DRAWING GOOD FROM THE BAD
"All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
Like this parish newsletter, the Apostle Thomas was often late - or at least, he was late on two notable occasions. The first time, Saint Thomas arrived too late to see the risen Lord, a situation which led to the Lord revealing Himself a second time, and offering physical proof of His Resurrection.
The second time, Saint Thomas was delayed in joining the assembly of the Apostles at the funeral, of the Mother of God. His late arrival forced the Apostles to open the tomb of the Virgin, revealing the miraculous translation of her holy body into Heaven.
Why focus on this? Why even mention it? Orthodox Christians should in no way use the human weaknesses of the saints as an excuse for giving up on the struggle against their own passions: this would be a foolhardy surrender in the fundamental battle of the Christian life. That would miss the point.
Yet the hope of Christ's resurrection reminds us of the Lord's mighty power to draw good out of evil circumstances, and to restore even the most profound sin (and sinner) to holiness. We have to look no further than the lives of the saints to see examples of this.
Saint Mary of Egypt was a teenage prostitute; Saint Moses of Ethiopia was a mass murderer; Saint Vladimir was a womanizing alcoholic; Saint Constantine the Great was a plotting courtier of the worst kind. Yet in each of these cases, Christ not only made these sinners into saints: He did so by transforming the very nature of their passions. Thus, Saint Mary of Egypt became chaste and supremely self-disciplined; Saint Moses became a paragon of mercy and gentleness, Saint Vladimir became a self-sacrificing unifier of his people, and Saint Constantine used his insights to draw an entire empire to Christ.
It is easy and not uncommon for Christians to be drawn into the despairing picture of the future offered by the world. Not only are we given images of political catastrophes and global apocalypse, but we are constantly fed visions of the world that make us despair of our own salvation, or any hope for our future.
Christianity is not good news for the successful - it is good news for the rest of us. Christ's resurrection takes the worst ingredients of who we are, and creates in them a holy way of life. Our cooperation in this process is critical. For anyone who has ever sensed God's call to repentance, the purpose of our lives will be found in joining God's work to renew our lives, and through them, to renew the lives of other people.
When we see events in our life repeatedly underscoring our weaknesses, a Christian soul must take heart: it is in these very weaknesses that Christ works, to the salvation of our soul, and even to the souls of others.
And that should give hope even to the latest among us.