St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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Each Lent is a Time to Rethink Our Truth

Truth is in trouble today. There are multiple truths on the market and you take your pick. Life’s a smorgasbord and we may gorge ourselves on whatever truths we like or want or maybe even need.

We know what we like and dislike, but not much about what is truth. If you try to state what you think is genuine and true, you may find yourself to be a majority of one. Or you get an argument, or people will tell you that you are arrogant, judgmental, or intolerant.

Pilate’s question is the question of the day: “What is truth?” That’s not a cynical statement any more, as it most likely was for Pilate. Pilate simply reflects the tentative nature of our time.

Lent is the season in the church year that calls us to examination of our conscience, to a repentance that is a rethinking of the faith, and to actions that demonstrate what our faith is all about. We are called to acts, like fasting, that enable us to clarify our understanding and discover our heart again.

Lent calls us to repentance, and not just for our sins. Let calls us to re-think our faith and the ways it has been tied in with systems of power and privilege. Lent calls us to give up postures of supremacy that have impeded the outreach of the gospel. Prayer is the vehicle for such rethinking and surrender. Prayer is like a mini-retreat for the soul, when carried out in honesty.

Jesus did not conduct ministry from a position of power. He was an outsider, in a position of lowliness. He recruited his rag-tag band of followers from the edges of society or from the workers, not from the leaders of society or culture.

A few followers, like Matthew, held prominent positions but he was prominent because disdain was heaped on him, not because he was powerful. Many followers were women whose position in society was tenuous and who were, in any case, not usually consulted in matters of faith.

Jesus conducted his ministry in poverty and powerlessness, and he showed the truth of his ministry the only way he could: through his passion and his cross. The great truth of our faith is not dependent on cultural support. This truth struggled its ways into a hostile world.

When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he pointed not only to his teaching, but to his way of life and truth – the path of suffering and solidarity with the downtrodden and the dregs of humanity.

When the truth of Jesus’ faith was tested, God vindicated that truth by raising him from death to new life. That is the truth of our faith: “he was raised again for our justification,” as Paul claims.

Lowliness is the path to holiness in Jesus’ model. Lent calls us to repent and to return to lowliness, to discover the truth of the gospel in love and non-violence, in a place apart from cultural supports.

Now that our culture regards all forms of faith in a more even-handed way, without valuing one above another, people who belong to churches have to think through their faith in ways not previously called for. For some it may be the first time, and they will conclude that membership isn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Christians have to get used to this new landscape where the truth we held tenaciously and with such conviction must negotiate a hearing because it is no longer privileged. We might even have to become, well, Christian again or for the very first time.

published 04 Mar 11