The next step is the closest one (Sunday of St. John Climacus – the Ladder)

We are made to see the Love of God in the midst of this catastrophe. For some, turning our hearts towards God can be difficult in the best of times (when we think we are doing so well), and now impossible in times like this, when we would rather think about just caring for ourselves. Yet here we are, remarkably aware that Christ is with us, in the same way that Christ was close to Peter. As He was close enough to Peter to grasp his  hands as he sank in the raging waters of fear and anxiety (Mt. 14:30), the Lord is close to each one of us. Alas we can’t see Christ through our own broken hearts and sinful passions. 

This closeness is measured in love and not anxiety; in repentance and not regret, in steps and not kilometers (or miles), and it is something to consider as we head into the second half of Great Lent with the Sunday of St. John of the Ladder. St. John called his work THE LADDER (or the Ladder of Divine Ascent), for the book is “a fixed ladder leading from earthly things to the Holy of Holies….” It has been a fixture in the lives of Orthodox Christians since 7th century, associated with the fourth Sunday in Lent. 

No ladder is practical, useful, or safe if the steps are spaced too far apart. Equally our faith is unpractical, useless and even dangerous if we believe that God is distant from us. It is a temptation that undermines the reality of a loving Lord. Do we think that we need superhuman faith to be “saved” from drowning by crying  for help from a distant ship? Do we think we need to take giant leaps of faith in order to rise above the brokenness?
 No. The Lord is WITH us.  As close as he was to Peter in the Sea of Galilee; as close as that next rung on a ladder, and closer than  our next breath.

Our love for God, in thanksgiving for his saving mercy, is a step away from the uncertainty and anxiety of this virus, for He says to us “take courage; I have conquered the world!” I have conquered this virus. 

Our movement of repentance from self centered sin, is a step away from inaction and despair. For Christ has forgiven us from the cross, and given us a hope that “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rm. 5:5). 

Our steps towards the Lord and His Kingdom are small movements of heart that reveal the Lord’s love for us “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.” (Philp. 2:6-8). 

And this is the mystery that confounds the world around us. For as we step higher towards the Kingdom and the Lord we love, He has in absolute love  stepped down to our broken, sick and mortal humanity. How much closer can the Lord be with us even now?

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