Ending the cycle of sin in our lives

This is a summary of Father Tim Handley's sermon delivered on Sunday January 15th 2017, which inspired and provoked everyone's thoughts about how sin functions in our lives and our communities :

Father Tim spoke about the special status John the Baptist has, celebrated with two feast days in the Western church and six in the Eastern church! He emphasized the fact that John as the forerunner of Christ understood ‘I must decrease and He must increase’ as the means of making his life conform to the holy plan of the Father God who sent his son so that we might be free of ‘the cycle of sin’, as Father Tim put it ‘Jesus has absorbed sin and ended the cycle of sin and we must do the same by witnessing to the truth with the same courage as John the Baptist who was prepared to challenge King Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife as illegal’ although Father Tim did not advocate street preaching or behaving in anyway likely to get our heads removed, nonetheless he drew attention to the powerful witness of those such as the monks depicted in the film ‘Of gods and men’ in which a conversation between the Abbot Christian and his brother in Christ Christophe evaluates the question of literally dying for Christ:

Christophe “Dying here...dying now...does it serve a purpose? I don’t know...I feel like I’m going mad”

Christian “It’s true that staying here is as mad as becoming a monk. Remember you already gave your life. You gave it by following Christ. When you decided to leave everything. Your life. Your family. Your country. The family you could have raised”

Christophe “I don’t know if it’s true anymore. I pray and I hear nothing. I don’t get it. Why be martyrs? For God? To be heroes? To prove we’re the best?”

Christian “we’re martyrs out of love out of fidelity, if death overtakes us despite ourselves, because up to the end we’ll try to avoid it, our mission here is to be brothers to all”

Father Tim drew our attention to how this question of ‘how to be martyrs’ applies to us in our everyday lives because of the ‘cycle of sin’ which has a ripple effect as one nasty word spreads hurt and injury through a whole community as ill feeling based on ego and pride spreads and quoting Meryl Streep’s recent reminder ‘violence begets violence’ drew our attention to the simple fact ‘Christ was a man like us human, with one important difference, he was without sin and full of the Holy Spirit’ and so we too, Father Tim explained, must become filled with the Holy Spirit in order to grow in Christ that he might ‘increase’ and we in our ego selves might ‘decrease’ and in this way we become powerful witnesses absorbing the effect of sin in the world like Christ Himself. What are these gifts?

Father Tim listed them quoting Galatians chapter 5 “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, self-control”

But sin is a problem we all have to live with as sinners and among sinners and so Father Tim put before the congregation the following thoughts from Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov:

“At some thoughts a man stands perplexed, above all at the sight of human sin, and he wonders whether to combat it by force...always decide: ‘I will combat it by humble love’”

“If you resolve that once for all, you can win over the whole world”

“Loving humility is a terrible force: it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it”

This determination to be able to love with humility like John the Baptist and exemplified in the words of Luc from ‘Of Gods and Men’ “I ‘m not scared of terrorists, even less of the army. And I’m not scared of death. I’m a free man” were food for thought indeed as we considered what it means to be free in Christ and in God who is love.

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