Friday, November 15, 2019

If Life is Good - Why Repent?


The reality is that most people are indifferent about their salvation. They are satisfied with life and see their situation as good even though they may face some difficulties. Those they attribute to lack of their own efforts or blame someone else. Their focus is on external things: their occupation, their pleasures, good sex, good food, luxuries of home goods, a bigger home, a fancy car and so forth. All these they feel they are able to get through their own efforts. In their view, what is the need for God? The challenges of this life consume their energy and attention. There is no time or reason to worry about salvation. Some dutifully profess they believe in God, attend Church occasionally, but they do not pray, fast or read scripture daily. They enjoy novels instead or the latest TV series that are streamed by various internet services. They are satisfied surfing social media and getting and giving likes on Facebook or Instagram. Since these are easy to get and give, why bother to develop deep friendships that take up their time? Their life is characterized by Martha whom the Lord told, “you are worried and troubled about many things” (Lk 10:41).

All this activity of life is driven by an unknown but constant unquenchable thirst. The desire to achieve, to be liked, to posses more material things, etc.  Because of this underlying force one can spend their entire life “in sweat, toil and great labors: busing themselves with various occupations in which they hope to find a way to quench this unquenchable thirst” (St Theophan the Recluse p 95-6). Such a person lacks God’s grace and is not really connected with God. Instead they only “dwell on themselves, and make self the main goal of their life and activity” (St Theophan the Recluse p 95).

Saint Theophan puts it this way:
The emptiness that has formed inside them because of their falling away from God causes and unquenchable thirst inside them that is vague but constant. The person has become a bottomless abyss. They make every effort to fill this abyss, but cannot see or feel it getting full. Thus, they spend their entire life in sweat, toil and great labor; they busy themselves with various occupations in which they hope to find a way to quench their unquenchable thirst. These occupations take up all their attention, all their time and all their activity. They are the highest good, in which they live with their whole heart. Thus, it is clear why a person who makes self their exclusive goal is never themselves; instead, everything is outside them, in things wether created or acquired by vanity. They have fallen away from God, who is the fullness of everything. (St. Theophan the Recluse p 95-6)
Saint Theophan give us three “fiends of many cares”:
  1. Emptiness of the mind: This is a mind that has forgotten God who is everything. It “gives rise to care and trouble about learnedness, inquisitiveness, questioning and curiosity.”
  2. Emptiness of the will: One deprived of possession by God who is everything. “This creates desire for many things, the longing to possess many things, so that everything is in our control…Self interest.”
  3. Emptiness of the heart: One deprived of the enjoyments of God. This “forms a thirst…, a search for an infinite number of objects in which we hope to find pleasure for our senses, both internal and external.”
There is a large number of good people who are captured in this way. They tend to see life as good as long as they are able to continue to gain more and more external things. When their desires cannot be met, they often fall into depression, anger, envy, and resentment. “This is the world of vanity, in which occupations, ways, rule, connections, language, diversions, amusements, concepts…are permeated by the spirit of these three fiends of many cares and trouble…” (St Theophan the Recluse p 97) Unfortunately, these people are blind to their condition. They are captured by this self striving, immersed in worldly things and the means to satisfy an unknown inner yearning. They are consumed with all their cares that their condition is invisible to them. They do not realize they are separated from God. They become satisfied with a declaration that they believe in God. They know the Lord’s Prayer by heart, but they do not see their sinfulness or realize how serious is this separation from God. They do not think about salvation or even their own mortality. The know the story of Jesus, His death and Resurrection, but it has little meaning in their daily lives.

The result is a blindness to human reality. Such a person is unaware of their sinfulness and what is needed for their salvation. They are not interested in discussions or activities that are spiritual in nature. Saint Theophan puts it this way:
“There is a blindness and insensitivity in the sinner. They do not see their own condition, and therefore do not sense the danger and therefore do not take the trouble to care to be delivered from it. The necessity to change and be saved does not even enter their mind. They have complete, unshakable confidence that they are at their proper station in life, want for nothing and must therefore leave everything the way it is. Therefore they consider any reminder about another kind of life to be superfluous for themselves; they do not listen, and cannot even understand what it is for. They avoid and shun it.” (Saint Theophan the Recluse, p 100)
In the next posting I will share how one can be awakened from this dangerous stupor.

Ref: The Path to Salvation, by Saint Theophan the Recluse, pp 95-101

A Personal Note: I lived in this stupor until I was over 40 years old. I had no awareness of the deep nature of my sinfulness and how far I was separated from God. For me I was successful in my career, I had a good marriage and two beautiful children. My parents were healthy and my grandparents still living. All was good, very good. I assumed it was my good work that made this possible. I would go to Church periodically, but it was out of a sense of obligation to my in-laws and wife. There was not a spiritual connection in this. It was just something you did. There was never a feeling so committing a sin. Like I hear many parishioners say, “I have not killed any one. I have not stolen any thing, I have not committed adultery.” I was so self centered, to go in front of an authority person like a priest to confess would not have been possible. 

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