35th Week After Pentecost – Friday
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
This is saying that we can always go back to sinful ways, if we retain any attachment to them. What countries are we still "mindful" of?
The Apostle speaks delicately when he states "they might have had opportunity to have returned". The truth is, if we retain attachment to earthly things, we will always be "returning" in some way to these things, as a dog returns to its own vomit.
Who knows how far we will go? Do we? Could it not be possible that with repetition in the indulgence of our passions, we will embark upon an actual trip back to this "country" and do not come back? ABSOLUTELY! In this context, returning to the "country" that we should have left completely means our perdition. In the meanwhile, as our lives hang in the balance, we "play with fire", and are “double minded” and therefore unstable in all our ways. How many times can we indulge ourselves without becoming completely lost? How much should we gamble concerning this?
Human nature quickly tunes out warnings. Punishments, or threats of danger do little to dissuade us for very long. There is a principle in action here: A PERSON WILL DO WHAT HE WANTS TO DO. Look at your life and see if this is true. Why do you pray very little? Is is not because you are "mindful of another country" - something you value above prayer, such as leisure, or entertainments, or any of a million other things that we do instead of prayer? Our habits, deeply ingrained because of our indulgence in them, are very difficult to uproot, and will certainly not be uprooted by being reminded of punishments. We must change what we want if we are to become holy.
We see the true motivator to righteousness in this selection: to desire a “BETTER COUNTRY, THAT IS AN HEAVENLY.” We must daily, hourly, minute by minute,cultivate deep desire to become heavenly, holy - because only those with a clean wedding garment will dine in the Master's city.
How do we keep this blessed hope within us?
It is hard work. We remember that which we repeat. We repeat that which we value.
We must meditate upon the scriptures with great desire and longing. This must be a daily occurrence. How can we do that which we do not know? We must be people of the scriptures. When we hear the beginning of a phrase, our heart should feel the warmth of holiness as our mind completes it. Do you know the scriptures this well? I am not talking about rote memorization here. We remember that which is important to us. If holiness is important, then we will remember things regarding holiness, and feel pleasure when these things are brought to our recollection
My hope is that these small homilies that I write or speak will spark a desire in you to delve deeply in the scriptures. Be like a miner, with a pick and pail, looking for golden nuggets, and hold unto these as a precious treasure. The only way to maintain the truths taught in scripture is to live according to them, so in order to "maintain our face towards Jerusalem" we must cultivate the virtues.
What is it that you need to do today? I do not speak of your itinerary - do this, do that, go here, then go there. Your task today is to live like a Christian, and you cannot do this without thinking like one! Let us take as our example Abraham, and Sarah, and Moses, and all the rest who cultivated their love for God by their actions and maintained their steadfast belief that there was something better for them - a heavenly city.
Partial Scriptural bibliography: Hebrews 11:8, 11-16 ; 2 Pet 2:22 ; Luke 9:51 ; James 1:8 ; Luke 15:11-32
Epistle for this day: Hebrews 11:8, 11-16 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
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