Ever since Adam and Eve turned their back on God’s grace mankind has been striving to regain this relationship with God – reaching up to God for forgiveness, guidance and salvation – once again being in intimate union with our creator as in the Garden of Eden. God has given us His plan of salvation; which if followed, leads us to our original inheritance. We just need to follow it. But, as the history of mankind shows us we seem to have a great deal of trouble in following this plan, this path that God has given us to bring us home.
The Bible is full of our struggles to reach God. We see this in every book from Genesis to the last New Testament letters. The stories of the Tower of Babel, and Noah, the early Jewish nation with their Judges and then their Kings all speak of man trying to regain that intimate relationship. People’s reaction to Jesus’ mission on earth and the letters of St. Paul, St. Peter and others show the troubles of mankind in understanding the message. And, of course, history down to today shows that man, within the Church, and without, has trouble coming together with our Lord. There are exceptions, and we honor these, the saints both known and unknown have found the way; but in general we just don’t seem to have an easy time becoming one with God.
It isn’t due to the lack of direction and guidance – Christ has given us all we need to follow Him. The problem is with us –we just seem to be looking in the wrong direction. We continually look to the heights and try to find a way that we can elevate ourselves to God’s level; thinking that is how to regain this relationship. But it isn’t upwards that we should be looking. The rock band U2, who every so often puts Christian messages in their music put it very well in the song Mysterious Ways “if you want to kiss the sky, you better learn how to kneel.”; cute and no doubt not very theological sounding but true none the less. If we want to meet God and regain the original relationship we don’t look to raise mankind to God’s level; we need to stoop to His level and that will bring us back into one with our Lord!
Today’s second reading, for me, is one of the most beautiful passages in scripture. Every week I get to pray this when praying Sunday Vigil Vespers; and it strikes me every time. In this passage from St Paul we see in a condensed version the path we need to take to regain our intended relationship with our Heavenly Father. God, through Jesus shows us the way home. God himself followed this path to lead us. We lower ourselves to reach the heights of God, the heights of Love itself.
Jesus: ‘Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.’ St Paul says.
Jesus Christ – God himself! The all powerful and glorious creator didn’t need to be majestic to save His people. He could have just sat in His heavenly home and willed us to be at one with Him. But He didn’t. This wouldn’t be Love would it; deciding something for someone else? Power regardless of how benevolent it is still coercive.
‘Rather, he emptied himself taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.” St Paul tells us.
Instead; God came to us, He lowered himself from the heavens to be among us, to live, to experience all that we experience. He wanted to be us, to know us. He would walk, and is walking in our shoes. It was with us that He would raise us to His Father’s home.
‘and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.’ St. Paul continues.
‘Because of this, God greatly exalted him.’ St Paul exclaims. These actions by Christ, by God, of lowering himself to those who were in trouble, those who needed help; this action that looked only to the other and not to Himself is what exalts Him.
The Holy Father in various interviews and articles likes to tell us that God is great precisely because He made himself small. That God is always great is an absolute truth, whether we know it or not; but what the Holy Father is trying to point out is that if God didn’t come to us, didn’t lower himself to His creation; we wouldn’t really know the greatness of God because we wouldn’t feel His Love for us. It would be an aloof creator that we couldn’t understand very well.
But the message God sends us – shows us, is that if this action plan was good enough for God, it is definitely good enough for us because it is constituent for us- integral – for we are made in His image. This lowering ourselves, as God did, to each other; instead of trying to pull ourselves up toward God is the same self-giving love that brought Him to us. This first step made on our knees is the path to Heaven; it is the intimate relationship that Adam and Eve shared with Him in Eden.
So we have to ask ourselves, do we desire to kiss the sky enough to kneel first? Are we willing to lower ourselves to those in need to be able to meet God? Is our love of the Lord that true love that can only be fulfilled by loving those around us? Or have we promised in words and failed in our actions as the second son did in the Gospel?
We need to take stock of our situation in life, to honestly reflect on our true desires and how they correspond to what the Lord did for us. This can be painful – those living in the darkness of self-deception find God’s light very intimidating, indeed painful. But we need to face our faults and our desires if we are to journey with the Lord. We need to allow God, through His teachings in the Church to help us with our daily decision of following the Lord. And this is the good news from today’s Gospel: Jesus gives us two examples and the first example shows us that we can change from whatever path we are now on, that leads away, to the path of Christ, the path of eternal life. All we need to remember is that we need to help those around us to do the same.