foundations: whose builder and maker is God (Heb 11:9-10).
Four thousand years on from this foundational event, which we look back to as the beginning of salvation history – it is from Abraham that God would form the Chosen People and the Messiah – we have here the paradigm for every authentic vocation, and in particular every religious vocation.
“Leave your country, leave the house of your father, the land you know and love. Leave yourself, your ambitions, your comfort zone in which you feel safe. Fear not to go out of yourself, to take the plunge, to be divested of everything you hold dear. Then you can begin to build a spiritual abode, one in which other souls can come, where they can multiply and become a chosen race, an elect people from which salvation can spring forth for many souls.”
Such are the words God addresses to every new beginning in the history of consecrated life. They are words he addresses to our little flock here in Colebrook. We have all left many things behind, in faith, in confidence, not knowing where the path ahead will take us. But one thing we know: God will not fail us. When Abraham left Ur in Chaldea, it was, to all appearances, an act of folly. In reality it was the salvation of the world, even though it would be millennia before it all became clear. So in every age, God chooses souls to go out – egredere – so that they can be formed into a people through whom He can save others.
We are also given on this day the means to make sure that the going out produces fruit. That fruit is charity. St Paul’s hymn to charity: Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil: rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth: beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (1Co 13:4-7). It is as if Holy Mother Church were reminding us that as we strive to leave behind ourselves, to practice mortification, to move on to what God has in store for us, we must never forget that the true paths of God are always lived out in deep love for neighbour.
With the blind man in today’s Gospel, let us throw off our cloak, the symbol of the facades behind which we hide ourselves. Let us cry out to Him with renewed faith: Jesus, Master, have mercy on me, and ask Him to give us to see with clarity the way which leads out of ourselves, into the ocean of divine love.