Christian Maturity is not Self-Sufficient
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich. Matt 19:20-22 TEV
5 That is why I have sent my prophets to you with my message of judgment and destruction. What I want from you is plain and clear: 6 I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me. Hosea 6:5-6 (TEV)
One encounters Christ throughout the creation, says Luther, but the troubled conscience experiences him as its judge and flees in terror. In the supper, however, the believer meets the Lord unequivocally as the savior who lays his life down for me (“This is the body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you”). There is no escaping Christ’s single-minded intention. He proclaims his love to each and every participant and asks only that they take him at his word.
he (Augstine) had a sort of vision, in which he heard a voice saying to him: “I am the bread of the strong, eat me! But you will not transform me and make me part of you; rather, I will transform you and make you part of me.”3 In the normal process of eating, the human is the stronger being. He takes things in, and they are assimilated into him, so that they become part of his own substance. They are transformed within him and go to build up his bodily life. But in the mutual relation with Christ it is the other way around; he is the heart, the truly existent being. When we truly communicate, this means that we are taken out of ourselves, that we are assimilated into him, that we become one with him and, through him, with the fellowship of our brethren.
We measure Christian maturity wrong, and we have for a long time.
We measure it by the level of theological knowledge they have, or by the amount of scripture memorized. How dynamic they are when it comes to sharing or defending the faith. How much they “have it together” doesn’t really count all that much either, for anyone can put on an act.
The young man in the first reading above would have been counted as mature in the faith. he did all the right things, he said them all, he knew it all as well. The Israelites in Hosea’s time had the sacrificial system down, they had all the right movements, they processed sacrifices with the precision of a military unit, yet they too were not mature in their faith.
They didn’t understand, any more than we do today.
Being mature in the faith is not about being self-sufficient, but it is about being dependent on God, about walking with Jesus, about loving Him, about knowing Him! Being a Christian is about letting God invade your life, about learning to hold no part back, for the Lord would save all of us.
Read again the words about Luther, and the writings of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger above. Look at how they describe meeting Christ in the Eucharist, the transforming nature of God. It is encountering the absolute love of God, as He pours out mercy and peace and healing upon us.
This isn’t just about the substitutionary atonement or the discussion of consubstantiation versus transubstantiation. It’s not just about the words of institution or the form of the mass in which this gift is celebrated. Those things are part, but they mean nothing without the encounter…the encounter with Christ.
It is about this encounter, about meeting God, right then and there. About knowing the purest, most invasive, most intimate love, about taking in the Body and Blood of Christ. It is about being drawn into His glory, for His glory is simply the light of His love.
Christian maturity is about desiring to know this love, about realizing how much we need His presence, about rejoicing as we depend on Him, as we entrust to Him our very souls.
It is what Jesus asked the young man. …drop everything… let it help others… come walk with me.
The mature Christian has learned to do so, even asking God for the help.
Lord, help us grow in faith, depending on You, allowing You in every part of our lives and rejoicing in the His love for us. AMEN!
Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxviii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 78). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Posted on November 29, 2018, in Augsburg and Trent, Devotions, Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, Martin Luther, Theology in Practice and tagged doctrine, Eucharist, hope, intimacy with God, peace with God, theology. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.