Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday of the Second Week in Lent

Jeremiah 17:5-10 / Luke 16:19-31

Is it a good thing or a bad thing never to change? The question does not admit to an easy answer. Some of our language suggests the absence of change to be a negative quality. We call something, or someone, static, inflexible, or unyielding, and we do not thereby intend a compliment. On the other hand, to say of someone that he is stable, or made a firm resolve, or an abiding promise, is precisely to speak well of him. After all, we do no one any favors in suggesting he is unstable or inconstant.

The prophet Jeremiah presents us with two visions of being unchanging, visions with quite disparate causes and disparate ends. On the one hand, he presents us with the stasis of calcification and death, the tamaric in the desert, an image of the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. Such a man will not change, but only because there is no life in him, no dynamism, nothing to sustain himself nor to sustain any life around him — he shall dwell in dryness in the desert, in a salt land, and not inhabited. On the other hand, Jeremiah presents to us another plant, also unchanging, but nonetheless the very opposite of the first. This is the tree that is planted by the waters, that spreadeth out its roots towards moisture: and it shall not fear when the heat cometh. Like the tamaric, this tree is not subject to change, but whereas the first does not change because of the absence of life, this tree, being grounded in the very source of life, can abide ever the same, ever true to itself, regardless of the circumstances around it — And the leaf thereof shall be green, and in time of drought it shall not be solicitous, neither shall it cease at any time to bring forth fruit. Such is the man that trusteth in the Lord.

So attached are we to associate dynamism with change that we forget that what is truly dynamic is not that which keeps becoming something else, moved by the whims of the moment or the slightest suggestion from without. Rather, to be fully alive is to be fully oneself, able to be authentic, to produce the same fruits of righteousness at all times. In an important way, that which is fully alive is free from change, not in the manner of a fossil or skeleton, but because its powers are so active and the life sustaining it so pure, that nothing can incline it to be or become anything other than it is.

Of course, we are not there yet. We still experience the life we receive from God as one of change and growth, as well as one of about-faces, which is to say, a life of repentance. Even so, our changes, if they are healthy, will plant our roots more firmly, not less, will make us, day by day, conformed to Jesus Christ, whose light knows no darkness and who reigns for ever.

To Thy servants who call upon Thee hearken with unfailing kindness, O Lord, and while they glory in Thee, their Maker and Ruler, do Thou collect and restore all that was lost, and once restored, preserve it.

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