Sometimes I’m tempted to confuse the Gospel with a fairy tale in which “they all lived happily ever after.” Like the blessings of wealth and power, judgment and condemnation are part of God’s economy. To be sure, these are not the central elements of the Christian life. But neither can they be ignored much less dismissed.
Our ascetical efforts throughout the Great Fast have been at the service of removing from our own hearts anything the would limit our willingness to love sacrificially. This why, after Isaiah’s stern words on fasting, the Church puts before us the example of the Patriarch Joseph.
How much harm has been done, how much good has been left undone, by well-meaning Christians who simply didn’t understand how to use money or to exercise authority?
Grace is stolen not by injuring God but by spreading mistrust, hatred, and violence. Grace is stolen by wounding the heart of the innocent and plunging the guileless into despair. This is the sin of those who Solomon calls a “man of great wrath” who repay forgiveness by once again falling into the sin from which they were only recently delivered.
Many people are spiritually adrift because they have no sense of their vocation, of what it is God has chosen and appointed them to do in this life. So without a sense of their own calling, the life of the Church becomes a series of distractions. Without a sense of my own vocation, of what God has called me to do, the richness of Holy Tradition overwhelms me even as the behavior of others becomes for me a constant source of distraction.