Bad is not good and good is not bad.
Homily 250 – Cheesefare Expulsion from Paradise
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
February 26, 2017
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Sometimes, frequently in fact, we evaluate the expectations of events.
We classify something as good, or bad, even before we know the outcome.
There are plenty of illustrations of this.
The parable is told of the Chinese farmer.
He gets a horse, which soon runs away. A neighbor says, “That’s bad news.” The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”
The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say.
The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, then is thrown and badly breaks his leg.
“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.
In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared.
Good news, of course.
So we learn that our judgement – maybe better said, our perception – of things is rarely accurate. Events and occurrences are neither good nor bad. They just are.
Like this day, when we remember the expulsion from paradise as we enter Great Lent – our own annual expulsion from paradise.
Lent, like the expulsion, seems harsh. Seems to be retribution. Seems like punishment.
Because the expulsion was not punishment. It was protection. In Genesis God tells of Adam’s sin, and how he now is no longer innocent.
The expulsion was to prevent Adam and Eve from eating of the tree of life and living forever – forever distanced from God, separated, in sin.
The expulsion from paradise, while perhaps lamentable, served a beneficial purpose. Through it, we were given the opportunity to repent. That is, to change, to redirect and refocus ourselves.
The Angels, we are told, do not have that opportunity. Their decision is made. They cannot repent.
Humanity can – we have a body, unlike the angels, and we exist in a physical realm where repentance is possible.
This is also why, by the way, we cannot repent after death. We have no body, and so we are divided. We are made up of body, and of soul, and one without the other is incomplete.
Unable to repent eternally separated from God. That is the definition of bad.
Separated from the source of all life, which is death. Eternally.
In Great Lent, we are offered the same opportunity as Adam and Eve. We are offered the chance to repent, both in soul and in body. The discipline of the Church is there to discipline our bodies, and in so doing, disciplines our soul and will in the process.
We sometimes see this time as, in essence, bad. We don’t get our way, we don’t get to choose our path, we don’t get to indulge ourselves.
We give up the “good” things of life – which are, really, self-indulgences that aren’t good at all. They separate us from God – again, that’s bad.
But in great lent, regardless of how “successful” we may be at fasting, at almsgiving, and prayer – the spiritual disciplines.
Regardless we are denying ourselves, which is the essence of repentance. Following God’s will, not our own will and desire.
Those things that draw us to Christ, that cause us to turn to God, become good.
Great Lent is an opportunity to draw ourselves to Christ.
And that is, by definition, good.
We sometimes miss that. That idea of “good”. We don’t know what “good” means anymore.
And we forget that good takes time.
We are so used to instant results. There was a time – some of the older folks like me can remember – a time when stores closed. At night. On Sunday.
Not even restaurants – even McDonalds closed. Starbucks didn’t even exist.
We didn’t have Amazon to take our order and deliver to our house. How did we even exist?
We are now conditioned to expect instant gratification. Even instant relationships.
But that isn’t how we achieve good. That has no relation to quality. It exists, but that’s about it. Good takes time.
Good involves effort.
So we begin the Fast with a new purpose – a new motivation. It is a struggle, but a struggle that gains us union with our Creator. A struggle that results in our becoming stronger, able to deny ourselves with greater and greater ease.
So that, with Christ, we can say “Not my will, but yours, be done.” So that we can accept His cross. So that we can bury our deformed, wounded selves.
So that, with Christ, we too can rise, in newness of life, connected for all eternity to the source of all life.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!