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3rd May: The Way (5) -- The Barrier on the Way

Jesus said: Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:31-32

We constantly lament the failure of people with serious, though curable, disease to seek help early enough, or indeed to seek it at all. So often they brush aside their symptoms, refusing to admit even to themselves that there is anything wrong.

It is the same with the sickness of the soul. And here Jesus puts his finger right on the problem. He is dining with tax collectors and sinners to the holy horror of the Pharisees and scribes. He is bringing help to those who have no illusions about their faults, sinners who can be called to repentance. He is unable to help 'the righteous', who just do not know, or at any rate admit, that they are sick. This is the barrier that blocks their entrance to the Way.

If we ask why so few do in fact enter on the Way, the answer is in one word -- sin. Unhappily this word is too often misunderstood. Sin is essentially that rebellious attitude of mind and heart that refuses to accept God's sovereignty, that flouts his lows, that asserts our right to live our own lives.

The Pharisees would, of course, have been shocked at any suggestion that they were guilty of that. But they were. They were guilty as we may be of the basic sin of pride -- the sin of setting up ourselves as our own gods, relying on self-righteousness and self-sufficiency.

Pride often masquerades as self-respect, as honest independence. But it is no more than the futile pitting of man's will against God -- the God who made us and can alone order our lives and make us really happy, the God who loves our human race so much that in Christ he suffered to the utmost to reconcile us to himself, to establish a living relationship with himself.

We should differentiate sins from sin, just as we differentiate symptoms from an underlying disease or disorder. The ugly vicious sins are the fruit of the corrupt seed of rebellion and pride in people's hearts. But that same pride can be working under the most seemingly virtuous exterior, a symptomless cancer, a latent infection. Its effect is the same. It disables, it destroys, it kills, sooner or later. It makes a barrier to or on the Way. It creates a tragic diversion from the hope of healing for the soul's sickness, a diversion from the Way, which is the way of spiritual life, to the way of spiritual death. It separates us from God. And sadly it not only shuts people off from entering the Way. It can still block progress on the Way for the unwary wayfarer. And it can black out our vision of Christ.

Sun of my soul, thou Saviour dear,
It is not night if thou be near;
O may no earth-born cloud arise
To hide thee from thy servant's eyes.

John Keble

Further reading: Lk 5:27-32.


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