2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34
If you’re wondering where I was last week, I’ve just been away on an 8 day retreat. 8 days of silence, speaking only to my retreat director, and only to him once a day.
Such a retreat is hard work. We use the word ‘retreat’ in English, but in other languages they call them the ‘exercises’.
To use one analogy, it’s a bit like staring in the mirror non-stop for 8 days. You come to see every imperfection, every thing about yourself that you don’t like, everything that you need to CHANGE -you can become rather sick of yourself.
That analogy has a serious flaw, however:
A Christian retreat isn’t about looking at yourself in a mirror.
A Christian retreat is about looking at Christ, looking at Him long and hard.
-like a mirror, we come to see ourselves in a new light.
But whereas a mirror only leads you to yourself, and fails to show you HOW to change -you only see what is ugly and wrong,
in contrast, when we look at Christ, we see not so much what is WRONG, but what could be RIGHT, in Him.
I want to focus this on a useful and oft-quoted statement we heard in our second reading, from St Paul to the Corinthians:
“We walk by faith, and not by sight”(2 Cor 5:7).
I might know I need to change; know I need to move on,
But none of us have SEEN that place where we are supposed to be going,
we don’t know it “by sight” -to use St Paul’s term.
So how DO we know it? How can I know HOW I’m supposed to journey onwards?
St Paul says we do so, “by faith”.
Faith, it’s important to be clear, it’s NOT a vague attitude or feeling.
Romans 10:17: “Faith comes from hearing”
I hear what the Lord has told me, especially in the Bible,
and I choose to accept Him, and, accept what He has said.
I say, “I believe you”, to the Lord Jesus,
I say that I believe all He has told me about:
The destination, life in Him, life united to Him;
The path, which is also Him, He is “the way”(Jn 14:6).
For myself, as for you, the Lord has told us many things for us to believe, to “walk by faith”.
He has revealed, in Himself, just how wondrous, how desirable, that destination is.
He has also revealed what I need to do to get there:
To daily, if not hourly, repent of my sins;
To see myself more truly in Him, to examine myself, to know what sins to repent of;
To live for Him, and for others for His sake, rather than living for myself,
not living for my comfort, for my accomplishment, my pride, my vanity, my pleasure;
He has also revealed His strength and assistance on the way:
Our gospel parable, of the seed that grows unseen, is just one of many promises of how He DOES work, even when we don’t see it;
He promises to come with His strength in the sacraments, because I can’t get to heaven by own power:
I need His feeding in Holy Communion,
I need His restoring forgiveness in regular Confession.
I haven’t yet seen the goal, but I’ve been told of it in faith.
“We walk by faith, and not [yet!] by sight”(2 Cor 5:7).